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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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PART I IMAGES AND REPRESENTATIONS OF CLASSROOMS 21 Educational Change and Dutch Classroom Photographs A Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis Sjaak BRASTER Erasmus University Rotterdam Introduction There is debate about the usefulness of images for telling histories of education. Images can support stories that are told by written docu- ments, but can they be used as primary sources that tell us things that written or oral testimonies cannot? We think they can. We have per- formed an analysis on a few hundred images of pupils and teachers in classrooms of primary schools for supporting this point of view. We show that by switching between an inductive and a deductive approach, by carefully selecting and coding images, by using multiple correspond- ence analysis, and by constantly making comparisons between (groups of) data, we can arrive at conclusions that cannot be drawn on the basis of written documents alone. One of these conclusions is that, in spite of a mechanism known as the grammar of schooling, the image of main stream Dutch primary schools – public/neutral and religious – has slowly changed from a teacher centred to a child centred one in the period 1945-1985. New education schools in the Netherlands did not change their child centred image in these years. At first glance the image of main stream schooling in the 1980s is comparable with the image of new education in the 1950s, but there has been a convergence towards a child centred image of the classroom, with individual tables placed in groups, a...

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