University of Leicester
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The social organization of teaching - A study of teaching as a practical activity in two London comprehensive schools.

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posted on 2015-11-19, 08:55 authored by Martyn. Denscombe
Opponents of secondary re-organization have claimed that certain features of school organization associated with comprehensives have contributed toward declining standards of education. Teaching in such schools has been subjected to considerable criticism yet not received the research it would appear to warrant. The two schools chosen for study were representative of those involved in the controversy, and a phenomenological approach was adopted which attempted to examine the impact of comprehensive organization on teaching. Use of tape-recorded interviews as "accounts", complemented by classroom observation, provided the method for establishing the sense of social structure appropriate to competent teachers. Competence was regarded as a shared method for interpreting events, and competence as a teacher appeared to owe more to "control" in the class-room than the inculcation of knowledge per se. Competent teachers were expected to achieve this "control" without the aid of others and were considered responsible for the "control" of their own classrooms. Classroom teaching, however, rarely became observable to colleagues, and to assess the "control" of others teachers had to rely on publicly available indicators which transcended the isolation of the setting-principally noise. "Control", that is, was a socially organized phenomenon which was inferred rather than observed. Teaching competence, then, appeared to be based on "control" which was indicated by the maintenance of quiet orderliness in the classroom without recourse to outside help. This "control" reflected two fundamental aspects of the teaching: and the autonomy of classroom teaching. Threats to either posed practical problems for teachers because they jeopardized the appearance of "control". Although teachers felt that certain features of school organization associated with comprehensives posed added difficulties of "control", re-organization itself little affected the basic task structure of teaching which stemmed from the isolation and autonomy of the classroom situation.


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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  • PhD



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