01 SES 12 B, Policy Enactment and Crisis Management
Much has been written about teachers’ work and lives over the last decades. Existing literature shows the complexity and interplay of the variables that influence and impact on teachers’ work and lives (see, for instance, Author; Day, 2017). In many parts of the world, it is possible to identify issues such as the rise of performative cultures through increased accountability and imposition of standards (Sachs, 2016), the compliance of teachers with the demands of performance policies and the tyranny of audit (Lo, 2012), the decline in teacher autonomy and an environment of distrust (Sachs & Mockler, 2012). However, less is known about the ways in which teachers’ lives are challenged in contexts marked by contradictory trends, particularly in times of austerity along with intense school reform. These are related to an imposed curriculum but at the same time to the exhortation of teacher autonomy as well as to an expansion of teachers’ roles along with a decrease in their socio-economic status and a deterioration of their working conditions, as it is the case of the Portuguese context. In general, it is said that teachers’ work and lives have become more and more characterised by complexity and intensification which are often associated with societal and technological changes as well as with the bulk of reforms that they need to implement in schools and in classrooms (Sugrue, 2006; Ballet et al., 2006; Authors; Author, 2014).
More recently, research literature has shown the risk factors related to contexts of teaching seen as adverse and challenging such as heavy workload, classroom management, feelings of unpreparedness, lack of support, lack of resources, etc. (Jenkins, Smith, & Maxwell, 2009; Sumsion, 2004). Pearce and Morrison’s (2011) study has investigated the impact of professional, individual and relational conditions on the resilience of early career teachers and has highlighted the importance of understanding how they engage in the formation of professional identities. Resilience has, therefore, become a key theme in examining teachers’ work and lives in recent years (Wosnitza, Peixoto, Beltman, & Mansfield, 2018). As a multidimensional and socially constructed concept (Gu & Day, 2007), in which context plays a key role (Mansfield, Beltman, Price, & McConney, 2012), resilience is dependent on support, both formal and informal (Paptraianou & Le Cornu, 2014) but also on teachers’ professional values and beliefs. This paper reports on findings from a wider 3-year research project aimed at examining Portuguese teachers’ perceptions and experiences within a context of school reform and austerity measures.
This paper draws upon a wider 3-year research project funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (National Foundation for Science and Technology) (PTDC/CPE-CED/112164/2009) aimed at examining, amongst other features, existing conditions of teaching and being a teacher in a context of intense school reform and adverse times. In this paper the following research questions are addressed: 1. How do Portuguese teachers look at their experience as teachers in adverse circumstances (e.g. intensive school reform and austerity measures)? 2. How do they see the contexts in which they work? 3. What kinds of factors influence their professional lives in adverse times and how do they cope with them? A mixed-method research design was devised. The project included three phases of data collection, namely a national survey in which 2702 teachers participated (phase I); semi-structured interviews with head teachers in 11 schools located in different regions of the country; and focus groups with 99 teachers and 108 pupils (phase II); and a professional development program carried out in 5 schools located in northern Portugal, in which 66 teachers participated (phase III). This innovative mixed-method project enabled the analysis of teachers’ work and lives through their own voices but also taking into account the views of head teachers and students using a variety of methods. Quantitative data were analysed statistically with the use of SPSS (version 20). The process of qualitative data analysis was undertaken according to two phases: an analysis of data gathered in each school through the voices of teachers, pupils and the principal. A second phase was then carried out according to a comparative or horizontal analysis (cross-case analysis) (Miles & Huberman, 1994). In this phase, it was possible to look for common patterns as well as differences. A semantic criterion was used to look for key themes arising from the qualitative data by the research team.
This study illustrates the inner tensions and the challenges of being a teacher in adverse contexts of teaching. It highlights the precarious conditions of some Portuguese teachers, but it also shows their capacity for being resilient, for resisting and their willingness to continue to be teachers in face of challenging circumstances. Others were findings ways of surviving in adverse teaching contexts. By and large the participants claimed that their working conditions deteriorated over the last years including an increase in workload and in bureaucracy, greater public accountability and greater control over their work. All of these external factors have affected their professional lives in various ways. Issues such as lack of motivation, tiredness and disappointment emerged from their accounts. But some of the participants were also able to identify the factors that keep them in teaching “despite all that goes wrong in Education”. Findings highlight the interplay of internal factors such as teacher collaboration, classroom work and the relationship with pupils as key factors and sources of personal and professional motivation. Teachers’ strong professional values, their sense of professionalism and their capacity for being resilient and resisting (despite the negative policy environment and the challenging social and economic context) as well as their sense of identity as teachers emerged from the data in explaining the ways in which some teachers became more resilient and resistant than others. Implications for teacher professional development are discussed.
Ballet, K., Kelchtermans, G., & Loughran, J. (2006). Beyond intensification towards a scholarship of practice: analysing changes in teachers’ work lives. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 12(2), 209-229. Day, C. (2017). Teachers worlds and work. Understanding complexity, building quality. London: Routledge. Gu, Q., & Day, C. (2007). Teachers resilience: A necessary condition for effectiveness. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23, 1302-1316. Jenkins, K., Smith, H., & Maxwell, T. (2009.) Challenging experiences faced by beginning casual teachers: here one day and gone the next! Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 37(1), 63-78. Mansfield, C. F., Beltman, S., Price, A., & McConney, S. (2012). Don’t sweat the small stuff: Understanding resilience at the chalkface. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28(3), 357-367. Miles, M., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Papatraianou, L. H., & Le Corne, R. (2014). Problematizing the role of personal and professional relationships in early career teacher resilience. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(1), 100-116. Pearce, J., & Morrison, C. (2011). Teacher Identity and Early Career Resilience: Exploring the Links. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(1), 48-59. Sachs, J. (2016). Teacher professionalism: why are we still talking about it? Teachers and Teaching Theory and practice, 22(4), 413-425. Sachs, J., & Mockler, N. (2012). Performance cultures of teaching. Threat or opportunity? In C. Day (Ed.), The Routledge international handbook of teacher and school development (pp. 33-43). London: Routledge. Sugrue, C. (2006). A Critical Appraisal of the Impact of International Agencies on Educational Reforms and Teachers’ Lives and Work: the case of Ireland? European Educational Research Journal, 5(3/4), 181-195. Sumsion, J. (2004). Early childhood teachers’ constructions of their resilience and thriving: A continuing investigation. International Journal of Early Years Education, 12(3), 275-290. Wosnitza, M.; Peixoto, F.; Beltman, S. & Mansfield,C. F. (2018) (Eds). Resilience in Education. Concepts, Contexts and Connections. Cham: Springer
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