Anda di halaman 1dari 10

Theory Into Practice, 51:212220, 2012

Copyright The College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University
ISSN: 0040-5841 print/1543-0421 online
DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2012.690307

Ruth Wright
Hildegard Froehlich

Basil Bernsteins Theory of the

Pedagogic Device and Formal
Music Schooling: Putting the
Theory Into Practice

This article describes Basil Bernsteins theory of

the pedagogic device as applied to school music
instruction. Showing that educational practices
are not personal choices alone, but the result
of socio-political mandates, the article traces
how education functions as a vehicle for social
reproduction. Bernstein called this process the
recontextualization of knowledge: From its point
of inception, originally conceived knowledge undergoes changes through selection and filtration

Ruth Wright is Chair of Music Education at the Don

Wright Faculty of Music, University of Western Ontario; and Hildegard Froehlich is professor emeritus,
in Music Education, at the University of North Texas,
Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Ruth
Wright, Don Wright Faculty of Music, Talbot College,
University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A
3K7, Canada. E-mail:


processes, eventually becoming curriculuma

relay for certain social and cultural values. Gaps
in the recontextualization process allow teachers to place their own individual stamp upon
the learning and teaching that occur in their
classroom. Teacherpupil interactions, guided by
school-internal processes, lead to school knowledge that is further reproduced by the pupils
in particular ways. A teachers awareness of
socially conditioned and habitual patterns of
preference and behavior (habitus) may be key
to making socially inclusive and emancipatory
instructional choices.


Froehlich and Johnson (2008), set the tone
for the questions guiding this article. Although

Wright and Froehlich

Basil Bernsteins Theory and Formal Music Schooling

the stories are about verbal discourse in the

classroom, they are also about power, ownership
of knowledge, and rules of conduct as a reflection
of political mandates in education, issues raised
by numerous sociologists, socio-linguists, and
critical pedagogues everywhere over the past 50
years. This article, however, is devoted exclusively to Basil Bernstein (19242000), British
socio-linguist and educator, whose theoretical
framework, named by him the pedagogic device,
seems especially well suited to illuminate the
concerns raised by the stories. Surprisingly, his
work does not seem to be well known among
many music educators in the United States.

the class, a strong sense of camaraderie seemed

to emerge. All were laughing about something
that one of the students had saidone of those
teaching moments all teachers long for. At that
instance, one of sheer pleasure for Ms. J, Marcus
raised his hand and, when called on, asked, Miss
Johnson, how old are you? Immediately feeling
uncomfortable with answering the question, she
answered Marcus, thats not something you ask
a teacher. A hierarchy of power was solidified.

Story 1
After music class, 40 second-graders are lined
up two-by-two in the music room, waiting for
their homeroom teacher. In accordance with a
schoolwide policy, the music teacher gives out
stickers for those children who stand quietly. She
also gives out pops to especially well-behaved
children. Two children are still running all over
the place, refusing to line up as instructed. As
is her practice, the teacher points to the wellbehaving students and says, I like the way
Johnny is standing so quietly. Wow! Johnny, you
pick your favorite one of these really cool bug
stickers. To this, Jason, one of the out-of-control
boys, calmly but loudly responds, Johnny wears
pantyhose while looking straight ahead and
continuing to stand well out of line. Two worlds
of discourse had clashed.

Story 3
In a music lesson about the major orchestral
instrument familieswoodwinds (flute, clarinet,
oboe, and bassoon); brass (trumpet, trombone,
horn, and tuba); strings (violin, viola, cello, and
bass); and percussion (timpani, snare drum, xylophone, and bass drum)the students are asked
to summarize what they have learned. Ms. J asks,
Who can name one instrument you heard from
the woodwind family? Tim responds, Clarinet.
Ms. J says, Good, now name one instrument
from the string family. Alexis, very interested
in classical music from a young age and having
studied on her own, raises her hand and, when
called on, says, Harp. Although correct, Ms. J.
had not mentioned harp, nor was she planning
on talking about it. Her response, therefore, is,
Alexis, how about a stringed instrument that
we have talked about? An opportunity to affirm
Alexiss own knowledge base had been missed.

The Questions
Story 2
Ms. J was always intent on wanting her students to understand that they were in an environment where it was okay to share their feelings
about music in many ways. Encouraging them to
express themselves freely, she reminded them often that it was okay to speak their minds and ask
questions. One day, after a music-listening experience in which some students had really dug into
their innermost feelings and shared them with

Why was Alexiss effort to connect her world

of musical knowledge with that of school music
knowledge (Story 3) downplayed, rather than
elevated to a moment of genuine student-initiated
instruction? What is the teachers role in turning
real-life knowledge into school knowledge? Or,
as often asked by Bernstein himself, why does
what is taught under the label of wood shop differ
so very much from the parent discipline of carpentry? In academic terms: How does knowledge
as originally generated (primary knowledge) turn


Education in and Through Music

into something different, once filtered through

curricular decisions and classroom realities (recontextualized knowledge)?
How primary knowledge is turned into recontextualized school knowledge, music included,
should be considered central to any pedagogic
theory that looks at instructional methods in the
context of subject matter. For each school subject,
selections are made about the what and how of instruction that impact what the students take away
as seemingly impartial (and complete) knowledge. The selection process occurs at several
levels of decision making, and thereby changes
(recontextualizes) what once was discovered and
first articulated as original knowledge away from
compulsory education of all kinds. What happens
in various research settings or musicians studios
is generally far removed from doing math, music,
or social studies in school. Rarely, for instance,
do students get encouraged to think like a mathematician, musician, or historian.
Bernstein explanatory framework (the pedagogic device) claims as the main function of
education the reproduction, rather than a change,
of society. It portrays the mechanism by which
such reproduction occurs and virtually ensures
that school knowledge is never transmitted in
isolation from norms and values condoned and
propagated by dominant societal groups. Curricular choices and instructional practices are not
personal predilections alone, but also the result
of socio-political mandates and demands.
Viewing music education through Bernsteins
theoretical lens, we believe that important questions are raised concerning how and by whom
primary knowledge is selected to become the
curricular subject matter of music. The queries,
easily applicable to other school subjects, reach
into issues of educational policies and politics;
that is, matters pertaining, in large part, to selfinterests among educators and those in control
of school policies. Challenging questions then
arise concerning (a) the curriculum presented
to pupils, (b) the pupils images of worth and
self-worth in relation to such curriculum content, and (c) teachers views of themselves as
autonomous decision-makers and/or reframers of


The political nature of pedagogic discourse

may be exemplified by who selects what, for
what purpose, and under what circumstances?
Who is qualified to call others a musician (or
mathematician, etc.) or musical (mathematically
gifted)? What knowledge and skills do and do
not count as being worthy of school instruction?
Whether knowingly or not, school and higher
education teachers are integral to answering those
questions by the decisions they make. Examining
the extent to which teacher culture and habitus
(that with which we are familiar) predetermine
the form and content of those choices leads to
implications for future teacher education.
Applied to music education practices, one
wonders: From all the music there is in existence,
what becomes selected and authorized as the content for music education in schools? How does
this selection process occur? What values are
condoned or rejected by that process? What are
the effects in the classroom? Any and all of these
questions lead to examining the processes by
which the self-interests of musicians, educators,
music educators, and those in control of school
policies connect to or interfere with students

Bernsteins Theory of the

Pedagogic Device
Keeping with his lifelong commitment to researching what constituted barriers to upward
social mobility, Bernstein took his earlier insights
into social class, language codes, and school
learning (Bernstein 1971, 1973a, 1973b) and
raised general questions of pedagogic communication as a crucial medium of symbolic control
(Bernstein, 1996, p. 12). Adopting Bourdieus
concepts of field and habitus, Bernstein explored
the relationship of educational fields to the field
of power to understand the social processes
whereby consciousness and desire are given
specific forms, evaluated, distributed, challenged
and changed (p. 12). Substituting the word
knowledge for Bourdieus phrase consciousness
and desire, Bernstein asked (a) how general
knowledge becomes an educational form of that

Wright and Froehlich

Basil Bernsteins Theory and Formal Music Schooling

knowledge, and (b) what happens to it along the

way that, at the end, the text is no longer the
same text (Bernstein, 1990, p. 57)?
The pedagogic device:

their worldviews or, in Bourdieus terms, their

habitus, upon the rest of society. Culture is
used in pursuit of social and political control or
hegemony; in some measure those who own the
curriculum own society: They attempt to define
the thinkable or legitimate knowledge by the
choices they allow and the rules they set.

Acts as a symbolic regulator of consciousness;

the question is, whose regulator, what consciousness, and for whom? It is a condition for
the production, reproduction, and transformation of culture. However, the device is not deterministic in its consequences. The effectiveness
of the device is limited by two different features.
(Bernstein, 2000, pp. 3738)

To explain both features, the internal and

the external, Bernstein outlined a three-level,
multilayered system of rules and forms of discourse, knowledge, social relations, power, and
consciousness. As detailed in the following, the
pedagogic device links them to each other in
nondeterministic ways. The internal and external conditions of the device make possible the
transformation of power at various stages of
knowledge production and acquisition in different ways.
Linking linguistic rules to cultural and contextual influences, Bernstein asserted that language
is never neutral (see Story 2: Marcus was reminded that he should speak differently to his
teacher than to his friends or family members).
Rather, language possesses internal rules that
regulate the communication at the same time that
it makes the communication possible. In a similar
manner then, the pedagogic device is a series of
rules that regulate the pedagogic communication
it makes possible (Davies, 2006, p. 4). Not
ideologically neutral, the pedagogic device may
act selectively on potential pedagogic meanings (Davies, 2006, p. 4.). It becomes a ruler of
consciousness (Davies, 2006) and governs school
instruction at all levels.
Both Bourdieu (e.g., 1984) and Bernstein
asserted that schools exist to do it over, that
is, to reproduce knowledge and culture and,
thereby, solidify existing class relations. Curriculum debates, seen in this light, are, in large
measure, struggles for cultural dominance (see
also Green, 2008: Shepherd & Vulliamy, 1994;
Wright, 2010). Dominant classes seek to imprint

Rules That Govern School Instruction

Three stable and hierarchical sets of rules
distributive, recontextualizing, and evaluative
determine which approved knowledge is being
selected, changed, authorized, and confirmed to
become transmitted, through education, to society at large. Bernstein saw the rules to both
confirm and reproduce the interests of the dominant social groups; see Figure 1) because the
rules reflect the culture of which they are a part;
sociologically, they are field-dependent.

Figure 1. The Pedagogic Device (after Bernstein,

1996). (color figure available online)


Education in and Through Music

Distributive rules regulate knowledge. They

do this by governing who transmits what to
whom and under what circumstances. Increasingly controlled by the state in many societies,
the rules regulate who is allowed to produce
knowledge and how such knowledge is grouped
into disciplines (e.g., the Fine Arts, Humanities,
or Natural Sciences). That classification results in
what becomes thinkable knowledge. That which
is excluded becomes the unthinkable knowledge.
An example from the world of music education
would be the process described by Wright (2010)
of selecting the content of the National Curriculum for Music in the UK: Who was allowed
to participate in these processes? Whose vested
interests were represented and protected during
the curriculum selection process? And, just as
important, whose interests were omitted from
such considerations?
Recontextualizing rules derive from distributive rules and form the link between originally
produced knowledge and its transmission through
education. They govern the process by which
knowledge is removed from its original site
of production and turned into something else:
the educational subject (or school) version of
that knowledgethe pedagogic discourse. Three
basic elementstime, text, and spaceimpact
that discourse: Timelines become operationalized
in terms of age and grade groupings; text becomes subject matter with credit hour allotments;
and space issues turn into matters of location
and availability. When these elements legitimize
knowledge recontextualization, Bernstein (1996)
noted what he termed the potential discursive
gap (p. 30).
Two sets of actors contribute to that discursive
gap: (a) members of the government (or state)
with its agents and offices; and (b) individual
teachers, universities, subject journals, teacher
educators, private research groups, and textbook
publishers. Bernstein labelled the first group the
Official Recontextualizing Field (ORF, emphasis ours) and the second group the Pedagogic
Recontextualizing Field (PRF, emphasis ours).
Both groups, each of them powerful, struggle to
control education by selecting subject content,


sequencing of knowledge, pacing of instruction,

and advocating a prevailing pedagogic theory.
Note, for example, the current initiative of the
National Key Stage 3 Strategy for Music (England), to all intents and purposes a state-authored
pedagogic manual for the teaching of music in
schools to 11- to 14-year-olds. We see here
the English government attempting to exercise
control over all aspects of music education, right
down to lesson planning and pedagogic strategies
in the classroom.
Evaluative rules are the key to pedagogic
practice (Bernstein, 1996, p. 47). Evaluation
rules are in operation throughout all levels of the
pedagogic device and have increasingly been appropriated by the federal or state government(s)
not only in the UK but also in the United States.
Music education has witnessed such struggles
over whether to test musical skills nationally and,
if so, what skills should be tested (Woodford,
Moreover, state and federal agencies increasingly seek to control the evaluative criteria
by which acquired knowledge is tested across
schools. Representatives of the ORF and PRF
use evaluative rules when they filter thinkable
knowledge further by making additional curricular choices that represent school knowledge. A
teacher, too, employs evaluative rules by stressing what, in her own mind, is or is not important
for her pupils to learn. Evaluation rules within a
school thus govern even further the reproduction
of previously recontextualized knowledge. This
explains why not all teachers do cover music
curriculum content equally. Each of them decides
anew what is good, bad, worthy of their time, or
a waste of time.

Instructional and Regulatory Discourse

At different levels of decision making, various
agents select the what and how of curricular content. Pedagogic discourse, therefore, is affected
by ideology and, like language, never neutral.
Bernstein (2000) identified two separate forces
in operation in the classroom, which he called

Wright and Froehlich

instructional and regulative discourse, respectively. Instructional discourse creates tangible

skills and knowledge within particular school
subjects, whereas regulative discourse controls
relations between all actors, creating social order
and constructing identities. Stories 1 and 2 at
the beginning of this article speak to regulative
discourse in a music teachers daily teaching
routine. The second story, in particular, illustrates that we, as educators, send to students
conflicting messages about who controls whom
and why. We try to give the students the illusion
that we are free and open to them expressing
themselves, but we pull back when hidden codes
of power are violated (Froehlich & Johnson,
Emphasizing that regulative discourse is always dominant over instructional discourse,
Bernstein (2000) visualized their relationship as


The link between instructional and regulative

discourses forms the pedagogic discourse. Not
distinguishing between transmission of skills and
what educators tend to call the transmission
of values (Bernstein, 2000, p. 32), Bernstein
emphasized that pedagogic discourse lies outside the official instructional content but carries
equal, if not more, weight. It is the secret voice
disguising that two elements, content and value
transmission, are at work. The two elements of
teaching become one.
Pedagogic discourse as defined by Bernstein,
then, is: (A) Discourse without a discourse. It
seems to have no discourse of its own. Pedagogic discourse is not physics, chemistry or
psychology. Whatever it is, it cannot be identified with the discourses it transmits (Bernstein,
2000, p. 32). Figure 2 is an overview of these
processes in application to music as a curricular

Basil Bernsteins Theory and Formal Music Schooling

The Theory of the Pedagogic Device

Applied to Music Education Practice
Applying Bernsteins theory of the pedagogic
device to music schooling in compulsory education, three related issues become clear: (a) Curricular choices in music education can never
be more than recontextualized knowledge and
skills in and about music, (b) the recontextualization processes are manifestations of power and
control by certain social groups, and (c) music
schooling is the result of class- and code-specific
educational practices (Wright, 2007). The three
issues are equally central to the sociological
study of music as a curriculum subject.
Bernsteins theory also points to the fact that
music teachers decisions are limited by the
choices available to them in particular instructional contexts, the latter of which are influenced
by forces outside the control of teachers and students alike. Pedagogic practices across teachers
and schools, however, are unique as well. Indeed,
despite formal curricular guides, either national
or local, that seek to unify pedagogic discourse in
music, instructional practices vary from school to
school and teacher to teacher (Woodford, 2011;
Wright, 2010). They are the micro forces at play
while the larger outside (macro) forces set their
limits and parameters of choices.
The dialectic between macro controls and
micro framing needs further attention by sociological research in music education. In particular,
insights are needed about the recontextualization processes concerning the music curricula
at all levelsfrom local to state/federal levels.
At the macro-level, we need well-researched
insights into whether pupils from diverse social
groups perceive discrepancies between school
knowledge and life knowledge in fundamentally
different ways and, if so, how? How do such perceptions either facilitate or hinder the learning of
subject matter on the one hand and a pupils own
values and everyday knowledge on the other?
Concerning teachers in the role as recontextualizers of knowledge, do they perceive of themselves as autonomous decision-makers and/or
reframers of knowledge? If so, how do they nego-


Education in and Through Music

Figure 2. The process of recontextualizing original knowledge. (color figure available online)

tiate issues of time, text, and space in light of

their own knowledge base of music content and
values? Finally, if aware of their role as recontextualizers of knowledge in and about music, what
concerns do teachers voice about the processes
in place? Do they see themselves in full charge
of repertoire choices and other content matters in
the curriculum? What and whose values do they
see as being condoned or rejected through the
curriculum choices they make or agree to? What
are the effects of such choices on pupils learning?

Bernstein raised awareness about the relationship between representatives of the ORF and
the PRF. Those relationships, likely different for


each nation state, impact how school knowledge

comes about and is presented to generations of
students. Presently, school music in the United
States has not been designated federally as a
required curricular subject at all levels of schooling. Should that happen, federal, state, and regional education accreditation boardsall part of
the ORFwould be deeply involved in the articulation of curricular requirements everywhere in
the country. Thus, educational policy decisions
controlled by the ORF would profoundly impact the articulation of music teacher education
programs at the state and local level. Would
such changes also affect policies of the National
Association of Schools of Music and set the
boundaries of musical and academic skills and
knowledge deemed most necessary to meet the
demands by ORF representatives?

Wright and Froehlich

Basil Bernsteins Theory and Formal Music Schooling

Presently, the absence of an explicit national

curriculum for music in the United States affords
potentially more autonomy to agents of the PRF.
As a result, regional partnerships between local
organizations could implement music educational
policies that are sanctioned jointly by musicians,
music educators, community music centers, advocacy groups, professional organizations, and
business leaders. Nationwide partnerships, on the
other hand, likely put together by representatives
of the ORF, might tend to exclude as possible
dialogue partners any social groups far removed
from the interests of those in power at the federal
or state level.

to override it by pedagogic decisions that are

in the best interest of those students who, by
their upbringing, do not share in the dominant
Second, teachers would need to be sensitized
to read curriculum and policy documents with
awareness that no document is ever free of
messages of power and control. Analysis of the
messages underlying such documents and the
development of the ability to critically evaluate
policy prior to implementation are skills that
might usefully be developed during teacher professional preparation and development.
Finally, and perhaps most important, not only
are teachers recipients of recontextualized knowledge but they also are recontextualizers of knowledge. In that role, and especially in music, they
have the ability to control to some extent what
Bernstein (1996) called the discursive gap that
operates at each level of the recontextualization
process. By envisioning a site : : : for alternative
possibilities : : : the site for the unthinkable,
the site for the impossible (Bernstein, 1996,
p. 30), future music educators should perhaps be
encouraged to work in the gap that lies between
the thinkable and unthinkable knowledge. Such
action could have the potential to reach a much
broader range of pupils through music education
than is currently the case. For them and their
students, and thus for music education as a
whole, exciting and emancipatory possibilities
may lie ahead!

Consequences for Action

We emphasize here what has been asserted before (e.g., Al-Ramahi & Davies, 2001; Thomas &
Davies, 2006): Whether by choice or not, school
and higher education teachers play a role in
the recontextualization of music knowledge and
skills whenever they make musical or pedagogic
choices. Each music teachers culture and that
with which she is familiar (habitus) predetermine
the form and content of those choices.
For music education, then, the message seems
clear: Neither specific knowledge nor acquired
skills are ever neutral; they always carry hidden values and cultural preferences. The choices
toward which music educators presently teach
are predicated on an unspoken mandate by those
in positions to exercise control over curriculum
content and formation to perpetuate a particular
form of musical capital as valued knowledge.
The question is whether representatives of groups
who historically have been excluded from decisions about school curricula share in the view
that such knowledge is, indeed, valuable.
To find an answer to that question, one perhaps should look, first, at the education routes
offered in music teachers professional preparation. What habitus do prospective music teachers
reflect and how does it relate to the dominant
culture? What adjustments would be required
in the preparation of music teachers to make
them (a) aware of their habitus, and (b) willing

Al-Ramahi, N., & Davies, B. (2001). Changing primary education in Palestine: Pulling in several directions at once. International Studies in Sociology
of Education, 12, 159176.
Bernstein, B. (1971). Class, codes and control, Vol. 1:
Theoretical studies towards sociology of language.
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Bernstein, B. (1973a). Class and pedagogies: Visible
and invisible. Paris: OECD, CERI.
Bernstein, B. (Ed.). (1973b). Class, codes and control,
Vol. 2: Applied studies towards a sociology of
language. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.


Education in and Through Music

Bernstein, B. (1990). The structuring of pedagogic discourse: Vol. IV. Class, codes, and control. London:
Bernstein, B. (1996). Pedagogy, symbolic control and
identity: Theory, research, critique. London: Taylor
and Francis.
Bernstein, B. (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control, and
identity: Theory, research, critique (Rev. ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of
the judgement of taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Davies, B. (2006). Understanding policy, understanding pedagogic discourse. In J. Fitz, B. Davies,
& J. Evans (Eds.), Educational policy and social
reproduction class inscription and symbolic control
(pp. 115). London: Routledge.
Froehlich, H., & Johnson, L. (2008). Silent messages,
loud and clear: Toward cracking the code within
the hidden curriculum in the music classroom.


In B. A. Roberts (Ed.), Sociological explorations.

Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on
the Sociology of Music (pp. 121136). St. Johns,
Canada: Binders Press.
Shepherd, J., & Vulliamy, G. (1994). The struggle
for culture: A sociological case study of the development of a national music curriculum. British
Journal of Sociology of Education 15, 2740.
Thomas, E., & Davies, B. (2006). Nurse teachers
knowledge in curriculum planning and implementation. Nurse Education Today, 26, 572577.
Woodford, P. (Ed.). (2011). Re-thinking standards for
the twenty-first century: New realities, new challenges, new propositions. Studies in Music from the
University of Western Ontario, 23, 91108.
Wright, R. M. (2007). Music, educational equity and
social justice: A case study. Finnish Journal of
Music Education, 9, 618.
Wright, R. M. (2010). Sociology and music education.
Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Press.

Copyright of Theory Into Practice is the property of Taylor & Francis Ltd and its content may not be copied or
emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission.
However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.