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A three-part theoretical framework to explain undergraduates’ perceptions of barriers to employment in primary teaching in the UK

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Dr. Andrew Morrison's presentation to the Sheffield Institute of Education Seminar, Sheffield Hallam University
14 October 2015

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A three-part theoretical framework to explain undergraduates’ perceptions of barriers to employment in primary teaching in the UK

  1. 1. A three-part theoretical framework to explain undergraduates’ perceptions of barriers to employment in primary teaching in the UK Andrew Morrison Sheffield Hallam University
  2. 2. The study focus • Small-scale qualitative investigation into undergraduates’ perceptions of possible barriers to obtaining employment within primary teaching in the UK. • The barriers focused upon related to accent and gender. • The study also examined the students’ sense of (in)justice in relation to perceived barriers.
  3. 3. Origins of study • Between October 2010 and January 2011 a small- scale investigation conducted into undergraduates’ perceptions of barriers to employment within three different professional areas. • Results published in Journal of Education and Work in 2014. • Barriers engendered a strong sense of injustice. • Follow-up study to focus on barriers to primary teaching conducted October 2012—February 2013.
  4. 4. Three-part theoretical framework 1. Bourdieu—habitus, capital and field. 2. Sayer’s (2005) discussion of lay normativity. 3. Fraser’s theory of two-dimensional social justice.
  5. 5. Lay Normativity • Andrew Sayer (2005) The Moral Significance of Class • Our sense of what is good or bad and how we expect to be treated. • May be inconsistent or incoherent. • But forms the rationale for individuals’ commitments and identities.
  6. 6. The Bourdieusian schema • The habitus--an individual’s set of dispositions by which they navigate their way through the social world. • The field--social space as a competitive structured social relation. • Positions are determined by the types of resources, or ‘capital’, that individuals can bring to the field: economic; cultural; social. • Conversion of capital: economic -cultural
  7. 7. Linguistic capital • Bourdieu shows the inter-relationship between different forms of capital. • Thus, social differentiation lies along several intersecting axes. • Accent may be understood as one axis of differentiation among others. • Despite relative decline of RP, still considerable research evidence to show that certain English regional accents, and many Scottish and Welsh, seen as less prestigious (Snell, 2013).
  8. 8. How can Bourdieu help? • Approach to language applies and develops the trio of concepts that underpin the wider theory of practice. • Linguistic utterances are products of a relation between an individual’s ‘linguistic habitus’ and ‘linguistic field/s’. • Linguistic habitus is a deeply embodied sub-set of the dispositions of an individual’s habitus. • Accent is the result of a certain mode of moving the tongue or lips—’articulatory style’.
  9. 9. A sense of place • Linguistic utterances are always produced in particular contexts or fields. • Properties of these fields will endow linguistic products with a certain ‘value’. • Through linguistic habitus, individuals develop a degree of anticipation of the value of their linguistic utterances within different fields, e.g. the labour market/s. • This linguistic ‘sense of place’ is a practical competence.
  10. 10. Linguistic, symbolic and material capital • Capacity to produce linguistic utterances that are highly valued across different fields is one that is unevenly distributed across society. • In other words, different speakers possess different quantities of ‘linguistic capital’. • As Thompson (1991: 18) observes, linguistic capital often maps onto other forms of capital. • In general, the greater the linguistic capital that an individual has, the more they are able to secure symbolic and material profits from the field.
  11. 11. The need for critical normativity • Bourdieu offers a sophisticated theoretical framework through which to conceptualise the power relations. • However, as Thompson (1991: 31) notes, although Bourdieu’s work offers real critical potential, it is above all a sociological theory, not a normative political theory.
  12. 12. Two-dimensional justice • Nancy Fraser, a leading American social theorist and socialist feminist. • Class, 'race' and gender as bi-valent categories along a cultural-material conceptual spectrum. • 'Race' and gender in the middle of the spectrum. • Redistribution and recognition remedies--pull in opposite directions? • How to bridge the gap?
  13. 13. Perspectival dualism • All social practices are to be considered simultaneously economic and cultural (although not always in equal measure). • Redistribution and recognition are two perspectives to view the economic dimensions of what are normally considered cultural processes and vice-versa. • A normative theory of justice, requiring (a) legal equality; (b) distribution of resources and (c) ‘intersubjective equality’ (Fraser, 1999: 137).
  14. 14. Fraser and Bourdieu • Outcome is a ‘dual systems’ (Anthias, 2005) approach to economy and culture. • Bourdieusian framework: economic capital and the various forms of cultural capital are analytically separable but entwined in concrete circumstances. • Study concerned with factors perceived to affect access to employment (= distribution justice; economic capital). • Accent and gender are products of cultural status order of society, or what Bourdieu terms cultural capital.
  15. 15. The study • Case-study institution is a post-1992 university in South Wales, recruiting principally from within the South Wales area. • Third year cohort of the BA (Hons) in Education Studies. • 2012—13: 147 students, of whom 122 (83%) were female and 25 (17%) were male. • Seven focus groups between 6 October 2012 and 21 February 2013: 34 females and 7 males.
  16. 16. Accents: fear of prejudice • Melanie: I know it sounds really bad but I think a lot of Welsh are labelled as sometimes ‘thick’ maybe ‘cos of their accents and things in the media and stuff and I think that maybe they might judge me because of my accent and that I’m not as clever as someone from Oxford who can pronounce their words properly and speak properly. • Jade: I think if someone from Oxford was sitting next to you or someone who’s well-spoken and you’re talking with a Welsh twang like we are, I think it would jeopardize [employment opportunities]. (Focus Group Seven)
  17. 17. A linguistic sense of place • Focus groups facilitated group reflection upon the dispositions of a collective linguistic habitus. • Students were reflecting upon their ‘linguistic sense of place’ (Bourdieu, 1991: 82). • Students were exercising a practical sense of anticipation with regard to the likely value accorded to their linguistic utterances within the wider field of primary teaching employment beyond Wales.
  18. 18. A sense of injustice • Kim: They could have the same ability as someone who speaks la-di-da anyway • Rachel: I mean, you could even be the best, better person for the job than someone who talks like that. • Christine: But they might discriminate just ‘cos... • Rachel: Definitely. Personally, I think that’s a big factor. • Kim: It’s really unfair though... • Amy: Yeah, it is unfair but...it’s discrimination, isn’t it? • Kim: ‘Cos people who haven’t got, like, anything, their family haven’t got any money, they work so hard for it and just because of where they’re from then they can’t get a job that they’re capable of doing, do you know what I mean? (Focus Group One)
  19. 19. A claim for inter-subjective equality • Students appear to be making a recognitional claim for ‘intersubjective’ equality. • “...institutionalized cultural patterns of interpretation and valuation express equal respect for all participants and ensure equal opportunity for achieving social esteem (Fraser, 1999: 37). • Fear of injurious processes of misrecognition which may harm their chances of obtaining teaching employment (distributional justice).
  20. 20. But...?: The morally responsible teacher • A perception across the focus groups that accent is important in teaching and that speaking ‘properly’ had an important professional function. • For some students, this was tied to the need to be a ‘morally responsible’ teacher who did not lead the children ‘astray’ through their own accent.
  21. 21. But...? • Hannah: I definitely find myself talking much better when I’m in the classroom or even in this situation • Joanna: You’re more aware • Hannah: Yeah, talk more clearly, definitely, yeah, but I think it’s just important for young children that you do speak clearly and correctly which is good yeah. • Melanie: It’s really important because they’re learning off of you. • (Focus Group Seven)
  22. 22. But...? • Expressed in a certain distancing from and even disavowal of their own accent. • There are hints here of Bourdieu’s (1991) argument for the way in which a linguistic sense of place acts as an internalised constraint on linguistic production, thereby having the effect of a form of self-censorship and of hyper self- correction.
  23. 23. But...? • For other students, the concern about having the ‘correct’ accent was related to more instrumental reasons. • Focused upon the need to present oneself as ‘employable’.
  24. 24. But...? • Interviewer: How important do you think your accent is when you are looking for a teaching job? • All: Massively [general agreement, nodding] • Susan: The way you speak, the way you talk, the words you use, I think that they really have a massive effect on, like, the interview process. If you go in there speaking all chavvy [general laughter], people are going to be, like where are you from? • Jane: I think my English speaking is rubbish! My voice is slow! [General laughter] • Susan: It’s true ‘cos when you talk to people and you hear the way they speak, it’s like errr! [General laughter] • (Focus Group Two)
  25. 25. Compromise formations • Students interpreted accent to include grammar and vocabulary. • Conflation of accent with other linguistic factors reflects anxiety over linguistic sense of place. • Bourdieu (1991): all language production is characterised by the need for a degree of euphemism or 'compromise formations' that are congruent with the schemes of evaluation of the relevant field.
  26. 26. Systematic discrepancies • Language production is characterised by systematic discrepancies between linguistic fields and the forms of (self)censorship associated with them, and the capacities of individuals to produce linguistic expressions appropriate to the field. • Individuals with high levels of cultural capital usually experience a close alignment between their linguistic habitus and the requirements of formal occasions such as job interviews (Bourdieu, 1991).
  27. 27. A rationally adaptive response? • Students' comments indicate a collective linguistic habitus that is not comfortably aligned with the anticipated linguistic evaluation schemes of the wider field of primary teaching beyond Wales. • Could be argued that students’ perceived need to speak ‘properly’ reflects a rationally adaptive response to anticipated prejudice because of their accents or other forms of linguistic production.
  28. 28. An act of misrecognition? • A critical sociological viewpoint may also say that the students are ‘buying in’ to the reproduction of their own oppression. • Acceptance of such a value system (however unwillingly) is itself an act of misrecognition that is helping to support societal processes of misrecognition which serve to position their accents negatively. • Essence of Bourdieu's (1991) argument that the exercise of power through symbolic exchange always rests on a foundation of shared belief.
  29. 29. Concluding remarks • Application of dual-systems approach to economy-culture. • Drawing on Bourdieu and Fraser. • Dual systems allows us to avoid collapsing the distinction between economy and culture. • Thereby understand what is distinctive between recognitional and distributional claims for justice.
  30. 30. Concluding remarks • Students' fears of employer prejudice (if realised in practice) would have clear distributional implications (economic capital). • But, fears of likely employer prejudice related to their accents are a valid claim of injustice regardless of the possible distributional implications of such prejudice in terms of future employment opportunities.
  31. 31. Concluding remarks • Focus of study was on students' perceptions of prejudice, not experience of it. • In Bourdieusian terms, study asked students to reflect upon their dispositions towards a field in which they are not yet actual ‘players’. • Qualification is important because dispositions are always relational, being formed, at least in part, through the encounter between the individual’s habitus and the relevant field.
  32. 32. Concluding remarks • Important to understand the exercise of ‘practical sense’ by which undergraduates may anticipate possible employment-related barriers, and the effects of this upon their sense of personal employability. • Undergraduates have widely differing volumes and compositions of capital, and this affects their ‘sense of place’ within the fields of the labour market. • Working-class 'localism' conditioned by many factors, including anticipated prejudice.
  33. 33. References • Snell J (2013) Dialect, interaction and class positioning at school: from deficit to difference to repertoire. Language and Education 27(2): 110-128. • Thompson JB (1991) Editor’s introduction. In: Thompson JB (ed) Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1-31. • Anthias F (2005) Social Stratification and Social Inequality: Models of Intersectionality and Identity. In: Devine F, Savage, M, Scott J, Crompton R (eds) Rethinking Class. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 24-44.

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