Towards effective socially-critical pedagogy: stories from primary classrooms
KeywordsFields of Research
Theory of Structuration
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AbstractInternational calls for the immediate implementation of education for sustainable development, as an urgent response to the global-scale environmental crises developing from current unsustainable humanâ€“environment relationships, face the paradox that educational systems are notoriously slow and difficult to alter. Effective education for sustainable development demands a socially-critical pedagogy, the goals and practices of which represent the antithesis of the well-established neo-vocational approaches into which environmental education is most usually slotted. Of significant concern is that these calls for educational change will simply contribute to the ever-widening gap between the reality of classroom practices and the rhetoric of education for the environment. An investigation of the nature of educational rhetoricâ€“reality gaps was undertaken in order to inform more-effective processes for achieving educational change. Case studies captured the experiences and practices of eleven teachers as they attempted to implement education for sustainable development through the socially-critical pedagogy of a sustainable schools program in six Victorian schools. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the nature of the educational rhetoricâ€“reality gap phenomenon it was necessary to explore beyond the individual effects of the additional classroom resources and teacher professional development sessions that constitute the majority of programs for educational change. In light of this, data analysis was guided by an ontological framework based on Anthony Giddensâ€™ theory of structuration and the notion of the duality of structure and agencyâ€”an approach not yet established in the field of educational research. Structuration provided a unique perspective on the manner in which relationships between elements of structure and agency influenced the educational endeavours of teachers and impacted on their ability to embrace pedagogical change. The use of hypothetical scenarios during interviews enabled various aspects of teachersâ€™ knowledgeability to be explored. It was found that although the teachers tended to justify aspects of their agency in terms of various structural elements, those elements neither enabled nor constrained any teachersâ€™ classroom practice. While this implied that the educational rhetoricâ€“reality gaps identified were issues of agency, detailed analysis of the teachersâ€™ responses to the hypothetical scenarios indicated that, in all cases, irrespective of how well teachers implemented the sustainable schools program, each teacherâ€™s classroom practice not only reflected their personal educational ideology, but actively reinforced that ideology. Implications of the use of the theory of structuration in educational research, and in particular, in relation to understanding the role of teachersâ€™ agency in shaping classroom practices, are discussed. Suggestions for further research with the potential to inform processes that reduce the development of educational rhetoricâ€“reality gaps are provided.