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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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6 The limitations of dominant epistemological orientationsand interpretations of teachers and teachers’ work 93

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93 6 The limitations of dominant epistemological orientations and interpretations of teachers and teachers’ work in the research Studying teachers’ lives and their classroom practice is by no means novel. In providing a brief exposition on representations of teachers and con- ceptions of teaching in research, this chapter highlights how, in the nexus of the two, particular teacher subject positions are invoked and produced. In particular, the chapter draws attention to ways in which dominant epistemological orientations in research about teachers and teaching often limit interpretations of teachers’ subject positions in the act of teaching. This critique is important in that it not only highlights how particular epistemological orientations offer limited understandings of the nexus between structure and agency and its articulation in teaching practice, but also provides the rationale for the theoretical, methodological, and conceptual focus of the study. The analysis of teacher positioning and teaching here lays the foundation for subsequent argument that proposes a more nuanced approach to research on teachers and their work, one that allows for a dialectic rather than dualistic relationship between struc- ture and agency. What follows is a brief rationale for the focus on teachers, with par- ticular emphasis on the importance of examining teacher identity (and subject positioning) as a critical component in understanding teaching. I follow this with a review of selected research on teachers and teaching. In this, I focus on the epistemological orientations in the selected re- search, emphasising the consequence such orientations hold for under- standing teacher...

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