Finding the 'enunciative space' for teacher leadership and teacher learning in schools

Year: 1997

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

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper draws upon Spivak's (1988) notion of 'enunciation' and takes a position that the "new ruthless economy" (Head, 1996) with its "anorexic approach to expenditure" (Ranald, 1996) is producing what Soucek (1996) labels a general "loss of critical sensibility" (p. 241). There is a progressive leaching of "discursive space" (Fraser, 1993) within which to any longer conceptualise or debate that nature of contemporary social institutions like schools. Rather than a discussion about form, substance, intent, and valued social purposes of schooling, what we have instead are impoverished "enclosures" (Rose & Miller, 1992, p. 188) -- vocationalism, accountability, testing, performance appraisal, devolved responsibility, school charters, league tables, re-centralised curriculum frameworks, and other extraneous limitations on teachers' work and students' learning.

This loss of an "entitlement to speak" (Fine, 1992, p. 25) leads to educational reforms that amount to "shape shifting". As Merchant (1995) notes, shape shifting is a concept used by Native Indian tribes to show a temporary change in appearance or character for the purposes of deception.

The paper is a "plea for discontent" (Beyer & Zeichner, 1982) and a call to reveal what schools might look like if the notion of "dialogic space" were taken seriously. It argues the need to confront the "contours of the oppressive relations of teaching" (Ng, 1995) and how governments worldwide have deliberately created schools that are" crippling learning communities" (Macedo, 1994, p. 142) for teachers. Developing indigenous critiques within schools (O'Neil, 1995; Heckman & Peterman, 1995) by re-inserting "radical spaces" (Ladwig, 1996) through the power of teachers' stories about the complexity of their world, is a crucial first stage in this re-appropriation. Arresting the "collapse of dialogic space " (Schneekloth & Shibley, 1995) is possible through forms of teacher distributive leadership that re-assert the practice of "getting serious about democracy" (Hostetler, 1995) through insider interrogation of what transpires in schools.

The paper confronts the "killing fields of professional values" (Stronach & Morris, 1994) through an analysis of a case study of "purposeful conversation" (Burgess, 1988) in a school where the idea of "dialogical encounter" (Bernstein, 1992) was taken seriously.