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Performative Praxis

Teacher Identity and Teaching in the Context of HIV/AIDS

Mary Jean Baxen

It is widely recognized that the South African government’s exemplary HIV/AIDS education policy is not making the behaviour-changing impact that it ought. Why is this? What is actually happening in the school classroom?
In this book, Jean Baxen makes an important contribution towards understanding the complex interface between the HIV/AIDS education curriculum and what and how teachers are teaching in the classroom. Bringing Judith Butler’s theory of performativity to bear in an analysis of the pedagogic practice of a number of teachers in the Western Cape and Mpumalanga, the author shows how teachers’ personal conception of their role and identity as educators plays a vitally important role in filtering and shaping the classroom transmission of key information and attitudes.


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1 The study 29


29 1 The study Methodological orientation The main question to which this study responded was that of the factors shaping teachers’ understanding, experience and teaching in a herme- neutic space of HIV/AIDS. Since I was interested in examining how a particular cohort of teachers made meaning of themselves and their work, I adopted a qualitative mode of inquiry which enabled me to pay atten- tion to, not only how teachers viewed their social world, but also to how they were positioned and positioned themselves within their particular social worlds. A case study approach was followed. According to Denzin & Lin- coln (1994: 204) a case is “a phenomenon of some sort occurring in a bounded context-the unit of analysis, in effect.” Usually, in a case study approach there is a focus and loosely defined physical and /or social boundaries within which the research is carried out. Foci and /or bounda- ries can be identified by large or small social units, e. g. individuals, groups, institutions, organisations. (Denzin & Lincoln, 1998). In this instance, teachers were the unit of analysis and as such constituted the ‘case’. A life history approach was applied to gain access to a central source of information namely, teachers’ life stories. Life history is defined by Goodson as “a narrative, influenced by the cultural conventions of telling, by the audience, and by the social con- text” (1992: 236). Life histories and biographies have been used to gain an understanding of “individual – collective praxis and socio-historical change in the organisation...

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