Performativity in Education: An international collection of ethnographic research on learners’ experiences
Edited by Annette Rasmussen, Jan Gustafsson and Bob Jeffrey
A powerful policy of performativity now exists, in which the pupils, teachers and schools are held responsible for ‘performance’ and at the same time these systems are used for stratification of these groups. These performative policies are underpinned by a major global policy to improve economic status and social well being; a market based approach that encourages performance-based activity. Performativity is a technology, a culture and mode of regulation that employs judgements and comparisons and displays the performances of individual subjects or organisations to serve as measures of productivity. Policy makers believe it raises standards in schools and achievement levels of the mass of the population. In setting targets for Regional/Local/District Education Authorities and schools, governments hope to develop a highly skilled workforce that can compete in what it sees as a new global industry – the knowledge economy. It is argued that a higher skills base and higher levels of excellence in knowledge acquisition, and the best use of that knowledge, the higher the economic return will be for national States. This international collection focuses on the experience of students, from the age of four to adulthood, across seven different countries, Australia, Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and the USA.
Young children and students performative identities are constructed as they become enculturated, ‘self-designations and self-attributions brought into play during the course of interaction’. These are imputed identities, which a performative learner takes on as they experience everyday discourse practice and engage in social acclimatisation.
Researching learners gives an insight into the power and influence of teaching and learning practices – discourses – have on the practices of the self. They cannot avoid the discourses but they seek to find ways to manage them, and occasionally resist them, in order to maintain social relations and social cohesion within their social context.
This global collection of articles brings out the ways in which performativity affects students, the tensions created and some strategies to manage performative contexts. It will therefore be of interest to all sectors of education and to readers from across the globe.
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