01 SES 07 C, The Value of Knowledge in Learning Organisations
In 2010 a new concept was introduced in the Swedish School Act (SFS 2010:800, July 2, 2010), which meant significantly increased academic demands on teachers in Swedish schools. The formulation was authoritative and claimed that all education in Sweden should "rest on scientific grounds and proven experience" (5§).
The new requirements have caused increased policy activities at state level, and extended cooperation between the municipality and higher education and between teachers and researchers’ on meso and micro level. For example, the Swedish government has both implemented a career reform for teachers in preschool, primary, secondary and upper secondary school (Ministry of Education, 2013), and initiated postgraduate schools for teachers (Education Committee, 2016/17: REF4). Recently, four universities have been assigned by the Government to initiate, test and develop models for school research (Dir 2017: 27) together with municipalities and schools.
Our study deals with how teachers perceive and value academic knowledge and the policy ideas concerning a school on a scientific ground in the development of the teaching profession's practice. The study is delimited into an actor's perspective, where the pressure from government and the on-going policy of development on the municipality level is assumed to be the hardest, namely experienced pre-school teachers, primary and secondary school teachers without advanced education.
The specific aim of our study is to identify and analyse dilemmas that emerge in the meeting between teachers, higher education and the local municipality regarding the integration of scientific approaches in school (academisation) and teachers' practice. Our three research questions are:
- What dilemmas emerge in teacher´s narratives about their engagement in academic studies and the demands for research based education?
- What ideas, strategies or discourses about professional identity do teachers use to handle these dilemmas in practice?
- How do teachers look upon the relationship between research based knowledge and their contextualised and experience based knowledge?
Our study is situated within the field of policy studies and reform of national education (Ball & Junemann 2012; Lundahl 2005). Within this tradition, we intend to contribute to a specific part of critical policy research; “the governance turn” (Ball 2009). Studies within this field show that the introduction of new ways of governing the school, the New Public Management (NPM), has resulted in increased supervision, control and that measurable and general evidence-based knowledge is given great value in policy (Hudson 2007; Bergh 2015).
We are studying actors' dilemmas in activities when the policy is implemented in practice. The theoretical framework is underpinned by the theoretical concepts academic drift, activity theory and governmentality with reference to ”the knowledge problem”. The study takes a special interest in the divide between research based knowledge and teachers contextualised and experience based knowledge (Cain 2015). Kyvik (2009) identifies academisation as a common and global trend to transform vocational education programmes at post-compulsory level, which he calls academic drift. This occurs, he believes, at different levels of an activity. The activity theory is based on the activity as the smallest entity to study conceivable changes in practice. The outcome of an activity is linked to the theory of "expansive learning" in relation to the contradictions that emerge in the various elements of the activity system and between different cooperating activity systems, such as municipalities and universities (Engeström & Sannino 2011). Governmentality, introduced by Foucault, is used in order to visualize how people control and adapt themselves in order to be suitable and desirable subjects. Individuals play an important role in neoliberal governance ideals as co-workers in the control of themselves and others (Foucault, 1991).
We have conducted our study in a Swedish municipality in which a local strategy was adopted with the objectives to meet the scientific requirements for teaching at school, i.e. that it should be based on scientific grounds and proven experience. As part of this work, the municipality, together with a university, has designed a post graduated programme corresponding to a one-year master level within the Bologna agreement, divided into four years part-time studies, with a focus on practical research and school development. The first programme started in 2016 directed to 43 participating teachers from different schools in the municipality, including preschool teachers, leisure teachers, primary, secondary and upper secondary teachers in various subjects, and special educators. The purpose of the master program is to enable the teachers after completion of it to implement studies and practical analyses of practical work, start their own postgraduate studies aiming at a doctoral degree, participate in joint research projects and/or serve as support for the principal and colleagues in the work on integrating research and development at school. Our presentation is based on interviews with 15 master students who started their studies in the autumn of 2016. The methodological approach is derived from combining the theory of activity (Engeström & Sannino 2011), narrative (Mishler 2004) and what Harding (1991) calls strong reflexivity. Data has been analysed through a so-called content condensation, divided into two phases or steps (Alvesson & Sköldberg, 2008). After a preliminary analysis (phase I), we presented our preliminary results to the entire group of participating teachers, and after that also to their respective principals. After each presentation, the teachers and the principals were placed in groups of 4-5 people, and asked to discuss the presented results and write their commentaries on the preliminary result. By using their reflections and comments we could enrich and deepen the analysis in phase II (Kilpatrick, Gallagher, & Carlisle, 2010).
Our preliminary results show when it comes to the first research question, i.e. (1) what dilemmas teachers face we find that participating teachers who start a demanding further higher education is not only encountered by cheer and encouraging backdrops, but also of distrust and tension among their colleagues. Also, they express a feeling of being isolated “cogs” in an organization, and lack of supporting structures. About one third of the teachers acknowledge specifically lack of school leaders support. When it comes to the second research question, i.e. (2) what ideas and strategies the participating teachers use to handle dilemmas, some feel great self-confidence and are not affected by comments coloured by dissatisfaction, suspicion or envy; others try to get rid of an upcoming conflict situation by not clearly posing a question. Also, some feel guilty. For some, it is a step in a more individual project that primarily contributes to their professional development, for others something with which one can “lift” the school and the colleagues. Some emphasize a sharp boundary between their teaching profession as teachers and academic master studies; others see academic studies as a means to develop the teaching profession. Some have dropped out from the programme. Concerning the third research question (3), i.e. how do they look upon the relationship between research based knowledge and teachers contextualised and experience based knowledge, we find that science for some teachers is perceived as the strong or "steady basis"; often about finding the right methods and theories for their teaching. Science is also important in terms of, for example, opposing "fashion", but also as a support to resist critical parents, principals or politicians and verifying that you are doing the right thing.
Alvesson, M. & Sköldberg, K. (2008). Tolkning och reflektion. Vetenskapsfilosofi och kvalitativ metod. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Ball, S. J., & Junemann, C. (2012). Networks, New governance and Education. Chicago: The Policy Press. Ball, S. J. (2009). Editorial. The governace turn! Journal of Education Policy 24 (5):537-8. Bergh, A. (2015). Local quality work in an age of accountability - between autonomy and control. Journal of Eduaction Policy, 30(4), 590-607. Cain, T. (2015). Teachers' Engagement with Published Research: Addressing the Knowledge Problem. Curriculum Journal 26 (3):488-509. Dir (Terms of reference) 2017:27. Kommittédirektiv. Ökad samverkan kring praktiknära forskning för stärkt vetenskaplig grund i skolväsendet. Stockholm: Utbildningsdepartementet. http://www.regeringen.se/rattsdokument/kommittedirektiv/2017/03/dir.-201727/(Hämtad 2017-03-24). Engeström, Y., & A. Sannino. (2011). Discursive manifestations of contradictions in organizational change efforts. A metodological framework. Journal of Organizational Change Management 24 (3):368-87. Foucault, M. (1991). Governmentality. In G. Burchell, C. Gordon, & P. Miller (Eds.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality: With two Lectures by and an Interview with Michel Foucault (pp. 87-104). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Harding, S. (1991) Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Women's Lives. Buckingham: Open University Press. Hudson, C. (2007). Governing the Governance of Education. European Educational Research Journal 6 (3). Kilpatrick, R., Gallagher, T., & Carlisle, K. (2010). Agency vs constraint: the role of external agencies in interprofessional engagement. In H. Daniels, A. Edwards, Y. Engeström, T. Gallagher, & S. Ludvigsen (Eds.), Activity Theory in Practice. Promoting learning across boundaries and agencies (pp. 160-183). London och New York: Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group. Kyvik, S. (2009). The Dynamics of Change in Higher Education: Expansion and Contraction in an Organisational Field. Dordrecht Netherlands: Springer. Lundahl, L. (2005). A Matter of Self-Governance and Control. The reconstruction of Swedish Educational Policy. European Education 37 (1):10-25. Mishler, E., G. (2004). Historians of the Self: Restorying Lives, Revising Identities. Research in Human development 1 (1-2):101-21. SFS. (2010:800). Skollagen (Swedish School Act). Stockholm: Nordstedts. Utbildningsdepartementet (Ministry of Education). (2013). Förordning (2013:70) om statsbidrag till skolhuvudmän som inrättar karriärsteg för lärare. Stockholm. Utbildningsutskottet (Education Committé). (2016/17:REF4). Forskarskolor för lärare och förskollärare - en uppföljning av fyra statliga satsningar. Stockholm: Sveriges Riksdag.
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