Education, justice and democracy – Stephen Ball

Stephen Ball calls for a new kind of teacher and a new form of professionalism built on collaboration and cooperative action. It is posted by BERA’s blog: and is an edited extract from Professor Stephen Ball’s report for CLASS, the Centre for Labour and Social studies, which was published in September 2013.

Please follow the link to the BERA site here for the full post:

Education, justice and democracy: the struggle over ignorance and opportunity.

I have included some of Ball’s work in my PhD thesis, particularly his use of the word ‘performativity’. First used by Lyotard (1984), Ball defines it as:

a technology, a culture and a mode of regulation that employs judgements, comparisons and displays as means of incentive, control, attrition and change based on rewards and sanctions (both material and symbolic). (2003:216)

The use of the word performativity links hegemonic practices with industrial models to achieve measurable efficiency, resulting in a culture that:

requires individual practitioners to organise themselves as a response to targets, indicators and evaluations, to set aside personal beliefs and commitments and live an existence of calculation’. (2003:215)

Lucas (2007) describes the learning environment for student teachers within the lifelong learning sector as both ‘expansive’ and ‘restrictive’. He describes an expansive learning environment as a place where there are opportunities to engage in

multiple communities of practice at and beyond the workplace, access to a multidimensional approach to the acquisition of expertise, and the opportunity to pursue knowledge-based courses and qualifications. (2007:99)

Although there are opportunities for teachers in the lifelong learning sector to collaborate and co-operate more commonly they are located within small teams. The effect of this restrictive environment can be uncertainty, resistance to risk taking, and lack of confidence in their professional knowledge and practice. Moreover, in the case of student teachers there are also restrictions placed by a teacher education curriculum that has been part of a state apparatus transferring largely uncontroversial professional standards (Simmons and Thompson 2007). While the standards referred to by Simmons and Thompson were the FENTO standards, their replacement, the LLUK New Overarching Professional Standards (LLUK 2006) continued (until their revocation in 2013) continued to restrict student teachers to a set of criteria aimed at experienced teachers (Crawley 2012). Furthermore Ellis (2010), referring to schoolteacher education, sees the landscape of teacher education as a process of acculturation to the

existing practices of the setting with an emphasis on the reproduction of routinised behaviours and the development of bureaucratic virtues such as compliance and the collection of evidence. (2010:106)

I do hope that the Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers in England will inspire those of us working with teachers and in the lifelong learning sector to join the projects for democracy and community building, and certainly it is teacher educators who can inculcate the products and processes of collaboration and co-operative action through the initial teacher education curriculum.




4 responses to “Education, justice and democracy – Stephen Ball

  1. Theresa Young

    With regards teachers in the lifelong learning sector, most of the tutors I work with are sessional and may only teach for a few hours per week. The dreaded zero hour contract offers few benefits such as sickness pay or job security. Not exactly appealing to teachers with bills to pay!

    Working in FE can be a lonely job. I started teaching one evening class a week. It was weeks before I met another tutor let alone shard experiences or resources. Collaboration can be difficult in out-reach centres. Confidence in the delivery of the curriculum comes with time and experience. In a perfect world, experienced tutors would coach and guide new tutors in their first years. Twitter is fantastic for networking and sharing ideas.

    I am very fortunate to work with a dedicated and committed small team. I could not do my job without the support, knowledge and energy of the people I work with. Sharing best practice with other lifelong learning practitioners would be to the advantage of teachers and students alike.

    • Dear Theresa. Thank you for your comments. I agree that sessional tutors have a particularly challenging time when it comes to professional development, whether about your subject, pedagogy, or wider discussions about education. I write about this in my thesis and it would be good to conduct further research in this area. I hope you don’t mind if I contact you in the new year.

  2. Hi Alison, thank you for posting a thought provoking piece. The image you create of a ‘performativity culture’ is one that feels as though it dehydrates the internal life of a teacher whilst reifying objectivity. I wonder if the rise in discussion of ‘therapeutic education’ is somehow a relayed to the performativity and evidence based practice culture. I think I make a plea for a restoration of humanity over therapeutic.
    I’m wondering what it is about the new Professional Standards that will be different given that ‘routinised behaviours’ and the ‘acculturation of existing practice’ are hard nuts to crack?

  3. Pingback: “Precarious forms of employment” | stuffaliknows

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