23 SES 08 A, Recruitment and Evaluation in Education
Mass media provides a public space for its readers to enter the discussion on education, as they consume and interpret key messages which are often framed by key educational policies. Historically, education in both the US and Australia have been framed by crisis, decline and inadequacy in mainstream media. With a suite of recent teacher education reform measures aimed at solving the ‘problem’ with teacher quality in both countries, a framing analysis framework, underpinned by both educational policy and mass media theory, is proposed to examine how teacher quality is portrayed in the media. This comparative analysis reveals that more counter narratives and ‘push back’ exists in the US media, particularly from educators and academics, and educational policies, particularly federal policies, are often framed as the problem rather than the solution. This is in contrast to the Australian media which continues to frame policies as the solution and teachers and teacher education as the problem. With the inherent power that media holds in proffering particular policies and/or viewpoints, this paper argues that educators and academics need to identify and re-frame the problems and solutions that are currently being portrayed in the media as way to interrogate and challenge the metanarrative.
There has been increasing interest in the relationship between policy, media and public opinion, particularly in regards to how key messages in education are shaped and communicated to reflect the synergies between these three domains (Baroutsis & Lingard, 2017; Cohen, 2010; Gerrard, Savage, & O’Connor, 2017; Goldstein, 2011; Thomas, 2003; 2011; Ulmer, 2016). It is argued that mass media is powerful in proffering dominant, metanarratives on government policy which are framed to provide key message(s) intended by the policy (and/or the dominant policy-makers) and then consumed and interpreted by the public (Baroutsis & Lingard, 2016; Gerrard, et al., 2017; Ulmer, 2016). Ulmer (2016) argues that mass media affords the public with an ‘entry point’ into the education debate and, therefore, the ways in which policies are framed in the media can have a prevailing impact on how the public engages with and views education. However, this is not to suggest that the relationship is one-directional and that policy and media, two distinctive yet inter-related domains (Gerrard, et al., 2017), influence the public space as public opinion is both shaped andreflected within the media (Mockler, 2018; Waldow, Takayama, & Sung, 2014).
Several studies in both the United States and Australia have suggested that much of the media attention on education is characterized by crisis (Cohen, 2010; Ulmer, 2016), with an emphasis on the decline, deficit and inadequacy of education (Thomas, 2003; 2011; Ulmer, 2016). Given the prevalence of recent policies and reports advocating for the reform of teacher education to ensure quality in schools both in the United States and Australia (Australian Government Department of Education & Training [AGDET], 2015, 2016, 2018; Cochran-Smith et al., 2017), it is timely to critically analyse the media constructions of ‘quality’ education in these two countries and consider how the dominant discourses espoused are framed and provide insight into international policy trends. Drawing from Ball’s (1993; 2013) approach to policy sociology, which not only explores whatis being said but whois entitled to speak, and Foucault’s concept of power/knowledge relationships (Foucault, 1970; 1984), this paper aims to explore how the media has framed news stories to further particularviewpoints to further policies and influence public opinion, with or without the presence of counter narratives.
Methodologically, the majority of media analysis studies on education have employed critical discourse analysis (Cohen, 2010; Thomas, 2003; 2011), framing analysis (Baroutsis & Lingard, 2017; Goldstein, 2011; Ulmer, 2016), or corpus-assisted analysis (Fenech & Wilkins, 2017; Mockler, 2018). While a corpus-assisted analysis allows for a ‘comprehensive and systematic analysis’ of a large number of texts (Mockler, 2018, p. 3), this study seeks to provide a closer examination of what is being said and the viewpoints that are most salient by drawing from aspects of several of these approaches. Framing analysis is in many ways a subset of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), as it attempts to go beyond a focus on the immediate linguistic features of texts and views discourse as a form of social action (Fairclough & Wodak, 1997). Not only is CDA evident in framing analysis theory but resonates with Ball’s (1993) view of policy as both discourse and practice and Foucault’s interrogation of power and knowledge (1970; 1984), as CDA attempts to identify the connections between discourse and the structure of society and its influence on political and/or social change (Fairclough & Wodak, 1997). By employing the proposed framing analysis framework (not discussed here due to word constraints), this paper discusses the findings from the analysis of 50 online news articles from the US and Australia. The 50 articles were sourced from national and state newspapers, 31 articles from the US and 19 articles from Australia, over a 12-month period from October 2016 to October 2017. Using the Factiva database and using the search term ‘teacher quality,’ 61 articles (37 from the US and 24 from Australia) were originally identified but 11 articles were disregarded given their limited connection to education. While this sample size would be too small for a quantitative study, the goal of this study was not to conduct a quantitative or a corpus-assisted analysis on a large sample size but rather explore a particular time period qualitatively. The purpose was to explore how ‘teacher quality’ was framed and discussed in the mainstream media in two different countries, with a particular focus on how and by whom political messages were communicated.
This paper examined the key messages, surrounding teacher quality, communicated by the media in both the US and Australia over a 12-month period. The findings indicate, that in the US, a teacher shortage is a defining characteristic of the current crisis in education, however, the crisis is framed not by the inadequacy of teachers but often by the policies themselves. Overall, the media portrayal of education in the US suggests that there has been a shift from a focus on the decline of education and the inadequacy of teachers (Goldstein, 2011; Ulmer, 2016) to a focus on local investment in teachers, a more positive view of teachers, leadership and schools, and a push for alternative viewpoints on current policy initiatives and political messages. This is in contrast with the media portrayal in Australia, which continues to view teachers and teacher education as central to the crisis in education, using words and phrases to describe teachers, such as “failure,” (Cook, 2017b), and “need ongoing help” (Balogh, 2017a). While in the US policies are framed as part of the problem, as voiced from alternative viewpoints, Australia has framed its policies and its political messages as the solution to the teacher quality problem with limited challenge and/or counter arguments from educators, academics and students. The key messages portrayed in the US and Australia depict contrasting educational landscapes, such as shortage and oversupply, outputs and inputs, and strength versus decline, respectively. However, a strong message is evident in both countries arguing for strong professional development and support for teachers in the classroom.
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