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Primary Education & Post Plowden Legacy

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Tutor: Alastair Horbury
Assignment: Critique of given text - Chapter 6, 'Pupils at Work.'
Due: Mon 14 Nov 94


The task assigned was to read all six chapters provided, select one and produce
a critique on the subject matter. The chapter selected was number six which
analysed pupils' and 'work'. Firstly I wish to briefly summarise the entire
chapter, highlighting the areas which I considered to be the most important,
these areas will then be examined in depth and their merits or shortcomings

Firstly a summary of the chapter is needed to put into context the areas that
will be discussed later. The whole chapter can be split into two main areas of
discourse:- relationships and 'work' and negotiation.

As there has been little research into pupils' approaches to schoolwork, the
author's chief concern is that of the pupils perceptions of , and approaches to,
schoolwork, and the first point s/he makes is that there are differences
between teachers' and pupils' ideas of what constitutes worthwhile work. The
author sets out to define 'the meaning of work' and in doing so draws our
attention to differences between 'pleasurable work' and 'labour'. Workmanship,
it is argued, has been replaced by unskilled labour and people now work as a
means to an end seeking enjoyment through other avenues such as hobbies and

Teaching methods and school ethos' in general are seen as outmoded and alien to
the cultural and social influences on pupils. Therefore, there is greater
responsibility on the teacher to make work seem more utilitarian and attractive.
Research revealed that many pupils felt that work was pointless and invalid
unless it was undertaken in preparation for forthcoming exams. However, work
that may be deemed pointless or onerous by both sets of pupils (exam and non-
exam) could be given validity by the teaching strategy employed. Pupils seemed
to be more concerned with the status of the work and their personal relationship
with the teacher, therefore the pupil reaction to any given task depended
heavily on these two criteria. It is identified that pupil-teacher
relationships are extremely important and they contain many concealed aspects
which will be discussed in Part 1.

A prevalent feature of pupil-teacher relationships is the negotiation that takes
place and teachers will offer incentives to pupils in order to encourage the
process of work. It is interesting to look at the way in which teachers can
utilise their experience and maturity to manipulate or cajole pupils into
performing a given task, and this will be examined in Part 2.


The first key issue in this chapter that I wish to examine is that of pupil
relationships with teachers, and how they affect classroom behaviour and the
amount of work produced.

I mentioned earlier that because of deep-rooted cultural influences many adults
regard work to hold little or no satisfaction, and this notion permeates through
to their children.

This notion combined with pupils' own perception of themselves as having to be
forced to work creates an arduous environment for the teacher. However, it must
be said that work that is found unpleasurable to pupils is often that of the
purely academic type which does not permit any creative license. Although
academic work is of far more value, teachers often find themselves having to
offer incentives or punishment in order to motivate pupils whereas the work with
little or no academic value is seen, generally, as enjoyable i.e games and arts.

The author places great emphasis on trust. S/he asserts that many children
cannot foresee the long-term advantages of doing work in schools and that many
simply believe or disbelieve the teacher when s/he says it will be of benefit..
The point made may be valid but perhaps only in primary schools. I propose that
in today's secondary school this idea has very little bearing and children are
now more acutely aware than ever before of social and economic factors that
dictate the need to do well in school. In some respects certain aspects of the

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