Pedagogic authority, principals, and social justice

Year: 2013

Author: Cross, Russell, Gale, Trevor, Parker, Stephen, Mills, Carmen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

For Bourdieu and Passeron (1977; 1990), ‘pedagogic work' is comprised of a series of ‘pedagogic actions' conferred with ‘pedagogic authority'. This paper reports work-in-progress from the first phase of an ARC study on teachers' pedagogic work. Informed by the social theory of Bourdieu, its specific focus is on their social justice dispositions: the tendencies, inclinations, and leanings that provide un-thought or pre-thought guidance for their practice (Gale, Cross, Mills DP130101297). Of particular interest in the present paper are key themes to emerge from interview data with school principals, analysed to reveal the nature of pedagogic authority conferred across different sites for teacher activity. Comprising data from schools at the extremes of education advantage and disadvantage—as defined by NAPLAN results published on the Australian Government's MySchool website (ACARA 2010)—we argue that the influence of different social, cultural, and material conditions upon principals (and schools) realises different forms of authority. Socially just pedagogic work is thus different in different contexts. This provides the basis for subsequent levels of analysis that will turn to the activity of teaching itself, extending the Bourdieuian framework through cultural-historical activity theory (Engeström 1987). Our aim is to interrogate how such authority is accepted and rejected, reworked, reappropriated, or reinterpreted by teachers; that is, how pedagogic authority differently informs teacher dispositions, across varied classroom spaces for practice.