Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Do Men Still Manage While Women Teach? Using Four Reports on Middle Schooling to Portray Continuities and Changes in Teachers' Work in the 1990s

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Do Men Still Manage While Women Teach? Using Four Reports on Middle Schooling to Portray Continuities and Changes in Teachers' Work in the 1990s

Article excerpt

This article examines the ways in which primary, secondary and middle school teachers are represented in four Australian reports on middle schooling in the 1990s. All reports argue for changes in school culture in the middle years but portrayals of each group of teachers reinforce the gender order in contemporary schools. Although there are continuities in the ways teachers are discussed across the reports, a focus on action research and the discourse of teacher as researcher appears in the two most recent documents. The final section of the article considers the potential of this discourse to reconstruct teachers' work and challenge the gender order of the occupation. It concludes that if the positive potential of teachers as researchers is to be realised, then primary, secondary and middle school teachers, men and women, must be participants in all types of research which inform middle schooling.

In the last decade or so, there has been a resurgence of interest in middle schooling across Australia. The middle schooling movement initially took its cue from the Turning points report (Carnegie Council, 1989) and other North American research (Hargreaves & Earl, 1990) but there has been a steady stream of locally commissioned reports beginning with the Report of the Junior Secondary Review (hereafter JSR) (Eyers, Cormack, & Barratt, 1992) which was completed in South Australia in 1992. This article will examine ways in which teachers are represented in the JSR and three other reports which were published in the 1990s. These are the first national report on middle schooling, In the middle: Schooling for young adolescents (Schools Council, 1993), a three volume report, From alienation to engagement: Opportunities for reform in the middle years of schooling (Cumming & Cormack, 1996) and a more recent publication, Shaping middle schooling: A report of the National Middle Schooling Project (Barratt, 1998). It will be shown that, in each of these reports, there are critiques of primary and secondary teachers which are underpinned by discourses of gender and age. The reports also identify characteristics of `ideal' middle school teachers. Although there are significant continuities in the ways teachers are being constructed across the reports, the discourse of teacher as researcher appears in the two most recent documents. The final section of this article will consider what potential this discourse might have to reconstruct teachers' work and challenge the gender order of the occupation.

The JSR was commissioned in June 1991 to investigate the education of young adolescents in the junior secondary years and then extended to encompass the upper primary years. Thus the review team was able to analyse both primary and secondary cultures and develop an argument that `middle schooling must develop a unique culture of its own'(Eyers et al., 1992, p. 15). In order to establish the need for a unique middle school culture, the JSR marginalised both primary and secondary teachers, albeit from different angles (Whitehead, 2000). The report acknowledged teaching as women's work in primary schools (Eyers et al., 1992, p. 9) and then portrayed junior primary classrooms as a `nuclear family, albeit with one "parent", the teacher' in a brief discussion of this sector (pp. 52-54). However it differentiated junior from upper primary teachers by claiming that, among the latter group, care is linked to oppressive forms of control (see also pp. 14, 35) in the classroom. This section suggested that generalist primary teachers might not be challenging students intellectually or meeting young adolescents' developmental needs as their interests shift from the private to the public sphere. The report argued that students need to interact with a range of teachers who can act as `mentors' and `at the most basic level, for example, students can benefit from access to a teacher of the same gender' (p. 54). Upper primary teachers were also depicted as apolitical, isolated individuals who never stepped outside their classrooms. …

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