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The Black Box of Schooling

A Cultural History of the Classroom

Edited By Sjaak Braster, Ian Grosvenor and María del Mar del Pozo Andrés

This book is about the classroom, the most important meeting place for teachers and pupils in an education building. Our knowledge, however, about what happens inside this space is limited. In many respects the classroom is still the black box of the educational system.
To open up this box, this volume brings together scholars from the disciplines of Art, Architecture, History, Pedagogy and Sociology. They present a wide variety of new perspectives, methodologies and sources for studying classrooms.
The book examines images and representations of classrooms (photographs, paintings and pictures on school walls), writings and documents inside the classroom (school exercise books, teachers’ log books and observer reports), memories and personal experiences of classrooms (egodocuments from teachers and pupils, and oral history interviews), the space and design of classrooms (architecture, school murals and the transformation of space), and material objects in the classroom (school furniture, primers for reading and school wall charts). The essays are illustrated with a unique collection of more than fifty photographs of classrooms in Europe.


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Opening the Black Box of Schooling. Methods, Meanings and Mysteries (Sjaak Braster, Ian Grosvenor & María del Mar del Pozo Andrés) 9


9 Opening the Black Box of Schooling Methods, Meanings and Mysteries Sjaak BRASTER, Ian GROSVENOR & María DEL MAR DEL POZO ANDRÉS Erasmus University Rotterdam; University of Birmingham; University of Alcalá Introduction There is something strange about classrooms. They are known for a couple of centuries. People all over the world have spent time in them. They are the most well known physical space where formal learning takes place. In classrooms the main players of the education game – teachers and pupils – meet. They are like the living cells of the school, the beating heart of the educational system. In short, classrooms have become a synonym for education. But that does not mean that we know many things about them. Our personal memories are coloured or blurred. We may remember a bad tempered teacher, the ink wells on the tables, the pictures on the wall, and that lonely chestnut tree in the school yard seen through the window. We may remember writing things in school exercise books, but what exactly we were writing and why, that remains a mystery. We may also remember the days when students from teacher training colleges were giving lectures at our primary school, especially because during those days all kinds of hidden school treasures were literally coming out of the closets. The working of myste- rious machines was demonstrated; stuffed animals were exposed; wall charts were discussed. The pedagogical plan behind it all was not really clear to us at that moment, but many of...

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