ERG SES C 02, Education Policies
This paper examines shifts in education policy across the EU and Australia towards a greater emphasis on classroom practice as the answer to declining student achievement and performance. The paper engages with an overt policy storyline, namely that effective classroom teaching practice(s) not only correct for but overcome post-Fordist capital insecurities. As an educational response to (1) a new world order of work in the form of rising casualization and (2) the broader tasks of capital, precise teaching practice(s) are increasingly considered the sole and only solid foundations needed to enhance student achievement.
Contemporary revivifications of capitalism through reconfigurations in the education system have destabilised conceptualisations of teaching and learning. A polarization is emerging between an assertive although narrow teacher effectiveness discourse and the wider “comprehensivist inclusivist” (Hill, 2001 p. 136) social-class social justice aspects of thinking about issues of teaching practice. While this shift in emphasis for some is hardly novel, it does point to the deepening drift towards a practice-oriented and teacher effectiveness notion of student achievement. This then potentially sweeps aside or at a minimum trims how the field of teacher education treats (i) issues and questions of student learning and achievement and (ii) the preparation of teachers. It also has far reaching implications for education policy as policy-makers tend to draw on a diminishing pool of new thinking about how to address inequity and social disadvantage in school education.
The major research question under investigation in this paper is what theorisations of teaching practice are needed in an era of education policy transition across the EU and Australia, one marked increasingly in both jurisdictions by the enforced global pressure points of school performance and accountability? A research method informed by critical theory is used to explore the research question posed. The paper draws on the theoretical frameworks of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu by framing the analysis on ‘governmentalization’ (Foucault, 1997) and a ‘logic(s) of practice’ (Bourdieu, 1977; 1990) to critically examine how specific teacher effectiveness elements are articulated from within the following education policy documents, the first from the EU, Improving the Quality of Teacher Education (2007) and the second from Australia, Students First (2014).
The research locates current education policy transitions towards exacting theorisations of practice as indicative of a particular evaluative mindset, one that in policy terms, champions quantitative appraisal systems as major drivers of educational change. These drivers ‘over-managerialize’ and ‘over-systematize’ teaching practice destabilizing conceptions of ‘the teacher’ as embodied change agent. The paper first acknowledges that the transition towards teacher effectiveness reference points of practice is enacted by the expanding contemporary predicaments of global capitalism entailing the facilitation of new modes of educational governance. Second, the paper deals with core expressions found within each of the respective policy documents with a particular focus on competences, practical skills, pedagogical approaches and ways of teaching and learning. These discursive terms frame classroom practice presently and their ramifications for teaching and learning are considered. The essential distinctions for education policy now where what matters in practice equates to ‘what works’ (see Biesta, 2007; Skourdoumbis & Gale, 2013), permits a moral exemption so that the only evaluative imperative is of an instrumentalist ‘use values’ kind, one of constant economic reform (see Bauman & Bordoni, 2014). Part three discusses this developing situation and considers the insensitivities attached to a ‘purity of practice’ as the antidote to declining student achievement levels. The paper finishes by outlining a way forward beyond the ontological strangleholds of a fashionable and utopian audit agenda in classroom teaching and learning.
Bauman, Z., & Bordoni, C. (2014). State Of Crisis. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. Biesta, G. (2007) Why ‘‘What Works’’ Won’t Work: Evidence-Based Practice And The Democratic Deficit In Educational Research, Educational Theory, 57 (1): 1-21. Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline Of A Theory Of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bourdieu, P. (1990). The Logic Of Practice. London: Polity Press. Diem, S., Young, M.C., Welton, A.D., Mansfield, K.C., & Lee, P (2014) The intellectual landscape of critical policy analysis, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 27:9, 1068-1090. Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and Social Change. UK: Polity Press. Foucault, M. (1997). The Politics Of Truth. New York: Semiotext(e). Hill, D. (2001) State Theory and the Neo-Liberal Reconstruction of Schooling and Teacher Education: A structuralist neo-Marxist critique of postmodernist, quasi-postmodernist, and culturalist neo-Marxist theory, 22(1): 135-155. Sahlberg, P. 2011. Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change In Finland? New York: Teachers College Press. Skourdoumbis, A. (2014) Teacher Effectiveness: Making the Difference to Student Achievement? British Journal of Educational Studies, 62(2): 111-126. Skourdoumbis, A. (2013). Classroom teacher effectiveness research and inquiry, and its relevance to the development of public education policy: an Australian context. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(8), 967-985. Skourdoumbis, A., & Gale, T. (2013). Classroom Teacher Effectiveness Research: A Conceptual Critique. British Educational Research Journal, 39(5), 892-906. Reports The European Commission (2007). Improving the Quality of Teacher Education. Accessed from http://ec.europa.eu/education/school-education/doc/talis/chapter1_en.pdf Australian Government (2014) Students First, Department of Education, accessed 23 November 2014.
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