School curriculum as developmental resource: gender and knowledge

G Ivinson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter can be located in the growing literature on relational approaches to human development. It argues that school curricula provide cultural resources that act as staging posts for children and young people en route to adulthood. Learning involves demonstrating legitimate practices that are congruent with the codes (Bernstein, 1996) of the subject discipline. Subject disciplines can be viewed as cultural streams with long or short historical roots. A relational approach to development recognises that in order to achieve a sense of forward movement young people draw on the culturally available resources to represent change. Curricular subjects provide socio-cultural resources and clues about learning and about development. Historical legacies intermesh gender with subject knowledge. The paper investigates classrooms as semiotic fields with a range of linguistic and non-linguistic signifiers. Material objects help to fix and fasten socio-historical cultural flows which become available as resources for social actors. The way they use objects (symbolic and material) can help students to imagine forward trajectories in the subject world and they can also create barriers depending on how and whether or not the gender valence of an object is recognised by self and others. This paper focuses on ethnographic work in year 8 (students aged 12/13 years) in single-sex Drama classes in a comprehensive secondary school. It demonstrates how gender emerged in classroom practice and how boys and girls recognised, accessed and used different kinds of semiotic assemblages and how some students achieved a sense of forward movement yet failed to learned, while others learned yet failed to see themselves as competent social actors.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChildren, Development and Education
Subtitle of host publicationCultural, Historical, Anthropological Perspectives
EditorsMichalis Kontopodis, Christoph Wulf, Bernd Fichtner
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-007-0243-1
ISBN (Print)978-94-007-0242-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011


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