Capability approach for responsive education: A metric of teacher capabilities

Year: 2021

Author: Kostogriz, Alexander, Bright, David

Type of paper: Symposium

In an increasingly complex world, the project of democratic education depends in many ways on teacher capabilities to create opportunities for all students. This may sound like a truism, but there has been little, if any, research into what may count as teacher capabilities that would enable them to function responsively and inclusively in diverse classrooms, particularly in times when their agency has been increasingly constrained by neoliberal reforms and accountability measures. The alienated labour of teachers, commodification of education and reification of students as value-adding things, rather than human-beings, raise concerns about teacher capabilities to increase the agency and freedom of their students while teachers themselves have limited agency and freedom.By drawing on Amartya Sen’s Capability approach, this paper starts with the premise that teachers play a central role in the expansion of their students’ capabilities. However, we shift our focus on the development of teacher capabilities as a necessary precondition of socially just and responsive education. By drawing on a systematic literature review and interviews with the key stakeholders in responsive and inclusive education, we have identified and selected a set of valued capabilities that can be used for the evaluation of professional education (initial and ongoing) and of whether teachers have achieved a sufficient range and depth of capabilities. This metric of teacher capabilities differs significantly from the logic of the professional standards for teachers. It includes both basic and professional capabilities that reflect multiple dimensions of teachers’ work in diverse classrooms. In drawing up a metric of teacher capabilities, we used the following criteria – the capability list should be explicit and discussed with the profession and other stakeholders; the method should be defended and compared with other lists (in other fields) and checked with teachers; the list should be sensitive to the local context; it should consider what is ‘ideal’ and what is more pragmatic; and it should be multidimensional but dimensions should not overlap, ensuring that each capability is separate. We argue that this metric of capabilities helps to move away from the current model of teacher workforce development that prioritises the economically instrumental value of professional education in raising quality. Rather, the paper suggests a focus on the intrinsic and non-economically instrumental values that help teachers to achieve the states of beings and doings that are responsive to difference.