ERG SES E 06, Educational Improvement and Quality Assurance
Change is the key word in today´s educational systems. A variety of reasons can be listed that lead changes in schools such as technological advancements, new demands in society, increasing diversity in student characteristics and growing competition in the job market. Change in education comes at various levels ranging from policy making at a very general level and classroom specific ones. Due to its centralized organization, changes in Turkish education mostly come at system wide level such as restructuring of schools, changes in curriculum and initiating a new standardized exam.
The frequency of change in various aspects of Turkish education has increased since the early 2000s mainly due to increasing concerns for quality and quantity aspects of education. For instance, the nature of nationwide exams at lower and upper secondary levels have changed eight times since 2004. Private course preparing students for these exams change shapes accordingly as well. In 2014, they converted into high schools through restructuring by the Ministry of National Education with a focus on standardized exams. In addition, in 2005, all school curricula were reshaped with a so-called constructivist approach, which required large scale teacher education in schools as well as publishing new textbooks and course materials. In addition, the Ministry of National Education announced another project titled “e-school” in 2006, and this initiation also meant large scale infrastructural changes in the system.
Furthermore, schools were restructured under a new grade system called “4+4+4” in 2012 that caused much debate among educators, teachers and parents. The school curricula changed as a whole to be aligned with this new school formulation. Teacher Education Programs were changed in 2006, 2009 and 2018 three times, each time adding more courses increasing the course load for students under so-called “a better teacher education system.”
What do all these changes mean for teachers, who are the implementers of these chagens at micro level in their classrooms? Teachers are major stakeholders of educational activities in schools, thereby, for any change to be successful, their full participation and effort would be valuable. However, this aspect of initiating change seems to be often ignored with the assumption that decisions at policymaking level are carried out by the teachers. Whereas for any change to be successful in education, we need to understand the perceptions and experiences of teachers about these attempts.
Therefore the purpose of this study is to investigate teachers’ experiences and perceptions about change interventions in Turkish Educational System. The first research question of this study is “How do teachers perceive and experience change interventions in Turkish Educational System?” The second research question is “What is the essence of experiences of change interventions in Turkish Educational System for teachers?”
This qualitative research study was designed as an example of phenomenology because phenomenological studies focus on the in-depth understanding of participants’ experiences and assume that people have commonalities on an experience of a phenomenon and try to describe this shared structure among the individuals (Marshall & Rossman, 2011). Thus, phenomenological design provides the experiences of teachers about change interventions in Turkish Educational System for this study. In the present study, criterion sampling strategy was used in order to determine sample of the study because of concerns about working experience of the participants. Actually, teachers who were working for least 10 years in public (primary, middle, and high level) schools composed sample of the study. In other words, participants of the current study have two specific characteristics: (1) working as a teacher in public schools, (2) tenure (least 10 year working experience). In addition, sample size usually is required around 7-10 participants for phenomenological studies (Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2013). Thus, 8 public school teachers who are working on least 10 years in primary, middle, and high level schools were the participants of this phenomenological design study. The data were gathered through structured interviews carried out with the teachers. In the current study, the interview schedule was developed by the researcher based on the research questions of the study and literature of change interventions in Turkish Educational System. Interview plan was constructed with peer-review assistance by considering open-ended questions. Furthermore, teachers were informed about the aim of the study before interview and Voluntary Participation Form was handed out. The data collection was carried out throughout three weeks. Each interview was transcribed and broken into manageable units for inductive content analysis. After that, all of the interviews were read again by considering the research questions and interview questions. Then, the data were coded based on themes and concept that came out of the interviews under the broad umbrella of research questions. After the codes and themes were identified, findings were organized accordingly, and presented with descriptions and quotations.
The data analysis produced six themes: (1) Change Interventions, (2) Favorable Experiences about Change Process, (3) Unpleasant Experiences about Change Process, (4) Prospects about Change Intervention, (5) Condemnation of Change Intervention, (6) Negative Attitudes toward Change Intervention. Teachers had both similar and varying points in relation to these thematic areas. Teachers reflected both favorable and unpleasant experiences about the change process and change initiatives. They told stories of forced adaptation of change initiatives that did not make sense to them or that were impossible to carry out given the resources they had. Being not ready for change also created concern and loss of time. Teachers reported positive experiences of school principal support, and cooperation among teachers in school with certain change initiatives, but disappointment at the same time with the support given the the central bodies such as directorates and the Ministry of National Education. Moreover, teachers thought that change interventions came fast and without much prior information or readiness, and eventually they were doomed to be ineffective. Thus, some developed mistrust toward change initiatives. Furthermore, some teachers attributed change initiative to the political agendas which were not aimed at the quality of education in reality. They thought that their opinions were ignored by the change implementers because they did not participate in decision making process in change process.
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