Original Research

Students’ foregrounds: Hope, despair, uncertainty

Ole Skovsmose
Pythagoras | Vol 33, No 2 | a162 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v33i2.162 | © 2012 Ole Skovsmose | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 March 2012 | Published: 14 August 2012

About the author(s)

Ole Skovsmose, Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University, Denmark; Department of Mathematics, State University of Sao Paulo (UNESP), Brazil


A foreground is formed through the possibilities, tendencies, propensities, obstructions, barriers, hindrances, et cetera, which his or her context provides for a person. Simultaneously, a foreground is formed through the person’s interpretations of these possibilities, tendencies, propensities, obstructions, barriers, hindrances. A foreground is a fragmented, partial, and inconsistent constellation of bits and pieces of aspirations, hopes, and frustrations. It might be both promising and frightening; it is always being rebuilt and restructured. Foregrounds are multiple as one person might see very different possibilities; at the same time they are collective and established through processes of communication. In this article educational meaning is discussed in terms of relationships between the students’ foregrounds and activities in the classroom. I illustrate how students’ dreams might be kept in cages, and how this has implications for how they engage or do not engage in learning processes. I investigate how a foreground might be ruined, and in what sense a ruined foreground might turn into a learning obstacle. Finally, I discuss processes of inclusion and exclusion with reference to the notion of foreground.


Students’ foregrounds; learning obstacle; ruined foreground, multiplicity of foreground; collectivity of foreground; exclusion


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