FORUM
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Volume 58 Number 3 2016

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CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]

 

Thinking the Yet to be Thought: envisioning autonomous and alternative pedagogies for socially just education

Guest Editors: CATHERINE MONTGOMERY & MAX A. HOPE

Michael Fielding. Introduction. Freedom to Learn, pages 303-305 OPEN ACCESS VIEW FULL TEXT http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.303

Catherine Montgomery & Max A. Hope. Thinking the Yet to be Thought: envisioning autonomous and alternative pedagogies for socially just education, pages 307-314 OPEN ACCESS

Wayne Au. Social Justice and Resisting Neoliberal Education Reform in the USA, pages 315-324

Diane Reay. How Possible Is Socially Just Education under Neo-liberal Capitalism? Struggling against the Tide?, pages 325-330

Terry Wrigley. Opening up Pedagogies: making a space for children, pages 331-338

Ciara Draper, Jack Houghton, Beth Read, Danny Bird & J.J. Tatten. A Socially Inclusive A-star is Only Possible through the Understanding of Black Holes, pages 339-344

George Myconos, Joseph Thomas, Kimberley Wilson, Kitty Te Riele & Luke Swain. Educational Re-engagement as Social Inclusion: the role of flexible learning options in alternative provision in Australia, pages 345-354

Charlotte Dean. Seeking Educational Excellence Everywhere: an exploration into the impact of academisation on alternative education provision in England, pages 355-361

Deborah Ralls. Developing Democratic Engagement in School: can becoming co-operative help?, pages 363-370

David Leat & Ulrike Thomas. Productive Pedagogies: narrowing the gap between schools and communities?, pages 371-383

Alys Mendus. Transforming Pedagogy in Primary Schools: a case study from Australia, pages 385-389

Daniel Ford. Stepping off the Well-trodden Path: is a wilder pedagogy possible?, pages 391-397

Helen E. Lees. Choosing Silence for Equality in and through Schooling, pages 399-406

Paul Warwick. Education for Sustainable Development: a movement towards pedagogies of civic compassion, pages 407-414

Louise Mycroft. Northern College and the Philosophers of Praxis, pages 415-419

Martyn Steiner. Freeing Up Teachers to Learn: a case study of teacher autonomy as a tool for reducing educational inequalities in a Montessori school, pages 421-427


 

Thinking the Yet to be Thought: envisioning autonomous and alternative pedagogies for socially just education

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.307

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This article introduces this Special Issue of FORUM with a discussion of freedom and autonomy and considers the ways in which alternative approaches to pedagogy might provide opportunities to address inequalities in the context of education and in society beyond education. The article draws on work carried out in a project funded by an ESRC seminar series grant entitled ‘Thinking the ‘Yet to be Thought’: an international cross-sector seminar series exploring socially just education and inequalities in education’. Underpinning the article is a belief in the intrinsic power of pedagogy to interrupt dominant paradigms and the article acknowledges the importance of surfacing the role of pedagogic discourse in intensifying existing inequalities. Despite the rising tide of neo-liberalism in education across the world, this article and the special issue that follows provide examples of positive educational practice and spaces of resistance where schools, colleges and other educational institutions are doing things differently.

 

Social Justice and Resisting Neoliberal Education Reform in the USA

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.315

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Efforts to reform public education along free-market, corporate-styled models have swept across many nations. In the USA these reforms have included an intense focus on the use of high-stakes, standardized tests to quantify students, teachers, and schools for market comparisons, the deprofessionalization of teaching, and the establishment of deregulated for-profit and non-profit charter schools (equivalent to the United Kingdom’s ‘academies’). These trends aim to challenge teachers’ unions, gain access to public school monies, and restructure schools in a competitive market and at the same time erode autonomy in education. However, these corporate education reforms in the USA have met resistance from multiple contexts and in a variety of forms. After briefly providing an overview of these corporate reforms and their impacts in the USA, this article takes up some of the ways that educators, parents, and communities in the USA have organized against the encroachment of neoliberal, corporate reform in public education policy and practice.

 

How Possible Is Socially Just Education under Neo-liberal Capitalism? Struggling against the Tide?

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.325

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In 2012 the author wrote about what a socially just system would look like, and used the example of Finland Since then the already emergent aspects of neo-liberalism within Finnish education have grown, as privileged white parents increasingly demand privileged spaces within comprehensive schools for their children. There are radical spaces within education, but they, too, are usually the preserve of the privileged within society, and so cannot be equated with socially just spaces. What socially just education requires is that people from all sections of society commit, and hold fast, to a notion of ‘the common educational good’ that transcends individual or family self-interest. This is at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade those with the greatest power of choice in English society to see themselves as sharing the same common interests and purposes as those who are less privileged. Against this difficult context, this article argues that it is more important than ever to fight for socially just education.

 

Opening up Pedagogies: making a space for children

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.331

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This article argues that children and young people in places such as England or the USA are subjected to an educational regime which constrains their development and eclipses their emergent identities. Paradoxically, the accountability systems which claim to make children’s learning visible to management create a distortion of vision by emphasising only the child’s ‘data shadow’. The article argues for pedagogies which provide space for each learner’s authentic encounter with our cultural inheritance as human beings. It concludes by presenting the idea of ‘open architectures’, a set of pedagogical methods which holds children together as a learning community while providing spaces for initiative.

 

A Socially Inclusive A-star is Only Possible through the Understanding of Black Holes

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.339

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This article is written by young people who attend an open-access youth project in the city centre of Hull. Although they describe themselves as ‘educational failures’ (the ‘black holes’), they argue that they have a significant contribution to make to discussions about how to develop socially just education in schools. In the article, they share their personal stories about how they became disconnected from formal education and they identify critiques of the current system of schooling which, in their view, prioritises the ‘A-star’ students. They also explain how their educational experiences have been turned around through their involvement with The Warren in Hull, an organisation which adopts an informal, person-centred pedagogy.

 

Educational Re-engagement as Social Inclusion: the role of flexible learning options in alternative provision in Australia

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.345

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In Australia, a significant minority of young people do not complete upper secondary education. Whether procedural or enacted through the agency of students, the failure of the education system to accommodate young people through to completion can be regarded as a form of institutionalised social exclusion and injustice. In response, a growing number of flexible learning options (FLOs) are providing marginalised young people with alternative avenues for meaningful educational re-engagement. The authors of this article examine two key characteristics of FLOs: an unconditional acceptance of young people, and the integrated well-being support upon which inclusion is premised. Their discussion draws on in-depth interviews conducted with students and practitioners at a diverse range of sites. They find that FLOs play a key role in the process of re-inclusion, but this contribution to reducing social and educational inequality is predicated on a level of well-being support not ordinarily available in mainstream schooling.

 

Seeking Educational Excellence Everywhere: an exploration into the impact of academisation on alternative education provision in England

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.355

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This article presents a policy analysis of the UK Government’s Academies programme and explores the impact that this might have on young people who have become disengaged from the mainstream education system and are thus educated in ‘alternative provision’ (AP) settings. It argues that the academisation proposals curtail some of the ‘freedom to learn’ which is currently experienced by young people in innovative alternative provision environments. These proposals potentially limit access to genuinely individualised, needs-led alternative educational provision in England. The article concludes by arguing that the Government is pursuing a top down reorganisation of AP that has no basis in evidence and that as a result, has silenced and further marginalised young people who are already disengaged from the mainstream education system.

 

Developing Democratic Engagement in School: can becoming co-operative help?

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.363

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One hundred years have passed since John Dewey’s seminal Democracy and Education (1916), yet academics and practitioners continue to search for ways in which democratic relationships in education can be enacted. This article uses a case study of an English Co-operative school to explore how far becoming co-operative can support a shift in the type of engaged relationships that schools have with stakeholders (students, parents, community) towards Dewey’s participatory democracy in education. Can Co-operative schools offer the potential to envision an alternative to current English education policy discourse by engaging students and families as members of a collective democracy rather than as individual consumers? The author shows where forms and understandings of engagement offer potential for democratic relationships through processes of democratic governance and collective responsibility. The article also explores the tensions that emerge between Co-operative school practices and external policy constraints, and the challenges of becoming co-operative.

 

Productive Pedagogies: narrowing the gap between schools and communities?

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.371

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There is little sign that current attempts to close the ‘attainment gap’ are working. This article argues for a different approach to addressing the ‘gap’, based on a community asset approach. The authors describe ongoing work on community curriculum making in North-East England, in which schools undertake projects using community resources. The approach argues that young people should ‘connect’ with the world beyond the school fence: go places, meet people and do and make things. Many of the projects, despite successes, have been more problematic than expected, reflected in many logistical, communication and cultural challenges as well as the fact that teachers in the United Kingdom, and particularly in England, are no longer significant agents of curriculum development. These projects are analysed in terms of ‘boundary crossing’ in which all parties, including students, have to adapt and engage in ‘horizontal learning’ as they move between communities. The article discusses the critical importance of brokerage both within the school and the community partner, which permits translation and transformation of respective practices.

 

Transforming Pedagogy in Primary Schools: a case study from Australia

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.385

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This article stems from a doctoral study about alternative education around the world and the author’s personal journey to identify characteristics of the ‘ideal school’. The focus here is a case study of one small primary school in Australia, through which it shows that there can be a larger amount of freedom and self-actualisation available to students in the classroom even when a school is governed by teaching a compulsory state curriculum. By sharing the story of this school, the article aims to enable educators to reflect on how they structure classrooms and to offer ideas of educating differently.

 

Stepping off the Well-trodden Path: is a wilder pedagogy possible?

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.391

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This article sets out to explore alternative approaches to education, wilderapproaches that seek to embrace the innate self-will of young people as a positive starting point for enlarging personal freedoms in education. These alternatives are presented as a rebuttal against educational practices that portray young people’s native autonomy as an undesirable trait requiring discipline and subjugation. The article considers the opportunity for learning to be led by the senses, a provocation for deeper environmental relationships that underline the value of opportunities to develop kinship and equality with the more-than-human world. The appearance and development of wilder teaching practices in recent educational research literature underlines the increasing significance of rethinking pedagogy for a twenty-first-century world and this article seeks to draw attention to this growing philosophy of wild pedagogy. Paulo Freire’s concept of education as a process of domestication is presented alongside the idea of wild pedagogy, with an introduction to the methodology of this wilder teaching practice and a plea for embracing the self-will of those involved both as learners and teachers. The article concludes with an invitation to turn aside from worn-out educational paths and go wild.

 

Choosing Silence for Equality in and through Schooling

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.399

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This article considers silences and equality as combined from a theoretical perspective. Equality in and through chosen, deliberate and regular silence experience is seen as an equaliser: if no one is speaking no one can dominate. The article uses a bifurcated concept of silence: weak, negative forms and strong, positive forms. Only the strong forms are seen here as conducive to equality. Their opposite – a silencing – is seen as the creator of inequality. The argument suggests in order to tackle inequality in neo-liberal education a radical, cost-free, non-partisan solution of silence experience is available.

 

Education for Sustainable Development: a movement towards pedagogies of civic compassion

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.407

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This article explores the moral imperative for a renewed vision of schooling in the twenty-first century, from the standpoint of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). ESD advocates for teaching and learning spaces underpinned by civic compassion in the sense of ‘an active concern for well-being’. This paradigm of education seeks to expand the horizons of our compassion for others, calling for an education system that takes into account the need for biosphere, spatial and temporal dimensions of care for the common good. This vision of education is firstly outlined and then practically explored through an example of ESD innovation in practice; a participatory education programme in sustainability leadership with students from primary, secondary, and post-16 educational settings. ESD is put forward as offering a vital and broad opportunity for the advancement of social justice in education, supporting the creation of kinder learning spaces that position educators as facilitators of civically engaged and compassionate learning.

 

Northern College and the Philosophers of Praxis

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.415

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Since 1978 The Northern College, Barnsley has provided an education focused on the transformation and empowerment of individuals and communities. The demands of an instrumentalist system bite deep and even the most authentic mission might struggle to hold firm against a neo-liberal onslaught which privileges the qualification of economically productive ‘units’ over the education of questioning, thinking humans. This case study of The Northern College’s ‘TeachNorthern’ teacher education programme, which layers a digitally blended, social purpose curriculum over conventional initial teacher training qualifications, suggests that a pedagogy focused on developing self-agency has the potential for social change; but that the act of curriculum subversion has limits.

 

Freeing Up Teachers to Learn: a case study of teacher autonomy as a tool for reducing educational inequalities in a Montessori school

http://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2016.58.3.421

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A major factor influencing the potential for schools to address inequalities is the freedom that teachers have to reflect and to act to address those inequalities. This article describes how an education system that emphasises the informal and qualitative can leave greater room for teachers to develop themselves and to focus on the direct task of improving learner outcomes. Crucially, such a system can also afford teachers the time to reflect on their practice and upon their students as individuals and thereby direct attention to those who are vulnerable or otherwise in greatest need. This article presents Oxford Montessori Schools as a case study of how teachers who are empowered through autonomy can better provide for the most vulnerable children and thereby reduce social inequalities. The school has created time for teachers through a conscious effort to minimise administrative burdens. This is coupled with the trust afforded to teachers to teach according to their own professional judgement, giving teachers not only the freedom to teach but also to learn, to develop as professionals and to establish a system that works for them.

 

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