Unthinking-ness, pedagogy, and aspiration formation: Bourdieu's tool-kit for researching teachers' pedagogies and the dispositions that guide socially just practice

Year: 2017

Author: Cross, Russell, Mills, Carmen, Gale, Trevor

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper, we consider Bourdieu's conceptual tools with particular attention to his understanding of disposition, and its application to a study of teachers' pedagogies as practised in differently dis/advantaged schools (Gale, Cross, & Mills DP130101297). Of particular interest in this analysis is disposition as an explanatory lens into the formative work that teachers do to engender aspirations in students, to shape futures. Bourdieu's concepts resonate with many scholars who seek to understand relations between students from disadvantaged backgrounds and their low academic achievement, which contribute to the complexities of working class aspirations for the future. Here, our discussion of Bourdieu's tools reflects on the evolution of the study's interest in dispositions (collectively, the habitus) given their potential to explain why socially just outcomes are so hard to achieve in schools even when the claimed aspirations that teachers and school leaders claim for their students are high. Through a focus on Bourdieu's concept of the habitus as a collection of dispositions-which reside below the level of consciousness-we illustrate its usefulness as an analytic construct for attending to data in a way that helps reveal the otherwise unspoken dispositions that guide teacher action in practice. Our aim is to make visible how more socially just outcomes might be achieved, through an examination of the recurring and enduring patterns of teachers' work that unfold in the 'unthoughtness' of everyday schooling, including the shaping of students' aspirations for their own futures.