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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 9: Towering TIMSS or Leaning PISA? Vertical and Horizontal Models of International Testing Regimes 143


INTRODUCTION: THE SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE AND THE BERNSTEINIAN PROJECT The origins of this chapter can be found in a response to the dominant themes of the Reclaiming Knowledge conference, which combined themes from systemic lin- guistics and social and cultural reproduction at the University of Sydney (2004).The sociological framework for this conference was based around the issues of official knowledge arising from Bernstein’s models of horizontal and vertical discourse.This framework appeared to me at the time, while raising important questions of philo- sophical enquiry into the epistemological basis of disciplinary knowledge, in dan- ger of losing the main points of Bernstein’s project—namely (a) the ways knowledge, power and control interact to reproduce class-based inequalities and (b) his well- documented distinction between the primary or decontextualised fields of knowl- edge production and its recontextualisation in the classroom or lecture theatre.This emphasis on the sociology of knowledge forms (and their associated structures and grammars) produced some bizarre offshoots such as an interest in the importance of Isaac Newton’s class origins and the unexplicated conflation of knowledge struc- tures and their modalities of transmission. Whatever Bernstein’s project has taught C H A P T E R N I N E WILLIAM TYLER Towering TIMSS or Leaning PISA? Vertical and Horizontal Models of International Testing Regimes Sadovnik_8 to 11.qxd 2/11/2010 12:32 PM Page 143 us, it is clear that curricula forms cannot be readily equated with knowledge struc- tures, cultural transmission with epistemic process, nor can the discursive ‘gaze’ of...

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