Poppin’ pills is all we know

performative pedagogy and resistance in Vocational Education

Grant: NWO Doctoral Grant for Teachers
Project titel: Poppin’ pills is all we know; performative pedagogy and resistance in Vocational Education
Researcher: Jacob Koolstra
Timeline: 2022-2026

This project focuses on the role that resistance plays in the personal development of students in vocational education and training (VET) in the Netherlands. It combines continental philosophy and critical pedagogy and is inspired by the works of Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. The study offers a critique of the way resistance of students is traditionally conceived in vocational education. Expanding on this critique, the project explores the possibilities that these resistances offer in shaping students into enterprising and creative individuals. By combining this theoretical framework with qualitative and empirical research through interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), the study develops a foundation for a notion of performative pedagogy. Within this conceptual framework, students can transform resistance through creative iteration, with active support and stimulation from teachers, in order to make a unique contribution to their personal growth and that of society.

Due to the gap between the social codes of the school culture and the other life worlds of students in vocational education and training, collisions often occur. Teachers expect students to adhere to rules, focus on their future, and consider others within the school setting, but among peers, influenced by street and pop culture, different norms apply. Exemplifying these forms of resistance is the popular music of hip-hop artist Travis Scott; his lyrics are hedonistic, apolitical, and portrayed in music videos that glorify large commercial brands and individual material gain. Scott represents an attitude of hedonistic and apolitical individualism, where acquiring wealth and status have become the main motivations for students.

To address students' resistances to the social codes at school, educational thinkers often refer to the German educational concept of 'bildung', also – unconventionally – in vocational education. Bildung, or cultivation/edification, with a focus on "broad cultural transmission, including knowledge of traditions and morality", contradicts the above described apolitical individualism. However, bildung also implies that personal development primarily focuses on what already exists (i.e., "knowledge of traditions and morality") and pays little attention to what students can contribute. For example, the aforementioned Scott is also known for his resourcefulness; he managed to reach his fans in innovative ways by being the first artist to perform in a video game. Resistance and creativity are thus two sides of the same coin.

By developing an alternative understanding of resistance, the study sheds light on how to create an educational space that encourages students in VET to work on their personal development through creative iteration. This notion of performative pedagogy, gives teachers the ability to embrace the resistances of students, without completely losing the possibility to influence and co-create the learning processes of students.

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