Researching class in the classroom: addressing the social class attainment gap in Initial Teacher Education

Nov. 17, 2007

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Volume 33, Issue 4 November 2007, pages 409 - 424

The social class attainment gap in education is now attracting an increased level of concern. Despite the efforts of the British New Labour government to address the continuing underachievement of working class pupils in England, there has been little progress. This paper reports on one aspect of a wider research study carried out in an Initial Teacher Education department in which this persistent educational problem was explicitly addressed.

In this study student teachers were prompted to explore their own understandings of social class and underachievement by acting as school-based researchers. The data collected by the student teachers revealed both silence and resistance surrounding social class in educational contexts. They identified social class and underachievement as overlapping constructions that were inextricably linked to the perceptions and practices of the teacher.

Importantly, in reflecting on their experiences of the research process the student teachers were able to identify significant implications for their own future professional practice. This paper concludes by emphasising that Initial Teacher Education (ITE) provides an important context in which to raise social class issues and to ensure that student teachers are effectively prepared to recognise and address the institutional barriers to learning faced by underachieving working class pupils.

Updated: Dec. 25, 2007