10 SES 03 D, Programmes and Approaches: Reform and improvisation
At the same time research of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has demonstrated equity and quality schooling go hand in hand, (Equity and Quality Education, 2012) the “analysis of teachers’ agency as multifarious change, embedded in educational reform in the global era, stands largely unexamined in educational policy” (Vongalis-Macrow, 2007, p. 425). Tyack and Cuban (1995) concur reforms take on a life of their own as teachers and other school and district personnel inevitably alter them to fit the needs of their specific school contexts. These researchers allude to the ambiguity of teacher agency under the impetus of school reform, suggesting teachers are prime data sources for understanding the reality of tensions between reform efforts and their agency to facilitate such reforms. Supporting research on this topic, the 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), conducted by the (OECD) provides critical data about teachers working in the ongoing realm of multi-level school reform. It is designed to ask “teachers and school leaders about the conditions that contribute to the learning environments in their schools”(Executive Summary, 2013), allowing a glimpse of the daily realities of school reform in classrooms around the globe. The findings of this study conclude the need for more “teachers who engage in collaborative learning” and to have more “participation in school decisions.” (Teachers love their job, 2013).
Unfortunately, the 2013 TALIS data reveals much work to be done in this regard. Half of the teachers surveyed “Report rarely or never team-teaching with colleagues and only one third observe their colleagues teach. Feedback is also rare, with some 46% of teachers reporting they never receive any from their school leader” (Teachers love their job, 2013). Findings are further magnified in the United States where “TALIS data indicate that a large percentage of U.S. lower secondary school teachers face challenging classroom circumstances and that U.S. teachers make less use of some collaborative practices, principals should consider providing opportunities and support for relationship building and collaboration at a school level” (TALIS – United States, 2013). Additional research using in-depth qualitative analysis is needed to add to the findings of TALIS surveys to contextualize their perception of teacher agency as it relates to national and global school reform mandates.
- What do teachers perceive about teacher agency in the context of school reform?
- What are teacher’s perceptions about their participation in school decisions as it relates to school reform?
- In what ways do teachers make meaning of teacher agency in the context of school reform?
This narrative study is grounded in a Social Constructivist Framework “whereby individuals seek to understand their world and develop their own particular meanings that correspond to their experience. These meanings are not etched or innate within each individual. Rather, meanings are formed through interaction with others” (Creswell, 2013, p. 24-25). Through the exploration of participants’ regular collective reflections, multiple interpretations of how teachers perceive teacher agency within school reform will be revealed. A tenet of narrative inquiry asserts that “our human world is constructed and continually reconstructed through the process of story living and storytelling” (Christensen, 2014, p.427) and that the reliving of these stories may “shift the institutional, social, and cultural narratives in which they are embedded.” Thus, exploring the shared reflections of individuals can potentially serve as a catalyst to counter the de-emphasis of teacher agency in school reform thus far.
Christensen, L. & Johnson, R. (Eds. 5). (2014). Educational research quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications. OECD. Equity and Quality Education, (2012). Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/education/school/50293148.pdfthe TALIS. Executive Summary (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/TALIS-2013-Executive-Summary.pdf Tyack, D. B., & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia: A century of public school reform. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
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