23 SES 08 C, Testing, Leadership and Inspection
This paper reports on a larger study, which explores the micro policy making of national testing policies in Norwegian lower secondary schools. The larger study, coined the MPM project (Micro Policy Making in Schools), emphasizes the relatively new national policy demand to make use of national test results in Norwegian schools. The concept of “making use of” national test results is explained as school professionals’ construction of discourses regarding the central government’s demands for national testing policies; how they deal with the intentions of such policies, and how power and talk play into these policies. The MPM project is particularly concerned with how new modes of accountability influenced by new public management have entered the educational context of Norway, which has long been dominated by social democratic values.
In the MPM project, the concept of data use and school professionals’ enactment of testing policies is defined as what Coburn and Turner (2011) define as individuals’ interaction with test scores, grades, and other assessment tools to meet central policy demands. In the project, data use and micro policy making incorporate interactions between school principals, senior leaders, and teachers and how those individuals deal with, negotiate, talk about, and make sense of national student test results.
According to Prøitz, Mausethagen and Skedsmo, (2017), both national and international educational contexts seem to heavily involve data use. The MPM project aligns with the notion that “everything is becoming data”, but it goes beyond earlier findings by applying the following perspectives: the value and power of time and the use of time in schools to develop student learning. This paper addresses the following questions: (1)What can be recognized as contexts of micro policy making in schools in the MPM-project? (2) How are contexts of values and power at play in the MPM-project? (3) How can mixed methods research contribute to the studying of micro policy making in schools?
The Norwegian National Testing Context
National tests were introduced in Norway for the first time in 2004. Due to compelling criticism from researchers and public opinion to reduce the developing amount of league tables based on the results, the tests were reintroduced in Norway in 2007 after one year’s break in 2006 (Roe, Lie et al. 2005; Mausethagen, 2013). The relaunching of the tests took place with much less criticism, even though the public league table practice was continued. The relaunching included adjustments which were made in order to meet the intention that the test results could serve as tools for formative assessment, and not only represent summative assessment.
The MPM-project takes a conceptual starting point in the notion of a continuous micro policy making cycle intended to recontextualize the contexts within which policy work occurs in schools (see Bowe, Ball with Gold’s (1992, p. 20). The first context, the context of micro policy actors, is where policy enactment, including meaning making and construction of responses to policy, occurs and actors as narrators, entrepreneurs, and critics play a role. The second context, the context of policy talk and discursive roles is where policy actors in various settings and situations participate and where perspectives of leadership and power give rise to a particular form of “political talk”: the ways in which policies are worded and spoken about (Ball, 2012). The third context, the context of crafting coherence, is where actors, talk, and roles contribute to work with consistent underlying values, such as work to remove and/or identify tension, and ensure fit with the school’s culture, political interests, and ongoing practices (Honig & Hatch, 2004).
In the MPM-project an exploratory case study methodology (Yin, 1994) with a mixed methods approach (Greene, 2007) was used to produce and analyze sets of interview data, on-site observation data, informant-conducted video data, and survey data, all of which enabled the researcher to closely investigate micro policy making in lower secondary schools. The approach is an exploratory sequential, multiphase design (Creswell, 2013; Creswell & Clark, 2011). The rich data enabled observation of the language of policy, how policy rhetoric and discourses occur, and how power and negotiation (bargaining and talk) play a key role in policy. Additionally, the data enabled analysis of teachers' attitudes and experiences regarding national testing policies as well as school principals' role in facilitating micro policy making concerning national testing policies. Three sub-studies were conducted and they employ different data sources and approaches, but all intend to answer the main research question of how and why school professionals in a Norwegian social democratic context make use of national test results. In the MPM project, multiple ways to seek knowledge about the research questions and overall purpose of education have been used to engage with and embrace different types of information about how and why school principals, senior leaders, and teachers work with national test results. Multiple lenses have allowed for focus on research and theories that situate national policy intentions and schools' micro policy making as well as enabled analysis of power structures in order to address issues related to the core purpose of school. Greene's (2007) dialectic stance and her understanding that this stance is a sociopolitical argument as much as it is a methodological issue have been vital. The dialectic stance allowed the project to be designed in phases, with each phase influencing the next and the interrelation between school principals, senior leaders, and teachers identified within and across the schools in the municipality.
Findings in the MPM-project illuminated that the value (and power) of micro policy time was brought to the forefront when the questions of how and why the schools worked with national test results were asked. The video recordings illuminated that the teachers served as defenders of time. The different discursive roles in the schools-the principals' roles as narrators and enthusiasts and teachers' role as defenders of time to do what they defined as "more important things" than work with national test results-were prominent and representative of the values at play with the actors. This discursive talk can be interpreted in the context of "micro power talk" or "micro policy talk," and the perspective of time can be understood in the context of "micro policy time". The analysis of the results reported in the quantitative part of the study can be easily considered a celebration of principals' sustained hard work, because a strong correlation between principals' facilitation and teachers' attitudes and practices was found. There is however, no doubt that the school principal's success depends to a large degree on his or her relationship, the talk and the time with teachers as well as parents and superintendents (cf. Møller, 2017). A summary of the analysis can be shown as a conceptual model of the contexts of micro policy making in schools as shown in Figure 1: Figure 1. Contexts of micro policy making in schools in the MPM project The MPM-project shows how the contexts of micro policy making within a continuous cycle of how micro policy actors, micro policy talk, micro policy roles, micro policy time, and micro policy values interact in a process. Figure 1 hence represents the components of micro policy making in schools, in distinct opposition to micro policy taking of central, external policy demands.
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