Exploring the Limits of the Teacher Subject as a way to imagine a new school

In this post we would like to highlight the presentation done on 20 January 2017 at UCLU Chilean Society by Felipe Acuña (Social Anthropologist, MA in Educational Psychology by Universidad de Chile, and PhD student at the Institute of Education – UCL). The title of his presentation was “Exploring the Limits of the Teacher Subject as a way to imagine a new school. A Qualitative Study into the Subjectivity of Dissident and Organized Teachers in Chile”.

In this presentation, Felipe problematized two contradictory educational movements and their relation with the teacher subject. One movement has a global scope and the other is rooted in my home country, Chile. Following Sahlberg (2011), we can call the first one a Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM); a movement characterized by finance driven reforms and competitiveness-driven changes to the education systems around the world. One of the main focus of GERM is the governance of teachers as a specific and however highly relevant actor wherein these processes of reform can be enacted (Ball, 2003; Robertson, 2016).

The governance of teachers is produced in part by deploying a paradoxical discourse of both blame and derision and of centrality of teachers (Larsen, 2010) by which they are delineated as the main problem and ‘the most significant resource in schools’ (OECD, 2005); they are portrayed as the ‘front-line workers’ (OECD, 2014) ‘to ensure better education results’ (The World Bank, 2012). GERM is heavily influenced by a set of international actors such as OECD, the World Bank or some global educational firms. However, as Ong (2007) emphasizes, whatever is traveling through this global movement it is always interacting with situated political regimes and, therefore, producing an openness to unexpected outcomes.

The context of Chile is an interesting case where this interaction can be explored. After widespread student demonstrations in 2006 and 2011 –who railed against market-oriented structures and in favour of reinstating the view of education as a social right (Bellei & Cabalin, 2013)–, the centre-left government of Michelle Bachelet (2014-2018) won the elections with the promise of a major educational reform. Thus, another kind of movement –a social one– produced an opportunity to enact a different kind of educational reform process. One of the four fundamental changes proposed was improving teachers’ professionalism by means of a new Teaching Career Policy (TCP). However, a spontaneous movement of teacher that started to be called ‘the dissidents’ railed and strike against the new TCP in 2014/15. One of the leaders of these demonstrations argued that this was not their Career because it responds to a “business and productivity” logic.

The new TCP, despite having being triggered from a social movement critical towards the neoliberal rationale, is a new and subtle system of distribution and classification of teachers in five levels of performance. A system, as the sub-secretary of Education said, based on an OECD report that the Chilean Government request. The rationale of the new TCP, can be argued, is strongly consistent with GERM and that is one of the main criticisms that ‘dissident’ teachers have.

Different questions can be addressed from this problematisation. I am interested in the sustainability of the GERM rationale, even when the reform process is surrounded by an aura and a rhetoric of change and social rights. In particular, Felipe is conceptualising the new TCP as a policy based on systems of data-driven, direction-given assessment and accountability that operates mainly by acting upon the existing or possible actions of teachers in what Foucault (1982) calls a subjugation struggle. A struggle that takes place in the site of subjectivity (Ball, 2015) producing a bonsai subject (Rivas, 2005), this is a subject whose possible actions have been reduced to the minimal. Using the notion of limit-attitude (Foucault, 1997), I ask about the possibilities of dissident and organized teachers in Chile to struggle in the site of subjectivity by deploying an experimental and imaginative attitude towards their own limits. In other words, how does a teacher subject relates their dissident and organized self with their everyday school self?

With a focus on subjectivity and language, this is a form of qualitative research. The approach leading the methodological strategy is based on narratives (Phoenix, 2008; Day Sclater, 2003) and Felipe will conduct interviews with two groups of teachers: first, the founders, leaders, speakers or main intellectuals of six different dissident teachers’ organization as a way to contextualize their organizations. Second, the main group, with whom Felipe will research more carefully their limit-attitude. These teachers will have three characteristics: i) be currently working in a school, ii) be a member of a dissident teacher organization and iii) not be the founder, leader or main intellectual of the organization.  Felipe will analyse the data paying special attention to metaphors (Hass and Lakoff, 2009).


Ball, S. (2003). The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), 215–228. https://doi.org/10.1080/0268093022000043065

Ball, S. (2015). Subjectivity as a site of struggle: refusing neoliberalism? British Journal of Sociology of Education, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2015.1044072

Bellei, C., & Cabalin, C. (2013). Chilean Student Movements: Sustained Struggle to Transform a Market-oriented Educational System. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 15(2), 108 – 123. Retrieved from http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/90496644/chilean-student-movements-sustained-struggle-transform-market-oriented-educational-system

Day Sclater, S. (2003). What is the subject? Narrative Inquiry, 13(2), 317–330. https://doi.org/10.1075/ni.13.2.05day

Foucault, M. (1982). The Subject and Power. Critical Inquiry, 8(4), 777–795. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1343197?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Foucault, M. (1997). What is Enlightenment? In P. Rabinow (Ed.), The essential works of Foucault 1954-1984. Volume I: Ethics: subjectivity and truth (pp. 303 – 319). New York: The New Press.

Haas, E., & Lakoff, G. (2009). Marcos, metáforas y política educativa. In M. Pini (Ed.), Discurso y Educación. Herramientas para el análisis crítico (1a ed., p. 418). San Martín: UNSAM EDITA.

Larsen, M. A. (2010). Troubling the Discourse of Teacher Centrality: A Comparative Perspective. Journal of Education Policy, 25(2), 207–231. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ883673

OECD. (2005). Teachers Matter: Attracting, developng and retaining effective teachers. Paris.

OECD (2014). TALIS 2013 Results: An international perspective on teaching and learning. Retrieved from http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/talis-2013-results_9789264196261-en

Ong, A. (2007). Neoliberalism as a mobile technology. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 32(1), 3–8. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-5661.2007.00234.x

Phoenix, A. (2008). Analysing Narrative Contexts. In M. Andrews, C. Squire, & M. Tamboukou (Eds.), Doing Narrative Research (pp. 73 – 87). London: SAGE Publications. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9780857024992

Rivas, J. (2005). Pedagogía de la dignidad de estar siendo. Entrevista con Hugo Zemelman y Estela Quintar. Revista Interamericana de Educación de Adultos, 27(1), 113 – 140.

Robertson, S. (2016). The Global Governance of Teachers’ Work. In K. Mundy, A. Green, B. Lingard, & A. Verger (Eds.), The Handbook of Global Education Policy (pp. 275–290). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118468005.ch15

Sahlberg, P. (2011). The Fourth Way of Finland. Journal of Educational Change, 12(2), 173–185. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-011-9157-y

The World Bank. (2012). What matters most in teacher policies? A framework for building a more effective teaching profession, 1–78. Retrieved from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2012/07/16750910/system-approach-better-education-results-saber-matters-most-teacher-policies-framework-building-more-effective-teaching-profession

Explorando la carrera de Directores y Directoras en escuelas municipales en Valparaíso

En este post destacamos la investigación de Sergio Galdames realizada el primer Term. A continuación les presentamos un resumen:

Cualquier persona que ha trabajado en una organización podría señalar lo importante que es contar con un buen ‘Jef@’. La evidencia es concluyente en identificar el impacto y la influencia que tiene el liderazgo en explicar mejoramiento y efectividad en diversas áreas (Barber, Whelan, & Clark, 2010). En los últimos años se ha instalado en la agenda internacional, un interés por identificar y preparar lideres escolares, especialmente en el rol de directoras y directores (Schleicher, 2012). A pesar de esta relevancia, la investigación es clara en mostrar dificultades en atraer y sobre todo en mantener a profesionales en la dirección de escuelas y liceos (Walker & Kwan, 2009). En otras palabras, no hay much@s interesados en el puesto y lo que llegan a él, usualmente solo lo están por unos pocos años.

Usualmente esto se ha explicado por la complejidad, dificultad y riesgo, que tiene este puesto (Cranston, 2007). Sin embargo, nuevas teorías desde el área del trabajo proponen nuevas ideas para comprender satisfacción laboral, permanencia y movilidad (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996; Hall, 2004). De acuerdo a estas perspectivas las personas actualmente están construyendo sus carreras de forma diferente a años anteriores. Otros estudios han construido sobre estas ideas, indicando que esto se observan con mayor fuerza en individuos más jóvenes (Lyons, Schweitzer, & Ng, 2015). Desde aquí la teoría generacional ha contribuido en señalar que las personas miembros de las cohortes más recientes [Generación X (52-38 años) e Milenios (37-18 años)], buscan trabajos y responsabilidades que privilegien el bienestar psicológico, los espacios de aprendizaje, las relaciones horizontales y los desafíos, por sobre recompensas económicas, lo cual atraía a generaciones anteriores (Maduros y Boomers).

Estudios en diversas áreas, pero también en Educación, han indicado que usualmente el puesto del director se ha construido al servicio de las necesidades de Maduros (87-72 años) y Boomers (71-53 años), pero que no han reconocido las nuevas expectativas que generaciones más jóvenes presentan. En Chile, la mayoría de los directores del sistema municipal pertenecen a la generación Madura y Boomers, en ambos casos prontos a la jubilación (Peñailillo, Galdames, & Rodrigues, 2013; Weinstein & Muñoz, 2012). Paralelamente, la introducción de políticas de formación y selección en los últimos 5 años, sugieren que la entrada de una nueva cohorte de director@s, que podrían presentar expectativas y necesidades diferentes a las propuestas en el diseño de cargo actual. Comprender que es lo que estas generaciones buscan y la coherencia con las actuales políticas públicas es clave para fortalecer los procesos de reclutamiento y disminuir la rotación directiva.

Usando la teoría generacional como marco orientador, este estudio busca explorar como los directores de escuelas municipales en Valparaíso, construyen su carrera profesional, poniendo atención especial al camino que han recorrido hasta la dirección y sus expectativas sobre su vida laboral futura. Para esto una muestra de 30 directores que trabajen en escuelas municipales de la región de Valparaíso será seleccionada: 10 Boomers, 10 Generación X y 10 Milenio. A través de la estrategia de ‘Historia de Vida’, se buscará caracterizar su vida laboral e identificar patrones comunes y diferencias en estos grupos. Los hallazgos de esta investigación buscan aportar a los estudios en carrera directiva, teoría generacional y teoría del trabajo. Asimismo, buscan retroalimentar a las políticas públicas, en la construcción de un diseño de cargo atractivo y coherente con las necesidades de la nueva generación de directores en Chile.

Más información

Twitter: @sergiogaldames

Academia: pucv.academia.edu/SergioGaldames


Arthur, M. B., & Rousseau, D. M. (1996). Introduction: The boundaryless career as a new employment principle. The boundaryless career: A new employment principle for a new organizational era, 3-20.

Barber, M., Whelan, F., & Clark, M. (2010). Capturing the leadership premium: How the world’s top school systems are building leadership capacity for the future. McKinsey and Company.

Cranston, N. C. (2007). Through the eyes of potential aspirants: another view of the principalship. School Leadership & Management, 27(2), 109-128. doi: 10.1080/13632430701237115

Hall, D. (2004). The protean career: A quarter-century journey. Journal of vocational behavior, 65(1), 1-13.

Lyons, S., Schweitzer, L., & Ng, E. (2015). How have careers changed? An investigation of changing career patterns across four generations. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 30(1), 8-21.

Peñailillo, L., Galdames, S., & Rodrigues, S. (2013). La discusión sobre la formación de lideres intermedios.Fundamentos, aprendizajes y desafíos. Recherches en Education, 15(1), 49-59.

Schleicher, A. (2012). Preparing teachers and developing school leaders for the 21st century: Lessons from around the world: ERIC.

Walker, A., & Kwan, P. (2009). Seeking a Principalship: Specific Position Attractors. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 8(3), 287-306. doi: 10.1080/15700760802416107

Weinstein, J., & Muñoz, G. (2012). ¿Qué sabemos sobre los directores de escuela en Chile? Santiago.