Change and Power in the Profession: A study of the lived experiences of teachers' opposition and resistance witin a neoliberal hegemony

Oliver Harness

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Schools in England have undergone huge change since neoliberal ideologies introduced notions of choice and competition. This study seeks to understand how teachers rationalised their roles alongside the demands of performativity associated with managerialisation and marketisation. As such, this research explores the lived experiences of teachers within a neoliberal hegemony. Methodologically, I used a social constructionist paradigm and an interpretative phenomenological analysis after Smith, Flowers and Larkin (2009). I conducted six in-depth semi-structured interviews with teachers in primary, middle and secondary school settings. My interpretative phenomenological analysis used Wenger’s (1989) concept of a community of practice as well as concepts from social theorists such as Habermas (1979, 1996), Giddens (1986, 1991) and Bourdieu (1984, 1994) to frame my thinking. The research found that the changes being experienced by teachers are not aligned with their understandings and beliefs concerning education, either for themselves as a professional body or for the pupils in their care. As such, the teachers express notions such as the suppression of their voice and the oppression of their autonomy. Furthermore, teachers’ descriptions include philosophical and practical resistance to change. The descriptions of change and resistance show alignment towards notions of welfare education not neoliberal managerialisation and marketisation. The nature of the new knowledge concerns changed forms of organisational experiences, from changed forms of organisational communication to changed forms of learning. It is this change, brought about by managerialisation and marketisation, that the teachers describe as resisting, both philosophically and practically. As such the participants describe a clash of lifeworlds and a clash of doxa, such that they experience ontological insecurity. Furthermore the managerialisation and marketisation of schools is at odds with Wenger’s (1989) notion of a community of practice and as such, is degrading organisational learning and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


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