19 SES 06 A, Neoliberalism, Leadership and School Actors
In many countries, teacher turnover continues to be a problem, particularly among novices in high poverty schools (Allen, Burgess, & Mayo, 2012; Ingersoll, 2003; OECD, 2012; Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, & Carver-Thomas, 2016). Additionally, dissatisfaction with organizational working conditions and school leadership are variables that are frequently cited as predictors of turnover (Burke et al., 2013; Grissom, 2011; Ingersoll, 2003; OECD, 2012). Furthermore, the policy context that significantly influences the work of educators has recently become more and more governed through standardization, testing accountability, and evaluation (Ball, 2016). This policy context is particularly important in that it has been found to shape the work of principals (Ball & Olmedo, 2013) and teachers (Ball, 2003). This ethnographic study seeks to explore the ways that principal and teacher subjectivities are transformed through policy. Additionally, the researcher seeks to uncover how that subjectivity relates to job satisfaction and turnover.
Researchers seeking to understand the reasons for teacher turnover repeatedly discuss the importance of leadership and working conditions in teacher’s job satisfaction, feelings of efficacy, and career decisions (Grissom, 2011; Ingersoll, 2003). Additionally, some studies have pointed out that disadvantaged schools tend to be more top-heavy and bureaucratic (Grissom, 2011). One reason for the expansion of management within disadvantaged schools is the present neoliberal reform policy agenda. Accountability for student performance on standardized exams has defined the neoliberal policy regime and changed the work of educators (Ball, 2016). For example, principals and teachers represent “a subject which is the end of government and as the mechanism through which its aims are met” (Niesche, 2011, p. 36). While previous studies have linked educator subjectivity to policy (Ball, 2003), there has been little research that links these subjectivities to teacher job satisfaction and turnover.
- How does the neoliberal policy regime influence the subjectivity of teachers and leaders and their relationship in schools serving marginalized youth?
According to Foucault (1977), disciplinary power is a mechanism of subtle control that aims to “obtain an efficient machine” (p. 164) through the power of constant surveillance. Foucault contends that the agenda of the state is rationalized by “’the common good’” (Foucault, 1991, p. 94) which “refers to a state of affairs where all the subjects without exception obey the laws,” (p. 94). Governmentality refers to “a form of surveillance and control as attentive as that of the head of a family over his household and his goods” (p. 94). Therefore, the very practices of teacher observations and evaluations serve as “a mechanism that coerces by means of observation” (Foucault, 1977, p. 171).
Foucault describes the tension that can result from working under disciplinary power and governmentality in his theorization of the subject and power (1982). The tension teachers and principals experience presents the possibility for resistance or acceptance of the status quo, the latter metastasizes disciplinary power through the subject. That is, principals are governed by policies and policed through discipline. Therefore, they are likely to exert their own power in order to implement the policies they are governed by, thereby governing the work of teachers. By analyzing the relationship between teachers and leaders, we can “bring to light power relations, locate their position, and find out their point of application and the methods used (Foucault, 1982, p. 780)”. This particular study also draws on the ethnological theories of Bourdieu (1990), Geertz (1973), and Ortner (2006) which emphasize the intersection of the culture and individuality of subjects. This acknowledgement of individualism adds to the theories of Foucault which may simplify subjects as automatons with no individual agency.
A critical ethnographic approach is proposed for this study. This will allow for the researcher to “address concerns about power and control” (Creswell, 2013, p. 94) in the work of teachers and leaders. The field site, or setting for this study will be a public school located in a high-poverty school district in the United States serving predominantly students of color. The main participant in this study will be the principal of the school described in the field site. Since this study also seeks to understand teacher’s perceptions of leadership and their career decisions, teachers will serve as a secondary source of data. Data Collection In order to capture the daily work of principals under a system of governance, participant observation will be the main mode of data collection. Field notes will document these interactions in real time, but will be privately revised and elaborated on immediately following the period of observation at the field site. These field notes will be transcribed and uploaded to Atlas.ti software before being coded. Additionally, the analysis of school documents related to the work of the principal will be analyzed. Finally, open-ended interviews with principals and teachers will provide an understanding of how they perceive and go about their work. It will be important to capture participant rationales for certain actions in these interviews. The interviews serve to reveal “the juxtaposition of actual behavior and ideal behavior” which “provides excellent means for describing and analyzing a cultural system, because it helps point out the satisfactions, the strains, and the paradoxes between real and ideal behavior” (Wolcott, 1970, p. 120). Furthermore, this inquiry may uncover the various forms of power that govern the work of principals. All interviews will be audio recorded and transcribed. Data Analysis The first cycle of coding will follow an initial coding method, (Saldaña, 2016) which includes a series of emic or open codes that arise from within participant responses (Creswell, 2013). This step is designed to allow the individuality and agency (Bordieu, 1990; Geertz, 1973; Ortner, 2006) of the participants to come through. The second round of coding will include pattern, focused, and theme coding which will combine similarly coded data from the first cycle and emphasize the most frequent or significant initial codes from the first cycle (Saldaña, 2016). For the final coding cycle, etic codes will be created from Foucault’s theories of disciplinary power, governmentality, and subjectivity.
The ethnography allows for nuances in how principals interpret and practice policy to come through. For example, the result will produce a thick description of the “minutiae of everyday life” (Ortner, 2006, p. 21) in order to “bring to light power relations, locate their position, and find out their point of application” (Foucault, 1982, p. 780) within the larger cultural field (Bourdieu, 1990) of education. Based on the prior literature on teacher turnover and educator subjectivity, the expected findings will be that principals may find ways to soften the pressures from policy, which result in more favorable working conditions for teachers, but they may also give in to the pressure as well. These findings are significant to scholars, practitioners, and policymakers. The ethnographic approach allows for a more in-depth analysis of how policy transforms subjects within schools over time. Further, the connection between policy subjectivity and teacher’s job satisfaction and turnover brings a unique dimension to the study of turnover. The results can be used to inform practitioners of the ways teachers may feel about policy and the way that policy transforms teachers and leaders. Additionally, the findings may inform practitioners of instances in which they may effectively negotiate policy discourses in order to produce better working conditions. Finally, the results will produce a more robust understanding of the problem of teacher turnover as it relates to the neoliberal policies which govern the work of teachers in many nations throughout the world.
Allen, R., Burgess, S. M., & Mayo, J. (2012). The teacher labour market, teacher turnover and disadvantaged schools: new evidence for England. CMPO, Bristol Institute of Public Affairs, University of Bristol. Ball, S. J. (2003). The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), 215–228. Ball, S. J. (2016). Neoliberal education? Confronting the slouching beast. Policy Futures in Education, 14(8), 1046–1059. Ball, S. J., & Olmedo, A. (2013). Care of the self, resistance and subjectivity under neoliberal governmentalities. Critical Studies in Education, 54(1), 85–96. Bourdieu, P. (1990). The Logic of Practice. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. Burke, P. F., Schuck, S., Aubusson, P., Buchanan, J., Louviere, J. J., & Prescott, A. (2013). Why do early career teachers choose to remain in the profession? The use of best–worst scaling to quantify key factors. International Journal of Educational Research, 62, 259-268. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage Books. Foucault, M. (1982). The subject and power. Critical inquiry, 8(4), 777-795. Foucault, M. (1991). Governmentality. In G. Burchell, C. Gordon, & P. Miller (Eds.), The Foucault effect: Studies in governmentality. University of Chicago Press. Geertz, C. (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures. NY: Basic Books. Grissom, J. A. (2011). Can good principals keep teachers in disadvantaged schools? Linking principal effectiveness to teacher satisfaction and turnover in hard-to-staff environments. Teachers College Record, 113(11), 2552-2585. Ingersoll, R. M. (2003). Is there really a teacher shortage? CPRE Research Report # R-03-4. Philadelphia: Consortium for Policy Research in Education, University of Pennsylvania. Niesche, R. (2011). Foucault and educational leadership: Disciplining the principal (1st;1; ed.). Florence: Taylor and Francis. doi:10.4324/9780203818978 OECD. (2012). Teaching in focus: What can be done to support new teachers? Retrieved from:https://www.oecd.org/edu/school/What%20Can%20Be%20Done%20to%20Support%20New%20Teachers.pdf Ortner, S. B. (2006). Anthropology and Social Theory: Culture, Power, and the Acting Subject. Durham: Duke University Press. Saldaña, J. (2016). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., & Carver-Thomas, D. (2016). A coming crisis in teaching? Teacher supply, demand, and shortages in the U.S.. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute. Wolcott, H. (1970). An ethnographic approach to the study of school administrators. Human Organization, 29(2), 115-122.
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