Contesting the territory: How English teachers in England and Australia are remaining resilient and creative in constraining times
This paper reports on a study that explored the ways English and literacy educators seek to find a balance between external expectations, contemporary pressures, professional aspirations, and personal values in times of change, examining the impact of educational reform on teachers’ professionalism, their pedagogies, and their beliefs about their subject of English. It was a case study in New South Wales [Australia] and in England.
The identity of English teachers in Australia and England has marked similarities, characterised by a passionate attachment to teaching literature, a student centred ideology often constructed around a Personal Growth model of the subject and strongly inflected by a view of students as agents in meaning making who adopt a critical literacy perspective on texts and language. Another marked commonality has been the fact that English suffers from increasing surveillance and regulation, leading to much teacher dissatisfaction and to many leaving the profession.
The picture that emerges is of a profession feeling besieged and undermined but also resilient and robust. Most teachers still enjoy their teaching and believe they can hold on to their own values and beliefs. However, they also feel that the future is difficult and they are aware of many good teachers who have ‘had enough’ of reduced professional autonomy and obsessions with national test results. They argue passionately for a return to more trust and respect for teacher judgements, especially in a subject which has the fluidity and flexibility that characterises English teaching at its best.
Andy Goodwyn is a Professor at The University of Bedfordshire where he is Head of The School of Education and English Language, he is also Director of The Institute of Research in Education; he is Emeritus Professor at The University of Reading. He has worked for 40 years in the field of English in Education and is Convenor of the BERA Special Interest Group, ‘English in Education. He is a former Chair of NATE and President of The International Federation for the Teaching of English; he is currently organising the next IFTE conference in collaboration with NATE, which will take place at Aston University June 22nd-24th, 2018. He has published widely about both English teaching and expert teaching and his latest book was Expert Teachers an International perspective, [Routledge, 2016]
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The story of school English and the lessons from the past
15 February 2018