There is widespread agreement at the policy level that systems of education should be inclusive of an increasingly diverse student population; yet research indicates this to be a deficit area in teaching and learning practices. This research paper employs the sociocultural concept of ‘funds of knowledge’ to consider how teachers draw upon their unique experiences to frame student diversity, particularly related to student ability. We interview four teachers in middle years teaching roles and use content analysis to reveal the ways in which the teachers recognise and name student ability and how this impacts on their practices in relation to teaching and learning. Findings reveal that the teachers describe student ability in ways that reflect their funds of knowledge including aspects of their past, present and future notions of self. Two of the teachers drew upon institutional categories of student diversity that reflect a traditional approach to teaching and learning in order to describe their present practice and to envision the future – an approach to practice that they would have been enculturated into and which serves as their frame of reference. The other two teachers, both of whom are recently educated in the ways of their craft, constructed student diversity in terms of their own pedagogical practice. For them, practice draws on their recent university studies and on past experiences of self to envision a more egalitarian future for themselves and for their students. This research provides an insight into a promising future in addressing the challenge of enacting truly inclusive practices to meet the needs of our diverse student population. Furthermore, it reveals that teachers’ funds of knowledge shape their understandings and practices in ways that can be either limiting or enabling, and that this range of diversity of teacher’ views is currently being played out in classrooms.
Australian Journal of Middle Schooling / Vol. 14, No. 1, pp.4-15