Forces and tensions between prevailing political discourses and teachers’ agency, advocacy and pedagogy: A heteroglossic examination within Australia and New Zealand’s early childhood sector

Year: 2019

Author: Westbrook, Fiona

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Spurred by the sector’s framing as a particularly good investment and pedagogy as a magic bullet for social reform, prevailing political discourses are having an increasing influence within the early childhood sector. However, there is a lacuna of research that captures early childhood teachers’ interpretations of these political discourses, and even less that questions why teachers choose to engage or disengage with them. Capturing teachers’ voices is vital for education within a socially just world as it supports teachers by valuing their agency, advocacy and practice and in doing so is likely to support the children whom they teach. This research, therefore, seeks to capture early childhood teachers’ voices in relation to prevailing political discourses through a Bakhtinian methodology that recognises dialogues, forces and multiple voices in chorus.

Adopting Mikhail Bakhtin as a philosophical orientation, this presentation will explore my study's methodology against teachers’ interpretations of prevailing political discourses. Bakhtin explores how meaning-makings are altered by specific forces, spaces and times. Bakhtin is also centrally interested in dialogue and how every conversation alters us. His epistemology can, therefore, explore the ways teachers, who are in a process of continual dialogues with governments, are potentially altered in their interpretations and pedagogy. Employing Bakhtin’s chronotope and heteroglossia, my research positions itself within contemporary political discourses throughout Australia and New Zealand. It explores how teachers appreciate hierarchical organisations and structures, such as those that exist within ECEC and political discourses through specific spaces, current times and related axiology. Additionally, by orientating through a Bakhtinian methodology this study is enabled to explore Australian and New Zealand teachers’ forces. To what level and percent are these centralising and/or decentralising heteroglossic forces and practices? By examining these forces my study is also positioned to acknowledge the otherness, congruity and chorus of voices teachers may face, feel and belong to in their relationships with prevailing political discourses.

Through this methodological approach and provocation, the research seeks to inform policy and practice through new possibilities of engagement with prevailing political discourses via online focus groups. It also hopes to capture and acknowledge teachers’ interpretations, agency, advocacy and practice that may assist education for a more socially just world.