23 SES 12 A, School Reforms in a Performative Culture
General description on research questions, objectives and theoretical framework
In the Western world evaluations seem to be an almost daily activity for all of us nowadays. We are asked to evaluate practically every service or activity we engage in and evaluations seem to be ‘something almost sacred’ (Dahler- Larsen 2012, p 3) in what Dahler- Larsen calls the evaluation society and Michael Power (1997) the audit society. Further research is needed about how the ‘terrors of performativity’ (Ball 2003; Ball et al. 2013), including an ever increasing emphasis on evaluations, affects what goes on in schools. In Sweden this ‘insatiable evaluation monster’ (Dahler-Larsen 2012, p 1, Lindgren, 2008) has been on the loose for quite a while and the deteriorating results for Sweden in the international Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests have not reduced the interest for evaluation. Evaluations of schools and teachers’ work are carried out from different levels: international level (e.g. PISA, TIMSS); national level (e.g. Swedish Schools Inspectorate, national tests in different subjects); municipal/principal organiser level (e.g. quality reports, questionnaires on well-being of students and staff) and school level (e.g. teachers’ persistent reporting on student outcome, questionnaires on equal treatment). The teachers themselves are also constantly evaluating their own teaching. Media are very interested in reporting results from international, national and municipal evaluations, especially the bad results (Rönnberg, et.al 2013) and often hold teacher responsible for the poor performance of students.
The desired effect of school evaluations, an improvement in school performance, has so far been lacking. What about other consequences of evaluation in school? The aim of this paper[i] is to investigate teachers’ approaches to the current evaluation discourse and evaluations carried out in schools today. This is done by exploring teachers’ views on enactment (Ball et al. 2013) of external and own evaluations and the restraints set by evaluation discourse. The evaluation society has gained ground all over Europe and since the powerful voices in education policy today are politicians and policy makers and not teachers, further knowledge about teachers’ perspectives on evaluations and the kinds of evaluations they consider enhance teacher professionalism is of interest also in a European perspective.
School evaluations often aim to control teachers, and make them account for what, how, and why they do what they do when they are teaching. This ‘lure of the explicit’ is according to Green (2011, p 139) problematic since trying to codify and articulate this kind of professional and tacit (Polanyi 1966) knowledge tends to reduce and ruin its complexity. Green claims that this ambition to make teacher knowledge explicit also ruins teachers’ sense of responsibility. Professional responsibility cannot be reduced and formulated in an instruction, ‘the more someone is tied down by specific instructions /…/the less they can be held responsible to see to it that things go well generally within their sphere of responsibility’ (Green, p 91). On the contrary, teachers need opportunities and time to reflect on professional values in their day-to-day practice together with their colleagues in order to improve their professionalism (e.g. Biesta 2009, Hodkinson 2009).
Evaluation activities can also be discussed in relation to constitutive effects (Dahler- Larsen 2011, 2013) since they have the power to change the way we understand the phenomena that is evaluated. ‘By constitutive effects I refer to how QAE (quality assurance and evaluation) redefines the meaning of education and the practices of education by means of installing new discursive and cultural markers defining standards, targets and criteria’ (Dahler-Larsen 2011, p 153).
[i] A project financed by The Swedish Research Council, Consequences of evaluation for school praxis- governance, accountability and organisational change.
References Ball, Stephen (2003): The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy 18(2). 215-228. Ball, Stephen; Maguire, Meg; Braun, Annette; Hoskins, Kate & Perryman, Jane (2013): How schools do policy: policy enactments in secondary schools. London and New York: Routledge. Biesta, Gert (2009) Values and ideals in teachers’ professional judgement. In Gewirtz, S; Mahony, P: Hextall, I & Cribb, A (Eds) Changing Teacher Professionalism. International trends, challenges and ways forward. London: Routledge. Dahler-Larsen, Peter (2011): Afterword. Evaluation as a field and as a source of reflection: Comments on how QAE restructures education now and in the future. I Jenny Ozga; Peter Dahler-Larsen; Christina Segerholm & Hannu Simola, red: Fabricating Quality in Education. Data and Governance in Europe, s 150-159. London and New York: Routledge. Dahler-Larsen, Peter (2012): Constitutive effects as a social accomplishment: A qualitative study of the political in testing. Education Inquiry 3(2), 171-186. Dahler-Larsen, Peter (2013): Constitutive Effects of Performance Indicators. Getting beyond unintended consequences. Public Management Review. iFirst article: 1-18. DOI:10.1080/14719037.2013.770058 Green, Jane (2011): Education, Professionalism and the Quest for Accountability. Hitting the target but missing the point. New York: Routledge. Hodkinson, Hether (2009) Improving schoolteachers’ workplace learning. In Gewirtz, S; Mahony, P: Hextall, I & Cribb, A (Eds) Changing Teacher Professionalism. International trends, challenges and ways forward. London: Routledge. Lindgren, Lena (2008). Utvärderingsmonstret. [The Evaluation Monster. In Swedish.]. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Polanyi, Michael (1966). The Tacit Dimension. New York: Doubleday. Rönnberg, Linda; Lindgren, Joakim & Segerholm, Christina (2013): In the Public Eye. In the public eye: Inspection and local newspapers - exploring the audit–media relationship. Journal of Education Policy 28(2), 178-197.
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