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Tom Popkewitz, Professor Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Curriculum Research: The Phantasmagrams of Desires, Fabrication, and the Making Kinds of People

Wednesday 24 August 2022 12-1pm AEST

Tom Popkewitz

The folk wisdom of educational researchers (backed up with research) is that teachers don't use research.  I call this folk wisdom as it assumes something important and which everyone accepts as true.  Linked to this narrative is the idea that research tells us how things work and provides the empirical evidence to know what to do (and not to do).  Researchers resolve the problem for teachers with at least two remedies. One is to provide the practical knowledge that will help classroom teachers and policy makers improve education.  The other, corollary remedy is to get better science by being more rigorous and develop stronger methods that eliminate bias and subjectivity. 
Let me say off the bat that the wisdom is affectively powerful and fits the topoi of modernity that science and technologies provide the pathways to prosperity and happiness.  But this folk wisdom misses its mark and understanding of modernity, science, and education:  Research does matter! The knowledge of science in education does "act", has agency and a materiality in the governing education. 
To say this is not against science but to try to think differently about science itself in education.  But to think this requires breaking with the conventional educational narratives through another register. To start, science in education has never been merely descriptive.  Perhaps it is more appropriate historically to think about the contemporary educational sciences as desires. The desires are about who children are and should be as kinds of people.  The dominant sciences of contemporary schooling are not only about desires but embody a comparative reason that distributes differences The comparative desires are easily found, such as in theories of learning and the curriculum as the child who is mathematically able, creative, motivated, and engaged; and the child who different and not be: at-risk or lacks motivation.  The desires are not merely ideas but fabrications inscribed to order instruction as practices of learning, benchmarks, funds of knowledge, and the professional knowledge of the teacher.
To give concreteness to this acting, I will talk about the infrastructure of the sciences related to curriculum and teaching.  Infrastructure directs attention to architecture and mapping produced in the calculations of research.  I explore how theories and methods inscribe desires and produce phantasmagrams; that is, comparative images and narratives about the future are taken as real and as the phenomena for effecting school improvement and changing the child (and teacher).

Session complete. Recording available via ACSA Webinars on Demand.