Individualised and instrumentalised? Critical thinking, students and the optics of possibility within neoliberal higher education

Danvers, Emily (2019) Individualised and instrumentalised? Critical thinking, students and the optics of possibility within neoliberal higher education. Critical Studies in Education. ISSN 1750-8487 (Accepted)

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Abstract

This paper explores the state of critical thinking in higher education’s everyday pedagogical encounters, against the backdrop of an increasingly commodified and marketised academy in the UK. Illustrated by observation, focus group and interview data from 15 firstyear undergraduate social-science students at a UK research-intensive university, I explore how neoliberal modes of governmentality create, reproduce and legitimate specific forms of critical thinking and critical thinkers. First, I describe how dominant discourses of critical thinking as a commodified ‘technology’ for assessment rub up against understandings of critical thinking as socio-political protest - using data from students and those teaching them. I then explore the positioning of critical thinking as emotional self-surveillance and unpack the consequences of this politics of reflection over resistance. Using Barad’s notion of the ‘apparatus’ as a contextualising optic of possibility, I argue that while multiple formations of critical thinking exist within the multifarious possibilities constituting the ‘neoliberal’ academy, instrumentalised and individualised practices come to matter and are valorised, with pedagogic and political consequences for thinking critically in and about higher education.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education
Depositing User: Deeptima Massey
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2019 09:44
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2019 09:44
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/82477

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