23 SES 03 D, Education Policy Actors
The conference theme urges us to grapple with the notion of ‘Education in an Era of Risk’. In a tertiary education context, this paper focuses broadly on the inherently risky business of ‘policy work’. Regardless of geographical location, policy making and enactment are risky and complex processes whereby the end result/s are always unpredictable. The findings upon which this paper focuses are drawn from a broader study which explored the policy work of four teacher educator’s seeking to enact the five interrelated propositions which underpin the new Australian Curriculum in Health and Physical Education (ACHPE). This paper identifies and discusses the role of policy actors and the significance of policy evidence or ‘artefacts’ (e.g. objects, texts, activities, practices, events, products) produced while interpreting and enacting curriculum and more specifically the ACHPE.
We provide three kinds of insights around the role and performative potential of artefacts in documenting, producing and enabling policy enactments. Firstly, we provide an account (documenting) of our own policy interpretation and enactment by positioning ourselves as policy actors playing a key role in shaping policy directions and practices. Secondly, we share a significant artefact that materialised as a result of our roles as policy actors (producing), namely the Five Propositions cards (Lambert, O’Connor, Penney & Alfrey, 2017). In considering these insights we argue that teacher educators have the potential to influence teachers’ thinking about, and engagement with, the five propositions of the ACHPE. Consequentially, we then share some modest evidence of impact of our policy artefacts on teachers, pre-service teachers, organisations and peers (enabling). Thus, as opposed to omitting the artefactual from policy enactment, we embrace it, arguing that artefacts have performative policy potential and play a key role in supporting curriculum policy enactment.
This paper is significant because while we know ‘policies are not possible without artefacts’ (Maguire et al., 2011: 608), and the calls from teachers for support and guidance around enacting the ACHPE have been loud, little research has focused upon the role of artefacts in policy and, in particular, curriculum enactment. Moreover, this paper picks up Penney’s (2013: 196) ‘unfinished commentary’ about the capacity of policy actors and artefacts to inform the enactment of curriculum. By carefully considering the contextual conditions of possibility for curriculum enactment, this paper exemplifies what might be produced at the intersection between policy, innovation and transformation. It also highlights that the risk and uncertainty associated with policy work should not be ignored or tackled, but acknowledged, embraced, and explored.
This research is an instrumental case study design as it ‘studies a phenomenon (the ‘case’) in its real world context’ and by doing so has ‘potential applicability to other like-situations’ (Yin, 2011, p. 17). Importantly, the case study design is empirical in nature, makes an account of the uncertain boundaries between phenomenon, subject and context, encourages the use of multiple research methods and collection of different types of data and is informed throughout by theory (Yin, 2014 ). This case study follows four HPE policy actors from an Australian university along a curriculum policy interpretation and enactment journey. The research occurred over a 12-week semester in 2016 and was conducted as part of a wider university funded project that sought to support innovation in teaching and learning in the context of progressive implementation of a new Bachelor of Education (Health and Physical Education) degree. The multiple layers of political influence which feature as part of this ‘case’ have been referred to as a ‘policy storm’ (Lambert & O’Connor, 2018). The project had two phases: Phase 1: The first phase focused on ‘shared discovery’ of the meanings that we were giving the five propositions of the ACHPE, and why. At the start of the research we each responded to a set of questions around our individual interpretations of each of the five propositions, and their roles and functions in our work. We shared these responses anonymously and then using ‘tracked changes’ undertook a structured process of shared discovery. Following Freire (1970), we conceptualise 'tracked changes’ as research/dialogue, a form of dialogic research or dialogue as research (MacInnis & Portelli, 2002) and as an ethical meaning making and data collecting mode of communication with transformative potential. Phase 2: In the second phase we turned attention to our experiences of applying the propositions in specific units that we each had responsibility for planning and teaching. Phase 2 research methods included: reflective journals; focus group meetings; personal position paper; interviews; document collection (e.g. unit guides, class content and activities, resources, email discussions, student work samples); peer feedback. This paper reports upon aspects of both phases. Phase 1: data was analysed sequentially, focusing on the responses to the three questions across the four participants. Phase 2: data was analysed with the policy actor framework of Ball et al. (2011a) in mind.
Findings In our presentation we will share material examples of our three insights. Firstly, the ‘tracked changes’ research methodology; secondly, a key policy artefact we created as a result of the research, namely Five Propositions cards (Lambert, O’Connor, Penney, & Alfrey, 2017); and, finally a number of teacher responses to the cards. In this way we provide guidance regarding methodological matters as well as offer specific tangible examples of policy actor and artefact impact. Conclusions The research reported in this paper was undertaken amidst recognition of the ‘presence but silence’ around a feature of the ACHPE that in our view, offered significant potential for innovation in HPE curriculum, pedagogy and assessment amidst teachers’ enactment of new curriculum specifications. It shares three insights. Firstly it has shed some light on the ways in which education policy actors are able to explore, interpret, and take on policy enactment work in innovative ways whilst also navigating the complex contextual terrain of curriculum policy reform. Secondly, we highlight the importance of artefacts to signify, document and record our policy work. Moreover, the findings suggest that such artefacts might also inform, influence or support the work of other policy actors in other contexts. Finally, the project has illustrated a collaborative, generative process that could be applied by other teacher educators internationally who face the challenges and possibilities of working amidst major curriculum reform. More personally, the project has heightened our awareness of the future responsibilities and possibilities associated with engaging with curriculum policy, the importance of dialoguing and documenting our work, and the value of commiting to a process that was designed to expose and extend our curriculum understandings amidst the inherent uncertainties of policy and reform.
Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2018b). Australian curriculum health and physical education: Key ideas. Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/health-and-physical-education/key-ideas/ Ball, S. J., Maguire, M., Braun, A., & Hoskins, K. (2011a). Policy actors: Doing policy work in schools. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32(4), 625–639. doi:10.1080/01596306.2011.601565 Ball, S.J., Maguire, M., Braun, A., & Hoskins, K. (2011b). Policy subjects and policy actors in schools: Some necessary but insufficient analyses, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32(4), 611-624. DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2011.601564 Foucault, M. (1978). The will to knowledge: The history of sexuality volume one (R. Hurley, Trans.). United Kingdom: Penguin Books Ltd. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury Lambert, K., O’Connor, J., Alfrey, L., & Penney, D. (2017). Health and physical education: The five propositions. Melbourne: Monash University. Lambert, K., & O’Connor, J. (2018). Breaking and making curriculum from inside ‘policy storms’ in an Australian pre-service teacher education course. The Curriculum Journal, 29:2, 159-180, DOI: 10.1080/09585176.2018.1447302 Maguire, M., Hoskins, K., Ball, S. J., & Braun, A. (2011). Policy discourses in school texts. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32(4), 597–609. doi:10.1080/01596306.2011.601556 MacInnis, C., & Portelli, J.P. (2002). Dialogue as research. Journal of Thought, 37(2), 33-44. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/42590273 Penney, D. (2013). From policy to pedagogy: prudence and precariousness; actors and artefacts. Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education, 4(2), 189-197. DOI: 10.1080/18377122.2013.808154 Penney, D. (2018). Health and physical education: Transformative potential, propositions and pragmatics. In A. Reid & D. Price (Eds.), The Australian Curriculum: Promises, problems and possibilities (pp. 103-114). Deakin West, ACT, Australia: ACSA. Yin, R. K. (2011). Qualitative research from start to finish. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
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