01 SES 14 A, Policy, Politics and Practice: The ‘Fast Policy’ of Initial and Continuing Teacher Education
In the context of increasing policy prescription of educational practices, including use of various national and international standardized test results as proxies for educational achievement, we seek to elaborate how initial (ITE) and continuing teacher education (CTE) practices reflect more standardized approaches to schooling, as well as challenges to more reductive practices. Such standardized practices are part of what Sahlberg (2015) refers to as the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), and represent more neoliberal and new public management approaches to education. While more reductive and problematic practices exert influence, the more nuanced account we provide here also seeks to show how more substantive approaches can arise, even as the conditions in which they develop may not seem to be conducive to their development. That is, we endeavour to reveal something of the ‘doubleness’ of the effects of what we describe, after Peck and Theodore (2015) as more ‘fast policy’ approaches.
In terms of initial teacher education, according to Zeichner (2014), two strategies for the design of initial teacher education programmes have been at the forefront. One aims to strengthen the dominant university-based system of ITE, whereas the other intends to promote greater deregulation and privatisation, with shorter teacher training routes being taken mainly in schools. Under these conditions, there is pressure to emphasise shorter training routes as an ‘alternative’ to more ‘traditional’ teacher education programs, which are construed as inadequately responsive to the demands of contemporary classrooms. In terms of continuing teacher education, dominant policies and politics seek to encapsulate teachers’ learning into discrete ‘phases’, that can be more easily ‘managed’ for ‘faster’ results. However, the resultant practices are much more complex, and reflect tensions between such ‘fast policy’ tendencies, and the complexities of practice, in situ. While we seek to reveal how these fast policy effects influence initial and continuing teacher education, perhaps more importantly, we also explore how teaches’ learning is conceptualised in more multifaceted ways – ways that challenge these more fast policy approaches. While policy is influenced by notions of teachers doing ‘what works’ (Slavin, 2002), actual practices reveal a degree of hybridity that challenges, even as it reveals, more reductive approaches to teachers’ learning.
We draw upon empirical research in Australia, Finland, Sweden and Norway to explore the kinds of evidence that are generated by neophyte and experienced teachers as they seek to research their own practice, and how this differs from modes of teacher learning focused upon the outcomes of large-scale, national and international enumerative data sets that characterise schooling in so many contexts. We reveal how teachers navigate and negotiate the policies and politics of teacher learning for more effectual practice, even as the fast policy landscapes in which their work unfolds exert influence. Again, we seek to reveal the ‘doubleness’ of teacher learning – how teacher learning reflects both more ‘fast policy’ effects, even as it appropriates such effects, extends beyond them, and sometimes outright challenges them.
We begin by explaining the notion of fast policy, and draw upon research in CTE in the Australian and Nordic contexts to elaborate the value of such an approach. We then try to explicate different approaches to teacher research as an alternative to more reductive approaches to teachers’ learning. This includes research from Norway and Finland which explores the different ways to meet the challenges of integrating theory and practice in a strong, research-based approach to ITE in these contexts. This is followed by an analysis of experienced Swedish teachers’ decision-making to take on a Master programme of action research as a way to strengthen their own knowledge and take new steps in their career.
Peck, J. & Theodore, N. Fast policy: Experimental statecraft at the thresholds of neoliberalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Sahlberg, P. (2015). Finnish Lessons 2.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? 2nd ed. New York: Teachers College Press. Slavin, R. (2002). Evidence-based education policies: Transforming educational practice and research. Educational Researcher, 31(7), 15–21. Zeichner, K. 2014. The Struggle for the Soul of Teaching and Teacher Education in the USA. Journal of Education for Teaching, 40 (5): 551–568. doi:10.1080/02607476.2014.956544.
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