23 SES 02 A, Reframing Quality in Education
For quite some time now the premises set up for teachers and teaching within the neo-liberal project, have been heavily criticized (e. g. Apple, 2008; Ball, 2003; Hopmann, 2008; Kliebard, 1995; Nordin, 2016; Wahlström, 2015). Following Tesar (2016) we argue that thinking policy and philosophy together can open up for new imaginaries, new futures for thinking quality in education. We argue that the American curriculum theorist Elliot Eisner (1979, 2002, 2005) and his concepts of connoisseurship and educational criticism is a constructive starting point for rethinking both teacher quality and policy.
The purpose of this paper is twofold. The first purpose involves a critical examination of the way ‘teacher quality’ is discursively constructed in transnational authoritative texts. The second purpose is to explore the possibilities of rethinking teacher quality as it is set out in a mainly neo-liberal setting, using the concepts of connoisseurship and educational criticism as productive means to explore alternative meanings, both regarding teacher quality and the character and potential of policy texts. The two research questions are: How can Eisner’s concepts of connoisseurship and educational criticism contribute to going beyond an agenda of teacher quality based on “evidence” and a dominating scientific efficiency approach? Drawing on Eisner (1979), how can a linking between philosophy and policy contribute to critically examining contemporary education policy texts by taking seriously the meaning of the term criticism as "reeducation of perception"? (Eisner 1976/2005; Dewey 1934).
We make use of Eisner’s’ idea of an ‘ecology of schooling’ in trying to understand educational reforms and their impact on educational practices. To think comprehensively about school reforms, Eisner (1992/2005) identifies five dimensions which one has to take into account. The first is the intentional aspect that refers to exploring the tension between conventional arguments for what the reform aims to. Secondly, the understanding of a reform needs to observe the consequences of the structural aspects of the reform. A third aspect is the possible changes of curriculum content. The fourth aspect is the pedagogical factor that is indispensable for the transformation from an intended to an operational curriculum. The fifth dimension of a reform, finally, is evaluation. The way assessment of students’ knowledge is defined directs what should count as knowledge in a subject and how teaching takes shape in the classroom.
In addition we make use of Eisner’s concept of educational connoisseurship as an alternative to technological approaches; instead of laws, professional judgments are taken as the basis for the quality of schooling (Biesta 2017). A connoisseur ‘appreciates’ what she encounters; that is, a connoisseur is aware of and understands what is experienced. Appreciation in this context has to do with a genuine curiosity around shared interests (Hansen, 2017; Uhrmacher, et al., 2017). A necessary complement to connoisseurship is educational criticism. Eisner (1976/2005, p. 41) distinguishes between the two by pointing out the following difference. ”If connoisseurship is the art of appreciation, criticism is the art of disclosure”. The language of critics is a language where metaphors, suggestions and implications are important tools in order to help us see. Following Eisner, (1976/2005), educational criticism has to consider three interrelated aspects, a descriptive, an interpretative and an evaluative aspect of educational criticism. The descriptive aspect has to do with describing the qualities of an educational phenomenon, the interpretative aspect signifies the effort to understand the meaning various forms of action have for those involved, and the evaluative aspect, finally, asks the question: ‘What is the educational import or value of what is going on?’ (Eisner, 1976/2005, p. 44). Educational criticism directs attention to the qualitative aspects of schooling rather than the quantitative.
To analyze the meaning of teacher quality in transnational policy documents, Eisner’s terms of connoisseurship and educational criticism is used as the analytic framework in the reading of the policy texts. According to Uhrmacher et al. (2017), educational connoisseurship refers to two broad questions: What is going on here? And why is it important? Connoisseurship involves three dimensions. The first is discernment, the ability to notice and distinguish among different sorts of qualities. The second dimension is appreciation, as a matter of being well acquainted with the activity; that is, to be able to recognize and understand also the nuances of what one see and experience. The third dimension, finally, is evaluation. This is related to the second question about why a certain activity or discourse is important. The dimension refers to values and to the connected concept of educational criticism. Educational criticism contributes to disclose stereotypes by identifying variations among similar cases (Uhrmacher et al. 2017). This is specifically relevant for policy text which is often interpreted as “being the same” as a specific genre, regardless of the type of document or organization the text represents. In this text study, ten authoritative policy documents on teacher quality from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European union (EU) published during the period 2005-2017 are read through the lens of Eisner’s five different dimensions required for making reforms pervasive: intentional, structural, curricular, pedagogical and evaluation/assessment (Eisner 1992/2005). The documents are selected due to their centrality of the teacher quality discourse within each of the organization. In the analysis we use the three dimensions of educational criticism identified by Eisner: descriptive, interpretative and evaluative (Eisner 1976/2005; Uhrmacher et al. 2017). In the closing section we combine the level of educational criticism with the presence of educational connoisseurship to draw some conclusions on what is needed to make the policy more human and to make education more successful.
The result shows that seven of the ten analysed documents reach the level of description in educational criticism, two policy documents are considered to have a more interpretive approach, one from each organization, and in the third “evaluative” perspective of educational criticism, three policy documents are distinguished; two documents from the OECD and one document from the EU. A first conclusion that can be drawn from this analysis of policy texts on teacher quality based on Eisner’s concepts of connoisseurship and educational criticism is that the characteristics of the descriptive policy discourse can be viewed as identifying and reporting on things as they “are”, while the interpretative discourse can be viewed as recognizing the complexity of the task and the evaluative educational criticism discourse can be understood as policy discourses that also include opposite positions, shortcomings and contradictions of education. By distinguishing between different levels, or discourses of educational criticism in the reading of policy documents it becomes possible to discern what aspects of policy discussions which has a potential to really contribute to a higher quality of education. A second conclusion is that even if several of the documents exhibit both discernment of the range of aspects that are included in teacher quality and the appreciation of what a good education might mean, without a simultaneous deepening of the critical perspective, the policy approach remains somewhat superficial and far from the teacher's everyday life. Little attention has so far been directed towards the use of Eisner’s connoisseurship and criticism approach in critically examining contemporary education policy texts. This study contributes to the field of Eisner studies as well as to the wider field of educational policy studies by introducing new concepts for philosophical analysis of contemporary policies.
Apple, M. W. (2008). Content, form and the politics of accountability. In: Connelly, F. M. He, M. F. & Phillion, J. (Eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Ball, S. J. (2003). The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy,18(2), 215–228. Biesta, G. (2017). Education, measurement and the professions: Reclaiming a space for democratic professionality in education. Educational Philosophy and Theory 49(4), 315-330. Dewey, J (1934). Art as experience. New York: Penguin Perigee. Eisner, E. W. (1976/2005). Educational connoisseurship and criticism: Their form and functions in educational evaluation, pp. 37-59. In E. W. Eisner: Reimagining schools. The selected works of Elliot W. Eisner. London: Routledge. Eisner, E. W. (1992/2005). Educational reform and the ecology of schooling, pp. 136-149. In E. W. Eisner: Reimagining schools. The selected works of Elliot W. Eisner. London: Routledge. Eisner, E. W. (1979). The education imagination. On the design and evaluation of school programs. New York: Macmillan. Eisner, E. W. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New haven: Yale University Press. Eisner, E. W. (2005). Reimagining schools: The selected works of Elliot W. Eisner. New York: Routledge. Eisner, E. (2006). A quotation from a Commencement talk to School of Education graduates and their families in 2006, posted in 2010 on the blog of Larry Cuban. http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/teaching-elliot-eisner. Accessed 2017-06-10. European Commission (2017). Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions. School development and excellent teaching for a great start in life. Brussels, 30.5.2017 COM(2017) 248 final. Hansen, D. T. (2017). Bearing Witness to Teaching and Teachers. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 49(1), 7-23. Hopmann, S. T. (2008). No child, no school, no state left behind: Schooling in the age of accountability. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 40(4), 417–456. Kliebard, H. M. (1995). The Tylor rationale revisited. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 27(1), 81-88. Tesar, M. (2016). Policy and philosophy in the contemporary educational landscape Policy Futures in Education,14(3), 311–313. Nordin, A. (2016). Teacher professionalism beyond numbers: a communicative orientation. Policy Futures in Education, 14(6), 830–845. Uhrmacher, B.P., McConnell, M. & Flinders D.J. (2017). Using educational criticism and connoisseurship for qualitative research. New York: Routledge. Wahlström, N. (2015) Transnational policy discourses on teacher education: A cosmopolitan perspective. Policy Futures in Education, 13(6), 801-816.
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