Negotiating Aporias
in Teacher Education:
Researching the Impossible?
Bill Green
Charles Sturt University, Australia
Bergen, 2014
Researching the impossible?
 teaching as “the art of the impossible” (Taubman, 2014)
 education as an “impossible profession” (Freud, Britzman)
 teaching the impossible profession?
 Teaching the Impossible Profession: Alexander Mackie and the
Project of Teacher Education
The battle for teacher education; or,
Struggling for the soul?
 increasing regulation & control
 distrust of teachers & teacher education, bordering on
 a enduring problem of governmentality
 populational rationality, etc.
 a ‘mass’ profession vs a ‘quality’ profession?
 organic professionalism vs bureaucratic professionalism
Struggling for the soul of teacher education?
 the ‘subject’ of teacher education
 or rather, the body-subject
 its very character – its soul…
 i.e ethical/moral & intellectual formation
 hence, a matter of ethical & political import
Re-thinking ‘practice’
professional practice, learning &education
practice theory & philosophy
the ‘primacy of practice’ thesis
a long philosophical heritage
philosophical-empirical inquiry
 Practice theory – “… a ‘family of theories’ that challenge individualist
and cognitivist understandings of practice as the application of theory
with understandings of practice as material, embodied and
orchestrated arrangements of ‘doings and sayings’ […], complexly
located in space and time […].” (Lee & Dunstone, 2011: 485)
 “Professional practice … consists of speech (what people say) plus the
activity of the body, or bodies, in interaction (what people do, more
often than not together) – a play of voices and bodies. In this view,
practice is inherently dialogical, an orchestrated interplay, and indeed a
matter of co-production.” (Green, 2009: 43)
A (different) practice turn?
The ‘Primacy of Practice’ Thesis
A reformulation?
The ‘Primacy of Practice’ Thesis
Thinking aporia
Note: this “old, worn-out Greek word … this
tired word of philosophy and logic” (Derrida,
1993: 12)
 “… aporia, the undecideable moments in
which the teaching subject is faced with an
irreconcilable yet urgent decision” (Janzen,
2013: 382)
 “… the ghost of undecidability haunts every
responsible decision.” (Wang, 2005: 51)
Related concepts
 “… it is because responsibility is infinite that the decision is
always undecidable.” (Critchley, 1999: 108)
Related concepts
 “… it is because responsibility is infinite that the decision is
always undecidable.” (Critchley, 1999: 108)
 “You are obliged ceaselessly to act” (Anna Freud,
[1930] 1974: 74).
 “There is no way out of aporia, but in this impasse,
active engagement with the impossible becomes
imperative for creating new forms of life.” (Wang,
2005: 47)
The ‘impossibility’ of teacher education
“Since school is an institution that is constantly
reformed, the teaching profession is a profession
characterized by an almost constant discontent with
teachers. The ‘desirable’ teachers are always different
from existing teachers.”
(Ingrid Carlgren, 1998: 317)
“… the inherent impossibility of education—we can
never know or predict what someone knows or thinks—
and it turns that impossibility into an invitation to
(Peter Taubman, 2014: : 16)
Thinking (about) teacher education
“… an unresolvable paradox at the heart of the
project of teacher education – something that is,
indeed, constitutive of that project, that
enterprise, that undertaking.” (Green & Reid,
2010/2015 – in preparation)
“With problem one knows what to do; there is a
method for working out the puzzle. Aporia,
however, Derrida defined as ‘the point at which
the problematic task becomes impossible’…”
(Gregory Ulmer, 2012: 310 )
researching (im)possibility
negotiating aporias
teaching & teacher education
A theoretical & philosophical challenge?
Selected References
 Deborah Britzman (2014) “The Other Scene of Pedagogy: A
Psychoanalytic Narrative”, Changing English, Vol 21, No 2, pp 122-130.
 Ingrid Carlgren (1988) “Where Did Blackboard Writing Go?”, Journal of
Curriculum Studies, Vol 30, No 6, 613-617.
 Jacques Derrida (1993) Aporias, Stanford, California: Sanford University
 Simon Critchley (1999) Ethics–Politics–Subjectivity, London & New York:
 Melanie D. Janzen (2013) “The Aporia of Undecidability and the
Responsibility of Teacher”, Teaching Education, Vol. 24, No. 4, 381–394.
 Peter Taubman (2014) “The Art of the Impossible” Professional Study
and the Making of Teachers”, English Journal, Vol 103, No 6, pp 14-19.
 Gregory Ulmer (2012) Avatar Emergency, Parlor Press.
 Hongyu Wang (2005) “Aporias, Responsibility, and the Im/Possibility of
Teaching Multicultural Education”, Educational Theory, Volume 55,
Number 1, pp 45-59.

Researching the Impossible?