Call for Papers : International Perspectives on Teachers’ Work, Status, and Identities

CRES – Cahiers de la recherche sur l’éducation et les savoirs

Call for Papers


International Perspectives on Teachers’Work, Status, and Identities


Coordinated by:

Géraldine Farges (University of Bourgogne Franche-Comté/IREDU)

Pierre Guidi (CEPED/IRD)

and Julie Métais (ELAHIC-IIAC/EHESS)



In the wake of nation-states formation from the nineteenth century, nation-building processes in decolonized countries since the 1960s, and progressive establishment of a global educational order driven by international institutions since the 1990s, educational system developments in general and the teaching profession in particular have attracted the interest of social scientists. As highly qualified and fairly autonomous  profession with significant bearing on society, dealing with human beings, teachers are commonly perceived as drivers of social change. They often played a determining role in nation-building, in the inflection or contestation, at work or through trade-unions, of the norms and regulations underpinning educational policies generally and their professional practice in particular (Rockwell, 2007, 2009 ; Bidou, 1984 ; Schweisguth, 1983). Schooling and instruction constitute a social field governed by plans and regulations, framed by national and local policies, in part under the injunctions – or the tutelage – of international institutions. Audit, efficiency, modernization and a multiculturalist rhetoric form the normative of these regulations, disseminated and appropriated differently according to contexts. These norms, which impact directly on the day-to-day work of teachers, go hand in hand with renewed demands for qualification and “professionalization”.

It is therefore important to scrutinize the transformations of teachers work, status, and identities in light of of these developments. Attentive to the historical depth of the processes observed, we propose to bring together and compare studies focusing on contrasting historical and socio-economic contexts.

This thematic issue aims to open a dialogue within the  social sciences about teachers at work and about, their status and professional identity.

 1. Firstly, the issue will focus on the sociology of the teaching profession in order to unpack their social status and professional identities: what were the transformations and reorganizations of the last decades ? What are today’s teacher training requirements, socio-professional trajectories, and “moral careers” (Goffman, 1961) ? What differentiate them from one socio-historical context to another ? How is their recruitment governed ? Are gender patterns in the distribution of roles and specializations comparable across the world ? (Van Essen & Rogers, 2003).

Another set of sociological questions relates to the social and cultural representations and values attached to this loosely defined and effectively heterogeneous professional group (Demazière & Gadéa, 2010). What sort of mission are they collectively assigned ? How didit evolve overtime ? And from within: how do teachers conceive them ? How are their own conceptions of their mission shaped ? Moreover, what are the internal hierarchies – explicit and implicit – that govern the group ? What are their foundations and how are they disseminated ? Contributions to this could also question how gender affects the status and  identity of the teaching profession, shapes the training,  and the socio-professional  trajectories of teachers.

Furthermore, the global norms governing today’s educational field request greater teacher “professionalization”, higher training standards, and a whole set of expected competences formalized by guidelines (Lang, 2004), putting teachers “under pressure” (Tardif, 2012). In numerous countries of the South, the injunction to achieve universal schooling associated with limited means tends to challenge the qualification standards for recruitment in order to cope with the lack of teachers. These contrasted situations will surely enable to rethink the current educational norms and the way they impact teachers working conditions, status, and identities. The way the norms are sometimes contested, in a organized or unorganized manner, should be interrogated even if, in some contexts, teachers’ politicization and collective involvement weakened or are transformed, related to intergenerational dynamics (Llobet, 2011 ; Spire, 2010).

2. Secondly, teachers’ work will be considered. At the international level, there has been an increased interest in teachers at work from the scientist community. While teaching is less and less perceived as a rewarding profession, contributions could focus on the distance between prescriptions standards and working realities. In many countries of the South, for instance, teachers faced with classroom of hundreds of students without the necessary teaching equipment, a situation hardly compatible with the quality of education advocated by international institutions. And beyond the material conditions, with prevailing standards imposed by western powers and international institutions, “the teacherceases to operate solely as the provider of standard routines and solutions, and becomes the creator of problems for the pupils to solve” (Bernstein, 1967), facilitator of situations that stimulate the thinking of the child: in which ways does this affects, in the North and in the South, the work of teachers, their place in society, or their social recruitment ? Generally, teachers entered the  profession with their own range of motives and “arts of doing” (De Certeau, 1980),  but how is teachers’ work effectively  done ? How is it resourced and monitored ? What meaning do teachers give to their day to day practice and exceptional situations and initiatives ?

Moreover, teachers have for a long time enjoyed multiple connections, which enabled them to assume a mediation role between state and society (Bénéï, 2008 ; Salaün, 2013 ; Wilson, 2001). They were at times able to occupy the highest state positions, as in 1920s France or in newly independent African countries. But what of today ? How does this professional sphere relates to other fields of social life (politics, militancy, family life…) ?

Finally, whether the notion of “educational community” makes sense or not in specific contexts, the relational dimension of teaching work, its adaptations to the  demands of non-teaching actors of the school could be of interest: relations with families, communities, and students, as well as other educational professionals in and out of school. These different trends would benefit from international illustrations and comparisons.

The above two strands aim to question the socio-economic status of the teaching profession, as well its attractiveness, a matter of concern in many countries today (European Commission, 2013). Finally, and more importantly, these approaches cannot be dissociated from the political dimension of teaching (Sawicki, 2012).

Paper proposals could address both strands as they are not mutually exclusive. This thematic issue focuses on teachers broadly defined: from kindergarten to higher education; within the public and private sectors; academic and vocational education, and across a range of institutions including   prisons or hospitals.


Abstracts:1 October 2016

First drafts:  4March 2017

More Information 




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