26 SES 05 D JS, Leadership to Promote Educational Effectiveness
Paper Session Joint Session NW 11 and NW 26
Systems of accountability, aimed at ensuring the quality of education in schools, now exist in the majority of countries across Europe (Eurydice, 2004). Most of these systems take the form of school inspectorates, but they also involve the use of testing and examinations and league tables. Following the work of Smith (1995) and Fitz-Gibbon (1997) in the 1990s, it is now widely accepted in literature that accountability systems bring with them unintended effects, such as gaming, tunnel vision and measure fixation. These unintended effects are often negative, and as Leeuw (2000) suggests, they may be so problematic as to undo the intended positive effects. De Wolf and Janssens (2007) conclude in their overview of unintended effects that more good quality empirical research is needed in this area. We present self-report survey data from school principals across seven countries, with differing inspections systems and demonstrate the prevalence of unintended effects such as narrowing of the curriculum. We show how these effects vary across the countries.
The research presented here also attempts to investigate a potential cause of these unintended effects; pressure. Based on literature on the impact of pressure on systems and individuals, beginning with the work of Yerkes and Dodgson (1908), we suggest that the prevalence of the unintended consequences of school inspections is related to how pressurised the inspection system is. Yerkes and Dodgson (1908) suggested that as pressure is applied to individuals their performance increases up to a point and thereafter decreases as the impact of stress becomes negative. It is expected that unintended consequences will start to appear as pressure rises. These unexpected effects will be many and varied but should increase in number and intensity as the pressure rises.
The empirical data presented in this paper stems from the European Commission, Lifelong Learning Project, ‘The impact of school inspection on teaching and learning’. The project as a whole aims to contribute to gaps in knowledge about the impact of school inspection by comparing inspectorates in eight different countries (England, Netherlands, Ireland, Czech Republic, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway). The study aims to identify aspects of school inspections (e.g. standards and thresholds, sanctions and rewards) that maximise the positive, intended effects of school inspection and minimise the negative, unintended effects. (Survey data was not collected in Norway, so data for this paper was collected in seven countries.)
This paper aims to answer the following research questions:
What is the prevalence of unintended consequences of school inspections across the seven European countries in the project?
What part does pressure play in precipitating these unintended consequences?
Altrichter, H. and Kemethofer, D. (2014) Does Accountability Pressure through School Inspections Promote School Improvement? School Effectivenes and School Improvement. (submitted) De Wolf, I. F. and Janssens, J. G. (2007) Effects and side effects of inspections and accountability in education: an overview of empirical studies. Oxford Review of Education Vol. 33, No. 3, July 2007, pp. 379–396 Ehren, M. C. M., Altrichter, H., McNamara, G. & O’Hara, J. (2012) Impact of school inspections on improvement of schools – describing assumptions on causal mechanisms in six European countries, Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, Vol.24, No.3, November 2012. Ehren, M.C.M. and Swanborn, M. (2012) 'Strategic data use of schools in accountability systems', School Effectiveness and School Improvement 23(2), 123-131. Eurydice (2004). Evaluation of Schools providing Compulsory Education in Europe. http://www.eurydice.org/portal/page/portal/Eurydice. Fitz-Gibbon, C. T. (1997). The Value Added National Project: Final Report: Feasibility studies for a national system of Value Added indicators. London, School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. Leeuw, F. L. (2000) Onbedoelde neveneffecten van outputsturing, controle en toezicht?, in: Raad voor Maatschappelijke Ontwikkeling, Aansprekend burgerschap; de relatie tussen de organisatie van het publieke domein en de verantwoordelijkheid van de burgers (Den Haag, Raad voor Maatschappelijke Ontwikkeling), 151–171. [Unintentional side effects of output manipulation, control and school inspections?, in: Responsible citizenship; the relationship between the organisation of the public domain and the responsibility of the citizens]. Smith, P. (1995). On the unintended consequences of publishing performance data in the public sector. International Journal of Public Administration 18(2 & 3): 277-310. Yerkes RM and Dodson JD (1908). The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit formation. Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology 18: 459–482
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