Impeaching "clinical teaching": the gender politics of masculinist metaphor in pre-service teacher education

Year: 2017

Author: Mcknight, Lucinda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

What's gender politics got to do with clinical teaching? This paper reports on a transdisciplinary study by academics in education and medicine into the genealogy of the term "clinical" and its potential entailments when employed to describe pre-service teachers as "clinical practitioners". Thinking with Michel Foucault and Michael Apple, the paper argues firstly that the term "clinical" is loaded with gendered politics, and then that in a feminised profession, the use of this term contributes to a necessary attempt to shore up both professionalism and patriarchy. This is part of a broader deployment of masculinist metaphor in what has been described as the macho cult of education within a neoliberal imaginary. Attention to metaphor structuring teachers' work may expose the deeply linguistic and sexist nature of assaults on twentieth century progressive education. It can also emphasise the importance of interrogating metaphor that readily becomes common sense branding. In these instances, origins and political relations that give teaching meaning may be conveniently elided.

The paper introduces contemporary feminist understandings and critiques of metaphor, especially in relation to education, and calls for empirical research into how such metaphor may contribute to teachers' evolving theories and practices. This paper is also inflected with new materialist and posthuman sensibilities, and performs "genealogy" in the fashion of Rosi Braidotti, to shift beyond critique and the purely linguistic, into creative and generative understandings of materially realised asymmetrical power relations around metaphor, and also the ways what is "clinical" and "non-clinical" interact to create meaning. This presentation will provide other researchers with a broader understanding of the always-forming and contested nature of metaphor itself, of the word "clinical" and of the need to critically and creatively explore multiple ways we conceptualise and enact teachers' work.