Teaching phys. Ed. In a disadvantaged educational context (pez). The reconversion of professional habitus and of curricula selection
The aim of this research is to study the “conceived”, “delivered” and “shaped” content knowledge from the analysis of PE teacher professional practices in an unprivileged secondary school. The target is to compare different ways of class teaching and of content knowledge shaping. The assumption was that the knowledge production in the classroom was combining situated interactions and embodied personal history of teachers.
Three PE teachers were observed while practicing in the same professional area called “priority education”. The observational indicators concerned the ways local dynamics of knowledge construction were situated and combined with social processes: these processes of reconfiguration concerned the teacher “professional habitus” (Van Zanten, 2001). The theoretical framework crossed the PE didactics and the sociology of curriculum.
Two objectives were focused in order: 1) to center on the knowledge transmission process, its conditions of transmission but also 2) to better understand the processes by which the curricula choice was processed and was extracted from embodied personal history. This past was activated in a specific way from the specific contexts of this priority education area.
Results showed that the teacher “professional habitus” was subjected to “reorganizations” of various natures (Glasman, 1992). Situated adjustments and challenges in the everyday life were observable, so as deconstruction/reconstruction processes. These tendencies were almost discouraging the professional conception or still allocating a meaning-in-thepresent- action: they required a strong projection in the student future.
The aim of this study is on the shaped/delivered/constructed content knowledge in the classroom and is based on the discourse analysis on teaching practices in a problematic educational context. The target is to compare ways of teaching and of shaping the PCK of three PE teachers involved in the same professional high school classified « priority educational zone (PEZ)».
Observations are focused on the way local dynamics of knowledge construction are linked with social reconfiguration processes of a professional « habitus » related to the teacher personal biography (Van Zanten, 2001). In other terms, the classroom knowledge production is situated at the middle of situated social interactions and of an embodied single past. The aim of this presentation is triple:
– extracting criteria of PCK choices in disadvantaged schools, so as to define school norm modalities in difficult educational areas (PEZ)
– identifying situated strategies of adaptation
– as a background, studying the processes of reconfiguration of the professional habitus What is exactly taught in a difficult area, what are the curricula selections, which logics determine the teacher choices? The project is to understand the variables that determine the curricula choices from the teachers.
More globally and problematic is the question of the shaping/reconstruction, of the evolution, of the future for the professional socialization of these teachers (Van Zanten, 2001) and of the construction/evolution of their professional habitus; « the habitus is this kind of practical sense by which things have to be done in a specific situation » (Bourdieu, 1994, p. 45).
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS AND HYPOTHESIS
The frameworks cross the PE didactic area and the curricula sociology. Two objectives are defined as following:
– studying the PC Knowledge shaping and its conditions of transmission
– understanding the processes involved that determine the curricula selection produced by an embodied past activated by a specific way in a situated context as priority educational zones.
The hypotheses are the following ones. Rules and policy criteria do not follow generic explicit items defined by a formal normative curriculum. They are constructed in a situated context according to the professional habitus that tries to adapt (or even re-adjust) to the situational constraints. Teachers make evolving and (re)construct the PCK in a very fragile equilibrium:
– between relativism (a culture adjusted to the socio-scholar characteristics of students) and universalism (a common culture),
– between continuity and rupture, without renouncing to the transmission o a common culture, but without rupture with the cultural world close to students
– between ambition and realism (pragmatism). So, one can define several research questions. What is the level of reconfiguration of the national/local norms?
On which groundings and until which point do these adjustments follow the national characteristics of the teaching? Which forms do these situated adjustments take (Becker, 1964)? The target is to identify the way these criteria of legitimacy vary and what is their impact: how are these different logics interwined :
– the logics of universal responsibility : feeling of a universal responsibility » when compared the project of transmission of a common culture or the projection towards future,
– the logics of situated adjustment (Becker cited by Woods, 1997): stratégic logics of adjustment towards local determinants; elaboration of local norms
– the constrained logics of subjection to the local context: pragmatic logics.
We proceeded to a content analysis of teacher interviews (N = 3) prior intervention. These teachers are « mobilized »; their implication and motivation for teaching did not weaken for several years even if they teach in PEZ. Video-recorded sequences of practices are on process and will not be presented for this communication. 1109 3
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
A very precise reading of the corpus extracted from teacher verbal data productions showed the emergence of several analysis categories with relation to what was taught in PEZ. Three of them were extracted from the teacher discourse:
1) what concerned the « survival strategies » (Woods, 1997)
2) what concerned the « situated adaptation strategies » (Van Zanten, 2001) named by Becker (1964) « situational adjustments»
3) what concerned the legitimacy criteria This analysis showed contradiction axes, tensions between divergent necessities that will be discussed at the end of the results.
1. Survival strategies (and even renounciation strategies)
These strategies concerned a bending process less connected with the transmission/appropriation of a specific knowledge. According to Woods (1997), these « survival strategies » concerned « adaptation processes ». In this situation, teachers were trapped by a more and more unrewarding job and tried to save the face and to escape from their professional identity destruction.
These strategies concerned at a time the prevention and the regulation of anomic behavior but also strategies of self-protection. According to these strategies, the author puts the stress on the notion of « situational adjustment » by which individuals transform themselves into other persons more adapted to the situation. Two main survival strategies were used:
– playing, joking, making student laugh : so, MC says « Then I generally use humor, irony, derision, some student that may make a fool know it anyway, he/she knows very well that he/she is making a blunker so I generally encourage him/her to go on and it generally stops many things» (MC).
– cutting down on exigences : MC declares « The link with programs, PCK, yes actually we know them but one will not be able to reach them and to actualize the half. The exigence of the level 2 for 4th Grade will not be achieved, well, one have other worries here more the materials lack so one will not reach the level 2 fort the 4th Grade in some sport practices, it is sure.» (MC). She adds « In acrosports, I will focus on security, on the team work on things, so on, but I will not insist on the specific realization of a forward roll. If the ATR equilibrium does not present outstretched feet it does not matter. On the other hand, one will insist on these aspects in general secondary school. In my opinion, no, I just content myself with choreography, security and that is all. So if they go effectively near several things, one make a selection for…» (MC).
These survival strategies served to defuse conflicts, to unblock tense situations, to create a social link within classroom or to generate a confidence climate of class.
But they did not represent the main didactic process. In fact, the main part of the teacher discourses concerned the declination of different adaptation strategies or the “didactic re-elaborations” targeting to preserve the working contract and the learning by the mean of technical, personal or curricular adjustments.
2. Situated adapting strategies
These adaptation strategies dealed on different aspects the teaching activity :
– the didactic techniques
– the relationships with students
– PCK accuracy and selection
– the necessary management of uncertainty
– the conditions for personal involvement
2.1 Didactic techniques
Routines, individualized procedures and work in small groups, repetition, evolving situation, valorizing the valuable answers, making students work quickly, and so on… these teachers were well familiarized with all these teaching techniques and procedures allowing « the students maintaining within physical activity all along the lesson duration” (FP).
These teachers seemed to master a wide range of teaching styles for putting students at the center of the teaching preoccupations.
2.2 The relationships with students
Taking students where they were was not exempted of limits or pessimism. In fact, teachers believed strongly not to be indifferent towards students, taking them as they casually behaved. FP says « I feel to speak very much so as they be certain that we are not indifferent to them, that is it, this is the idea, and they look forward it ; did you see, Mister, this basket, I went to the bounce.
This is not current during game play but… » (FP). Far from the ideal of an egalitarian treatment, they promoted the necessity for recognizing differences and for discriminating the teaching procedures: « If one considers these kids like others, well they are ever different; one must take their own respects, with cultural and behavioral differences, they deserve more care then others, they deserve somewhat more interest towards them» (MC).
These teachers took on and even claimed for the special and singular character of the context among which they intervened. They taught with no regrets nor disillusionment what probably allowed to last while remaining mobilized.
2.3 PCK accuracy and selection
In relation with this disposition, teachers defined and shaped the PCK: with respects to the need for movement, taking into account the student desire for playing without reducing the content-to-be-learned: « selecting the pedagogical content so as not to block them ; for example in acrosports, I will not put the stress on the perfect realization of a foreward loop; on equilibrium on the …
There, I will content with choreography, with the group work, with the respect of instructional settings or of security rules and that is all; so they miss a certain number of things, one make a selection”(MC). The attachment to a certain number of values to be transmitted became stronger.
Making students being lucid, enlightened, adopting a citizen behavior, managing the adult lifestyle, learning useful things belonged to targets declared priority.
2.4 The necessary management of uncertainty (unpredictability, negotiation, instable contents, rapport to
time constraints, knowledge ever in process, permanent adjustments…) Another parameter characterized the intervention in problematic educational context from the actor point of view; it was a certain rapport to time.
Teachers showed at a time the feeling that everything is constructed within duration (it needs time at the beginning of the year to fix the rules, the routines…) but also the feeling that everything may crash and must be negotiated, readjusted, redefined from one moment to another: « One feels that it may suddenly break down with them, even so, it is always a thin event that makes burn”, “the learning cycle, I define it smoothly all along the lesson” (FP) or « Here, on have constantly to modify the contents » (MC). This alternation between rupture/continuity seemed to be part of a wearing out process producing a kind of psychological fatigue.
These instability and unpredictability made here the teacher job more difficult than somewhere else but bought to the fore by a rewarding manner the moments of connivance and of collaboration between teacher and students: « every time it is lively, full of live and then they surprise you by their sensitivity. Sometimes, at a moment before, I did not say anything, and when you do not say anything there are many things that go through the mind.
It is right that when considering what was seen before, it was… it was such a little game where kids begin, you turn back; they begin to play soccer and you, in your head, you think but it is not true, and a kid comes and tells you « hey mister, you are wondering what will happen with us” and you can’t refrain from laughing a while with them” (FP).
2.5 Conditions for personal involvement
Finally, all teachers insisted on the necessity of a strong personal involvement in the job as a condition for getting pleasure for teaching. They described themselves, as Goffman (1973) would do it, as an actor that is performing on front of a public and that adopts expressions in order to keep control on the spectator impressions. Simultaneously, this capability for playing a part, for entering into a role and for directing scenes allowed them to stand back at a time in order to go on managing the classroom during critical events and to keep away from harmful effects on their private lives.
By a certain way, they watch over a stress-proof form, a cut between private and professional spheres.
3. Declared/preferred criteria for legitimacy Globally, teachers felt legitimate for acting as they did in this kind of school for several reasons: – On one hand, they got the feeling that they participated to an extraordinary experience, very particular and singular, that issued into very specific pedagogical choices. – On the other hand, they believed to be helpful for something, they developed the feeling of a social utility specific to the intervention in this kind of school.
« One have the impression to be helpful to something, to make them discovering things they are used to make outside home, well, outside school » (MC) « In several years, I will maybe ask a more quiet school, but if it is to find students that do not need our help because they already know everything, then I do not know whether I will get on them” (MC) « Here we get a certain gratefulness from them, it is true that it is appreciable, kids, one actually have the impression to be of service to kids and they get it back, it is meaningful, it is nice» (MC) – Finally, teachers were all the more involved within a functioning register highly situated since they felt a true feeling of rupture between their prior professional socialization and the present one they experimented in their schools.
« PETeacher education and then after estate national concourse are very theoretical when compared with what is lived here, it remains theory with fine words that anyhow will not be possible here» (MC). The teachers settle in a process of reconfiguration of their prior professional habitus linked with the “emergence of contextualized professional norms » (Van Zanten, 2001).
This reconfiguration, far from being a linear and a quiet process, was battling with contradictory dimension of the PE job:
– The assumption on the teacher necessity for providing students a frame, a strong scope, routines contrasts with the chronic unpredictability described during lessons
– The learning cycles declared being conform to standards of the formal curriculum differ from the willing for the situated context where teachers endeavour to adapt
– A positive involvement during everyday teaching and a favorable posture of students balanced the declared pessimism towards their future
Finally, the deep gap between priori professional socialization and secondary professional socialization in disadvantaged context (Van Zanten, 2001) does not necessarily issues into the legitimacy crisis of the contentknowledge- to-be-taught. It produces:
– a reconfiguration of the professional identity
– a conversion of the pedagogical settings
– a defining of the legitimacy of the PCK-to be-taught according to the social utility
– a practice of didactic styles, practical models, pedagogical uses highly situated and adjusted to local constraints.
This content discourse analysis on teacher practices explores the teacher principles and shows that teachers organize their teaching in an active manner so as to settle a « local negotiated order » (Van Zanten, 2001)
. This equilibrium is determined between the adaptation to student cultures and the constraints management linked with school constraints; it requires a deep reconfiguration of the priori professional habitus. Survival strategies and situated adaptation strategies combine so as to make compatible teaching and learning in the classrooms.
Finally, constraints and obstacles, when clearly identified by these three teachers themselves, tend to move into resources for didactic action. The following content analysis will link the discourse of five other teachers in relation with the systematic observation of practices; it will be possible to implement this first level of data treatment.
Bourdieu, P. (1994). Raisons pratiques, Seuil, Paris, 248 pp..
Becker, HS. (1964). Personnal Change in Adult Life. Sociometry, 27 (1).
Goffman, E. (1973, 1ère ed. 1956). La Mise en scène de la vie quotidienne, Minuit, Paris, 251 pp.
Van Zanten, A. (2001). L’influence des normes d’établissement dans la socialisation professionnelle des enseignants : le cas des professeurs des collèges périphériques français. Education et francophonie, volume XXIX, pp. 13-35.
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