Education, Autonomy, and Democratic Citizenship: Philosophy in a Changing World

By David Bridges | Go to book overview

14

DEVELOPING PERSONAL AUTONOMY IN CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Gaye Heathcote

INTRODUCTION

This chapter outlines, as a case-study from which generalisations are tentatively drawn, a validated curriculum designed with the explicit purpose of developing personal autonomy in teachers, their students and their colleagues. The curriculum, predicated on a national (UK) research and development project into teachers’ in-service needs in personal, social and health education, has been piloted, evaluated and disseminated nationally as an example of excellence. More recently, its underlying philosophical principles and defining methodologies have been adopted by several countries undergoing transitional ideological, political and economic changes in pursuit of democracy and market. There is reason to believe, therefore, that the distinctive features of this programme for personal autonomy have validity and applicability beyond current ethnocentric considerations.

The chapter initially identifies ‘empowerment’ as a central organising concept for personal autonomy. It explores the theoretical relationship between empowerment, power, oppression and authenticity and illustrates ways in which these concepts may be operationalised to offer a rationale for a curricular framework, a set of criteria for content selection and, importantly, a range of enabling methodologies. The emphasis on a process-led programme that promotes the enhancement of self, self-confidence and self-knowledge, within a ‘frame’ of reciprocal valuing, sharing and discovering, highlights a range of skills and a set of relationships (personal and structural) which education for personal autonomy will seek to address. The chapter considers methodological, linguistic and political aspects of empowering in this context, seeking, for example, to identify the extent to which individuals and groups can negotiate roles and relationships to achieve authenticity and, where necessary, challenge cultural and historical norms/political conventions.

Finally, the potential of a process-led, skills-based approach to education for personal autonomy is evaluated as a model of working in societies experiencing periods of rapid structural change and seeking to strengthen democratic citizenship. Its strength in achieving a range of educational objectives in a

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