The 'regulated' teacher: A newspaper construction of teacher professionalism and educational accountability

Year: 2012

Author: Baroutsis, Aspa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The research findings presented here are derived from a qualitative study using data gathered over a 14 month timeframe from The Australian, a News Limited paper and the only broad-focused newspaper that circulates nationally. The data were gathered through a document study of newspaper texts and semi-structured interviews with 17 teachers and 2 journalists. Data for the document study of The Australian were gathered using the Factiva database. The analysis of the data is underpinned by Foucault's theorizing of discourse and power, with emphasis being placed on the 'regime of truth' and the socio-cultural, political and institutional practices that produce and circulate discourses about the 'regulated' teacher in the public domain. In particular, notions of disciplinary power and surveillance are used to understand the call for greater teacher accountability in newspaper texts. Examples of newspaper texts that report on measurement practices and curriculum control in schools are used to illustrate the media construction of the regulated teacher.

The analysis of the newspaper data and from interviews shows that newspaper reportage privileges discourses of regulation and accountability about teachers and their work. These privileged discourses provide a public account of teachers, which both constitutes the readers' understanding and 'naturalise' this socially constructed reality regarding teachers and their work. One important construction of teachers in newspaper text is the 'regulated' teacher. This 'way of speaking' about teachers predominantly draws on notions of performative and market accountabilities. Within this construction, there is significant criticism of teachers' 'performance' in relation to both student outcomes and teacher competencies.

Within this accountability framework of performativity linked to marketization and school choice discourses, teacher professionalism is called into question. Teacher professional accountability is also identified in newspaper accounts as an insufficient mechanism for securing government productivity and market agendas. In conclusion, I problematise this distrust of teacher professionalism and competency in newspaper construction of the 'regulated' teacher as potentially damaging to teachers and especially to the teaching profession.