Reading the work of school administrators with the help of bourdieu: Developing a 'feel for the game'

Year: 1999

Author: Thomson, Pat

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper I explore how the discipline of educational administration, separated out from curriculum studies and policy sociology, positions researchers to make particular kinds of readings of the work of school administrators. Such readings can be decontextualised and utopian, and the 'will to the technical' often fails to connect with the messy and contradictory everyday world of school lives.

In addition, such literatures (inadvertently?) support modernist managerial policy directions. Furthermore, if/when a select few writers find lucrative entrepreneurial pastures, such educational administrative narratives can become a significant influence in shaping a raft of policy technologies, such as school administrator selection procedures, performance reviews, quality assurance instruments and models of professional learning.

I look specifically at Bourdieu's notions of 'habitus', 'fields' and 'interests' (or 'illusio') and begin to think about an alternative reading that makes the work of educational administration researchers problematic and brings the daily conflicting demands of practising school administrators to centre stage.

The paper builds on my own experiences as a school principal and deputy, on work undertaken as part of my doctoral studies, on ongoing projects with principals' associations and in coordinating a professional doctorate in education.