In whose interests - school reform and teachers' learning?: Whole school reform as a site of negotiation of interests

Year: 1997

Author: Hattam, Robert, Smyth, John, McInerney, Peter, Lawson, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper will attempt to outline what it means to struggle against the grain through advancing "whole school reform". Reform that could be regarded as "grassroots reform" and hence emerges out of a complex dialogue between teachers, students and their parents about what constitutes good learning and teaching. Reform that makes use of the relative autonomy of schools to establish collaborative relationships, robust enough to engage in vigorous interrogations of the adequacy of what is considered orthodox practice for teachers.

In these 'new times', schools are being reformed under the auspices of neo-liberal ideology through implementing the political technologies of privatisation, marketisation and legitimation. As such, 'new times' in schools are characterised by the profound continuities of naturalising difference as deviance and reforming to ensure nothing much changes. In such a context teachers' voices have been muted in the process of policy development - i.e. the educative imperative has been ignored outside of schools. But, some teachers, in some schools, continue to struggle to enact a vision of a school as a site of negotiation of interests. We have began calling these schools 'dialogic schools' or 'critical collaborative communities'. Teachers in such schools reject the view that the interests of the most disenfranchised have been incorporated into the policy formulations of outside experts. Instead, such schools maintain a view that "social justice is largely worked out locally", and hence teachers indigenous knowledge about learning is crucial to the enterprise of making a difference in schools.