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Toolkits, Translation Devices and Conceptual Accounts

Essays on Basil Bernstein’s Sociology of Knowledge


Edited By Parlo Singh, Alan R. Sadovnik and Susan F. Semel

For over four decades, Basil Bernstein researched ‘the internal organisation and educational context of the school’ specifically, and educational systems generally. In particular, he was interested in the powerful forms of knowledge transmitted through schooling systems; who gained access to these forms of knowledge; how they did so; and with what consequences. His research began by examining the differences between language and communication patterns in the institutions of the home/family and of the school, and extended to examining the structuring of pedagogic discourse from the level of the state to the classroom.
This collection brings together chapters by researchers from South Africa, Portugal, the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia, to build on the theoretical concepts developed by Bernstein to explore issues of access and acquisition to school knowledge. In addition, contributors explore the strengths and limitations of Bernstein’s work for understanding the structuring of educational institutions, as well as the potential of the theory for assisting educators to make a difference in the lives of students.


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Chapter 5: Social Class and Pedagogy 65


INTRODUCTION An enduring concern in the sociology of education is the persistent achievement gap between working class and middle class students. We have known for a long time, especially since Coleman et al. (1966), that schooling reproduces social class differences. In the transition from apartheid to a democratic dispensation in South Africa, class inequalities (largely welded to race) have persisted, and a highly strat- ified system of education in terms of social class has become entrenched. Schooling in South Africa fails the vast majority of students in enhancing their life chances. But how inequalities are reproduced has remained something of a black box, in par- ticular in relation to how pedagogy functions. The present chapter attempts to address this problem, presenting a theoretical model based on empirical work in Grade 3 literacy classrooms in South Africa. It describes two different ‘modalities’ of pedagogy emerging in different contexts—a vertical modality in a middle class context, and a horizontal modality in a working class context. The study integrates analytic tools from the sociology of education in order to achieve a specificity of description of the process whereby different orders of meaning and knowledge are transmitted. The purpose is to show a model for investigating pedagogic variation in different social class contexts.The theory employed in the study allows for a link- ing of the micro processes of the classroom with a consideration of the macro social C H A P T E R F I V E URSULA HOADLEY Social Class and...

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