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Teachers’ curriculum work from a ‘capability approach’
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education. (SITE)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5554-6041
2013 (English)In: ECER 2013, Creativity and Innovation in Educational Research: Network: 03. Curriculum Innovation, 2013, 2013Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of the study is to contrast a transnational perspective on teacher education from a mainly economic perspective, and a perspective on teacher education from a 'capabilities approach', developed by Amartya Sen (1999, 2009) and Martha Nussbaum (2000, 2007), to examine how ‘new’ and creative questions can generate new discourses concerning teacher competences that include, but is not dominated by, economical conditions. The research question is: How can the ‘capabilities approach’ contribute to develop a deepened understanding of teacher education policy as an important factor in the European struggle for reducing inequalities in curricula and learning?

 

Theoretical framework

 

From the perspective of education as a basic need and a key to all the human capabilities (Nussbaum 2007), teacher education concerns all nations, and we can ask, from a cosmopolitan perspective, which 'sets of capabilities' does a specific teacher education discourse promote? As Sen (1999) notes, a capability is based on the freedom and power to do something and this power also can make room for demands of duty. Hence, the analytical question can be formulated as: what professional duties can be distinguished in transnational policy texts on teacher education?  Both Nussbaum and Sen try to create a space for understanding quality of life as what people are actually able to do or to be. While Nussbaum (2000) relates the capabilities approach to rights for each person and emphasizes human dignity, Sen stresses the notion of “public reasoning”, i.e. a person’s capacity to read, communicate, participate, argue, being listened to, being able to make informed choices and decisions and to participate in democratic deliberations (Sen 1999). The link that can be drawn between the capabilities approach and cosmopolitanism is that the scope of the capability approach (as a philosophical work) applies “to all human beings independently of their country of birth or residence, and not only to social institutions but also to the social ethos and to social practices” (Robeyns 2011, p. 18).  Thus, I place the capabilities approach in the strand of cosmopolitanism that primarily understands cosmopolitanism as a moral claim of justice (Scheffler 2001).

 

Methodology

The questions are answered by analyses of international policy texts on teacher education, read through the lens of four key concepts developed from an analysis of the capabilities approach: 1) having a capacity to consider oneself as a citizen both in a nation and in the world; 2) having a capacity for critical examination of one’s own life as well as of others'; 3) having a capacity to develop an imaginative understanding for other people’s lives (Nussbaum 2006; 2007, p. 323); and 4) having a capacity to act as a member of a public, influencing the rest of the world (Sen 1999, p. 18). The analysis of the policy documents draws on a critical discourse-analytical approach by which I examine how policy texts on teacher education are legitimized by the use of concepts and arguments understood as specific social practices. A special focus in the analysis is the comparative strategy of identifying shifts and discontinuities in the vocabularies between different policy documents for teacher education, and in the naming and framing of teacher quality (c.f. Fairclough 2010 Bernstein 2000). Key documents are: Teachers Matter (OECD 2005); Improving the Quality of Teacher Education (EU 2007); The McKinsey Report (2007).

 

 

Expected outcomes

The scholarly significance of this paper is the application of the cosmopolitan perspective as a critical notion in terms of the capabilities approach.  Thus, the cosmopolitan perspective is displaced from a philosophical arena to a critical perspective used in empirical policy research on teacher education and its implication for local curricula.  Preliminary results show that teacher education in international policy documents is mainly discussed in terms of a ‘human capital’- discourse, based on economical concepts of promoting basic learning, teaching efficiency, resources for teaching. By examining the policy documents through a perspective of ‘capabilities’, it also becomes possible to make an alternative approach to the teachers’ curriculum work visible. In sum, in the first of the two discourses, the teacher’s task in relation to inequality is understood in terms of being an effective instructor working with the curriculum in accordance with ‘best practice’ in a top-down perspective; and in the second discourse, where inequality is related to a more inclusive idea of capability deprivation, the teacher's task is understood in terms of a local curriculum development based on deliberative conversations and self-reflection, an awareness of power relations, creative pedagogy  and a cosmopolitan orientation in a bottom-up perspective.

 

 

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013.
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-31545OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-31545DiVA, id: diva2:689583
Conference
The European Conference on Educational Research in Istanbul, 10–13 September 2013. Network 3, Curriculum Innovation.
Available from: 2014-01-21 Created: 2014-01-21 Last updated: 2015-05-26Bibliographically approved

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Wahlström, Ninni

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