ERG SES G 06, Policies and Education
Over a period of thirty years, education systems globally have implemented neoliberal ideological reforms of decentralisation, deregulation and privatisation (Robertson, 2007). In what has been described, albeit simplistically, as a shift from government to governance (Jessop, 2000), teacher professionalism has become an important political strategy with which to steer teachers’ work and education more generally (Klette, 2002). Thus, while neoliberalism calls for ‘more market, less state’ (Jessop, 2016), teachers in many countries have experienced increased state-level intervention, regulation and scrutiny through professional competency frameworks, standardised curricula and assessments, and systems of performance management and quality assurance. Situated within a wider Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) (Sahlberg, 2016), these policy reforms have contributed significantly to the intensification and extensification of teachers’ work (Stevenson, 2017). In this context of low autonomy and high accountability, scholarly research suggests that a discourse of managerial professionalism has emerged dominant (Kennedy, Barlow and MacGregor, 2012; Sachs, 2003).
While the above analysis is significant for highlighting the dual impact of marketisation and managerialism on teachers’ work, there is the risk that policy discourses of teacher professionalism are interpreted only as a strategy of state governance. In fact, modes of governance are multiple, multi-scalar and culturally varied, and need to be understood in the context of the ecological dominance of the economy in its globalising form (Jessop, 2000). Equally, within these new governing regimes, education policy actors represent a wide range of public and private, state and non-state interests who vary in their ‘authority to speak’ and thus their capacity to shape policy textually and discursively (Bourke, Ryan and Lidstone, 2013). To address some of the inherent complexities of policies and politics of governance and explore how and why certain discourses are mobilised, this paper compares the dominant discourses of teacher professionalism and their modes of development in two distinct European contexts: England and Sweden. The main research questions are:
1. What are the dominant policy discourses of teacher professionalism in England and Sweden?
2. Who are the key policy actors involved in the construction of these discourses?
3. How do the dominant discourses of teacher professionalism relate to shifts in governance at the level of the national state?
Situated within a critical theoretical paradigm, this study adopts Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as a methodological approach. With a critical realist ontology, CDA attempts to explore the reciprocity of influence between discourse and the social world; namely, the dialectic between policy discourses of teacher professionalism and the cultural, political and economic contexts of their production. Requiring an interdisciplinary approach to analysis, this research draws on Evetts’ (2013) sociological concept of organisational professionalism, an ideal-type incorporating normative values and ideologies of professionalism and used by employers to gain worker consent to occupational change and control. Additionally, the analysis is framed by Jessop’s (2016) strategic-relational approach to governance. Jessop (2016) defines governance as ‘mechanisms and strategies of coordination in the face of complex reciprocal interdependence among operationally autonomous actors, organizations, and functional systems’ (p.166) but he distinguishes between four key modes: exchange (the market), command (the state), dialogue (the network) and solidarity (trust). In his view, network governance is the most likely mode for trade union influence. However, all modes of governance are liable to fail which leads to government attempts at ‘meta-governance’ or the governance of governance. Following Jessop (2016), this paper considers how policymakers in England and Sweden might employ teacher professionalism strategically as an instrument of meta-governance to address perceived imbalances between the market, state and network within their respective education systems (Jessop, 2016).
In this comparative case study, England and Sweden were the macro-level units of analysis. In the 1970s and 1980s, these nations experienced an ideological shift from social liberalism to neoliberalism which led to the creation of quasi-markets in public education (Wiborg, 2010). During the period of policy production under investigation, both were led by centre-right coalition governments. Still, despite these similarities between policies and politics, sociological research has highlighted the discrete modes of production of professionalism in Anglo-American and Continental European societies (Burrage, Jarausch and Siegrist, 1990). It was therefore significant to understand teacher professionalism as a strategy of governance in light of these historical traditions. The principle research methods were document analysis and elite interviews. However, cultural distinctions in policymaking meant that i) the documents encompassed various genres of text and ii) interviewees represented diverse social groups. In England, the main policy documents were: The Importance of Teaching: The Schools White Paper 2010 (DfE, 2010a) and More Good Teachers (Freedman, Lipson and Hargreaves, 2008); whereas in Sweden, the documents chosen were: Best in the Class: A New Teacher Education (2009/10:89) (UD, 2009) and A Sustainable Teacher Education: Report from the Inquiry on a New Teacher Education (2008:109) (SOU, 2008). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with politicians, policy advisers, civil servants, academics and trade union representatives from the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the National Union of Teachers in Sweden (Lärarnas Riksförbund) and the Swedish Teachers’ Union (Lärarförbundet). Critical Discourse Analysis combined the three-dimensional framework of Norman Fairclough (2010) and the socio-cognitive approach of Teun Van Dijk (2014). Each document was analysed as a text, discourse practice and social practice. Text level analysis explored the various social representations of teachers within the texts. Particular attention was given to the linguistic choices made by text producers, the value of certain words to certain social groups, and the extent of local and global coherence through the repetition of lexical items. At discourse practice level, the socio-cognitive aspects of text production and interpretation – the inclusions and exclusions of social actors – were examined. Following Van Dijk (2014), this analysis sought to establish the epistemic status of individuals and groups in the policy and policy process. Finally, at social practice level, the documents were analysed according to the cultural, political and economic context of their production.
Although these findings are tentative, it is argued that discourses of teacher professionalism are used predominantly as a strategy of market and network governance in England. This is visible in three dominant discourses: the flexible worker, the knowledge professional and the organisational professional. The first extols the value of choice in a teacher education market, the second reflects a concern with national performance in international comparative tests and the global knowledge economy, while the third supports educational privatisation and a self-improving school-led system. To justify these policy changes, market and network voices are employed as ‘evidentials’ (Van Dijk, 2014). However, the policymakers’ apparent preoccupation with ‘more market, more network’ is counter-balanced by policies which reinforce state control. Significantly for teachers, network governance does not involve dialogue with teacher trade unions at policy level. In Sweden, discourses of teacher professionalism are largely employed as a strategy of state governance. This is evident in the dominant discourses of the knowledge professional and the academic professional. The first supports increased state intervention in a decentralised university market and the reduction of freedom and choice for teacher educators and trainees. The second sits within a European Union framework for higher education. Like England, both discourses reveal a preoccupation with the recruitment of ‘quality’ teachers in a global education market. Unlike England, the university remains central to teacher development, at least for now. Indeed, the network emerges more visibly within the policy process where academics and teacher unions can have some influence on policy outcomes. As England and Sweden face teacher recruitment and retention crises, this research is timely for its comparison of discourses of professionalism and how they might contribute to improving or worsening teacher supply. Of particular concern is the flexibility discourse in England which could limit opportunities for a sustainable teaching profession.
Beck, J. (2008) Governmental professionalism: re-professionalising or de-professionalising teachers in England in British Journal of Educational Studies, 56:2, 119-143. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8527.2008.00401.x Bourke, T., Ryan, M.E., and Lidstone J. (2013) Reflexive professionalism: reclaiming the voice of authority in shaping the discourses of education policy in Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 41:4, 389-413. DOI: 10.1080/1359866X.2013.838619. Burrage, M., Jarausch, K. and Siegrist, H. (1990) An actor-based framework for the study of the professions in M. Burrage and R. Torstendahl (eds.) Professions in Theory and History: Rethinking the Study of the Professions. London: SAGE Publications (pp.203-225). Evetts, J. (2013) Professionalism: Value and ideology in Current Sociology Review, 61:5-6, 778-796. DOI: 10.1177/0011392113479316. Fairclough, N. (2010) Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of Language. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge. Jessop, B. (2016) The State: Past, Present, Future. Cambridge: Polity Press. Jessop, B. (2000) The Crisis of National Spatio-Temporal Fix and the Tendential Ecological Dominance of Globalizing Capitalism in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 24:2, 323-360. Kennedy, A., Barlow, W. and MacGregor, J. (2012) ‘Advancing Professionalism in Teaching?’ An exploration of the mobilization of the concept of professionalism in the McCormac Report on the Review of Teacher Employment in Scotland in Scottish Education Review, 44:2, 3-13. Klette, K.(2002) Reform Policy and Teacher Professionalism in Four Nordic Countries in Journal of Educational Change, 3: 265-282. Robertson, S. (2007) ‘Remaking the World’: Neo-liberalism and the Transformation of Education and Teachers’ Labour in L. Weise and M. Compton (2007) (eds.) The Global Assault on Teachers, Teaching and their Unions. New York: Palgrave. Sachs, J. (2003) The Activist Teaching Profession. Buckingham: Open University Press. Sahlberg, P. (2016) The Global Education Reform Movement and Its Impact on Schooling in K Mundy, A Green, B Lingard and A Verger (eds.) The Handbook of Global Education Policy. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell (pp. 128-144). Stevenson, H. (2017). The “datafication” of teaching: Can teachers speak back to the numbers? in Peabody Journal of Education, 92:4, 537-557. Stevenson, H. and Carter, B. (2007) Teachers and the State: forming and re-forming ‘partnership’ in Journal of Educational Administration and History, 41:4, 311-326. Van Dijk, T. (2014) Knowledge and Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wiborg, S. (2010) Swedish Free Schools: Do they work? Published by the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies. Available at: http://www.llakes.org.
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
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
The programme is updated regularly (each day in the morning)
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.