Teachers Talk on Educating Today for Social Justice in Victorian Public Education

Year: 2021


Type of paper: Individual Paper

Current crises in education demand that education practice and research be reimagined. Teachers as educational professionals have a rightful place in reimagining what this educational change may be. In this study, I explore the phenomena of contemporary educating in Victorian public education with a particular focus on teacher professional autonomy with and from the perspective of experienced secondary teachers. My paper is situated within the School Autonomy for Social Justice (SASJ) ARC, which aims to examine the social justice implications of school autonomy in Australia. My study employs a hermeneutic phenomenological approach in dialogue with teachers, to elicit their lived experiences as the key source for understanding educating as a practice (van Manen, 2016). I combine this approach with the Theory of Practice Architectures (Kemmis & Grootenboer, 2008) to critically unpack with teachers in dialogic groups how their professional autonomy is enabled and/or constrained in Victorian public education, and the implications of this for social justice.Preliminary findings reveal that educating as a phenomenon is indeed complex; and this complexity is dependent not only on context, but the individual teacher’s experiences of educating. In this complexity, teachers report on both socially unjust and just educating practices. For instance, whilst a reduction in teacher professional autonomy has been noted since the 1990s, teachers have also found ways to work around this reduction, in some cases by going beyond the traditional confines of schooling. From teachers' testimonial witness accounts of their experiences in educating, it is hoped that hermeneutic justice can be drawn from these testimonies (Fricker, 2007). In turn, this has potential implications for the fields of research and practice. Put another way, by talking with teachers, this study aims to “speak to” educational discourses on educating, teacher professional autonomy, and school autonomy reform, whilst also providing insights for the teachers in this study and other teachers who daily educate our young people in this increasingly complex world.