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Submitted by AWL on Tue, 12/02/2013 - 21:34

Thank-you for your considered response. I’m sorry to learn, even so long after the fact, that your experience of my classroom wasn’t as productive or positive as you’d hoped. The colleagues you mention I always found to be dedicated and hard-working, with a constant concern to help their students grow and develop.

The idea of fixed innate ‘ability’ emerges to try to rehabilitate the discredited notion of IQ. You’ll be aware how such psychometric constructs have been used to justify inequalities in the provision of education to different social groups. Sometimes such injustice is cloaked in claims that narrower or more limited provision is in the best interests of the group. The set work is ‘easier’, for example, since it is all the student can cope with. My belief is that the educability of any student is unlimited, and that it is external constraints and barriers, many of which may be put up by the school itself, which limit and prevent pupils. The testing and examination regime constructs what it purports only to measure, namely the ‘ability’ of the pupil. (See the work of Bourdieu & Passeron on this.) Pupils are now given an ‘ability’ label almost as soon as they enter the system, and for the great majority the label stays with them throughout, shaping their educational destiny. The big disparities in (final) attainment do not reflect disparities in the inherent ‘ability’ of individual pupils but rather the determining action of the system. It is not that ‘every pupil has the same ability’; it is that every pupil’s learning-capacity is unlimited and yet is affected by all decisions made in the present within the system. The present context serves to shape the future outcome. So the focus needs to shift from a reified concept of individual ‘ability’ (and an obsession with measuring and then ‘treating’ it) towards considering how to re-configure the dynamic and multi-faceted educational context, which includes what the teacher does, and does not do, in the classroom. For proper treatment of these ideas, you might want to track down Hart et al. (2004) Learning Without Limits. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Finally, I wonder why you use the word ‘infidels’?

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