Assessing and producing the 'child-student'. The enactment of double incumbrance in the classroom

Year: 1997

Author: Austin, Helena, Freebody, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper documents the conflation of the categories 'student' and 'child' in a literature classroom. It argues that the assessment of the students as successful in school rests upon increasingly problematic adult theories of 'the child'. The classroom talk and students' writing from a literature unit is an upper primary classroom is examined within the theoretical framework of Ethnomethodology using the analytic devices of category analysis and conversation analysis. The paper documents the relevance to the participants in this classroom of the students' membership of the category 'child', such that their assessable student products, both in talk and in writing, are interpreted as bychildren, and reflexively, are used by the teacher as measures of the individual's appropriate 'maturity'. The extent to which a student is assessed as appropriately enacting a particular version of the child has profound consequences for school success. The dual relevance in this context of these interactants as once students and children has consequences for the nature of the classroom interaction. It is clear that the prevailing version of the child undermines the apparent educational goals of the classroom. There are implications for teachers and researchers in confronting and questioning both the definition of the child upon which pedagogical practices are based, and the relevance and utility of the 'child-student's' dual incumbrance.