Issues In Educational Research, Vol 11, 2001   [Contents Vol 11] [IIER Home]

Book reviews

Smyth, J., Dow, A., Hattam, R., Reid, A. and Shacklock, G. (2000). Teachers' Work in a Globalizing Economy. Falmer Press, London.
Smyth, Dow, Hattam, Reid and Shacklock (2000) have provided an extensive discourse that deals with the important questions regarding what teachers are doing and what they should be doing. They describe the current economic and political forces that have influenced the role of teachers and ask whether schools are annexes of industry and responsible for training students or are they interpretive communities committed to enthusing students with perceptiveness to critically examine society, ie. critical citizens? Smyth and colleagues suggest that many of the changes that have occurred in teachers' work have been for reasons that reside far from the classrooms, curriculum, pedagogy or learning. This exploitation of teachers has occurred in three areas; 1. highlighting of teachers' managerial role and deemphasising their pedagogical role, 2. reprofessionation by introducing new regulatory controls and professional behaviour and competencies closely supervised by the state and 3. deregulation or incapacitation of teachers' unions to diminish wages and award conditions.

Questions are raised that every teacher should be concerned about. For example, should public schools (and funds) serve the social good or an economic and competitive economy? Should our educational leaders be more concerned with details of institutional life or with cultivating an educational theory? These leaders are being turned into line managers at the cost of their role as leading professional educators. Chapter 2 provides a theoretical approach to teachers' work through a Labour Process Theory. Discussion focuses on vocationalisation, marketisation and commodification of an education system that has been dealing with social education, personal development and self-realisation. This change, along with their increased work load juxtaposed with increasingly poorly resourced schools, has frustrated numerous teachers. Control is the major theme in this chapter which documents how teachers are controlled through regulated markets, management structures, bureaucracies, corporate environment, ideological and disciplinary power. The effects on teachers of these control mechanisms is briefly considered. For example, a corporate environment is more concerned with advancing a competitive economy than servicing a socially cultured community.

Chapter 3 describes in some detail the critical case study method for investigating teachers' work. This chapter will be laborious for teachers not familiar with research methodology. However, it is worth spending the time to unravel. Critically examining the 'story accounts of teachers' work' will provide insight into how the organisation and structure of contemporary education has developed and how this understanding can contribute to improving contemporary education from a classroom perspective. These narrative accounts provide for various practices and institutional structures to be scrutinised and critically examined.

Teachers' stories from two schools are documented and provide insight in how changes have effected the work of teachers. The first, a public school, situated in a working-class suburb, looked run-down and tatty. Teachers' perspective on the school's flat management structure, increased marking and administration load for teachers, cultural changes and increased expectations and more process-dependent responsibilities being given to teachers give an insight to the working environment of the school. In addition, external interests that influence this environment are also considered from the teachers' voice. Coherence to the National Curriculum, survival in the 'market' place, culture of collaboration and gender management issues also are commented upon by teachers and have each contributed to the culture of the school. Smyth and colleagues provide substantial research that relate these stories to evidence that dispels some of the myths that have been cultivated during this change process. For example, productive connection between school and economy is not as powerful as the neo-liberals would have us believe. Their propositions are based on "very shaky evidence and at worst are simply incorrect". The stories, told by teachers at this school, are similar to thousands of other stories throughout Australia and yet teachers continue and progress in the face of these difficulties.

The second school is a non-denominational, coeducational independent secondary school situated in a provincial city that serves the needs of an intensive and varied agricultural region. The socially critical narrative of teachers' work is concerned with the boundaries of professionalism, the ethic of care in teaching and the intensification and proletarianisation of teachers' work. Teaching has been described in various terms, including a calling, a craft, a moral activity, art, professional practice and currently, by some, work. Describing teachers' work in terms of blue collar tasks and forms of work organisation has the potential to devalue the work of teachers and increase the intensity of such work. This growth in intensity is detrimental to the various tasks teachers perform that cannot be quantified and has a diminishing effect on the quality of education. Teachers' stories, from this school, support the notion that the quality of education is being mutated by ever increasing demands on teachers' time. The practice of 'cutting corners' is applied more to tasks that are qualitative then quantitative in nature. To investigate the issues related to teaching as work a socially critical approach is used to view teacher professionalism, an ethic of care in teaching and the intensification in teaching. Questions concerning 'what is this phenomenon?', 'why is it happening now?', 'what is it that really lies behind this notion?', and 'what is wrong with it?" are addressed.

Smyth and colleagues are determined to revitalise a critical theory of teachers' work. In doing so their commitment to a socially critical view of schooling states that "... schooling should be organised around the needs of the most disenfranchised members of society" (p146). Their theoretical constellation has the following propositions:

  1. Schooling is still a significant site of social and cultural formation.
  2. Schools can make a significant contribution to an egalitarian society.
  3. Teachers are the most important actors in the technology called schools.
  4. Teachers' own identities have to contend with the power relations that operate in schools and educational systems.
  5. Teachers as workers sell their labour power in a 'globalising' labour market.
  6. The curriculum/pedagogy is the main specification of the labour process of teaching.
  7. Control of teachers' work takes structural, ideological and disciplinary modes.
  8. Control, as a result of globalisation, has a detrimental and material effect on teachers' work (p 149).
Each of these propositions is considered in terms of contemporary politics of teachers' work. Within their theory, Smyth and colleagues strongly propose that school reform must be a process that is framed according to and articulated around the concerns of teachers.

In Chapter 7, Struggling with 'Global Effects', Teachers as Pedagogical-Political Workers, Smyth and colleagues challenge educators to question the sort of society they want to live in and to be involved with critical discourse, enlivened debate and political action in order to influence its growth. Teachers must continue to support a democratic design for schooling which include offering alternative visions of schooling that involve voices beyond the middle, political or economic classes. Production and teaching of knowledge must be represented in terms of race, class, sexuality and gender. Teaching the values of compassion, civic responsibilities, economic and social justice and actively forbidding racism, sexism, classism, ethnocentrism and other methods of oppression in a mass education system will be difficult. For many the system has evolved away from an autonomous, interpretive community committed to enthusing students with tools and critical sensibilities to interrogate a democratic society. This book provides substantial argument and direction for those concerned with a socially critical approach to education to embark on a renaissance of the education system.

Dr Lyle Croyle
School of Education
Edith Cowan University

Taylor, Anthea (Ed) (2001). Dimensions of diversity: Lectures in the 1999 CIE distinguished visitors programme. CIE Monograph series, number 1. Chalkface Press, Perth, 2001, $25.
The four public lectures reprinted in this monograph share the common purpose of identifying the structures and processes of educational exclusion in order to modify curriculum, teaching strategies and organisational cultures. They also share a desire to shift the focus of research into educational inclusion away from the perceived deficiencies of learners, towards a concern with the impact of teaching and learning on a broad range of learners with different educational needs.

With some relief I note that there is less concern with special education, Barton's paper being the one most concerned with this. However, the range of inclusivity covered by the other three researchers is so broad as to render the notion almost useless. Ball focuses on class inclusivity, Hargreaves on social stratification and parental values, and Ainscow on the special needs of any child so that specific issues of gender and race inequality just evaporate. The common concern is to shift the "problem" of deficit differences away from a focus on the treatment or correction of the students to the inabilities of the curriculum and classroom to meet their needs within standardised teaching. It would be easy to conclude that in their desire to reframe disablement and effect a dramatic change in classroom practices that they all work within the practice of critical theory.

However, Andy Hargreaves' paper on emotional geographies of teaching sits in a fairly conventional ethnographic and descriptive research frame, measuring the emotional geographies in 15 Canadian elementary schools by asking teachers to report on their positive and negative emotional relationships to their work, their professional development and educational change. The data show that where great moral distance exists between teachers and parents, where their purposes are at odds with each other, and where there are no means or desire to resolve them, physically close and frequent interactions will only magnify conflict and frustration between them. Policy makers should infer from this paper that they must provide a framework which does not increase teacher workload, but "gives teachers the discretion, the conditions, the expectations and the opportunities to develop and exercise their emotional competence of caring for, learning from and developing emotional understanding among all those whose lives and actions affect the children they teach." Fine rhetoric, but this paper remains a starting point for further discussion as to whether and how this should be achieved.

Mel Ainscow operates more from an even more deeply embedded romanticism, imposing the reflective practitioner model onto a research action plan to advise teachers to develop new teaching responses to stimulate full participation. He uses the UNESCO project Special Needs in the Classroom but stresses that there is no simple recipe for success and that a teaching aide, with the best of supportive intentions to help the child get good marks, may nonetheless hinder the child's individual development. There is more good practical advice here than in Hargreaves' paper, but the progressive movement to allow the self-actualisation of the child is not far beneath the surface.

Also promoting the ideology of the child as independent learner, Len Barton (Disability, Empowerment and the Struggle for Inclusion) speaks as one who has experienced the exclusion of derogatory remarks, and one who has practised exclusion of "Special Education" kids. It is not surprising therefore to see his paper promote an ethic of care and respect for the individual child. Yet the paper begins by using an appeal to human rights and equity which is firmly founded in the Kantian deontological tradition where the principle of rights often clashes mightily with the principle of responsibility (attested to by the Kohlberg/Gilligan debate). The rights of the child are generally formulated within a hierarchical patriarchy which has already decided what rational standards are correct, and appeal to them is used to reinforce the prevailing hegemonies which feed exclusion and the marginalisation of those of different colour, gender, creed or ability. So there needs to be further work in reconciling or at least entering into the dialectic of, the oppositional forces of inclusion and exclusion, of rights and caring for the individual regardless of category or principle.

Stephen Ball's paper on New Youth, New Economies, New Inequalities offers a different kind of socioscape from Hargreaves. His is the lecture that most neatly fits a neo-Marxist critical theory model, designed to critique economic realities and in effect create economic change, alongside changes in the labour market. He provides some conclusions from research on time-space-biographies conducted with school leavers in London to re-view some current inequalities of performance and space that have emerged as a result of new economies. The new economies of fast food bars, cafes and restaurants, cyber cafes, haircutters, fashion retailer are predominantly economies of appearance and experience, hedonistic economies. The new labour markets of, say disc jockey and hairstyling, have their own internal hierarchies and structures, engendering both opportunity and risk. Many young folk now experience the "friction of distance" of having to travel long distances for post-16 education and training. And yet many others lived "the global city," their social work and educational lives marked by movement and boundary crossing. Ball argues that educational policies have not caught up with these new economies, allowing students to build up a learner identity that will not sit easily with the labour market, and creating what Albrow in 1997 called "time-space social stratification."

If I feel that the focus is sociological rather than educational and that there is not enough focus on the classroom for beginning teachers. The monograph, however, for all its "over-inclusivity" and internal inconsistencies, is a useful starting point, especially given its low price ($25.00), for teachers with some experience in the field to begin to deconstruct their own values and to recognise who they are or are not including in their daily practices of teaching. It could provide a good basis for conversations in seminars which may eventually lead to the political transformation of the classroom into a caring and inclusive place. I recommend its purchase for any post-trainee course or professional development programme.

Dr Felicity Haynes
University of Western Australia

Chapman, Anne & Pyvis, David. (2001). Up the hill and over the back fence: A case study of the literacy and numeracy needs and priorities of university oriented regional TAFE students. CIE Monograph Series, No 2, Chalkface Press, Perth. $22.50.
Up the Hill and Over the Back Fence is a study by Anne Chapman and David Pyvis of the literacy and numeracy needs and priorities of university oriented regional TAFE students in Western Australia. The study's premise is that regional TAFE students are educationally disadvantaged in many ways and that one of the less tangible ways in which those inequalities occur is through regional lecturers having different approaches and priorities to urban university lecturers when it comes to teaching literacy and numeracy skills. In the regional TAFEs, literacy and numeracy are usually influenced by curricular and pedagogical developments in adult education. Literacy and numeracy content in course work is often aimed at meeting the demands of employment and particular professional contextual situations. In the university setting literacy and numeracy are, according to Chapman and Pyvis, generally considered to be "discipline-specific, comprising generic skills for coping with the language, literacy, and communication demands within and beyond a course of study" (p.1).

The study was conducted in four regional TAFE campuses chosen to represent a range of regional locations. The courses investigated included Health Science, Tourism, Children's Services and Information Technology. The study is comprised of three key stages. The first involved compiling literacy and numeracy profiles of the four target courses. For each of the four courses Chapman and Pyvis give examples of tasks and work completed by the students and the literacy and numeracy skills required to complete each task. Stage two of the project involved listing and describing strategies employed by the lecturers in endeavouring to meet the literacy and numeracy requirements of the four courses. Chapman and Pyvis found twelve strategies that were used by the lecturers in encouraging their students' literacy and numeracy skills. The third and final stage of the project involved reporting the findings and conclusions of the study. Included is a list of the needs and priorities of regional TAFE students undertaking those courses which offer the opportunity for further study at university level.

The lecturers interviewed for this study were very conscientious in their care and support of their students, and in their efforts to make the courses as practical and enriching as possible. Students appreciated this and were aware that, although they were disadvantaged relative to urban students in many ways, they were advantaged in the amount of time that the lecturers were able to devote to each individual student. Those students who had previously studied at university in Perth particularly appreciated the extremely supportive environment provided in the regional context.

This monograph is important in raising awareness of some of the less obvious issues of inequality and exclusion that are faced by the state's regional TAFE students. It is lucid and concise and Chapman and Pyvis write in a readily accessible style. However, I would have preferred the incorporation of a greater amount of data profiling the participants and the inclusion of a greater variety of quotations would have been appreciated. Nevertheless, these are rather minor quibbles. The monograph is an important contribution to the body of knowledge on issues of equity and inclusivity in rural-remote education.

Elaine Lopes
Elaine Lopes is a doctoral student at The University of Western Australia who is investigating rural and remote education.

CIE logo

A new series of monographs from the Centre for Inclusive Education located within the Graduate School of Education at The University of Western Australia. The series aims to publish seminal papers and research reports within the broad context of education on topics that highlight aspects of inclusivity and showcase research design.

Monograph Number 1 ($25)
Dimensions of diversity: Lectures in the 1999 CIE Distinguished visitors programme
Reaching out to all learners: Some opportunities and challenges, Mel Ainscow, University of Manchester
Emotional geographies of teaching, Andy Hargreaves, University of Toronto
New youth, new economies, new inequalities! Stephen J. Ball, King's College, London
Disability, empowerment and the struggle for inclusion, Len Barton, University of Sheffield

Monograph Number 2 ($22.50)
'Up the hill and over the back fence': A case study of the literacy and numeracy needs and priorities of university oriented regional TAFE students. Anne Chapman, The University of Western Australia & David Pyvis, Curtin University of Technology

Others in the series ($22.50 ea)
'They give you a chance': An evaluation of the family of trades VET in schools programme, Taylor & Koczberski ($22.50)
Inclusivity, the disabled child and teacher strategies: The development of a theory, Chalmers & O'Donoghue ($22.50)

Published and distributed by
Phone: + 61 8 9385 1923 Fax: +61 8 9385 1922
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The CIE Monograph Series can be ordered by mail, fax or phone order from the publisher.

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