Imagining teaching beyond the ‘learnified’ market model—Visual metaphors of teachers' work as inflected by contemplative practice

Year: 2019

Author: McCaw, Christopher

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In a contemporary educational context dominated by market-oriented, standards-based and ‘learnified’ (Biesta, 2010) images of teaching, questions of purpose(including issues of social justice, relationality and curriculum production) tend to remain obscured. It is of significance, therefore, to explore the ways in which beginning teachers encounter, experience and respond to this context, and to consider factors which may modulate this encounter.
In this presentation I will discuss selected findings from a recently completed doctoral study which explored the role of meditation practices in the lives of beginning teachers. Specifically, I will make an interpretation of participant-generated drawings (and associated research conversations) which capture, in metaphor, the role of the teacher.
The analysis demonstrates how aspects of the participants’ contemplative practices came to inflect how they imagined their role as a teacher, and what they saw as the purposes of their teaching. Expressed in visual-metaphoric form as teacher-as-gift-giver and teacher-as-sun, they capture visions of teaching which appear to move against the grain of learnified, marketised and standards-based images of teaching. This movement is also articulated through framing teaching as a form of contemplative service.
These non-market-based metaphors of teaching open the possibility of generative friction with dominant discourses and practices, as thus constitute a form of beginning teacher agency. However, as I will show, they simultaneously contain their own risks and blind-spots.
Considering these findings, I will argue that, while contemplative practices do not provide a ready-made or unproblematic solution to the dearth of critical discussion around educational purpose, they do appear to catalyse beginning teacher reflection about broader issues of the meaning and purpose of teaching. This is of particular value in a learnified educational space.
Additionally, in the presentation I will reflect on the constructive methodological and pedagogical role of visual metaphors in practices of beginning teacher reflection.