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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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Introduction 301

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301 Introduction The study of contexts is intrinsic to any analysis of social action. And any commentary on contexts implies an examination of the human interac- tion that constitutes the strips of behaviour people call up within a par- ticular space and time. It involves examining ways in which people un- derstand themselves as members of different groups, each with their own rules and regulatory practices. It requires examining words and actions in their presented form, ‘in the moment’ of instantiation with all the ges- tures, facial expressions, and feelings that accompany them. It also re- quires an awareness of the reflexive nature of identity construction (Giddens, 1984). The study that forms the basis of this book was aimed at examining the factors shaping teachers’ understanding, experiences and teaching of sexuality and HIV/AIDS. It began with questions about who the teachers were and what it was about themselves that they brought into the class- room. I put forward the argument that individual and collective influ- ences and experiences serve as mediatory resources teachers draw on to produce and reproduce knowledge and teacherly enactments in the class- room. Such an argument challenges constructions of, on the one hand, teachers as mere deliverers of an uncontested, sanitised and agreed upon body of content and, on the other hand, schools as stable or neutral environments where safe sex messages are effortlessly delivered by a complying teacher to a relatively passive audience of learners. The fundamental question, therefore, was about the relationship be- tween...

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