Hearing silenced voices: Emotion and literacy reform

Year: 2015

Author: Bishop, Kaylene

Type of paper: Refereed paper

In recent years Australian state and federal governments, like those in other Anglophone countries, have initiated policies aimed at improving the literacy capabilities of citizens. Whilst literacy and the reform process itself have been of significant interest to both theorists and researchers of reform, gender and emotion remain crucial but routinely ignored, hidden, or neglected elements. My study, based in Queensland’s Literate Futures (2000-2004), addresses the emotion work inherent in accepting responsibility for leadership of literacy reform; a role predominantly undertaken by women.

This feminist poststructuralist study drew on Boler’s understandings of emotion and Fraser’s three dimensional representation of injustice to investigate a reform. Analyses of expressions of feelings of empowerment and powerlessness revealed that many participants attributed illness, family disruption, and career stagnation to their involvement in the work.

The research raises awareness of the limitations of bureaucratic leadership; in particular, how established practices not only restrict the capacity of those who build significant expertise to contribute fully to reform leadership; but also how the on-going learning of teachers is compromised through the insufficient attention given to the implementation process. The research therefore questions the capacity of government bureaucracies to manage complex educational reform in ways that are sustainable and socially just.