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Rites of passage in initial teacher training: ritual, performance, ordeal and numeracy skills test

McNamara, Olwen and Roberts, Lorna and Basit, Tehmina N. and Brown, Tony (2002) Rites of passage in initial teacher training: ritual, performance, ordeal and numeracy skills test. British educational research journal, 28 (6). 863 - 878. ISSN 1469-3518

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Abstract

'Transition' was identified by cultural anthropologists in the early twentieth century as the liminal stage of a 'rite of passage'. Contemporary anthropology challenges the structural nature of these classic interpretations of ritual and analyses them as 'performance theory': 'social drama' (Turner), 'dramatism' (Burke), 'interaction rituals' (Goffman), and 'ritualisation' (Bell). In applying a contemporary anthropological lens to initial teacher training, we identify the transition not as a linear progression but as a complex process of extended and ambiguous 'in-betweenness' that involves play, performance and ordeal. We depict pre-service teachers enmeshed in the performance of symbolic acts and the undertaking of 'ritual ordeals'; and report how they narrate their passage as a complex 'game' of 'being' and 'becoming', and portray the holistic experience metaphorically in terms of 'play'. We explore, in particular, students' perceptions of the Numeracy Skills Test, the most recently imposed 'ritual ordeal': a 'rite of intensification' characterised by government as a device to police the boundaries of the teaching profession.

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