Poststructuralism in Education | Theory & Examples (Ultimate Guide 2019)

poststructuralism in education

This post aims to give an easy and clear guide to poststructuralism in education.

This is not an academic article like an article from a scholarly journal.

Instead, this is a guide for students that’s designed to give you the information in a language you can understand.

Students studying to be teachers are often asked to write about how poststructuralism is relevant to education.

The truth is, it’s hard to find much information about the relevance of poststructuralism to education. So, I’ve put together this guide.

Don’t forget that you need to cite academic sources if you’re going to use this information.

At the end of each section, I’ve provided citations (in APA format) of scholarly sources you could read for further information and cite when talking about each key point.

Also, don’t forget to write all of this information in your own words. You don’t want to get caught for plagiarism.

examples of poststructuralism in the classroom

Frequently Asked Question: Is it spelled ‘post-structuralism’ with a hyphen or ‘poststructuralism’ without a hyphen?

Answer: It doesn’t matter, usually. I tell my students to choose one way of spelling it and be consistent. If you’re super concerned, don’t be afraid to email your teacher and ask them what they prefer.

1. What is Poststructuralist Theory?

Poststructuralist theory originated in France in the mid-1960s and into the 1970s. The theory came about as a way of critiquing power and privilege. It asks questions like:

  • How come power, wealth and privilege seem to be attached to people with certain identities (white, male, middle-class people)?
  • Who has control of knowledge?
  • Who says what is normal and what is abnormal?
  • Is there really an objective ‘truth’ or is truth defined by the people in power?

Your head might be spinning.

To start right now, remember that poststructuralism is all about truth and power. Who has the power to control what is true and what isn’t?

You might be thinking that truth is truth. It’s objective. Things are either true or they aren’t.

Poststructuralists would disagree. They think truth is up for debate: your truth and my truth may be completely different. To use a simple example: a Hindu and a Christian have fundamentally different ideas about whose god is real. These two people have different ideas about the ‘truth’.

Now extend that debate out to other debates like climate change (man-made or natural?), evolution, historical recounts of wars and the settlement (or colonization?) of the new world, homosexuality (sin or not?), and so on.

So, who determines what we teach as the ‘true’ account of each of these things in schools?

As you read on, you’re going to see that poststructuralists think people in power (generally white, male, heterosexual, middle-class people) tend to have greater control over determining what is true and what isn’t.

When you get to the section later in this article on poststructuralism in the classroom, you’ll see that poststructuralists think that there are things in the classroom that tell stories about what is true and untrue. These are things like:

  • Textbooks,
  • Novels,
  • Movies, and
  • Posters

These things are all around classrooms and each of them sends messages to children that reinforce certain truths and untruths about the world.

Some textbooks might reinforce the idea that straight white people are ‘normal’, that men should be leaders, and that women should be subservient.

Similarly, history textbooks might tell stories from the perspective of white people, and non-white people might be subtly depicted in texts as inferior or might never be depicted as protagonists.

So you, as a teacher, will need to make decisions about what texts you will expose your students to. Which truths will you reinforce?

Which textbooks will you put in your classroom? How will you speak about marriage, families, leadership, history? Will you reinforce the power of conservative opinion on these issues? Or, will you teach another truth?

But more on that later.

For now, let’s step back and start with what all good essays need: a scholarly definition!

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Belsey, C. (2012). Poststructuralism: A very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. (google books preview here)

Williams, J. (2014). Understanding poststructuralism. Oxon: Routledge. (google books preview here)

>>> Related Article: What is the Hidden Curriculum in Education?

2. Scholarly Definition of Poststructuralism

As my regular readers would know, all essays should define their terms using scholarly sources.

It’s hard to define poststructuralism. In fact, most scholars refuse to define poststructuralism because, well, there’s just so many branches of it.

But I’ve done my best to get some short, clear definitions that I think get close to a definition that we can start with.

You could cite one of the following sources when defining poststructuralism. I would also recommend paraphrasing one of the following definitions.

Here are 2 scholarly definitions you can use:

These are, of course, very introductory definitions that don’t tell us everything about poststructuralist thought. But, they do show some of the core things poststructuralism does, which are:

  • It pays close attention to power: who has it, who doesn’t?
  • It thinks power works through language (‘discourse’): who controls what is said, written and read in the classroom?
  • It thinks ‘truth’ is determined by powerful people: if we only allow people to hear or read certain things (or only allow powerful people to speak), we will over time come to believe certain versions of ‘the truth’ as self-evident.

It can be a hard theory to get your head around at the start, but I do hope this explanation has been understandable up to now.

The next section is going to outline for you some information about key terms used by poststructuralists regularly: discourse, truth, and power.

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Peters, M. A., & Burbules, N. C. (2004). Poststructuralism and Educational Research. London: Rowman & Littlefield. (google books preview here)

Tzuo, P., Yang, C., & Wright, S. (2011). Child-centered education: Incorporating reconceptualism and poststructuralism. Educational Research and Reviews6(8), 554-559. (free access here)

>>> Related Post: How to write a Top-Quality Essay

3. Key Concepts: Discourse, Truth, and Power

There are three words you need to understand in detail for this theory: ‘discourse’, ‘truth’ and ‘power’. They’re terms that you can either use effectively in your essay and get top marks for doing so. Or you can use them poorly.

So have a read of these three terms (and their definition), and if you don’t understand, have another read – it can take time to digest it all.

a) Discourse

Poststructuralists love to use the word ‘discourse’.

‘Discourse’ is a word to explain a general way of speaking about things. We could almost interchange the word discourse for the phrase: ‘a way of speaking’.

You’ll find that lots of poststructuralists use the term ‘dominant discourse’. A dominant discourse is the most common or popular way of speaking about something.

So we could say that the ‘dominant discourse’ about children is that they’re innocent.

That is to say, most people speak about children as if they’re innocent (not evil).

Another example of a dominant discourse is the discourse around climate change. The dominant discourse about climate change is that it is man-made.

There are, of course, other discourses or ‘ways of speaking’ about children, climate change, or anything really – because different people have different opinions!

So, for example, an alternative discourse (or sometimes called a non-normative discourse) about children might be that they’re little brats. Do you have a friend who sees children as little brats all the time? This view is in the minority, but it is still out there.

Your friends who see children not as innocent but as brats are using a different discourse (way of speaking) about children. You can read about 15 different ways of speaking about children on this post here.

An alternative discourse about climate change might be that it’s not happening at all … or maybe that it’s happening but not man-made.

So, you can see, that there are lots of different ways of thinking and speaking. These would be different discourses.

Sometimes one discourse becomes the most popular, and we’d call that the dominant discourse.

What discourse about childhood will you use in the classroom? Will you speak of children as if they’re brats, innocent, or in another way?

b) Truth

If a discourse (way of speaking) becomes dominant, it might come to seem as if it’s the ‘truth’. If we speak endlessly, over and over again, about children being innocent, our society might come to believe that it’s the truth that children are innocent.

But for poststructuralists, truth is never settled. Different people have different ideas about what is true.

The truth at any one point in time is simply the way of thinking (discourse) that has become dominant.

Here are some examples:

  • In middle ages Europe, it was seen as a self-evident truth that God was the Christian god.
  • In some parts of the world today, it’s seen as a self-evident truth that God is the Muslim god.
  • In some parts of Europe today, it’s seen that there is no god – atheism is on the rise.

Interestingly, if you’re born somewhere where everyone thinks god is the Christian god, you’re more likely to become a Christian. If you’re born somewhere where everyone thinks God is the Muslim god, you’re more likely to become a Muslim.

That’s because the dominant discourse wherever you are has a strong influence on what you come to believe to be true.

Here’s another example:

  • In the middle ages, the dominant discourse was that children were born evil and it was our job to civilize them. The discourse of the evil child was so dominant that we believed it to be true;
  • Today, the dominant discourse is that children are innocent. It’s our job to protect their innocence for as long as possible. This discourse of the innocent child is so dominant today that most people believe it to be true.

So, what is true?

Truth, according to poststructuralists, is very much shaped by the discourse of the era in which you live.

In other words, ‘objective’, unchangeable, universal truth doesn’t seem to exist.

The truth is always up for debate.

c) Power

The third piece of the puzzle is power.

If truth is shaped by discourse (the truth is whatever the dominant discourse says it is), then the people who have the power to influence discourse control what is seen as true and untrue by much of the population.

As poststructural theorist Michel Foucault says:

“Truth” is linked in a circular relation with systems of power that produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it –a “regime” of truth” (Foucault, 2002, p. 132).

While poststructuralists don’t think there’s a grand conspiracy to create false truths by anyone in particular, they do point the finger at mass media, classroom textbooks, teachers, politicians, etc. and say: “Your influence on discourse and truth is very powerful!”

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Foucault, M. (1980). Truth and Power. In C. Gordon (Ed.), Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977 (pp. 109-133). New York: Pantheon Books. (google books preview here)

Foucault, M. (2002). Truth and power. In J. Faubion (Ed.), Michel Foucault: Aesthetics, essential works of Foucault 1954-1984 (2nd ed.). London: Penguin.

Williams, J. (2014). Understanding poststructuralism. Oxon: Routledge. (google books preview here)

4. Five Famous Poststructuralist Theorists

There are a few influential theorists who developed and used poststructuralist thought in their scholarship.

I’ll briefly outline below some key facts about a few of the biggest names.

Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, and Butler don’t write about education but their ideas are formative to the theory.

The last theorist discussed here, Youdell, writes about poststructuralism and education.

a) Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault was a French philosopher who wrote about the ways discourses (ways of speaking about things) have changed over time.

In his book Madness and Civilization, he argued that discourses about madness have changed over time. During the Renaissance era, mad people were considered to possess wisdom; and it wasn’t until the Age of Reason that society’s discourse of mad people saw them as unfit for participating in society. The discourse on madness changed over time.

In The History of Sexuality, Foucault writes about how churches controlled the discourse about sex. They talked about it as a shameful taboo and something restricted to marriage. More recently, social discourses about sex have changed and we speak of it more liberally.

Interesting Fact: It was Foucault who popularized the poststructuralist term ‘discourse’. You might have heard of the concept of ‘discourse analysis’ which also comes from Foucault (and others).

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Ball, S. (2013). Foucault, power, and education. London: Routledge. (google books preview here)

Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. London: Penguin. (google books preview here)

Foucault, M. (1980). Truth and Power. In C. Gordon (Ed.), Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977 (pp. 109-133). New York: Pantheon Books. (google books preview here)

Foucault, M. (1990). The history of sexuality: Volume 1 – an introduction. New York: Vintage Books. (google books preview here)

Niesche, R. (2016). What use is Foucault in education today? Journal of Educational Administration and History48(1), 113-118. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/00220620.2015.1034575

b) Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida was another French philosopher who wrote from a generally poststructuralist perspective.

Derrida is most well known for his concept of deconstructionism. According to Derrida, texts (like novels, movies, textbooks and so on) can be read and understood from many different perspectives.

In classrooms, when we introduce students to an idea from a book, different students might read into it in different ways. In other words, we all develop different ‘truths’ from our readings of things.

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book and then disagreed with a friend about parts of the book or movie?

There may be an intended meaning set out by the author. But different people can still take what they want from the meaning of the text.

The truth is always up for debate.

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Derrida, J. (2013). Of grammatology (G. C. Spivak, Trans.): Johns Hopkins University Press. (google books preview here)

Smith, R. (2010). Poststructuralism, postmodernism and education. In: Bailey, R. & Barrow, R. (Eds.) The SAGE handbook of philosophy of education. (pp. 139 – 150). London: SAGE. (google books preview here)

c) Giles Deleuze

Deleuze and his colleague Guattari are well known for their concept of rhizomatic thinking that they explore in their book A Thousand Plateaus.

The Rhizome Metaphor: A rhizomatic plant is a plant that has no original root. Grass is a good example of a rhizome. There are roots going all over the place connecting each tuft of grass that pops out of the ground. But good luck finding a core stem or branch from which all other roots emerge. This, according to Deleuze, is like knowledge. There is no core trunk or origin for knowledge – just a web of different ideas.

Before post-structuralism, we would have tried to find the ‘truth’ about concepts (we would have looked for a tree trunk or original branch). We might have tried our hardest to find the origins of a term, or go out and interview the people who were at an event and try to put together an accurate picture of what is true and what isn’t.

But remember, post-structuralists think the truth is always up to debate. There is no trunk that shows the original truth. Different people will have their own ideas about what is true. So it’d be impossible to really find out the objective truth.

Truth is like grass. We can’t find its original seed.

So, rhizomatic thinking doesn’t try to find the objective truth. Instead, it believes there is no truth to be found. We should instead try to explore and understand different contradictory ways of thinking about things. That’s all.

I know. It’s a hard concept!

Rhizomatic Learning: People have used Deleuze’s ideas to talk about how learning can be rhizomatic. Think of the internet: we follow hyperlinks on the internet like we’d follow roots of grass. It’s a maze where we go from one link to the next, never getting any closer to an ‘origin’ of knowledge. We just go around finding different people’s explanations until we find one that resonates with us.

Rhizomatic learning is, therefore, an eclectic and exploratory approach to learning where we gather information from various sources to develop deeper knowledge.

Rhizomatic learning is the opposite of goal-directed linear learning. It’s like walking into a maze, not knowing where you will end up.

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Deleuze, G., and Guattari, F. (1988). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. (google books preview here)

Masny, D. (2006). Learning and creative processes: A poststructural perspective on language and multiple literacies. International Journal of Learning12(5), 147-155. (free access here)

d) Judith Butler

Judith Butler writes about discourses of gender and sex. According to Butler, dominant discourses of gender have been harmful to people.

The ‘truth’ that boys are to act masculine and girls are to act feminine is reinforced all through our childhoods. Adults treat us differently depending on our gender, trying to push us into acting like a ‘man’ or ‘woman’.

Butler believes we should stop forcing gender norms on children because, to Butler, gender is only constructed through discourse (the ways we speak about it). Gender is not ‘natural’.

So, according to Butler, gender norms (men become doctors; boys act physically aggressive; women become nurses; girls should sit still and be pretty) aren’t natural. These norms are just the dominant discourse of our times.

Butler implies we should change the dominant discourse about gender so that we can create a more equal society where boys and girls can both aspire to anything they want.

How will you challenge the dominant discourse of gender as a teacher?

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Butler, J. (2011). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. London: Routledge. (google books preview here)

David, M., Coffey, A., Connolly, P., Nayak, A., & Reay, D. (2006). Troubling identities: reflections on Judith Butler’s philosophy for the sociology of education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 421-424. Doi: https://www.jstor.org/stable/30036153

Youdell, D. (2006). Diversity, inequality, and a post-structural politics for education. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 27(1): 33–42. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01596300500510252 (free access here)

e) Deborah Youdell

Deborah Youdell applies post-structuralist thought to education.

She wrote a really interesting journal article in 2006 titled Diversity, Inequality, and a Post-structural Politics for Education which I strongly recommend. It’s a good introduction to how to use poststructuralist thought in education and helps you go a few steps deeper than I’m going in this introduction.

Youdell also wrote an interesting book called School Trouble: Identity, Power and Politics in Education in 2011. This book explores how discourses in schools include and exclude certain students.

You may notice I used that very poststructuralist term there: ‘discourse’. So let me rephrase that sentence into simpler language:

The ways students are spoken about can be inclusive, and it can be exclusionary.

Teachers can have a ‘deficit discourse’ about students (see them in a negative light) or they could see them more positively: and this may impact how students come to see themselves. If we tell a student they’re dumb, perhaps over time the student will come to see it as a truth that they are dumb.

Youdell looks at all sorts of students like:

  • Working-class boys;
  • Students with ‘special educational needs’ such as students with ADHD;
  • Pacific Islander boys; and
  • Many others

And she considers how schools sometimes use their language (discourse) to exclude these students from a class (‘you’re dumb’, ‘you should drop out’, ‘if you can’t act like a real lady, get out of the classroom’ and so on). But, she also shows that teachers can use their language (discourse) to create more inclusive schools. It’s all in the ways we talk about students!

How will you create an ‘inclusive discourse’ in your classroom?

How will you speak about children with disabilities or who might be considered naughty to ensure they come to class feeling included and welcome?

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Saltmarsh, S. and Youdell, D. (2004) ‘Special sport’ for misfits and losers: educational triage and the constitution of schooled subjectivities. International Journal of Inclusive Education 8(4): 353–371. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/1360311042000259148

Youdell, D. (2006). Diversity, inequality, and a post-structural politics for education. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 27(1): 33–42. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01596300500510252 (free access here)

Youdell, D. (2011). School Trouble: Identity, Power and Politics in Education. London: Routledge. (google books preview here)

5. Relevance of Poststructuralism to Education

I’ve tried already to touch on a few important ways poststructuralism can be applied to education.

But two of the most practical applications of poststructuralism can be summed up as ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’.

a) Diversity

Poststructuralists strongly believe that there are many different ways we can look at things and that there can be multiple valid perspectives.

If we’re going to talk about it the way a poststructuralist will say it, we could say that there are always multiple possible truths.

To put poststructuralism into action, educators would need to teach about the mosaic of different perspectives out there in the world.

For example, a teacher could ask students to think about topics from the perspective of different characters in a story. How would seeing something from the perspective of another character change how we see a story’s message?

To extend that further into a poststructural politics for education (yes, I did just use Youdell’s phrase), teachers might want to also teach about different perspectives on history.

They could teach specifically about women in history, considering that women have historically been excluded from history books.

Or, they could teach about Aboriginal perspectives and how their views might differ from what’s written in the textbooks about European colonization of the world.

b) Inclusion

Poststructuralists are very much aware that the language we use in a classroom can be exclusionary.

If we talk about people in a negative manner, we are creating a deficit discourse about those people.

In other words, teachers need to be careful about avoiding exclusionary language. Instead, we should focus on creating positive inclusive discourses.

This means that teachers need to make sure they don’t:

  • Treat girls and boys differently;
  • Forget to consider the cultural views and values of their students;
  • See children with disabilities as incapable or a burden; and
  • Many other considerations besides!

One other way of bringing together inclusion and diversity in the classroom is to make sure students who are historically underrepresented get a say.

This includes:

  • Women;
  • Colored students;
  • Disabled students; and
  • LGBTI students

These students also need to be represented in texts and textbooks. They also need to be allowed to speak up and share their opinions so that it’s not always the perspective of privileged people (white, male, straight, middle-class people) that becomes the dominant discourse.

6. Examples of How to use Poststructuralism in the Classroom

Here are a few ideas on how to use poststructuralist theory in the classroom.

They might be good ideas for you to include as examples in your essays – of course, if they’re relevant and suitable for your essay!

examples of poststructural theory for teachers

>>> Related Post: The Importance of including Examples in your Essay

a) Conduct an audit of the diversity represented on books on your bookshelf

Take a look at your bookshelf in your classroom.

Will all the children in your classroom be able to see people like themselves in the protagonists of the books?

Will your students be able to see diversity of representation in the books?

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) regularly releases statistics of racial representation in children’s books. As the graph below shows (with thanks to Sarah Park and David Huyck), there remains underrepresentation of minority children in children’s books.

diversity and representation in children's books (poststructural approach)Image used under Creative Commons license. Original image by Huyck and Park Dahlen (2018). Full citation in the reference list at the end of this article.

This underrepresentation means that our classroom discourses still continue to privilege white (and male) identities above others.

So, conduct an audit of your bookshelf and have a think about how you can get access to books with more diverse representation in order to change the discourse in your classroom to make it more inclusive.

b) Encourage social critique

Too often, we take some things for granted as ‘true’ instead of being critical of them.

If you were to apply poststructuralism to education, you would want your students to always be critical of discourses that make ‘truth claims’ (that’s Foucault’s term).

One thing you can do is to ask open-ended questions like:

  • “Do you think the opinions of [a character] were heard enough in the story we just read?”
  • “How do you think the Aboriginal people would have felt about that event in history? Would they have felt differently about it than the Europeans? How?”
  • “What would be the benefits to society if we had more women in politics?”

Use your questioning to get your students to challenge dominant discourses and look at things from a social justice lens instead.

c) Challenge gender stereotypes

Some ways you can challenge gender stereotypes include:

  • Invite powerful and successful female role models into the classroom on a regular basis so female students can see powerful role models who are breaking the glass ceiling;
  • Ensure you’re not talking to or about female students differently to male students. Sometimes our language can position girls in our classroom as weak or incapable;
  • Actively assign or read books in class that involve strong female protagonists.

I’m sure there are many other strategies you can think of – from diversity in dress ups (for early childhood students) to conscious discussions about gender in the classroom, you can always focus on ensuring gender equality is pursued in your classroom.

d) Teach about the perspectives of historically underrepresented groups

Explicit inclusion of historically underrepresented groups is important.

This means teaching history from multiple perspectives. Consider how different people in historical texts might have different views on topics.

However, you can also make sure you embrace the cultural diversity in your classroom. See if you can encourage students from historically underrepresented groups to speak up and share their or their culture’s views. Include historically underrepresented parents in this discussion as well.

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Tzuo, P., Yang, C., & Wright, S. (2011). Child-centered education: Incorporating reconceptualism and poststructuralism. Educational Research and Reviews6(8), 554-559. (free access here)

Youdell, D. (2006). Diversity, inequality, and a post-structural politics for education. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 27(1): 33–42. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01596300500510252 (free access here)

7. Criticisms of Poststructuralist Theory

There are, of course, many criticisms of poststructuralism. Below are four.

a) It doesn’t value the principle of falsifiability

The scientific method has, since the Enlightenment, highlighted that we can improve our world by seeking truth through observation and measurement.

Typically, we would create hypotheses, test them out, then see if they are valid.

This process of testing hypotheses is called the ‘principle of falsifiability’ and it has led to amazing improvements in the quality of knowledge over generations.

But as soon as we see the scientific method as just one ‘discourse’ among others, we no longer have to use the principle of falsifiability to seek for the most valid answers to questions we have.

Instead, it appears sometimes that poststructuralism simply says ‘all views are valid’. The search for truth becomes meaningless.

It is for this reason that many very serious and well-respected social scientists and sociologists have a very low opinion of poststructuralism.

b) It all too often defines people by their identities

Many of us like to think of ourselves as individuals. We are more than ‘black’, ‘white’, ‘male’, ‘female’, ‘gay’, ‘straight’.

But you may have noticed that poststructuralism is very concerned with how people from minority identities (LGBTI, non-white, female, etc.) experience life. They want to magnify the ‘truths’ of people from minority backgrounds.

Now, a poststructuralist would say “we want to do this because these people have been historically marginalized from discourse. Their truths are not being listened to and we want to fix that.”

But others would say “stop classifying me by my identity. Look at me as a person, not a mix of my race, sexuality, and gender.”

If we were to take poststructuralism to its logical conclusion, we would be asking white people to be quiet so we can hear the historically underrepresented views of non-white people. How would that go down in a classroom? Silencing one group of people simply based on their race? What if a straight white male student still actually has a valid contribution to make?

Then again, a poststructuralist might say “Stop complaining, white, straight, male student. You are still statistically more likely to become president, CEO, wealthy, an author, and a person of influence in life. Sit back and listen to others. You’re still the most privileged person in this room!”

c) It’s responsible for our moral relativist and post-truth media climate

People point to poststructuralism as a cause of our current post-truth world. People seem not to care about searching for truth via any scientific method anymore. We seem incapable of changing our minds based on new facts.

We live in bubbles (‘discourse communities’) and only listen to people of our own views.

And maybe we point to poststructuralism and say “Look! There is no truth anymore. The poststructuralists told us this. So I can believe whatever I want now.”

This failure to accept that some ideas may be true (or at least closer to the truth than other ideas) is called ‘moral relativism’.

Personally, I think the post-truth climate would have come about anyhow (hello Facebook?) but it’s certainly valid to state that some people who have been to university and learned about poststructuralism have decided that there’s no need to search for objective truth.

d) It is too political for classrooms

This is the thing that my students bring up the most.

“I don’t think teachers should be being activists. They shouldn’t be teaching their own ‘truth’ about LGBTI people, gender, etc.”

Is it possible that if a teacher uses poststructuralism as a lens in their teaching, they will be selective about the discourses they use in the classroom? Will they actively only promote the discourses they see as the most valid?

Perhaps teachers shouldn’t be political. They shouldn’t be advocating for certain groups of people with certain identities. Teachers should just teach the truth!

But then, we come back to the poststructuralist mantra: “What truth!? There is no objective truth!”

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Moore, R. (2007). Going critical: The problem of problematizing knowledge in education studies. Critical Studies in Education48(1), 25-41.

Youdell, D. (2006). Diversity, inequality, and a post-structural politics for education. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 27(1): 33–42. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01596300500510252 (free access here)

>>> Related Post: How to be Critical in an Essay

8. Benefits of Poststructuralism in Education

We can’t look at the criticisms of the theory without thinking about its benefits. So below are two big things poststructuralism seems to do well.

a) It focusses on inclusion and social justice

One of the biggest benefits of poststructuralism is that it has a big emphasis on inclusive classroom practices.

It actively promotes the views of minorities and aims to make sure everyone’s ‘truths’ are shared and discussed.

It also makes sure you’re always on your toes as a teacher trying to make sure you’re doing justice to your students. Are you encouraging students to focus on inclusive and diverse classroom cultures?

b) It leads to critical thinking

If we are consistently asking our students to look at things from different perspectives, our students will get into this habit.

By seeing things from various perspectives, our students will become better critical thinkers. They will learn to stop taking ‘dominant discourses’ for granted and start saying “hey, what about the perspectives of these other people?”

Further Reading and Citations for the Above Information

Niesche, R. (2016). What use is Foucault in education today? Journal of Educational Administration and History48(1), 113-118. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/00220620.2015.1034575

Sharma, A. (2015). Teacher activism: Got post-structuralism? Journal for Activism in Science & Technology Education, 6(1), pp. 35 – 45. (free access here)

Smith, R. (2010). Poststructuralism, postmodernism and education. In: Bailey, R. & Barrow, R. (Eds.) The SAGE handbook of philosophy of education. (pp. 139 – 150). London: SAGE. (google books preview here)

Youdell, D. (2006). Diversity, inequality, and a post-structural politics for education. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 27(1): 33–42. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01596300500510252 (free access here)

9. Further Reading and Sources for your Essay

As always, I want to share below some texts that you might want to read or cite if you’re currently working on a university assignment on this topic.

My top recommendations for what to read next to get more depth are the following two articles. I selected these because they add detail but are some of the easiest to read and understand articles:

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Full List of Follow-Up Articles

All the citations below are in APA format, so if you need to write your citations in another format, make sure you change the citation style.

I’ve also tried to find free access links online for as many of these as possible – so click the links where appropriate to get straight to the articles.

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Azzarito, L., Solmon, M. A., and Harrison Jr, L. (2006). “… If I Had a Choice, I Would….” A Feminist Poststructuralist Perspective on Girls in Physical Education. Research quarterly for exercise and sport77(2), 222-239. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2006.10599356

Ball, S. (2013). Foucault, power, and education. London: Routledge. (google books preview here)

Belsey, C. (2012). Poststructuralism: A very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. (google books preview here)

Butler, J. (2011). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. London: Routledge. (google books preview here)

David, M., Coffey, A., Connolly, P., Nayak, A., & Reay, D. (2006). Troubling identities: reflections on Judith Butler’s philosophy for the sociology of education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 421-424. Doi: https://www.jstor.org/stable/30036153

Deleuze, G., and Guattari, F. (1988). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. (google books preview here)

Derrida, J. (2013). Of grammatology (G. C. Spivak, Trans.): Johns Hopkins University Press. (google books preview here)

Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. London: Penguin. (google books preview here)

Foucault, M. (1980). Truth and Power. In C. Gordon (Ed.), Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977 (pp. 109-133). New York: Pantheon Books. (google books preview here)

Foucault, M. (1990). The history of sexuality: Volume 1 – an introduction. New York: Vintage Books. (google books preview here)

Foucault, M. (2002). Truth and power. In J. Faubion (Ed.), Michel Foucault: Aesthetics, essential works of Foucault 1954-1984 (2nd ed.). London: Penguin.

Foucault, M. (2002). Truth and power. In J. Faubion (Ed.), Michel Foucault: Aesthetics, essential works of Foucault 1954-1984 (2nd ed.). London: Penguin.

Huyck, D., and Park Dahlen, S. (2019). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. Retrieved from: https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/

Masny, D. (2006). Learning and creative processes: A poststructural perspective on language and multiple literacies. International Journal of Learning12(5), 147-155. (free access here)

Niesche, R. (2016). What use is Foucault in education today? Journal of Educational Administration and History48(1), 113-118. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/00220620.2015.1034575

Peters, M. A., & Burbules, N. C. (2004). Poststructuralism and Educational Research. London: Rowman & Littlefield. (google books preview here)

Saltmarsh, S. and Youdell, D. (2004). ‘Special sport’ for misfits and losers: educational triage and the constitution of schooled subjectivities. International Journal of Inclusive Education 8(4): 353–371. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/1360311042000259148

Sharma, A. (2015). Teacher activism: Got post-structuralism? Journal for Activism in Science & Technology Education, 6(1), pp. 35 – 45. (free access here)

Smith, R. (2010). Poststructuralism, postmodernism and education. In: Bailey, R. & Barrow, R. (Eds.) The SAGE handbook of philosophy of education. (pp. 139 – 150). London: SAGE. (google books preview here)

Tzuo, P., Yang, C., & Wright, S. (2011). Child-centered education: Incorporating reconceptualism and poststructuralism. Educational Research and Reviews6(8), 554-559. (free access here)

Williams, J. (2014). Understanding poststructuralism. Oxon: Routledge. (google books preview here)

Youdell, D. (2006). Diversity, inequality, and a post-structural politics for education. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education, 27(1): 33–42. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01596300500510252 (free access here)

Youdell, D. (2011). School Trouble: Identity, Power and Politics in Education. London: Routledge. (google books preview here)

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