The ontology of science teaching in the neoliberal era
Because of ever stricter standards of accountability, science teachers are under an increasing and unrelenting pressure to demonstrate the effects of their teaching on student learning. Econometric perspectives of teacher quality have become normative in assessment of teachers’ work for accountability purposes. These perspectives seek to normalize some key ontological assumptions about teachers and teaching, and thus play an important role in shaping our understanding of the work science teachers do as teachers in their classrooms. In this conceptual paper I examine the ontology of science teaching as embedded in econometric perspectives of teacher quality. Based on Foucault’s articulation of neoliberalism as a discourse of governmentality in his ‘The Birth of Biopolitics’ lectures, I suggest that this ontology corresponds well with the strong and substantivist ontology of work under neoliberalism, and thus could potentially be seen as reflection of the influence of neoliberal ideas in education. Implications of the mainstreaming of an ontology of teaching that is compatible with neoliberalism can be seen in increasing marketization of teaching, ‘teaching evangelism’, and impoverished notions of learning and teaching. A shift of focus from teacher quality to quality of teaching and building conceptual models of teaching based on relational ontologies deserve to be explored as important steps in preserving critical and socially just conceptions of science teaching in neoliberal times.
KeywordsOntology Neoliberalism Science teaching
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