Making Trouble: Ruling Relations For Students and Teachers In Non-Academic Pathways

Friday, July 18, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Catherine DOHERTY , Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
In 2009, all Australian states raised the minimum age for compulsory schooling. Young people are now required to be ‘earning or learning’ until age 17. Where upper secondary schooling selected students into limited academic opportunities, now the same institutions must accommodate different sorts of students.  Alternatively, such students can attend pre-vocational programs offered in Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges which are more oriented towards industry, credentialing and employment. The policy change has effectively grafted classrooms of a different ilk into two institutional templates. The paper will draw on a project designed to explore what kind of moral order these two institutional settings invoke when it comes to managing such students.  Originally designed as classroom ethnography, the project involved extended observations and ongoing semi-structured interviews of teachers and students in three TAFE settings and two high school sites in towns experiencing high youth unemployment. Three to four weeks were spent observing the same core English and Maths classes for sixteen year olds in non-academic pathways in each site. The project was motivated by the wish to support teachers to work productively in such classrooms with such students, under the assumption that teachers orchestrate classroom interactions. However, it became clear events in these classrooms were forcibly shaped by relations and parties above and beyond the classroom, as much as by those present.  Teachers and students were observed to both comply with, and push against, the layers of policy and institutional processes regulating their behaviours. This paper re-thinks the project through the gaze and resources of institutional ethnography, to reveal layers of policy texts, accountabilities and documentation practices that impacted on routine behaviours. By mapping the multi-nodal webs of ‘ruling relations’, it shows how both teachers and students could make trouble, and then be held accountable for this trouble.