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2 Kostas Dimopoulos

The notions of classification and framing become operational on the basis of an
inventory of multiple semiotic resources signifying symbolic boundaries and potential
uses and communications within the school space.
The relevant semiotic choices are typified into two distinct registers, one
corresponding to modern (characterized by strong classification and framing) and the
other to post modern (characterized by weak classification and framing) schooling. The
two registers are illustrated by reference to specific case studies. Finally, potential
implications for structuring learners‘ identities as well as for policy making will be


Teachers and students, in classrooms and schools work, with and through objects and
materials all the time, while moving around the school space. Yet these aspects of schooling
remain a largely obscure or ignored area of study in educational studies. As Lawn and
Grosvenor, (2005) point out all material aspects of schooling are active, constituting social
agents as they expand the range of human action and mediate meanings between teachers and
pupils. Meaning-making and learning are obviously spatial phenomena and space is
implicated in pedagogical practices at all levels.
Adopting this theoretical position as a starting point the objective of this chapter is to
present how changes in the material culture of schools can signify the transition from modern
to post modern schooling. Indeed, at a very general level it is possible to conceive schools as
worlds of signs (Hawkes, 1977). In a sense adapting to cultural change is a process of
adapting to changing systems of signification.
The material culture of schooling resides in those material aspects which distinguish
schools from other social institutions, and is perceived here as consisting of the architecture
of the corresponding premises as well as of the various objects and artifacts (i.e. furniture,
decoration, equipment, wall displays, etc) within these premises.
In the literature, the analysis of material culture of social institutions like school seems to
oscillate between one of the twin poles of technological determinism or/and social
constructivism (Roderick, 2001). On the pole of technological determinism functional
accounts constitute the orthodoxy (Cooper et al., 1980). These accounts share a viewpoint, a
consensus that centres on an underlying proposition namely that the goal of efficiently
productive work is most readily fulfilled in functionally appropriate physical settings. Thus,
they contend, design is directed towards providing such settings. This argument stems from
the functionalist doctrine, a major impetus of which is that, in contrast to the so-called
formalistic revivals of nineteenth century architectural 'styles', the forms of modern
architecture are to be derived from the functions performed or served by buildings and
artifacts. In the context of the spatial use of buildings, functionalist claims stem from a belief
that there is a casual relationship between a physical environment and the behaviour of its
Exponents of the approach seldom refer explicitly to, let alone analyse, the social
circumstances and relationships, especially the power relations, that give rise to and, sustain
specific material arrangements within social institutions.
Gibson‘s notion of affordance can be usefully deployed as means of giving theoretical
shape to an intermediary approach somewhere between technological determinism and socio-

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