Re-making teachers' work: Policy, ideology and practice

Year: 1996

Author: Smyth, John, Shacklock, Geoff, Hattam, Rob

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper lays out the arguments about what is currently happening to teacher work internationally. The analysis begins with discussion of how the labour process of teaching is being re-construed by larger global forces of "structural adjustment", and the particular local forms through which this is given expression. The paper canvasses issues of policy, ideology and practice including: technical/rational means/end views of teaching; competencies, outcomes, and skills formation; marketised, individualised, and competitive relationships; the production of centralised and synthetic forms of curriculum, pedagogy and teaching; and overall, the re-politicisation of teaching based on the unsubstantiated claim and orchestrated consensus that schools and teaching are somehow "failing society" (and the economy). There are several prominent and persistent trends and tendencies through which these aspects of teachers' work are given expression: the language and ideology of management; the movement away from craft-like construals of teaching, towards managed and contrived forms of co-operation, collaboration and partnerships that amount to covert forms of surveillance and self-policing; through the promotion of 'fast' forms of school reform, like devolution and the self-managing school; the push for so-called forms of teacher professionalism; to an overall construction of teaching as being explicit about notions of quality and excellence, and the elimination of uncertainty, complexity and contradiction through testing, standards, benchmarking and the increasing incursion of technology into forms of teaching and learning.

These are analysed and discussed in the context of being alleged policy initiatives that are supposedly aimed at engineering a re-definition of teachers' work that will re-align it with the need to restore flagging international economic competitiveness.