Moral Training: A Genealogical Critique of Pastoral Power in the Manifestation of Teacher Subjectivity


The figure of the teacher is often portrayed in an unproblematic and consistent way in a rationalistic understanding of education. Thus, histories of the historical teacher are often situated within the context of a meta-narrative: that the teacher is the person who is tasked with achieving the educational goals explicitly set out by such qualified discourses such as those proliferated by The Department for Education (2019a, 2019b, 2019c). This paper seeks to offer a different account of the teacher subject by committing the institutional practice of continuing professional development to genealogical critique. This paper coins genealogy as an “analysis of modern power as a positive and productive force.” (Pignatelli 1995, p. 386) and reconceptualizes continuing professional development within Christian conscience-forming pedagogies and pastoral power. These two conscience-forming pedagogies (‘exomologesis’ and ‘exagoreusis’), which Foucault (1988) describes, offers a theoretical grounding on which to construct a critique of a personal experience in the form of an autoethnographic vignette. This critique explores ways in which teachers are expected to examine their thoughts and behaviour and how school policies expect teachers to modify not only their actions but their speech and, indeed, their thoughts. Concepts of confession and self-examination are utilised, Foucault argues, in order “to constitute, positively, a new self.” (p. 49) Thus I argue that continuing professional development may not only function to improve the skills and subject knowledge of teachers, so they may perform their duties more successfully, but may actually be the means through which teacher subjectivity can altered entirely.

Author Information
Jack Bryne Stothard, University of Derby, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ECE2021
Stream: Teaching Experiences

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon