A study of social solidarity and the constitution of school mathematics in five working class schools in the Western Cape Province of South Africa

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study investigates how forms of social solidarity influence pedagogic practice and the manner in which they are implicated in providing information to the teacher about what it is that students have constituted as criteria for the production of legitimate text at five working-class schools in Greater Cape Town. It explores the contextual features that co-occur with social interactions in each of the five schools. It shows how each of the identified features impacts interactions of the participants during pedagogic practice as well as their importance in shaping the pedagogic communication at the classroom level. It also investigates the ways in which teachers evaluate students’ acquisition of criteria for the reproduction of school mathematics during pedagogic exchanges. Descriptions of teaching are developed in terms of the types of questions that teachers ask their students. I employ Weber’s (1949) technique of constructing ideal types to categorise teacher questions in terms of their purposes in order to investigate how the questions that teachers ask are implicated in the structuring of pedagogic communication. I examine whether or not questions target individual students or the whole class. I also establish whether or not questions that teachers use are productive to ascertain the level of students’ acquisition of criteria by looking at the type of responses students produce. The study interrogates the validity of links drawn by Dowling & Brown (2009) between Durkheim’s notions of organic and mechanical solidarity and their notions of communalising and individualising pedagogies. The results of this study suggest that the questioning strategies are implicated in the form taken by social interactions of participants during pedagogic practice. The results reveal that communalising pedagogic strategy was the most prevalent across the schools. Consequently, teachers gathered rather meagre and unreliable data about their students’ acquisition of criteria for the reproduction of mathematics texts.