Discourses for the New Millennium: Exploring the Cultural Models of 'Y Generation' Preservice Teachers
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This thesis examines the cultural models and discourses that a group of aspiring, primary school teachers in South-East Queensland employed to explain their current world and describe the likely development of their own careers and lives. Thirteen males and fifty-seven females, aged between 15 and 25, were involved in the study. All participants had expressed an interest in preservice teacher training with 77 percent of the cohort currently enrolled in a teacher-training program in the South-East region of Queensland, Australia. This study adopted a multi-method approach to data collection and included informal interviews, scenario planning workshops, focus groups, and a telephone survey. Initial pilot studies, incorporating informal interviews, preceded scenario planning workshops. Four males and eleven females were involved in six scenario planning groups. The scenario planning format, based upon Schwartz (1991), followed a seven-step approach whereby participants formulated and evaluated four possible future scenarios for Australia. These formed the stimulus material for the second stage of the study where thirteen focus groups critically analysed the scenario planning data. Interpretation of the data was underpinned by a framework based on an amalgamation of Gee's (1999) theoretical concepts of acts of meaning, cultural models, and Discourses and Bernstein's (1996) theoretical concepts of classification, framing, and realisation and recognition rules. The respondents exhibited five pre-eminent Discourses. These were a Technologies Discourse, Educational Discourse, Success Discourse, Voyeuristic Discourse, and an Oppositional Discourse. The group's Technologies Discourse was pervasive and influenced their future predictions for Australian society, themselves, and education and was expressed in both positive and negative terms. The respondents spoke of their current and future relationship to technologies in positive terms while they spoke of society's future relationship to technologies in negative terms. Their reactions to technologies were appropriated from two specific cultural resources. In the first instance this appears to be from their personal positive interactions with technologies. In the second instance the group have drawn from Science Fiction Discourses to predict malevolent and controlling technologies of the future. The respondents' Technologies Discourse is also evident in their Educational Discourse. They predict that their future classrooms will be more technological and that they, as teaching professionals, will be technologically literate and proficient. Their past experiences with education and schooling systems has also influenced their Educational Discourse and led them to assume, paradoxically, that while the process of education is and will continue to be a force for change, schools will not evidence a great deal of change in the coming years. The respondents were optimistic and confident about themselves, their current interactions with technologies, their future lives, and their future careers. These dispositions formed part of their Success Discourse and manifested as heroism, idealism, and a belief in utopian personal futures. The respondents' Voyeuristic Discourse assumed limited social engagement and a limited ability to accept responsibility for the past, present, and future. The respondents had adopted an 'onlooker' approach to society. This aspect of their Discourse appeared to be mutable and showed signs of tempering as the respondents matured and became more involved in their teaching careers. Finally, the respondents' Oppositional Discourse clearly delineated between themselves and 'others'. They were users of technologies, teachers, good people, young, privileged, white, Australian, and urban dwelling while 'others' were controllers of technologies, learners, bad people, older or younger, non-privileged, non-Australian, and country dwelling. Current reforms introduced by Education Queensland have stressed the need for a new approach to new times, new economies, and new workplaces. This involves having a capacity to envisage new forms, new structures, and new relationships. 'New times' teaching professionals are change agents who are socially critical, socially responsible, risk takers, able to negotiate a constantly changing knowledge-rich society, flexible, creative, innovative, reflexive, and collaborative (Sachs, 2003). The respondents in this study did not appear to be change agents or future activist teaching professionals (Sachs, 2003). Rather, they were inclined towards reproducing historical, traditional, and conservative social and professional roles as well as practices, and maintaining a safe distance from social and environmental responsibility. Essentially, the group had responded to a period of rapid social and cultural change by placing themselves outside of change forces. Successful educational reform and implementation, such as that being proposed by Education Queensland (2000), demands that all interested stakeholders share a common vision (Fullan, 1993). The respondents' Discourses indicated that they did not exhibit a futures vision beyond their immediate selves. This limited vision was at odds with that being espoused by Education Queensland (2000). This body recognises the importance of being able to envisage, develop, and sustain preferable futures visions and have developed futures oriented curricula with this in mind. Such curricula are said to respond to the changing needs of today's and tomorrow's society by having problem solving and the concept of lifelong learning at the core. The future towards which the respondents aspire is one where lifelong learning and problem solving have little significance beyond their need to stay current with evolving technologies. In reflecting on the respondents' viewpoints and the range of Discourses that they draw upon to accommodate their changing world, I propose a number of recommendations for policy makers and educators. It is recommended that preservice teacher training institutions take up the challenge of equipping future teachers with the skills, knowledges, and dispositions needed to be responsible, reflective, and proactive educators who are able to envisage and work towards preferable visions of schooling and society. Ideally, this could occur through mandatory Futures Studies courses. Currently, Futures Studies courses are not seen as an essential area of study within education degrees and as such preservice teachers are given little opportunity to engage with futures concepts, knowledges, or skills. The success of the scenario planning approach in this thesis and the richness of the issues raised through interactive engagement in imagining possible futures, suggests that all citizens, but particularly teachers, need to enlighten their imaginations more often through such processes.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Education and Professional Studies
Item Access Status
teacher training (Queensland)