Critically interrogating classroom constructions of ’community’ and ’difference’: a case study.

Year: 2001

Author: Allard, Dr. Andrea, Cooper, Dr. Maxine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Within educational literature, the concept of ’community’ has been problematised over the last decade, particularly as regards how constructs of ’community’ that aim to provide ’a sense of belonging’ of collective concern for each individual’ (Nodding 1996: 258) can also operate to exclude, devalue or homogenise diverse groups of students. The tensions that exist between desirable features of a learning community that provides a sense of belonging and at the same time recognises and celebrates difference and diversity are suggested by Fines, et al (1997: 252) who argue that ’the process of sustaining a community must include a critical interrogation of difference as the rich substance of community life’. How do such tensions surface in the classroom? This paper reports on an aspect of an empirical research project that examined relations of power between teachers and students as these operate through explicit processes used to create classroom communities. Through a case study of one composite grade primary classroom with children of diverse cultural heritage, we critically analyse constructs of ‘community’ in light of current literature on difference and diversity. Specifically we address the question: what pedagogical processes create a learning community where acceptance of difference is reworked to better address unequal relations of power?