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Culturally responsive schooling: Troubling discourses and practices of unbelonging

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 13:02 authored by Edgeworth, KA
This paper examines issues of social justice and culturally responsive teaching. I present empirical data from an ethnographic study of ethnic and religious minority students in rural schools in Australia to ask: how does teachers' knowledge of students and ‘self' impact schooling discourse and practice in ways that create students in states of unbelonging? This question is examined through an exploration of the lived experiences of two ethnic and religious minority students - Saeed and Hanif. Saeed is a 16 year old Australian-born Muslim of Pakistani heritage. Hanif is a 16 year old Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. I present vignettes of interview and observation data to illustrate how teachers' talk and practice can lead to schooling exclusions. I take up Judith Butler's (1997) work on performativity, and de Certeau's (1984) work on spatial legislation, to highlight the way discourses ‘form the objects of which they speak' and have productive capacity. Such regimes of power and knowledge have implications for understanding how students experience belonging. Put simply, teacher discourses ‘make' what they ‘name' as they circulate in social and cultural practice in schools. In this paper, teacher ‘talk' about ‘normal' and acceptable' ways of being is argued to construct ethnic and religious minority students in states of unbelonging. I argue that this effect is a consequence of teachers' failure to know themselves as ethnic and encultured. Along with discourse, I provide examples of teaching practice that produces ethnic and religious minority students in circumstances of unequal access to schooling. These practices, I suggest, are a result of teachers' failure to know their students. The results of this study suggest that teachers appear to be unaware of the exclusionary effects of discourses that construct student identity in deficit terms, and of treating all students as if they are the same. Such understandings perpetuate the belief that equality is created through a regime of equal treatment. There is a false belief that ‘special' measures are a privilege resulting in the unfair treatment of majority students. To this end, an important next step in the creation of socially just classrooms is replacing pedagogies that privilege a false homogeneity with pedagogies that are responsive to heterogeneity. In this paper, I explore pedagogical possibilities for educators seeking to disturb these injustices in schooling, considering the role of a ‘pedagogy of belonging' in troubling schooling exclusions. I conclude by considering the The implications of this endeavour for teacher education.


Publication title

Proceedings of the 2013 Australian Association for Research in Education Conference


White, J.




Faculty of Education


Australian Association for Research in Education

Place of publication


Event title

2013 Australian Association for Research in Education Conference

Event Venue

Adelaide, South Australia

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Schools and learning environments not elsewhere classified

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