03 SES 03 A, Role of Curriculum Policy Steering Documents
Attempts to raise educational standards and to improve opportunities for all children to learn have accelerated and proliferated, over the last 20 years in many countries so also in Sweden. International test results, for example PISA, make the politicians and policymakers look for changes in education in order to meet challenges in their educational system. Evaluations and inspections of schools have unintended and undesirable consequences for teaching practice. This has generated an unrelenting flood of change, initiatives and reforms which need to be implemented in the schools. A lot of attention has been given to evaluating to what degree policies are actually realized in practice; i.e implemented. Less attention has been paid to understanding how schools and teachers actually deal with these multiple, and sometimes contradictory, policy demands in the process of interpreting the texts (Ball, Maguire, Braun, 2011). Teacher agency is an important aspect to consider when talking about teacher’s professional work. Expectations on teacher’s work have changed over time and resulted in increased demands, such as for example to manage self-control by interpreting steering documents for schools and making necessary changes in the pedagogical work to meet new requirements. The question is to what extent such an exercise can be used by teachers to draw from their pedagogical knowledge and experiences in an interpretation of the texts, or if it just becomes a question of following prescribed rules for pedagogical work. Teacher agency helps focusing on how teachers handle this acting space as professional educational actors when they are supposed to perform in line with the centrally and democratically decided aims for school.
The study examines how conversations in teacher teams are conducted when teachers discuss their teaching practice based on reading a specific policy steering document. The steering document is about how to support pupils based on their specific needs to make it possible for everyone to reach the learning goals in the curriculum. The task for the teachers was to read the steering document in advance and to interpret the content collaboratively through the conversation. The purpose for the researchers was to listen to what the teachers themselves thought of as important aspects in this conversation and how they acted through the dialogue. This study also addressed the tension which appears when exploring the transformation of national policy text into practice. What happens when teachers interpret and develop an understanding of what the policy text means in relation to their own experience and knowledge? A study of agency benefits from tracing what actors actually respond to and why and how they deal with it.
The aim of this text is therefore to explore the transformation of policy text into teachers’ practice as plans and routines, as expressed in teachers’ organized conversations. Apple (2011) identifies a lack of connection between the realities of schools and classrooms in educational critical studies, calling for a more thorough connection to the everyday life of educators and pupils. This text´s intention is to focus on this act of balance and puts this tension in the middle of the analysis. The data was collected in two steps. Firstly, teachers were interviewed individually on their knowledge of different policy texts and how they get information about them. Secondly, teachers discuss a Swedish policy text, Allmänna råd (General Advice by the Swedish National Agency for Education) in focus-group conversations. The purpose of the conversations was to gain information. The study takes its theoretical point of departure in Teacher agency based on an ecological perspective (Priestley, Biesta & Robinson, 2015). People's actions are seen as reflexive and creative abilities, which are influenced by conditions and prerequisites in the situations where the dealings take place. Agency is characterized primarily by intentionality. This means that the acting is governed by a particular purpose and that there is capacity to formulate possible action options in this direction. But agency is also influenced by contextual factors such as culture as well as social and material structures. In order to fully understand agency, the interaction between individual capacity and contextual factors must therefore be taken into account.
The study's results show that language is a powerful asset in this work, which appears in the form of various ways of acting through language. The conversation is being guided by the guidelines in the document, but the teacher team is also questioning the content and constructing new knowledge using their own practical knowledge. The teachers' reflexive abilities are used to consider different acting options. Different forms of agency (improving, constructive and practice agency) are visualized linked to those different language acts. By identifying and describing different forms of agency in conversations, and what is underpinning it, the study contributes to visualizing how teachers act responsibly in situations where different expectations are supposed to be met. This can contribute to an input in the discussion about teacher professionalism.
Apple, M. W. (2011) Democratic Education in Neoliberal and Neoconservative Times. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 21(1), 21-31. Ball, S.J, Maguire, M, Braun, A. (2011), How schools do policy, Policy enactments in secondary schools, England; Routledge. Coburn, S. E. (2001). Collective Sensemaking about Reading: How Teachers Mediate Reading Policy in Their Professional Communities. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis; Vol. 23, No. 2 pp 145-170. Cohen, D., & Ball, D. L. (1990). Relation Between Policy and Practice: A Commentary. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis; 12, 331-338. Priestley, M., Biesta, G., Robinson, S. (2015). Teacher Agency an Ecological Approach. London: Bloomsbury.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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