02 SES 04 A, Research Transitions: Conceptualising and Framing Knowledge and Approaches to VET
This paper focuses on the process of institutional change on the field of vocational education and training (hereafter VET) in Post-Soviet Estonia. The analysis is based on the meta-analysis of three previous studies that concentrated on how the changes introduced as part of the VET reform policies have been made sense of and adopted by different stakeholders on the field of VET (vocational teachers, school principals, practical training co-ordinators at companies etc). My special interest is on what is the role of the agency of school level and outside school actors in shaping the implementation of the reform policies?
The re-independence of Estonia was accompanied by the dismantling of the previous centrally regulated Soviet system of vocational education and training. During the last 20 years a multitude of reform policies has been introduced on the field of VET- introduction of the qualification framework and national curricula, reorganization of the previous network of vocational educational and training institutions etc.
The topic of implementation of educational reform policies interests researchers worldwide. Major part of the literature on educational change has focused on the analysis of top-down initiated reform policies and resulted with the message that educational reforms have not reached the long-term effects expected (e.g. Hargreaves & Goodson, 2006; Wallace, 2003) or significant changes on the school level - changes in school culture and teaching practices (e.g. Fullan, 2007; Gordon & Patterson, 2008, Cuban, 2008). Similarly, on the educational policy research field there have been broad debates on the gap between policy intentions and policy outcomes or actual realities in reformed schools (Spillane et al., 2002; Ng, 2008). This view has been juxtaposed by authors opposing the view of an “implementation gap” and seeing policy implementation not as a linear top-down initiated process leading to an automatic adoption, but rather a process of “mutual adaptation” (Ball et al., 2012; McLaughlin, 2008; Anderson, 2010) of different stakeholders. By being rather inspired by the latter view of an educational policy implementation process this paper considers the agency of individual and collective actors as defining the direction of educational changes. Agency, on the other hand is socially and institutionally constructed (Scott, 2008: 78-79).
When looking at the educational changes in vocational schools, we can see that construction of realities takes place on several levels. New policies introduced to schools have been interpreted and selected by the school principals who can adapt the policy requirements suitable to the school context. A second round of the re-interpretation and sense-making of changes takes place on the school level with teachers involved. During these sense-making processes the original meaning of the new requirements may be re-interpreted. I agree with Scott who argues that while all actors, whether individual or collective, possess some agency, the degree of agency varies greatly among actors as well as types of social structures (Scott, 2008: 78-79). A study of mine enables to explore the impact of the culture prevailing in different vocational fields and the role of the network practices to the level of agency exercised in shaping the educational policies and adapting it to the school context and teachers` needs. Moreover, one of the studies on practical training enables to analyse the role of the agency exercised by economic enterprises.
Therefore, the central question of my paper is what is the role of the agency in shaping the reform policy implementation in vocational education and training? Moreover, what are the central powerful actors shaping the changes on the field of VET?
Anderson, S. E. (2010), “Moving Change: Evolutionary Perspectives on Educational Change”, in Hargreaves, A., Liebermann, A., Fullan, M. and Hopkins D. (Eds.), Second International Handbook on Educational Change, Springer, Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York, pp. 65¬–84. Ball, S. J., Maguire, M. and Braun, A. (2012). How Schools Do Policy. Policy Enactments in Secondary Schools, Routledge, London and New York. Cuban, L. (2008) US school reform and classroom practice. In: Ciaran Sugrue (ed.) The Future of Educational Change. International Perspectives, pp. 75-88, London and New York: Routhledge. Gordon, J. and Patterson, J.A. (2008), “‘It’s what we have always been doing.’ Exploring tensions between school culture and change”, Journal of Educational Change, Vol. 9, pp. 17–35. Hargreaves, A. and Goodson, I. (2006), “Educational Change Over Time? The Sustainability and Non-sustainability of Three Decades of Secondary School Change and Continuity”, Educational Administration Quarterly, Vol. 42 No 1, pp. 3–41. Fullan, M. (2007), The new meaning of educational change, 4th ed., Teachers College Press, New York. McLaughlin, M. (2008), “Beyond ‘misery research’ – new opportunities for implementation research, policy and practice”, in Ciaran Sugrue (ed.), The Future of Educational Change. International Perspective, Routhledge, London and New York, pp. 175–90. Ng, P. T. (2008), "Education policy rhetoric and reality gap: a reflection", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 22 No 6, pp. 595–602. Scott, R. (2008) Institutions and Organizations: Ideas and Interests , Third edition, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage Publications. Spillane, J. P., Reiser, B. J. and Reimer, T. (2002), “Policy implementation and cognition: reframing and refocusing implementation research”, Review of Educational Research, Vol 72 No 3, pp. 387–431 Wallace, M. (2003), “Managing the Unmanageable?: Coping with Complex Educational Change”, Educational Management Administration Leadership. Vol. 31 No. 9, pp. 9–29. Yin, R. K. (2009), Case Study Research Design and Methods, 4th ed., Sage, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC.
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