01 SES 11 C, Teachers’ Beliefs and Innovation
The process of implementing educational change, from espousal to enactment is a complex one, often resulting in ‘policy fracture’ (Davies and Hughes 2009). Decision-making processes at all stages are important, but as Kelchtermans (2007, 472) rightly points out, any macro-policy measures ‘during their implementation get caught up in the process of interpretation and translation towards the particularities of the local context’ – a process that makes it crucial to understand the factors that determine the way in which a school implements a new policy. Within this context, teachers are especially important. According to Wermke (2011, 668) ‘Teachers are agents of change. They build relationships to other actors in the school system and they decide which models and ideas will sustainably be implemented in schools’. Yet numerous studies have shown that school-based innovations survive, thrive or fail depending on the staff involved in implementing the changes. As van Eekelen, Vermunt and Boshuizen (2006, 408) argue:
…the majority of such innovations (…) fail because the teachers – even after a considerable period of time and change – simply abandon the new behaviour and return to comfortable old routines.
The focus on teachers and how to support teachers in bringing about change has been a major focus of the Council of Europe’s Pestalozzi Programme (Huber and Mompoint-Gaillard 2011).
The school at the centre of this study provides an interesting model to examine as it introduced a highly unusual curriculum innovation, based around museum learning (ML). Such is the uniqueness of this case that it provides a strong spotlight on the challenges of introducing something that was beyond the experience of most teachers.
The study was an evaluation of the school’s innovative curriculum. The evaluation was effectively a ‘snapshot’’ during the winter/spring 2012/2013 as the school has been implementing ML since 2004. The overall aim of the study was to evaluate the extent to which ML had become embedded in the school’s curriculum and to identify the factors which explain this level of embeddedness, and what might need to be done to further develop this curriculum model.
The research team was contracted to conduct an evaluation of the school’s ML curriculum between November 2012 and March 2013. The project was funded by the Arts Council England.
A range of data was collected, but for the purposes of this paper the focus is on the teachers, their attitude towards the ML curriculum, their understanding of it, and their willingness to engage with this innovation.
To examine these questions the evaluation focused on four areas:
- Vision - What is ML and to what extent is there a shared vision?
- Roles & structure - Who is involved, what is their role, how are these carried out?
- Learning - How embedded is ML?
- Teachers – What support is there for ML?
The theoretical framework for the study comes from work on teacher development, in particular theories relating to resistance to change and ways to bring about change. For example teacher beliefs are often identified as a major barrier to change (Korthagen et al 2001, Virta 2002). Even where change is discerned it often proves fragile (Ross and Smith 1992, Zeichner and Tabachnich 1981). Southerland et al (2011) categorise obstacles to change as relating to self, students and infrastructure. Korthagen et al. (2001) argue that change happens when ideas are restructured and new gestalts are constructed. According to Harris and Lázár (2011) this happens where there is a combination of challenge, experience (either real or vicarious) and reflection.
Davies, P., and Hughes, J. (2009) The fractured arms of government and the premature end of lifelong learning. Journal of Education Policy 24 (5): 595–610. Harris, R. and Lázár, I. (2011) Overcoming Resistance. In J. Huber and P. Mompoint-Gaillard (eds.) Teacher Education for Change: The Theory Behind the Council of Europe Pestalozzi Programme, 91-103. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Huber, J. and Mompoint-Gaillard, P. (2011) Teacher Education for Change: The Theory Behind the Council of Europe Pestalozzi Programme. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Kelchtermans, G. (2007) Macropolitics caught up in micropolitics: The case of the policy on quality control in Flanders (Belgium). Journal of Education Policy 22 (4): 471–91. Korthagen, F. A. J., Kessels, J., Koster, B., Lagerwerf, B. and Wubbels, T. (2001) Linking Practice and Theory: The Pedagogy of Realistic Teacher Education. Abingdon: Routledge. Ross, D. D., and Smith, W. (1992) Understanding Preservice Teachers' Perspectives on Diversity. Journal of Teacher Education 43 (2): 94-103. Southerland, S., Gallard, A. and Callihan, L. (2011) Examining Teachers' Hurdles to ‘Science for All’. International Journal of Science Education 33 (16): 2183-213. Van Eekelen, I.M., Vermunt, J. D. and Boshuizen, H. P. A. (2006) Exploring Teachers’ Will to Learn. Teaching and Teacher Education 22 (4): 408-23. Virta, A. (2002) Becoming a History Teacher: Observations on the Beliefs and Growth of Student Teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education 18 (6): 687-98. Wermke, W. (2011) Continuing Professional Development in Context: Teachers' Continuing Professional Development Culture in Germany and Sweden. Professional Development in Education 37 (5): 665-83. Zeichner, K. M, and Tabachnick, B. R. (1981) Are the Effects of University Teacher Education" Washed out" by School Experience? Journal of Teacher Education 32 (3): 7-11.
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