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There’s more to education than spelling and numbers November 4, 2014

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
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from Associate Professor Sue Roffey

Headlines in newspapers on a recent Monday morning said much of the curriculum review that has been welcomed across Australia. The removal of the four “general capabilities” from the curriculum is a travesty many are yet to recognise.

The four “general capabilities” are personal and social capability, critical and creative thinking, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding. Are thinking and creativity now considered irrelevant for education?

Research suggests these are critical skills for innovation, problem-solving, empathy, evaluation, knowledge application and mental health. These skills are also necessary for the promotion of a democratic society. Young people need to be able to think for themselves and make up their own minds about their values, who they become and what they do.

The reduced focus on personal and social capability also makes little sense.  Relationships are not the soft and fluffy end of education; they are the central plank of how we learn and how well we live our lives. They determine our ability to contribute to both the world of work and society.

Confederation of British Industry director-general John Cridland says that over half of British firms are concerned about the self-management and resilience of school leavers, who must be better prepared for life outside the school gates.

Eton College headmaster Tony Little has expressed concern over the narrowing of the curriculum:

A sharp focus on performance is a good thing, but there is a great deal more to an effective and good education than jostling for position in a league table … Most of us as parents want our children to become capable adults, able to look after themselves and their own families, but we want them to be good citizens, too.

The US Department of Defence funded research leading to the Wingspread Declaration on School Connections, a document highlighting the need for a sense of belonging for effective education.

There is now a raft of Australian and international evidence  for what constitutes authentic well-being for young people and how a focus on student well-being underpins universal learning outcomes, mental health for the vulnerable and pro-social behaviour. Healthy relationships with teachers, families and peers are integral to this.

Many of our young people are not learning the values and skills needed outside of school. Most teachers are doing a great job, despite the pressures on them to focus on test results. The evidence for the benefit of social and emotional learning in the curriculum is overwhelming. In the US a meta-analysis of 213 social and emotional learning programs showed that academic outcomes for participating students had an 11% improvement in academic skills compared to control groups.

It is hardly surprising that some of our most privileged and advantaged schools are taking student well-being – “learning to be” and “learning to live together” – seriously. Prestigious and successful schools such as Geelong Grammar, The Knox School and St Peters in Adelaide have a heavy focus on these attributes.

We need to go beyond the economic, rote-learning mindset, which is singularly concerned with the acquisition and regurgitation of facts. There is great concern that the race to the top in PISA rankings is undermining the education our children and our country really needs. What is the point of top marks in all subjects if you are unable to live a fulfilling life?

And what about valuing all of those children who are never going to be academic stars, but have other things to offer? Don’t they count?

Our education system is about the future of Australia, our democracy, our future mental health and our ability to contribute within our community. Relationships matter, resilience matters. Teachers, researchers and many parents know this, so why don’t the reviewers?

Sue Roffey is an adjunct associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She is also Chair of Wellbeing Australia and co Lead Convenor of the Student Wellbeing Action Network which is part of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth. This article was originally published on The Conversation.

A Geography of Hope. August 11, 2013

Posted by christinefjohnston in Social Ecology.
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6 comments

Dr Carol Birrell

 A few weeks ago when I was picking up my grandson from his pre-school, he was keen to show me their latest display on a large noticeboard in the centre of the indoor classroom. On it were posted pictures of extinct or near-extinct species of animals with accompanying statements listing surviving numbers and original numbers. It was enough to depress me in an instant! However, what dominated my thoughts was the impact on these young children of such devastating information. I had to ask myself, how do they manage such information, if it is barely possible for me as a mature adult to manage it?

Educator David Sobel has a solid critique of education that may do more harm than good:

 Lurking underneath ‘environmentally correct’ curricula is the assumption that if children see the horrible things that are happening, then they too will be motivated to make a difference. But those images can have an insidious, nightmarish effect on young children whose sense of time, place and self are still forming… what’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it and feel comfortable in it, before being asked to heal its wounds[1].

 In this contemporary world of impending planetary disaster, of economic and political collapse, of rampant fears around health, disease, invasion and war, to list just a few, we are immersed, in fact, in a culture of ‘doom and gloom’. No person is immune to it.

  I came across an expression in relation to this, but in fact its antithesis, that resonated deeply and that I wish to explore further, called ‘A Geography of Hope’. Wallace Stegner, an American author, coined the expression to address the value of ‘hope’ as an idea as well as a place.[2]

 I initially trained as a Geographer and taught this subject in high schools and primary schools for over 20 years. However, I am not sure of the shape of A Geography of Hope, of its look or feel, but I know it is something I need, both as a teacher and more generally, in my life. In the face of this powerful statement, I wish to explore it as an antidote to the pervasive negativity that infects all of us, our students included. And I want to ask the question,

 ‘How do we cultivate A Geography of Hope in our classrooms?’

 I believe this is crucial in our education systems in this moment of time. It demands a shift from negativity, of despair and disempowerment, to a vision of hope that can be owned and embodied in our classes. It is not a positioning that is trying to avoid the truth, to disguise reality under some sort of ‘Pollyanna’ ruse. It may be seen as essential to our mental/physical/emotional/spiritual health and hence to our learning and pedagogical practices.

 David Orr gives us some pointers here:

  ‘The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.’[3]

Take one example of what I would incorporate under the notion of A Geography of Hope: that of the fostering and understanding of beauty in our lives. How could we bring ‘beauty’ more into our classrooms? Of course, we could have more living plants, creatures, art works, images of beautiful natural scenes, poetry, music, planted in the everyday lives of our students (Alas! Far removed from university classrooms!!). It may also reside in our own beings, as a geographic location with its points of longitude and latitude clearly demarcated. If I can hold a map of beauty in my being, in the world, in others, in plants and animals, in the not-so beautiful, and hold that as a central fulcrum in my classes, then it has a tangible presence and can exert influence. It is the ‘still point of the turning world’ in T.S. Eliot’s poem from which waves continue to move outwards[4]. Beauty gives us hope.  

Some recent research in Finland inspired me. People were encouraged to write letters to friends about beauty in their everyday lives- this took place in a small Arctic village over one year. The researcher states:

 ‘Beauty, in these letters, became as if a verb: a continuous, open-ended process of articulating the ways in which one is interwoven with and conditioned by one’s surrounding environment. Articulating beauty in everyday life was proven a practice that sustains sensory attentiveness, openness and imaginative interest towards the material world [5].

Imagine if that kindy noticeboard took beauty as its environmental theme!

 My grandson Sam stops me to take in a particularly stunning sunset, a softly rounded smooth rock, a mosquito on his arm, a strange word that tickles his fancy. He continues to cultivate in me, this notion of beauty and through it, unmistakably, a notion of hope.

 When I begin to contemplate the contours of A Geography of Hope, I am thinking about love, joy, awe, friendship and beauty. I want a classroom brimming with these! Is it possible? I can only hope!   

 

[1] Sobel, D. (1996) Beyond Ecophobia, The Orion Society, Great Barrington, MA

2 Stegner, W. http://www.angelfire.com/journal/worldtour99/hope.html accessed 5/8/13

3Orr, D (2004). Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect. Island Press, USA.

4 Elliott, T.S. Four Quartets http://www.coldbacon.com/poems/fq.html accessed 8/8/13

5 Rautio, P. (2013)  Children who carry stones in their pockets. Children’s Geographies, DOI:10.1080/14733285.2013.812278


Dr Carol Birrell in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney

The power of technologies for conceptual change September 9, 2012

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
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from Dr Chwee Beng Lee

Conceptual change remains one of the most essential outcomes of learning. It is an intentional and constructive effort to bring about deep understanding. Conceptual change theories describe how people revise their conceptual frameworks and their belief systems as a result of cognitive perturbations.

In the past, conceptual change research tended to focus on the change of individuals’ conceptual frameworks, and relied on creating cognitive conflicts to achieve conceptual change. However, in recent years, researchers have raised issues of the motivational, affective, and contextual factors implicated in conceptual change (Gregoire, 2003; Murphy, 2007) and the importance of a sociocultural perspective in understanding conceptual change. There are also considerable efforts in discussing and exploring effective strategies to foster conceptual change.

Although conceptual change can be induced through strategies such as using structural alignment as analogical learning (Mason, 2004), collaborative reasoning, (Anderson et al., 2001; Clark et al., 2003), knowledge building (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006) and many other approaches, technology is increasingly playing a powerful and critical role in the process of not only fostering individual (Lee & Jonassen, 2012) but also social conceptual change.

Jonassen (in press) argues that conceptual change is more than a realignment or restructuring of ideas but rather, it results from interactions of minds with other minds in the world. With the exponential growth in online communities such as Facebook, learners’ ideas and conceptions are constantly exposed to the challenges posed by the community members or even others outside the community. The power of social media is fast altering the belief systems of individual and social groups. Mainstream media no longer plays a dominant role in disseminating information. On the other hand, social media is highly efficient in delivering the most updated information as well as influencing our belief systems as it has the affordances of multimodalities which mainstream media does not.

What is most intriguing about social media is that it has the power to achieve large scale and immediate conceptual change. Such change includes changes in conceptions of democracy, human rights and freedom of speech as they are defined among these social groups. In some Asian countries where governments were once considered unchallenged, ultimate authoritative bodies are now being constantly questioned for their roles, functions and actions in these virtual realities. The formation of online communities not only forms “group beliefs” or “social beliefs” but also influences one’s identity and belief systems. With this in mind, educators must acknowledge the power and influences of social media in changing the conceptions of individuals and social groups.

Instead of relying on instructions and technologies that may foster the individual’s conceptual framework, there is a more urgent need to explore ways to integrate social media into classrooms for positive individual and social change in conceptions, as well as belief systems. However, this may be a daunting task, as conceptual change is a highly complex process and we have yet to fully understand the affordances of technologies for deep learning, let alone the complexities involved in propelling change among social groups. Possible research questions that deserve our attention may include: what are the roles of social media in fostering individual as well as social conceptual change? How do we capture and assess such changes? What kind of instructions can drive positive change? 

References:   Anderson, R. C., Nguyen-Jahiel, K., McNurlen, B., Archodidou, A., Kim, S. Y., Reznitskaya, A., Tillmanns, M., & Gilbert, L. [2001]. The snowball phenomenon: Spread of ways of talking and ways of thinking across groups of children. Cognition and Instruction, 19[1], 1-46.    Clark, A. M., Anderson, R. C., Kuo, L. J., Kim, I. H., Archodidou, A., & Nguyen-Jahiel, K. [2003]. Collaborative reasoning: Expanding ways for children to talk and think in school. Educational Psychology Review, 15[2], 181-198.   Gregoire, M. [2003]. Is it a challenge or a threat? A dual-process model of teachers’ cognition and appraisal processes during conceptual change. Educational Psychology Review, 15, 147-179.   Jonassen, D. H. (In press). The impact of technology on conceptual change: Past and future. In C.B. Lee., & D.H. Jonassen (Eds.). Fostering Conceptual Change with Technologies. Cengage Learning.    Lee, C. B., & Jonassen, D. H. (2012). An introduction: technologies for conceptual change.  In C.B. Lee., & D.H. Jonassen (Eds.). Fostering Conceptual Change with Technologies. Cengage Learning.   Mason, L. [2004]. Fostering understanding by structural alignment as a route to analogical learning. Instructional Science, 32, 293-318.   Murphy, P. K. [2007]. The eye of the beholder: The interplay of social and cognitive components in change. Educational Psychologist, 42[1], 41-53.    Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. [2006]. Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In R. K. Sawyer [Ed.], The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences [pp. 97-118]. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Chwee Beng Lee is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where she lectures in learning design and pedagogy in the Master of Teaching (Secondary) program. She joined UWS  from the National Institute of Education, Singapore, at the beginning of 2012.

Citius, Altius, Fortius: Olympic Education as an authentic learning experience June 17, 2012

Posted by Editor21C in Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
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33 comments

from Dr Jorge Knijnik

In a few weeks the world’s attention, and certainly the interest of most Australians will turn to the 2012 London Olympics – the paramount sports events on Earth. All media will be highlighting the world’s ‘faster, higher and stronger’ athletes and parathletes. It will be quite impossible to escape from the powerful stories and images that will abound over our TV shows, the internet, and newspapers. The prowess of athletes from all nations, and even their failures, make fascinating dramas that rouse the curiosity of people from all sorts of backgrounds and ages.

Of course school communities are not immune to this universal movement. Children and adolescents, teachers and parents, the whole school community could be consumed with the Olympic Games. So, why do we not take this fascinating moment in our planet’s life and use it to teach? Schools and teachers should be prepared to take the Olympics into account while planning their lessons for the next couple of months.  Our students could ‘learn with the Olympics’, discuss its story and also examine the values and beliefs that the Olympic philosophy – Olympism – is based upon. They could investigate how it might or might not inspire the new generations. And more, as the Olympics is a universal event, is it possible to consider the existence of universal values connected to this movement, as proposed by the advocates of the Olympism and the Olympic Education?

Sport, the ethos of sport as well as all the individual sports, is still the essence of Olympism, which, as a philosophy is based on a true belief that sport should be a tool for humankind’s educational, social and moral development. The founder of the modern Olympic movement and first president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the French nobleman, Pierre de Coubertin, considered education through sport to be one of the “cornerstones of the Olympic Movement” (Knijnik & Tavares, 2012). Coubertin regarded sport as a powerful tool that might “be chivalrous or corrupt, manly or bestial”, … that could “be used to solidify peace or prepare to war” (de Coubertin 1894, 1). Hence, Olympism aims to deliver an Olympic Education which draws on the practical experiences provided by sporting engagement as a vehicle to incorporate and promote values education.

However, recent research in this area has demonstrated that values education needs to take in account a diverse variety of contents and educational strategies (Sandford et al, 2008:422). The Olympic Education program that took place in Greece before the 2004 Athens Olympics evidences this fact, as 33% of the students’ time in this educational intervention actively involved the Arts and theory-based lessons, planned to immerse the students in Olympic values to and to transfer them to wider positive social behaviors and attitudes (Hassandra et al, 2007). Such educational programs have already been in place in the UK for over seven years ahead of the opening of the London Olympics (see http://www.london2012.com/about-us/inspire/inspire-programme/.

Such programs have again revitalized the Olympic Education activity of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In 2007 the IOC released a work-program to be used by teachers and tertiary educators, called, Teaching Values: an Olympic Educational Toolkit (IOC, 2007), which presented pedagogical guidelines that are already or should be embedded in students’ lives. The Teaching Values program uses strategies such as: dilemmas, role-play and small-group discussions seeking to promote Olympic values such as ‘joy of effort’, ‘fair play’, ‘respect for others’, ‘pursuit of excellence’ and ‘balance between body, will and mind’. Using these methodologies, the IOC document is clearly aiming to challenge sports participants to make ethical decisions (Knijnik & Tavares, 2012).

The Australian Olympic Committee has also developed an Olympic Education strategy that goes far beyond merely teaching sports education. This program is called the A.S.P.I.R.E. school network: A — for attitude, S — for sportsmanship, P– for pride, I — for individuality, R — for respect, and E — for express yourself. ASPIRE provides school teachers with hundreds of resources to relate the Olympic Games to the students’ daily lives. These not only improving students’ knowledge about the Olympics, but also link values and cultural facts that are around or even entrenched in the Olympics, and in London and England as the venue of the 2012 Olympics.

On the ASPIRE website a primary teacher can find lesson plans for all stages of primary education – lessons that go from cultural facts, and English and Australian songs related to the Olympics (like the national anthems); to lessons that discuss traditional recipes of the Olympic host. They include lessons that challenges the students to reflect on an Olympic athlete’s nutritional habits, and their impacts on the body, to lessons that deal with ethical values that are embedded in the ASPIRE purpose.

Is it valuable for a young African migrant living in Western Sydney to learn about and to discuss such values as sportsmanship, or individuality, playing scenarios where she can learn the pride of being satisfied with her own effort, while learning the happiness of being part of a team? Is it positive for a vulnerable migrant young boy just arrived in Australia to learn how to express and speak up by himself, while at the same time learning respect and admiration by others’ achievements? On the same website, a secondary student is able to develop a deep understanding of Australia’s Olympic history by using a diverse range of e-learning milieus – respecting the students’ individual needs and paces, and consequently corroborating with the aims of the ASPIRE program. Using these resources, it’s possible to elaborate on how the Olympic Games have historically been associated to Human and Civil Rights issues – reflecting on race issues raised by the 1968 Games in Mexico, or the Apartheid in South Africa, or even the women’s struggle to participate in the Games. Isn’t this learning especially significant for teenagers who have just started to learn about their own rights as human beings, as well as other’s Human Rights?

The acclaimed Brazilian educator Paulo Freire had a “golden rule” for each teacher and for each educational setting: he stated that any lesson, any educational methodology, any content, in order to be meaningful for the learner should be “rooted in concrete situations” (Freire, 2000:37) – that learning must be always authentic and relevant. Aiming to instill values education within a universal ethical framework known as Olympism, that underpins a contemporary Olympic Education program, reminds us that Freire was and still is right: educators and students must contextualise the learning process towards a momentous and authentic educational process which promotes a better understanding of each of our lives. Is there a better chance for this education than through the Olympic Games, with its glories, defeats, emotions and contradictions?

References:  de Coubertin, P. 1894. The Character of Our Enterprise, [Le caractère de notre enterprise] in, N. MÜLLER (ed.) Olympism, Selected Writings, Pierre de Coubertin 1863 – 1937. Lausanne: International Olympic Committee, 2000, p. 660-663.    Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. (30th Anniversary Edition.) New York: Continuum.   Hassandra, M., M.Goudas, A. Hatzigeorgiadis and Y. Theodorakis. 2007.A fair play intervention program in school Olympic education. European Journal of Pshycology of Education, XXII, no. 2: 127-141.    Knijnik, J., & Tavares, O. (2012). Educating Copacabana: a critical analysis of the “Second Half”, an Olympic education program of Rio 2016. Educational Review, 64(3). Access at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00131911.2012.671805

Sandford, R.A., R. Duncombe & K.M. Armour. (2008). The role of physical activity/sport in tackling youth disaffection and anti-social behaviour. Educational Review 60, n. 4, 419-435.

Dr. Jorge Knijnik is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. He hasn’t made the Australian Team to the London Olympics, but will keep trying harder to make the Rio Olympics/2016! Jorge would like to acknowledge his always supportive Royal Vizier, Dr. Peter Horton (James Cook University), for his ‘Olympic’ comments and for adding so much in an earlier version of this article. Some parts of this article have been based on the forthcoming paper “Educating Copacabana: a critical analysis of the ‘Second Half’, an Olympic Education Program of Rio/2016”, by Jorge Knijnik and Otavio Tavares.

21st century learning and the need for conversations across difference January 15, 2012

Posted by Editor21C in Community Engagement, Directions in Education, Education Policy and Politics, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
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4 comments

from Associate Professor Carol Reid

 Here, Carol Reid explores how questions of social and cultural diversity and difference impact upon schools and young people, and how they can be addressed through imaginative learning design.

Late last year in the Sydney Morning Herald, an article discussed where migrants liked to live in Sydney. Professor Ang, UWS Centre for Cultural Research, commented that it was vibrant areas that attract migrants, in particular ‘Asian’ migrants. However, this is only part of the story. Areas of Sydney where there are churches and very good schools are also a major pull factor. Some of these areas are very quiet indeed, although shopping strips have been reinvigorated in the ways Professor Ang discussed. Areas that were once largely ‘Anglo’ are now increasingly populated by migrants who, once established in Australia and ready to buy their first home, choose areas on the basis of local schools. In this respect, they are no different to other cultural groups but of course socio-economic factors play a major role in the capacity to choose, and more recently arrived skilled migrants are generally professional and more able to do so. Refugees on the other hand have less choice.

Responding to this article, Deborah Cameron on ABC702 on November 8th ran a discussion asking: “Are parts of Sydney too monocultural?” Reference was made to school composition and the benefits and dilemmas associated with diversity or the perceived lack of diversity in local schools. This is a hot topic whenever it occurs and I have been embroiled in many of these debates, both willingly and not so willingly. So what are the educational implications for learning  in our schools and suburbs in what appears to be increasing heterogeneity on the one hand, and persistent homogeneity on the other?

I was forced to consider this question a few years back when we had the Cronulla riots and again when the UK riots exploded on our screens in 2011. To understand and respond to these vexed questions requires a brief overview of where we are at in the sociology of knowledge.

To begin, it is very hard in a blog piece to cover the intellectual terrain of the past 50 or so years but it is necessary to do so, however brief, to examine this issue, which seems to have so many tentacles. So here is what I will try to do. First, a brief explanation of where we are at in terms of ‘big ideas’ about social life and education more generally and then second, what this might mean for some of these concerns about diversity. This approach draws on French scholar Bourdieu (1988) who maintained that we need to provide a strong critique of the reasoning for what we do.

Mid 20th century we thought that progress (modernisation or modernism) of a particular kind – technological – would provide us with the ideal society. We set up schools to provide labour for this kind of society. The schools were well-ordered, taught mostly the same things to mostly different children and some made it to the top, while others became fodder for the factories. This ‘sifting and sorting’ (Parsons, 1961) disappeared for some time in the radical education movements of the 1970s and 1980s but came back with vengeance in the mid- 1990s and is still with us despite the factories not being there. The factory model of schooling broke down knowledge into small parts and the bits very often didn’t relate to the other bits or to the lives of the students.

At the turn of this century the theories that had seemingly replaced earlier modernist approaches promulgated a new direction. Postmodernism (Perry, 1998[1]) argued that there was no universal understanding about society (such as the earlier belief in progress through development and a utopian future) and we didn’t need to speak, think and do it all the same way because attending to difference could be productive. However, to understand difference required concrete responses. Our rich multicultural heritage and past strong policies in this regard attended to differences although not without critique and revision. The development of ethnic or language specific schools and the further development of religious schools other than Catholic and Protestant also demonstrated difference was a reality and beyond mere rhetoric. The proliferation of choice in public schooling is another dimension of these shifts.

So what does this mean for schools? At a broader level this does mean we are seeing increasing inequalities as those that ‘can’ choose, do. Those left in schools where capital in all its forms has been reduced or removed (social, cultural, intellectual, linguistic, economic) – either by processes of selectivity or parental choice – do suffer. For example, recent research points to the importance of peer effect (Webber and Butler, 2007; NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2011) on learning outcomes. These are major concerns for policy makers in education and will, without due attention, lead to social inequalities that will impact on society quite profoundly. They call for nothing short of a restructuring of education to provide new pathways, new ways of learning and a link to future work, such as the emergent ‘green’ industry. It is somewhat ironic that increasing diversification of choice in terms of where to go to school is not matched by real choice for these students in terms of learning.

Given the increasing division of students on the basis of a range of social categories, what can we do to intervene when things go wrong? A project I was involved, post-Cronulla riot, with six high schools in south-western Sydney, might provide some answers and is in part a reflection of what we have learned from the two theoretical movements discussed earlier. First, there was a wider context where it could be shown that discourses about particular Australians – young middle-Eastern males – had hit an all-time low. We had been through the war on terror, the Bali bombing and the refugee boat arrivals being painted as less than human. All this ‘big picture’ stuff, or metanarrative, had created a structure of feeling (Williams, 1977) towards difference and others. This was felt most intensely at the local level so, while this ‘big picture’ knowledge was critical our responses had to be local, something we have learned from postmodern theory.

In this instance, we discussed with students in these schools the context in which the riot occurred and asked them to go out to other schools and investigate the opinions of their peers about the issues that were local. Some of it was racism, some about violenc and safety, and other things were about all those things adolescents worry about – competition over girlfriends and family reputation among others. To be able to do this the students were taught ethics, learned how to conduct focus groups, construct questions and to analyse the materials they collected. They interviewed their teachers, parents and students in their own schools and other schools. Here they utilised a range of skills in meaningful ways. The result? They concluded that harmony or continual peace was a naive concept – an impossible destination given all their differences; that all you could do was work towards it and that this was about respect, avoiding assumptions, questioning the media analysis and speaking across difference. The students were entrusted with the capacity to know and to understand. They were given and produced really useful knowledge (Gramsci, 1971) with which to work, and turned them into narratives that were performed for their schools and local communities. The production of knowledge in this case was situated geographically in the local but very much connected to global forces.

The schools that participated in this project work with marginalised communities, in socio-economically less well off areas and have ethnically diverse student bodies. Pluralism and localism are important in working in these contexts but so is attention to structures that shape and bear down on these local practices in many ways. Choice about what school to attend is one dynamic shaking up traditional processes of learning to get along with difference.  In these situated contexts really useful knowledge can make a difference to relationships among diverse young people and give youth a voice about what kind of education is meaningful.  Opportunities to have conversations across difference can also develop a cosmopolitan imagination (Delanty, 2006) and enable transformation of the self and others.

[1] Perry found the origins of postmodernism in Hispanic literary circles from the 1930s but it didn’t hit its straps until the latter part of the 20th century.

ReferencesAnderson, P. (1998) The origins of postmodernity, London: Verso.   Bourdieu, P. (1988) Homo academicus, Cambridge: Polity Press.   Delanty, G. (2006) The cosmopolitan imagination: critical cosmopolitanism and social theory, The British Journal of Sociology 57(1): 25-47.   Gramsci, A. (1971) Selections from the Prison Notebooks, London: Lawrence and Wishart.   NSW Department of Education and Communities (2011) School Funding Arrangements Discussion Paper,  https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/media/downloads/about-us/news-at-det/announcements/discussion-paper.pdf .    Parsons, T. (1961) Theories of society: foundations of modern sociological theory, New York : Free Press.   Webber, R. and Butler, T. (2007) Classifying Pupils by Where They Live: How Well Does This Predict Variations in Their GCSE Results? Journal of Urban Studies, 44 (7).   Williams, R. (1977) Structures of feeling in Marxism and literature, Oxford:Oxford University Press (Chapter 9).

Carol Reid is a member of the Centre for Educational Research within the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.

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