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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

VAN WYK, Milton  and  LE GRANGE, Lesley. The lived experiences of primary school teachers within a culture of performativity. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2016, vol.56, n.4-2, pp.1149-1164. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2016/v56n4-2a4.

The lived experiences of primary school teachers within a culture of performativity, is a study that aims to gain an indepth understanding of how primary school teachers experience the phenomenon of performativity and the meaning that they give to it. Performativity has a particular meaning in this article and refers to what French philosopher Lyotard (1984) referred to as the shortest input/output ratio. It is about the pressure to perform in various spheres of life including in education, where measurable outputs are valued above the processes of education. Ball (2003:216) described performativity as a technology, "a culture and a mode of regulation that employs judgements comparisons and displays as means of incentive, control, attrition and change - based on rewards and sanctions." The article clarifies what performativity is and concepts that are related to this phenomenon. From this exercise it is inferred that performativity in education is used as a political and bureaucratic mechanism wherein teachers are required to demonstrate that they are accountable (in a pejorative sense) for their work. Conducting this study was important because there is a paucity of studies in South Africa that investigate what are the lived experiences of primary school teachers in a context where performativity is the dominant regime. This qualitative study is guided by the hermeneutic-phenomenological research approach of Van Manen (1990). The unit of analysis of the study is teachers of primary schools located in the Groot Drakenstein Valley in the Western Cape Province. Data was gathered through phenomenological interviews and participants'own written narratives. Purposive sampling was used and the sample comprised 7 teachers whose ages varied from 40-59. The four existentials identified by Van Manen is used to guide the analysis of the data. The study produced the following findings: The existential "lived space" (spatiality) brought to the fore the emotional processes that participants had to endure in their attempts to conform to the discourse of performativity; the existential "lived body" (corporeality) highlighted issues related to accountability and the physiological side effects produced by performativity; the existential "lived time" (temporality) depicted teachers 'past, present and future lived experiences within the educational landscape; the existential "lived other" (relationality) layed bare the interpersonal relationships between participants and other role players. The study concludes that performativity discourses have significant implicationsfor teachers. Both the physiological and emotional effects of performativity, changed (mostly negatively) teachers' commitment and how they view their teaching careers. Moreover, performativity changed the nature of relationships, not only the interdependent learner-teacher relationship, but also relationships with other role-players such as colleagues and curriculum advisors. Futhermore, the study gives legitimacy to what Aoki (1999) called the curriculum-as-lived. He argued that the curriculum-as-lived by learners and teachers needs to be recognised along with the curriculum-as-planned and that the tensioned space between the two is a space of both struggle and creativity. He writes: "It is in this space of between that our teachers, sensitive to both curriculum-as-planned and curriculum-as-lived, dwell, likely finding it a tensioned space of ambiguity, ambivalence, and uncertainty but simultaneously a vibrant site ... but nevertheless a site that beckons pedagogic struggle, for such a human site promises generative possibilities and hope. It is, indeed, a site of becoming, where newness can come into being" (1999:81). The lived world of teachers and learners are mostly ignored by policy/curriculum makers - the reason why there remains a policy-practice gap, and why continued reference is made to the failure of curriculum implementation

Keywords : performativity; phenomenology; existentials; accountability; lived experience; teachers.

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