encouraging the teacher-agent: resisting the neo-liberal culture in initial teacher education





performativity, teacher identity, Philosophy for Children, student teachers, initial teacher education


Influenced by Sachs’ (2001) ‘activist identity’ I propose that pre-service teacher education or initial teacher education (ITE), as I will refer to it, could, and indeed should, encourage a new form of teacher; the ‘teacher-agent.’  This teacher-agent would be aware of the pressures and dictates of the neo-liberal educational culture and its ensuing performative discourse, and choose to resist it, in favour of a more holistic view of education. This view of education encourages inclusive, creative and democratic forms of education concerned with encouraging a social conscience in children and young people, as well as seeing education as concerned with the whole child.  These more holistic approaches to education could include pedagogical approaches such as Philosophy for Children (P4C), Rights’ Respecting Education and Slow Pedagogy, which can not only provide a more balanced understanding and deeper experience of education for both teachers and pupils, but can also help teachers to resist the debilitating impact of the neo-liberal performative discourse, potentially also thus impacting on their wellbeing and ability to retain their integrity as professionals.  This may also have the potential to halt the rapid exodus of new teachers from the profession. It is my contention, that engaging with pedagogies such as P4C in this new iteration of ITE could help not only to encourage the Student Teacher-Agent, but also, as a consequence, develop the Citizen-Agent in the children they are teaching. In this paper I consider four key areas where I propose P4C could play a role in this alternative model of Initial Teacher Education; Democracy in action, the teacher as Teacher-Facilitator, a space for co-construction of knowledge, and encouraging Social Justice.

Author Biography

rhiannon love, University of Winchester, UK

Senior Lecturer

Institute of Education


Adams, K., Monahan, J., & Wills, R. (2015). Losing the whole child? A national survey of primary education training provision for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. European Journal of Teacher Education, 38(2), 199-216.

Anderson, B. (2016). Philosophy for Children: Theories and praxis in teacher education. London: Taylor & Francis.

Anspal, T., Eisenschmidt, E., & Löfström, E. (2012). Finding myself as a teacher: Exploring the shaping of teacher identities through student teachers’ narratives. Teachers and Teaching, 18(2), 197-216.

Ball, S. J. (2003). The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of education policy, 18(2), 215-228.

Ball, S. J., & Olmedo, A. (2013). Care of the self, resistance and subjectivity under neoliberal governmentalities. Critical studies in education, 54(1), 85-96.

Beauchamp, C., & Thomas, L. (2009). Understanding teacher identity: An overview of issues in the literature and implications for teacher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 175-189.

Berry, J. (2016). Teachers Undefeated: How Global Education Reform Has Failed to Crush the Spirit of Educators. London: IOE Press.

Burgh, G., & Yorshansky, M. (2011). Communities of inquiry: Politics, power and group dynamics. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43(5), 436-452.

Clandinin, D. J., Downey, C. A., & Huber, J. (2009). Attending to changing landscapes: Shaping the interwoven identities of teachers and teacher educators. Asia-Pacific journal of teacher education, 37(2), 141-154.

Connell, R. (2013). The neoliberal cascade and education: An essay on the market agenda and its consequences. Critical studies in education, 54(2), 99-112.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002). Flow: The classic work on how to achieve happiness: Random House.

DfE. (2014). Primary test results: standards rising in all subjects. Press Release. Retrieved 28/04/2018, from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/primary-test-results-standards-rising-in-all-subjects [Accessed 28 March 2018]

DfE. (2016). Thousands more primary pupils on track to be excellent readers. Press Release. Retrieved 28/04/2018, from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/thousands-more-primary-pupils-on-track-to-be-excellent-readers [Accessed 28 March 2018]

DfE. (2017). Primary school tests show schools rising to the challenge. Press Release. Retrieved 28/04/2018, from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/primary-school-tests-show-schools-rising-to-the-challenge [Accessed 28 March 2018]

DfE. (2018). Education standards continue to rise at GCSE and A level. Press Release. Retrieved 28/04/2018, from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/education-standards-continue-to-rise-at-gcse-and-a-level [Accessed 28 March 2018]

Flores, M. A., & Day, C. (2006). Contexts which shape and reshape new teachers’ identities: A multi-perspective study. Teaching and teacher education, 22(2), 219-232.

Furlong, J. (2013). Globalisation, neoliberalism, and the reform of teacher education in England. Paper presented at the The educational forum.

Gee, J. P. (2000). Identity as an analytic lens for research in education. Review of research in education, 25(1), 99-125.

Hardy, I., & Lewis, S. (2017). The ‘doublethink’of data: Educational performativity and the field of schooling practices. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 38(5), 671-685.

Haynes, F. (2014). Teaching Children to Think for Themselves: From Questioning to Dialogue. Journal of Philosophy in Schools, 1(1), 131 - 147.

Haynes, J. (2008). Children as philosophers: Learning through enquiry and dialogue in the primary classroom. London: Routledge.

Haynes, J., & Murris, K. (2011). The provocation of an epistemological shift in teacher education through philosophy with children. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 45(2), 285-303.

Holloway, J., & Brass, J. (2018). Making accountable teachers: the terrors and pleasures of performativity. Journal of education policy, 33(3), 361-382.

Jeffrey, B. (2002). Performativity and primary teacher relations. Journal of education policy, 17(5), 531-546.

Jeffrey, B., & Troman, G. (2011). The construction of performative identities. European Educational Research Journal, 10(4), 484-501.

Kagan, D. M. (1992). Professional growth among preservice and beginning teachers. Review of educational research, 62(2), 129-169.

Keddie, A. (2017). Primary school leadership in England: performativity and matters of professionalism. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 38(8), 1245-1257.

Kennedy, D. (2004). The role of a facilitator in a community of philosophical inquiry. Metaphilosophy, 35(5), 744-765.

Kennedy, D. (2010). Philosophical dialogue with children: Essays on theory and practice. New York: Edwin Mellen Press.

Kilderry, A. (2015). The intensification of performativity in early childhood education. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 47(5), 633-652.

Kizel, A. (2016). from laboratory to praxis: communities of philosophical inquiry as a model of (and for) social activism. childhood & philosophy, 12(25), 497-517.

Korthagen, F. A. (2004). In search of the essence of a good teacher: Towards a more holistic approach in teacher education. Teaching and teacher education, 20(1), 77-97.

Lipman, M. (2003). Thinking in education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lipman, M., Sharp, A. M., & Oscanyan, F. S. (2010). Philosophy in the classroom: Temple University Press.

Lloyd, M., & Davis, J. P. (2018). Beyond performativity: a pragmatic model of teacher professional learning. Professional Development in Education, 44(1), 92-106.

Love, R. (2018a). Literature Review: in partial fulfillment of the Doctorate in Education (EdD). University of Winchester.

Love, R. (2018b). Taking it Slow: Enhancing Wellbeing through Philosophy for Children. In G. M. Duthie. E., F. and Robles Loro, R. (Ed.), Parecidos de familia. Propuestas actuales en Filosofía para Niños. Family Resemblances. Current Trends in Philosophy for Children. Madrid: Anaya.

McGregor, G. (2009). Educating for (whose) success? Schooling in an age of neo‐liberalism. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 30(3), 345-358.

Moore, A., & Clarke, M. (2016). ‘Cruel optimism’: teacher attachment to professionalism in an era of performativity. Journal of education policy, 31(5), 666-677.

Moore, A., Edwards, G., Halpin, D., & George, R. (2002). Compliance, resistance and pragmatism: The (re) construction of schoolteacher identities in a period of intensive educational reform. British Educational Research Journal, 28(4), 551-565.

NFER. (2018). Latest teacher retention statistics paint a bleak picture for teacher supply in England Retrieved 22/11/18, from https://www.nfer.ac.uk/news-events/nfer-blogs/latest-teacher-retention-statistics-paint-a-bleak-picture-for-teacher-supply-in-england/

Pardales, M. J., & Girod, M. (2006). Community of Inquiry: Its past and present future. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 38(3), 299-309.

Pillen, M., den Brok, P., & Beijaard, D. (2013a). Professional identity tensions of beginning teachers. Teachers and Teaching, 19(6), 660-678.

Pillen, M., den Brok, P., & Beijaard, D. (2013b). Profiles and change in beginning teachers' professional identity tensions. Teaching and teacher education, 34, 86-97.

Ranson, S. (2003). Public accountability in the age of neo-liberal governance. Journal of Education Policy, 18(5), 459-480.

Sachs, J. (2001). Teacher professional identity: Competing discourses, competing outcomes. Journal of education policy, 16(2), 149-161.

Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction (Vol. 55): American Psychological Association.

Sharp, A. M. (1987). What is a ‘Community of Inquiry'? Journal of Moral Education, 16(1), 37-45.

Troman, G. (2008). Primary teacher identity, commitment and career in performative school cultures. British Educational Research Journal, 34(5), 619-633.

Turner-Bisset, R. (2007). Performativity by stealth: a critique of recent initiatives on creativity. Education 3–13, 35(2), 193-203.

UNICEF. (2012). A summary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved 17/04/15, from http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Publication-pdfs/betterlifeleaflet2012_press.pdf

Wilkins, C. (2011). Professionalism and the post‐performative teacher: new teachers reflect on autonomy and accountability in the English school system. Professional Development in Education, 37(3), 389-409.

Wilkins, C., Busher, H., Kakos, M., Mohamed, C., & Smith, J. (2012). Crossing borders: new teachers co-constructing professional identity in performative times. Professional Development in Education, 38(1), 65-77.

Wyn, J., Turnbull, M., & Grimshaw, L. (2014). The experience of education: The impacts of high stakes testing on school students and their families. A qualitative study Sydney, NSW: Whitlam Institute.




How to Cite

love, rhiannon. (2019). encouraging the teacher-agent: resisting the neo-liberal culture in initial teacher education. Childhood & Philosophy, 15, 01–27. https://doi.org/10.12957/childphilo.2019.42658



dossier: philosophical inquiry with children: new voices