Capabilities and Australian schooling policy: implications for teachers’ pedagogic work

Year: 2013

Author: Skourdoumbis, Andrew, Parker, Stephen, Gale, Trevor

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper explores new possibilities for socially just teachers’ pedagogy through rethinking what it means for teachers to be capable. This is significant in a climate of poor academic achievement of Australian school students and enlarging achievement gaps compared with students in other OECD nations. The paper draws upon a recent research project to re-conceive of teacher capabilities in terms of the freedoms and opportunities (à la Sen) available to teachers rather than the prescribed outputs and functionings emphasized in current industry and education policy. It shifts the focus from the neo-liberal aims evident in schooling policy (such as the National Plan for School Improvement) to the social justice agenda embedded in the capabilities approach. The paper outlines a justification for teacher capabilities that enhance, rather than constrain, social justice in the classroom and provides tentative forays into specifying which capabilities teachers ought to have in order to enhance the learning of their students. In so doing, the paper provides an important foundation for highlighting current policy deficiencies surrounding the existing capability approach to Australian schooling and presents an articulation of identifiable implications for teacher’s pedagogic classroom based practice.