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Performativity in Practice: An Actor-Network Account of Professional Teaching Standards

Performativity in Practice: An Actor-Network Account of Professional Teaching Standards
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Author(s): Dianne Mulcahy (The University of Melbourne, Australia)
Copyright: 2013
Pages: 16
Source title: Social and Professional Applications of Actor-Network Theory for Technology Development
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Arthur Tatnall (Victoria University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2166-4.ch001


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In the context of neo-liberal education policy reform, professional teaching standards have become one of the main means of managing improvements to school teaching and assuring its quality. Using the methodology of material semiotics in association with video case data of classroom teaching (in this case, school geography teachers) and their students, the author treats a set of standards in action, towards conducting an ontological inquiry. Bringing the performative perspective of actor-network theory to bear not only is sociality taken into account but also materiality. This paper argues that standards are best understood as shifting assemblies of practice whose nature defines and enacts teacher identity and teacher professional knowledge differently in different locations. The conclusion is drawn that while teaching standards ‘clot’ and can serve to standardise practices of teaching, they are not stable entities. The variable ontology that they manifest challenges the managerialist impulses that tend to drive standards work in education. Altogether, the paper seeks to augment existing accounts of standards within the field of the sociology of science (Bowker & Star, 1999; Star, 2010; Timmermans & Berg, 2003; Timmermans & Epstein, 2010) and contribute to its subfield, the sociology of standards.

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