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Type: Thesis
Title: The (UN) critical school teacher: three lessons about teacher engagement work with marginalised students in neoliberal times.
Author: Bills, Andrew Maynard.
Issue Date: 2011
School/Discipline: School of Education
Abstract: Secondary schooling continues to marginalise a significant minority of young people attending school in South Australia. As a consequence, I was a teacher morally obliged to redress the institutional codes, social relations and pedagogical practices of three secondary schools for those young people who were marginalised by them. Unfortunately, my lack of critical sociological awareness at the time associated with the insidious influence of what Foucault described as `neoliberal governmentalities’ drove my emancipatory school re-engagement efforts towards a neoliberal schooling curriculum that valued the development of entrepreneurial values and schooling for the labour market. The losers in all of this were many of the students I worked with who soon discovered the harsh realities of a labour market that didn’t value nor want them. In this auto ethnographic action research study I developed, managed and taught in three engagement programs with teacher and community youth stakeholders across three mainstream secondary school sites involving over 200 marginalised young people. All three programs succeeded in improving school retention and are still active today but only one program empowered students to be active participants in their community, offering them transition pathways into university, TAFE, apprenticeships and work. In Lesson 1, I came to understand that teachers, parents and community youth stakeholders are the agents best placed to effect educational change for students with a disability in a large country secondary school. Through collaborative school and community based activism I was able to mobilise the voices of parent, teacher and community youth stakeholders to improve resourcing, curriculum options and work related opportunities for students. This action resulted in significant structural inclusion and vocational pedagogical change for the students with disabilities. In Lesson 2 providing an after-hours regional second chance schooling option drew over forty young people back into formalised learning. However, offering a vocational curriculum embedded in casual or part-time work expectations proved to be an inadequate option for those students unable to gain employment. There was significant structural and cultural change evident in this schooling program but little pedagogical and curricular rigour. In Lesson 3 I oriented senior secondary schooling within an adult education environment geographically removed from the mainstream school campus. This second chance senior schooling program involved young people, teachers and community stakeholders in a continual negotiation of school structures, culture, pedagogy and curriculum. This approach (re)engaged over 150 young people back into the SACE (South Australian Certificate of Education) over three years. By investigating the nature of the community-school nexus and using community as a curriculum resource, students were offered greater learning authenticity and opportunity, presenting some answers to the question; how can I (a teacher), (re)engage marginalised young people back into learning in the official senior school curriculum? The difficulty with the first two engagement initiatives was neoliberal public policy as it manifested in South Australia’s version of local school management and in my practice. For me, a way through the neoliberal quagmire came only through participation in an Australian Education Union (AEU) funded and university led Professional Learning Community (PLC). This dialogic community offered me thinking space, intellectual challenge and rich conversation with teacher colleagues and university partners to wrestle with and enact critical educational social theory and practice. Through my involvement in this PLC and my subsequent enactment of engaging and rigorous pedagogical practices I was able to work `against the grain’ of the existing neoliberal policy logic as it played out in schools and in my mind. This required a move to socially just critical praxis in my work with teacher colleagues, students, parents and community youth stakeholders to embed structural, cultural, curricula and pedagogical democratic schooling purpose within the final engagement initiative.
Advisor: Secombe, Margaret
Dissertation Note: Thesis (D.Ed.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Education, 2011
Keywords: critical proxis; marginalised students; socially just schooling reform; neoliberal; governmentality; the nature of teachers' work; innovative schooling practice
Provenance: Copyright material removed from digital thesis. See print copy in University of Adelaide Library for full text.
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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