Knowledge structures and pedagogic practices : a case study of English education and English literacy studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.
This study arose out of a concern that lecturers, tutors and students in their disciplines pay insufficient attention to the nature, structure and effects of the types of knowledge that is being disseminated and learnt. It was argued in the study that lecturers, tutors and students are under the spell of what Maton (2014) terms ‘knowledge-blindness’. This study investigated how knowledge structures impact on lecturers’ and/or tutors’ pedagogic practices in the English Education and English Literary Studies disciplines at the University of the Witwatersrand. The study presented the following research questions: What are the knowledge structures in English Education and English Literary Studies? How do knowledge structures in English Education and English Literary Studies impact on pedagogic practices? Why are the effects of pedagogic practices on student learning the way they are? Since this study is grounded in a critical paradigm, it used the Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) (Maton, 2007), Critical Realism (Bhaskar, 1979) and Social Realism (Archer, 1995a and b, 1996) to conceptualise and to engage critically with each of the research questions. The substantive theories of Bourdieu (1988) and Bernstein (1990) were used to understand how disciplinary knowledge structures and pedagogic practices are constructed in the respective disciplines to impact on student learning. Since this is a qualitative study, one-on-one interviews, classroom observation and documentary evidence were used as research instruments. Case study research was chosen as the research design. The study shows that both English Education and English Literary Studies privilege a particular kind of disposition or ‘gaze’; this is stronger Social Relations which fall within the knower quadrant of LCT. In this quadrant, legitimacy is based on lecturers/tutors owning specialised knowledge and being the right type of knower in the process. A major finding of the study was that both disciplines were thus found to exhibit a knower code (ER-, SR+), which means that the acquisition of the target gaze or ‘way of being’ is the primary route to legitimation in the discipline. Students therefore need to demonstrate that they are indeed the ‘right kind of knower’ if they are to succeed in these courses. This would assume a pedagogy in which students are afforded multiple opportunities to see the gaze modeled to them. The analysis of classroom practice and assessment in this study, however, suggests that this was not the case as classes were teacher-centred and there were very few formative opportunities. In this way, the pedagogy privileged those students who, by virtue of their cultural capital, already had access to the target gaze. Pedagogic practices, it was argued, are constructed as an external power relation, the central concern being the voices silenced by pedagogic discourse. The way in which pedagogy is relayed, determines whether students are included or excluded based on the content they are learning. It was found that, in both disciplines, according to Archer (1996), whose Social Realist theory is based on the social transformation of individuals, lecturers and/or tutors will continue to replicate social conflict in the next morphogenetic cycle. The pedagogic practices of lecturers will affect the next morphogenetic cycle which will provide the next set of agents with a “constraining context within which to operate” (Vorster, 2010, p.38). It was argued that pedagogic practices in the two disciplines under study are a complex and socially situated phenomenon that entails both cultural and social transformation inclusive of individual transformation. Therefore, lecturers and/or tutors in their disciplines should be aware that knowledge structures should “transcend social conditions” and should be shaped to a realistic context (Maton, 2000a,b).
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