Literacy and accountability : the changing shape of English teachers' work

2017-08-10T04:37:15Z (GMT) by Bella Nitza Illesca
This study uses autobiographical narrative to explore and interrogate episodes in my professional and personal life that have shaped my professional identity as an English teacher. I am especially concerned to chart the contradictions and tensions that I experienced as an English teacher when implementing two state sponsored middle years literacy programs – Restart and Access to Excellence – in a government secondary school in Victoria. I explore the ways in which my beliefs as an English teacher conflicted with my role as a Literacy Co-ordinator. Although I consciously questioned and resisted performing certain ideological work, such as administering standardised tests and sorting students into remedial groups, there was still a sense in which the narrow, functional model of literacy that underpins such intervention programs mediated my professional practice, transforming it into something with which I remained deeply at odds. <p>[…]</p> <p>This study can also be read as a critical examination of recent managerialist reforms in public education in the state of Victoria, and the ways such reforms mediate the professional identity and practices of teachers. Schools and teachers find themselves consciously and unconsciously operating within a ‘performance management’ culture and ‘accountability’ framework that prescribe the skills and knowledge necessary for state school students to participate in the ‘knowledge economy’. This depoliticised professional knowledge landscape has resulted in educational reforms that abstract from and distort the concrete historical and social lives of the people who inhabit schools. Such reforms not only offer teachers limited opportunities for genuine professional learning, but constrain the possibilities for teachers to thinks and enact alternative professional practices in their classrooms. I argue that any notion of teacher agency and professional autonomy cannot be abstracted from the network of relationships in which teachers operate, and that any attempt to explore alternative understandings of teaching must do more than focus on the knowledge and practices necessary to improve student ‘outcomes’, but should involve an ideological and ethical critique of the nature of those ‘outcomes’.</p>