23 SES 02 B, Teachers and Teaching
Public education is changing rapidly as “the dismantling of public education is evident through the privatisation of collective assets and service provision, and the entry of new providers with a for-profit motive” (Gunter & Fitzgerald, 2015, p. 101). In the context of expanding privatization in public education systems and increasing public-private partnerships in education (Mahony, Hextal, & Menter, 2004), research about private for-profit international schools is necessary to understand what happens when education is run fully as a business with a profit motive. Waterson (2015) identifies several highly successful and visible trans-national education corporations “with such growth performance and ambition [that these] TNCs [trans-national corporations] are clearly becoming established players in the market for international schooling” (Waterson, 2015, p. 12). The negative and cut-throat behaviors associated with business are de-emphasized as “advocates of marketisation alternately downplay the change so as to disarm its opponents, or talk up the economic market character of education” (Marginson, 1999, p. 235).
The discussion is often unbalanced with a hidden assumption that the market has overall positive effects even if business models do not ensure quality or equity. Creating a more business-like environment is portrayed as beneficial to the teaching profession and to teachers as individuals. Advocates believe that “a market system would unite the goals of educators and families, encourage innovation, and discourage many of the inefficient and educationally irrelevant practices engendered by the public school system” (Coulson, 1994, p. 9). But Robertson (2013) warns that “the private in education is overwhelmingly constituted out of market relations that in turn redefine the nature of individuals and their relationships to each other, to education as an institution, and to society” (p. 432). Teachers are key actors is this system and their work may be the site of the conflict of “irreconcilable contradictions” (Stitzlein, 2013, p. 263) between the humanistic mission of education and business interests. It is necessary to investigate this at the teacher level because “teacher development, teachers’ careers, teachers’ relations with their colleagues, the conditions of status, reward and leadership under which they work – all these affect the quality of what they do in the classroom” (Hargreaves in Acker, 1999, p. viii). Investigating the practices of organisations that combine profit-making with education begins with a critical examination of how teachers’ work is affected. The aim of this research is to find the patterns of business influences on teachers’ experiences at work.
The investigation was framed by a feminist critical approach, privileging the voice of teachers and their knowledge of schools. The research was done viewing gender, national origin, and class as integral to understanding the experiences of teachers. The feminist critical lens influences both the methods used and the analysis of the data. Teachers’ voices were the basis for the study and their reports of their experiences created the frame of knowledge. In existing research that succeeds in expressing the voice of teachers (Acker, 1999; Gewirtz, 2002; Goodson, 1992, Hargreaves and Moore, 2005), the overall patterns of experience are left out due to the purely qualitative approach. When the voices advocating business-like models of education are perceived as universal and true and the types of methods used to justify the success of for-profit schools are purely quantitative in nature, the arguments fail to clash, with qualitative methods and the voices of teachers unable to compete. Research investigating the experiences of teachers must be done in way that meets a feminist standard for quality research but must also be able to “talk back” (DeVault, 1999, p. 27) to policy audiences that expect quantitative data.
The aim of this research was to use mixed-methods so that voices of teachers were heard and significant quantitative data could be reported as well. This fits the feminist critical analysis expectations described by Gross (1986) in the impossible middle ground, allowing many meanings with evocative description rather than arbitrary categories and significant language rather than referential data (p. 138). Teachers’ voices were gathered through semi-structured interviews with a psychosocial interview approach (Hollway & Jefferson, 2000). The intent was to elicit stories from teachers about their daily experiences at for-profit schools. Participants from four of the largest educational management organizations in three countries were contacted through social media. A total of 22 interviews were conducted in person and via Skype between June and November of 2016. The findings of the interviews led to the formulation of the items to create measurement models of business influences on teachers’ work. Two pilots were done in November and December of 2016 to create the final questionnaire. For the final data collection, 204 teachers working in 50 different countries participated. They were recruited to participate in person at three international teacher hiring fairs in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. To initially explore the data to identify unidimensional measures, the data were analysed through Mokken scale analysis (Mokken, 1971; Sijstma & van der Ark, 2017) using the software MSP5 (Molennar & Sijtsma, 2000). The exploratory analysis was conducted to investigate whether the items had “sufficient psychometric quality for selection in the final scales” (Sijstma & van der Ark, 2017, p. 144). Four scales were identified as having enough items and significant enough strength to warrant further analysis. The second stage of Rasch analysis (Rasch, 1960) was conducted using the programe Winsteps (Linacre, 2017) to obtain measures based on each scale. The items were analyzed to find out if they fit the basic assumptions of the Rasch model and to conduct a critical analysis of the latent variable of each scale (Long, Wendt & Dunne, 2011). This qualitative analysis of the quantitative results allowed for the description of patterns in the data that occur across a range of respondents. The quantitative analysis involved using each final scale to give a measurement to each respondent based on those items (Bond and Fox, 2015). These methods turned teacher’s voices into substantive quantitative findings while maintaining allowing a range of experiences to be portrayed in the data.
The results of this research are that teachers in for-profit international schools have a wide range of experiences and that the experiences of teachers across types of schools have patterns that can be quantified. With Mokken scale analysis and Rasch analysis, it is possible to see the range of experiences of teachers and the pattern of items that lead to increasing levels of business influences on teachers’ work. While the teachers in the sample had very different experiences, reports of their work fit patterns that created two scales of related items. This type of analysis allows us to analyze the patterns of items across the range of experiences. The first scale described and measured the business influences on teachers’ work with 25 items. With increasing levels of business influence, teachers experience more insecurity, competition, and unethical hiring and promotion practices. Mokken Scale Analysis found the scale to be a medium strength scale with H=0.44, Rho=0.94. A Rasch analysis of the scale found a personal reliability of 0.93, item reliability of 0.94, and 44.8% of variance explained by the measures. The second scale created a multi-faceted description of the type of school, more than simply for-profit or not-for-profit. In conversations surrounding the administration of the questionnaire, many participants explained that their school was not easy to categorize as “for-profit” or “not-for-profit” and they had difficulty choosing a label. These items demonstrate the characteristics of how we could more clearly identify a school as running with a profit motive or not. This scale included eight items. Mokken Scale Analysis found the scale to be a strong scale with H=0.53, Rho=0.88. A Rasch analysis of the scale found a person reliability of 0.81, item reliability of 0.98, and 54.2% of the variance explained by the measures.
Acker, S. (1999). The Realities of Teachers' Work: Never a Dull Moment. London and New York: Cassell. Casey, K. (1992). Why Do Progressive Women Activists Leave Teaching? Theory, Methodology and Politics in Life-History Research. In I. Goodison (Ed.), Studying Teachers' Lives (pp. 187-208): Routledge. Code, L. (2014). Feminist Epistemology and the Politics of Knowledge: Questions of Marginality. In M. Evans, C. Hemmings, M. Henry, H. Johnstone, S. Madhok, A. Plomien, & S. Wearing (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Feminist Theory (pp. 9-25): SAGE Publications. Coulson, A. J. (1994). Human Life, Human Organizations and Education. 1994, 2. doi:10.14507/epaa.v2n9.1994 Cribb, A., & Ball, S. (2005). Towards an Ethical Audit of the Privatisation of Education. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53(2), 115-128. DeVault, M. J. (1999). Liberating Method: Feminism and Social Research. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Gross, E. (1986). Philosophy, Subjectivity and the Body: Kristeva and Irigaray. In C. Pateman & E. Gross (Eds.), Feminist Challenges: Social and Political Theory (pp. 125-143). Boston: Northeastern University Press. Gunter, H.M. & Fitzgerald, T. (2015) Educational administration and neoliberalism: historical and contemporary perspectives, Journal of Educational Administration and History, 47(2), 101-104. DOI: 10.1080/00220620.2015.1002388 Hayden, M., & Thompson, J. (2008). International schools: Growth and influence: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Hollway, W., & Jefferson, T. (2000). Doing Qualitative Research Differently: Free Association, Narrative and the Interview Method: SAGE Publications. Linacre, J. M. (1989). Many-facet Rasch measurement. Chicago: MESA Press. Marginson, S. (1999). Introduction by Guest Editor: Education and the Trend to Markets. Australian Journal of Education, 43(3), 229-240. doi:10.1177/000494419904300302 Molenaar, IW & Sijtsma (2000). User’s Manual MSP5 for Windows. IECe ProGAMMA, Groningen, The Netherlands. Rasch, G. (1960). Probabilistic models for some intelligence and achievement tests. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for Educational Research (Expanded edition, 1980. Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Smyth, J., Dow, A., Hattam, R., Reid, A., & Shacklock, G. (2000). Teachers' Work in a Globalizing Economy: Falmer Press. Sprague, J. (2016). Feminist Methodologies for Critical Researchers: Bridging Differences (Gender Lens Series . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition. Stitzlein, S. M. (2013). Education for citizenship in for-profit charter schools? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 45(2), 251-276. doi:10.1080/00220272.2012.713996 Vander Ark, T. (2012). Private Capital, For-Profit Enterprises and Public Education. In J. B. Stanfield (Ed.), The Profit Motive in Education: Continuing the Revolution (pp. 191-203). London: The Institute of Economic Affairs. Waterson, M. (2015). Working Papers Series International and Global Issues for Research.
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