22 SES 07 D, Higher Education Reforms
It has been argued that EU Higher Education policies are increasingly challenging higher education institutions to develop study programmes that ‘produce’ ‘ready to go’ graduates prepared for the needs of the economy (Council of the European Union 2011:2) ). This is evident in professional programmes where there is an expectation that educators integrate more real work experiences. In teacher education for example, there is an increasing global political interest in expanding practice and arrangements such as ‘school placement’, frequently without the allocation of additional resources(Zeichner, 2012). In this paper we critically analyse the policy shift from informal relationships of ‘goodwill’ to a formal partnership between schools and universities regarding placement and its positioning within Initial Teacher Education (ITE). We use the case of ITE in Ireland to indicate how an externally prescribed policy on ‘school placement’ without the allocation of additional resources impacts on teacher educators’ whose responsibility it is to re-conceputalise and implement these externally decreed policy reforms. These concerns are considered a ‘wake up’ call that challenges Higher Education in general. Research questions are:
- What are the policy intentions embedded in key policy documents in articulating a shift from ‘teaching practice’ to ‘school placement’ as an approach to initial teacher education reform?
- How have key teacher educators in seven institutions engaged with these new expectations prescribed by the Teaching Council?
- What lessons may be extrapolated from these experiences with more general import for HE?
Conceptually, we identify a tension between the logics of professional ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’ as a consequence of what has become established new public management (NPM) policy orthodoxies (Solbrekke &Englund 2011). We argue that while accountability is the ‘mantra’ of NPM embedded in current HE governance, ‘responsibility’ resonates more with the traditional governance of higher education programmes (Solbrekke & Sugrue 2014). While dictionary definitions of responsibility’ include: trustworthiness, capacity, dependability, reliability, judgment and choice, ‘accountability’ is associated with terms such as answerability, blame, liability and obligation . Such externally determined regimes of control introduce a new logic and oblige professionals, including teacher educators, to adhere to, and be accountable against prescriptive policy standards of quality and to make their work as explicit and transparent as possible. In the context of higher education in Europe this is typically done through soft laws (Karseth & Solbrekke 2010). The deployment of “soft power” thus “getting the outcomes one wants by attracting others rather than manipulating their material incentives” (Nye, 2008, p. 29). Use of soft power is “the ability to shape the preferences of others to want what you want” (Nye, 2008, p. 29); a perspective closely resonant with the notion of ‘Performativity’ in order to account for results…..whereby “the new performative worker is a promiscuous self, an enterprising self, with a passion for excellence” thus “for some, … an opportunity to make a success of themselves” while “for others it portends inner conflicts, inauthenticity and resistance” (Ball, 2003, p. 215).
By comparison, exercising ‘responsibility,’ relies on professionals’ ability to deploy discretionary specialization (Freidson, 2001) or wise action (phronesis) (Green, 2011) imbued with consideration of what it means to serve the public (Sullivan 2005). It includes the cultivation of values and dispositions such as integrity, an ethic of care, courage and commitment. The distinction between the two concepts is deployed in order to understand the tensions teacher educators struggle with while coping with recently prescribed ‘placement’ requirements in ITE, as part of a wider ongoing reform agenda and external accreditation of ITE. In such tension filled circumstances, are teacher educators professionally compromised, and what are the possible implications for higher education in general?
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