23 SES 04 A, School Inspection Policies and Practices
Notions of education quality have become crucial on a Global, European, National and local level. Education quality is planet-speak, a semantic magnet associated with positive values and human progress (Bergh 2010). Official discourses; policies, laws, regulations, goals, indicators and soft rules in the form of best practice provide somewhat different answers to the question of quality. The World Bank (2014), for example, sees learning achievement or improved “learning outcomes” – “what the students know, or cognitive ability” - as crucial factors in this context. In order to identify the causal links between reforms and learning outcomes, the World Bank calls for rigorous international assessments such as TIMSS and PISA (World Bank 2014). However, this mode of operationalization of education quality remains controversial. Conflicting perspectives argues for more complex, intuitive or even transcendental ways of understanding education quality (Dahler-Larsen 2009, Liedman 2007). For example, Biesta (2007) has argued in favor of a democratic, normative and political perspective.
Nevertheless, the quality of education systems is increasingly being “fabricated” through different modes of quality assurance, control and evaluation (Ozga et al 2011). One such example is the installment of national school inspectorates with the intended effects to produce “good education and high student achievement” (Ehren et al 2013). To a large extent, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (SSI) shares this results oriented notion of education quality with other inspectorates (Lindgren et al 2012). However, the Swedish Inspectorate´s mission does also include elements related to democratic values and the safety of students. Inspectors base their judgements on research and experience, i.e. on different forms of knowledge about what is supposedly working to produce schooling of high quality. For example, it is generally held to be true that student achievement benefits from teachers having high expectations and that school improvement is related to internal modes of continuous self-evaluation or systematic quality work. Thus, these features of schooling serves a kind of criteria or indicators of quality.
In this paper we bracket official discourses and scholarly debates on education quality and draw attention to how different school actors; head teachers, political representatives from governing bodies, school inspectors and SSI-managers at different levels responds to the question: What is quality in compulsory education? Based on a phenomenographical perspective we are interested in the range of possible conceptions of quality, the thematic differences between how different categories of actors conceptualize quality and to what extent their notions of quality corresponds to - or deviate from - the official discourse.
Bergh, A. (2010) Vad gör kvalitet med utbildning? Om kvalitetsbegreppets skilda innebörder och dess konsekvenser för utbildning. Örebro: Örebro universitet. Biesta, G. (2007) Why “what works” won’t work: Evidence-based practice and the democratic deficit in educational research. Educational theory 57(1), 1-22. Dahler-Larsen, P. (2009) Kvalitetens beskaffenhed. Odense: Syddansk Universitetsfolag. Ehren, M., C. M., Altrichter, H., McNamara, G. & O´Hara, J. (2013) Impact of school inspections on improvement of schools—describing assumptions on causal mechanisms in six European countries. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 25(1), 3-43. Liedman, S-E. (2007) Sancta Æmulatio, “Den heliga tävlingslusten”. Om kvantiteternas roll i ett historiskt perspektiv, i L. Strannegård (ed) Den omätbara kvaliteten. Stockholm: Norstedts. Lindgren, J. Hult, A., Segerholm, C. & Rönnberg, L (2012) Mediating school inspection – Key dimensions and keywords in agency text production 2003–2010, Education Inquiry, 3(4), 569–590. Marton, F. (1981) Phenomenography – Describing conceptions of the world around us. Instructional science, 10, 177-200. Ozga, J., Dahler-Larsen, P., Segerholm, C. & Simola H. (2011) Fabricating Quality in Education: Data and Governance in Europe. London: Routledge. World Bank (2014) Quality of Education – Overview. Retrieved from: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTEDUCATION/0,,contentMDK:22440386~menuPK:6788256~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:282386~isCURL:Y~isCURL:Y~isCURL:Y~isCURL:Y~isCURL:Y,00.html
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