Reflexive modernity and the perfectly self managing society: Educators’ work in the built spaces of Innovative Learning Environments

Year: 2021

Author: Charteris, Jennifer

Type of paper: Symposium

Over the last few decades teachers’ professional work has changed significantly with the encroachment of market logics associated with evolving forms of public management and governance. Moreover, there have been innovations in school building design, shifting expectations around pedagogical approaches and revolutions in learning technologies. Taken in combination, these factors contribute to a ‘21st century learning’ rhetoric around ‘21st century skills’ which hasbecome a creedal mantra. The rationale is driven by manufactured urgency that schools need to respond to forces of globalisation and the associated rapid advances in technology. The case for change is premised on the notion that new sorts of learning and forms of knowledge are necessary for students to be active, contributing citizens and future potential workers. Drawing on the qualitative case study data undertaken in Aotearoa/ New Zealand, we give consideration to the practice architectures described by school leaders working in new and refurbished school buildings and how these contribute to changing patterns of educators’ work and the subsequent implications for workplace learning. We illustrate how leaders develop leading practices that support transitions in other practices (professional learning, pedagogy, student practices and reflection) to align with a 21st century imaginary. Leading practices are in focus, as leaders have a pivotal role in changing practice and ensuring that changes are sustained. During our analysis, data were categorised to explore changes in the cultural-discursive, material-economic, and social-political arrangements of the built spaces in which educators work and students learn. The categorised data were explored to note the practice architectures that ‘hang together’ and hold new practices in place and/or provide constraints to the transition process. Findings suggest how practices in ‘innovative learning environments’ or ‘new generation spaces’ are shaped through discourses, workplace activities, and power relations. In the presentation we deploy concepts of ‘reflexive modernity’ and the ‘perfectly self-managing society’ to locate the leaders in an era characterised by uncertainty and meta-change. Leaders lead in a climate of continuous improvement, where there is an emphasis on restructuring and reconstructing what has come before. Within this education context with its emphasis on changing practices in new and refurbished school buildings, past progressive constructions of pedagogy become new again and new practice traditions are constituted. The new pedagogical imaginary and associated conception of professionalism, while echoing progressive views, appropriates and is compromised by neoliberal discourses, work activities, and socio-political imperatives.