chapter  6
16 Pages

The pedagogic construction of ‘ability’ in school English

The teacher’s work involves the continuous ‘structured improvisation’ of English both as a matter of curriculum content (an ideational construct), and as a matter of the social relations in the classroom (a pedagogic, interpersonal one). That is, the teacher always and simultaneously creates both a content for English, and a way of positioning students differentially in relation to that content. Here we focus on this differential positioning of students, and on the role played in this by the near commonsense notion of (differential) ‘ability’. We argue that ‘student ability’ is at least partly constructed in social interaction, and may not be stable beyond the context in which it is ‘produced’. Out of this understanding comes a means for seeing how the teacher’s perception of students in relation to ‘ability’ gives shape to very different constructions of what English is or comes to be for different groups of students.