Doxa and learning identity practice realisation of high school learners in a rural working-class town

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This article concentrates on the adaptations that working-class learners make in order to develop and establish their learning practices. The key focus is on aspects of how these learners construct their learning identities in a specific rural town context in the Western Cape. The research material for the article is drawn from an extensive study of the learning practices and life stories of selected learners, focused semi-structured interviews, and ethnographic work in this rural working-class town. We were interested in how learners’ social-spatial dynamics influenced their doxa in their daily interaction with their social networks, popular discourses, peers, family, and other people in their immediate surroundings. The article specifically provides understanding about their productive learning practices amid deep-seated poverty. We argue that their “lived” rural context is central to their learning practice formation, especially in how they generate and use their doxa to produce these practices.

Community life has a deep impact on the attitudes of children towards their school learning. In the context of this impoverished rural town children are swept up by a myriad of social dynamics that include crime, violence, drugs and gangsterism. These have a negative impact on their educational aspirations. The article is interested in understanding the impact of these dynamics on their learning or educational practices in their neighbourhood. We offer an account of the nature and type of learning practice identities that the learners of this study establish as a way of building and retaining their aspirant routes into becoming educated. The focus is on those learners who are relatively successful in establishing aspirant educational paths amid tough circumstances. We suggest that they become involved in a range of complex community processes by reading and navigating their community dynamics in particular ways. It is their active reading, engagements and everyday navigation practices that keep them on course in their quest to become educated.

Bourdieu’s under-used concept of doxa is central to our analysis and argument. As he explains,doxa refers to “the relationship of immediate adherence that is established in practice between habitus and field to which it is attuned, a pre-verbal taking-for-granted of the world that flows from practical sense” (Bourdieu 1980:68). Doxa can be regarded as a “doctrine” of general meanings and “truths” that circulate as a type of taken-for-granted discourse in a context such as this rural town. We provide an analysis of how the learners’ taken-for-granted doxa plays a motivational and meaning-making role in how they construct their learning practices.

The key argument presented in the article is that the selected learners’ doxa plays a significant role in shaping their orientations to their learning practices in this impoverished rural context. In other words, we argue that it is their doxa that orientates and informs their thought processes, motivational discourses and everyday practice which they use to develop their learning practices. We illustrate how they mobilise their doxa to play a mediating role in keeping them tied into an educational path in light of their circumstances. Unlike many of their peers who fail to pursue their school-going and drop out from school, these learners have been able to use their doxa (or thoughts and discourses about their future) to keep them motivated to stay in school. We thus work from the perspective that their educational commitments and practices can be understood by focusing on the manner in which their doxa impacts and help shape their learning practices. The article explains how the learners experience their physical environment as restrictive, yet are able to orientate their motivation and thinking processes in order to keep their aspirations for becoming educated alive. These children succeed in developing appropriate thoughts, behaviour and practices (doxa) in pursuit of their dream. Key to these is their ability to generate appropriate learning practices that keep them on course in their school careers. Our data show that they develop the ability to mediate the negative influences of their community by adopting strategic identities in specific situations. This positions them as effective navigators of community circumstances that might have otherwise caused them to deviate from their educational paths. What is key to their learning practices, however, is their ability to effectively shift their doxa in light of this acquired sense of self and, via their everyday practices, challenge the accepted doxa about the (im)possibility of becoming educated in contexts such as these. They, in effect, challenge the orthodoxy in their community by establishing learning practices that secure them a path into their educational becoming.

Keywords: capital, doxa, habitus, identity, learning practices, positioning, working-class learners

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: 
Doksa en verwerkliking van leeridentiteitspraktyke van hoërskoolleerders in ’n landelike werkersklasdorp

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