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Obstinate Education

Reconnecting School and Society


Gert Biesta

What should the relationship between school and society be? Obstinate Education: Reconnecting School and Society argues that education is not just there to give individuals, groups and societies what they want from it, but that education has a duty to resist. Education needs to be obstinate, not for the sake of being difficult, but in order to make sure that it can contribute to emancipation and democratisation. This requires that education always brings in the question whether what is desired from it is going to help with living life well, individually and collectively, on a planet that has a limited capacity for giving everything that is desired from it.

This book argues that education should not just be responsive but should keep its own responsibility; should not just focus on empowerment but also on emancipation; and, through this, should help students to become ‘world-wise.’ It argues that critical thinking and classroom philosophy should retain a political orientation and not be reduced to useful thinking skills, and shows the importance of hesitation in educational relationships. This text makes a strong case for the connection between education and democracy, both in the context of schools, colleges and universities and in the work of public pedagogy.

Edited by Juanjo Mena, Ana García-Valcárcel and Francisco J. García-Peñalvo

The essence of this book is to shed light on the nature of current educational practices from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Both teachers and their trainers provide a better understanding of teacher training and learning processes. Mutual interrelations and the provision of knowledge between academia and schools are essential for merging discourses and aligning positions, whereby turning practice into theory and theory into practice in today’s teaching is vital for suitably responding to multiple issues and increasingly diverse contexts.

The array of studies from around the world compiled in this volume allow readers to find common ground, discover shared concerns, and define goals. Studying teaching practice and training in different contexts reveals the state-of-the-art practices and identifies those issues that enable educators to understand the complexities involved. The chapters examine the development of our knowledge and understanding of teaching practices, at the same time as analysing engaging learning environments, the sustainability of learning and teaching practices, and highlighting new practices based on the use of ICTs. The diverse teaching contexts considered in this compilation of international research are organized according to the following topics: Teaching occupational learning and knowledge; Teacher beliefs and reflective thinking; and Innovative teaching procedures.

The contributors are Laura Sara Agrati, Dyann Barras, Verónica Basilotta Gómez-Pablos, Benignus Bitu, Robyn Brandenburg, Heather Braund, Michael Cavanagh, Chiou-hui Chou, Jean Clandinin, Leah L. Echiverri, Maria Flores, Francisco García Peñalvo, María García-Rodríguez, Ana García-Valcárcel, Stephen Geofroy, Raquel Gómez, Jenna Granados, Hafdís Guðjónsdóttir, Jukka Husu, Jóhanna Karlsdóttir, Keith Lane, Celina Lay, Samuel Lochan, Marta Martín-del-Pozo, Ella Mazor, Sharon M. McDonough, Lennox McLeod, Juanjo Mena, Wendy Moran, Brian Mundy, Nkopodi Nkopodi, Lily Orland-Barak, Edda Óskarsdóttir, Samuel O. Oyoo, Stefinee Pinnegar, Eleftherios Soleas, Lystra Stephens-James, Linda Turner, Antoinette Valentine-Lewis, and Sarah Witt.

Maria Assunção Flores


In this chapter I look at major trends in becoming and being a teacher in Portugal and Spain in adverse times. Even though I take into consideration existing international literature, I will focus on some of the key aspects that characterise the teaching profession and teacher education in Iberia by drawing upon empirical work carried out in both countries. The intention is not to do an exhaustive literature review nor to undertake a state of the art. Rather, my aim is to look at major trends characterising teaching and teachers’ work as well as teacher education in terms of current challenges in order to identify possible directions. Contradictory trends may be identified in the ways in which teacher professionalism has been defined as well as in real conditions of teachers’ work in schools and classrooms with implications for teacher education.

Lily Orland-Barak and Ella Mazor


This chapter explores mentoring and mentored learning in pre-service education at the encounter between two cultures (Arab-Druze student teachers and Jewish mentor teachers). Drawing on an illustrative case study from a larger data set of mentoring conversations and open-ended interviews in a study of intercultural mentoring, we propose an analytical framework for examining complexities within mentoring relationships that considers the social and cultural values, forms of communication, and reasoning and behavior of mentors and student teachers that may remain latent and unacknowledged. The discussion invites teacher educators, curriculum developers, and policy makers to consider how to support the development of mentors as culturally sensitive and responsive professionals.

Stephen Geofroy, Benignus Bitu, Dyann Barras, Samuel Lochan, Lennox McLeod, Lystra Stephens-James and Antoinette Valentine-Lewis


Developing a critical-reflective teacher-understanding of teaching practices is an essential element of teacher development on the in-service Diploma of Education programme for secondary-school teachers at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. Teacher development involves engagement with key educational concepts and reflection on practice as teachers facilitate the learning of their charges. Given the post-colonial context characterising the educational system in the West Indies, this research arose out of the need by Social Sciences teacher-educators to find out whether their teachers had developed the kind of critical-reflective understandings that would enhance their classroom practice in an emancipatory fashion. This chapter examines teachers’ understandings of their teaching practices to determine whether these understandings can be classified as emancipatory, given the existing post-colonial nature of the educational system. The study assists the Social Sciences teacher-educators to improve their approach to teacher professional development, a key aspect of which involves the process of teacher reflection whereby teachers interrogate theory, practice and context and integrate improved understandings into their profession in an emancipatory manner. In this qualitative case study, data on teacher-understandings were gathered from teacher-participants’ written teaching-philosophy statements over the duration of the ten-month programme. Data reduction employed thematic analysis. Choice extracts were then presented and discussed in narrative form including observations and implications. Findings indicate that teacher-participants understand themselves as emancipatory agents, take responsibility for individual growth, however their sense of self as part of a professional community needs to be strengthened. They also possess understandings of their subject-discipline and teaching practice that can be considered as emancipatory.

Helping the Learning of Science in Whichever Language

The Attention to Proficiency in the LOLT, Polysemy and Context That Counts Best during Science Teaching

Samuel Ouma Oyoo and Nkopodi Nkopodi


This chapter draws from an exploratory study of the difficulties South African High School physical science learners encounter with everyday English words when presented in the science context. Data were obtained from participants (1107 learners and 35 respective physical science teachers/educators from 35 public secondary schools in Johannesburg area of South Africa) through a word test to participant learners followed by group interviews but one-on-one interviews with respective physical science educators. Findings have revealed that South African learners also face difficulties with meanings of everyday words presented in the science context. While the main source of difficulties encountered was learner inability to distinguish between the meanings of familiar everyday words as used in everyday parlance from the ‘new’ meanings of the same everyday words when used in the science context, fewer difficulties will be experienced by learners if science educators (1) take to being more precise in their talk and use of language, and/or (2) generally explain the nature and context meanings of all the words used during teaching. The findings thus suggest that focusing on precise use of language as well as contextual proficiency more than on general proficiency in the language of learning and teaching (LOLT) during teaching perhaps holds more promise for enhanced learning and achievement in science. Steps necessary to raise teacher awareness of the potential impact of attention to precise use of language, nature and context meanings of everyday words of the LOLT science are discussed.