23 SES 04 A, Policy Reforms and the Regulation of Teachers’ Work
Education policy discourses place increasing emphasis on ‘teaching quality’ as the key determinant of student achievement (Schleicher, 2011). As the pursuit of educational success is increasingly cast as a ‘race to the top’ (DoE, 2009) a focus on the quality of teaching is presented as the key factor in contributing to success. However, despite the apparently growing global consensus about the importance of teaching quality, there remain sharply divergent approaches to teacher development and the enhancement of teacher quality.
Hargreaves and Fullan present two different approaches to teacher development in their influential 2012 book, Professional Capital. Here they distinguish between professional capital and business capital approaches with the former emphasising teaching as a complex activity requiring high order skills and substantial training, and the latter approach based on teaching as an easily acquired skill with the potential for teaching labour to be substituted by technology.
Hargreaves and Fullan’s distinction can be helpful as a device to pose neatly bifurcated explanations of developments in the educational workforce, but our view is this analysis is limited in several key respects. First is that it too readily counterposes professional capital (good) against business capital (bad) and fails to take account of how so-called professional capital approaches can also contribute to a de-skilling of teachers’ work. Second, is that the emphasis on teaching quality artificially divides teaching from the management of teaching, and fails to adequately problematise questions of management and control. Third, the presentation of business capital approaches fail to explain the dynamics of change and therefore provide an explanation of what is driving change in particular forms. Political and economic imperatives are identified, but nor developed.
In this paper we seek to return to, and draw on, a different tradition to understand and explain contemporary developments in relation to teachers’ work in the English education system. This tradition is grounded in FW Taylor’s (1911) development of scientific management in the early years of the twentieth century. We want to argue that Taylorism, and the critiques of scientific management that emerged from Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974) can provide an important analytical framework to consider developments in teaching in England.
Labour process theory applied to teaching developed a rich body of work (Apple 1983; Carlson 1984; Connell, 1985; Ozga et al 1988) , but in more recent years defence of its application has become more sporadic (Reid, 2003; Carter and Stevenson, 2012). This is ironic given that many of the features identified as central to teachers’ experience of work in the English school system (Ball, 2003), such as a curriculum standardisation, a growing divide between teaching and leadership, the increasing measurement of ‘output’ and the linking of pay to productivity, the promotion of a ‘one best way’ to teaching and the deployment of new forms of lower cost labour might all be considered consummate features of Taylorism.
In this paper we seek to explore whether a return to labour process theory offers a helpful way to understand teachers’ work, and the management of the teacher workforce. The emergence of ‘big data’ is now widely recognised in education (Ozga, 2009; Ozga and Grek, 2008) but at a time when performativity issues are intensifying the use of ‘big data’ as a means of managing labour appears insufficiently theorised. Our argument is that labour process theory has much to offer, but that it has failed to keep pace with recent developments in teaching in England – a reassessment of its relevance and applicability for understanding developments in teaching in England is therefore timely.
Apple, M. (1983) ‘Work, class and teaching’, in S. Walker and L. Barton. (eds.) Gender, Class and Education, Lewes: Falmer Press. Ball, S. (1990). Politics and policy making in education: Explorations In policy sociology. London: Routledge. Ball, S. (1993). What is policy? Texts, trajectories and toolboxes. Discourse, 13(2), 10-17. Ball, S. (2003). The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), 215-228. Braverman, H. (1974) Labor and monopoly capital, New York: Monthly Review. Carlson, D. (1992) Teachers as political actors: from reproductive theory to the crisis of schooling’ Harvard Educational Review 57 (3): 283-307. Carter, B. and Stevenson, H. (2012) Teachers, Workforce Remodelling and the Challenge to Labour Process Analysis, Work, Employment and Society 26 (3) 481-496. Connell, R. (1985) Teachers’ Work, London, Allen and Unwin. DoE (2009) Race to the Top, USA Department of Education, available online at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2012) Professional capital: transforming teaching in every school. London: Routledge. Ozga, J. et al (1988) Schoolwork: approaches to the labour process of teaching, Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Ozga J (2009) Governing Education through data in England: from Regulation to Self-Evaluation Journal of Education Policy 24 (2) 149-162. Ozga, J. and Grek, S. (2008) Governing by Numbers? Shaping Education through data, CES Briefing No 44, Edinburgh, Centre for Educational Sociology. Petrie, M., & Rugg, G. (2011). The unwritten rules of PhD research (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw Hill, Open University Press. Reid, A. (2003) Understanding teachers’ work: is there still a place for labour process theory?’ British Journal of Sociology of Education, 24 (5): 559-573. Schleicher, A. (2011) Building a high-quality teaching profession: Lessons from around the world. OECD Publishing http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264113046-en Stevenson, H. and Wood, P. (2013) Markets, managerialism and teachers’ work: the invisible hand of high stakes testing in England, International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives 12 (2) available online at http://openjournals.library.usyd.edu.au/index.php/IEJ/article/view/7455 Taylor, F.W. (2011) Scientific Management, New York: Harper and Bros.
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