01 SES 09 B, Connections, Reflections and Complexity in Professional Learning
This presentation takes up preliminary results from a four-year-project that is funded by the Swedish Research Council to explore connections between teacher professional development activities and professional scientific research communities. The project connects to the market of teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD) which is of growing interest internationally as well as from a European perspective. In Sweden there has been a flood of both governmental and different private initiatives offering various forms of CPD for teachers (Forsberg & Wermke, 2012). Concerning governmental initiatives, different state programs for CPD have been distributed by The National Agency for Education in collaboration with various universities in Sweden over the last decades. The programs refer to examples like The Maths Initiative (Matematiklyftet) and The Reading Initiative (Läslyftet). The increased interest is partly subsequent to changes in delivery and monitoring formats following global competitions (i.e PISA, PIRLS, TIMSS etc), where countries are competing on a global knowledge market. To meet downward student performance, there seems to be an unproblematized conviction that if only teachers’ professional skills and knowledge are enhanced the students will perform better (Kennedy, 2014; Langelotz, 2017).
While an increasing range of literature focuses on particular aspects of CPD, there is, however, a paucity of literature addressing the spectrum of new CPD models and actors on national and international markets in a comparative manner. Our project takes its starting point here. It recognizes that CPD is undergoing remarkable changes at the present time, and has been for over a decade now. This circumstance needs, we argue, innovative research designs such as a comprehensive following strategy combined with a practice-ecological lens, in order to study what is at stake when different actors and economic contracting via private tender begin to influence decisions regarding the needs, content, delivery and assessment of CPD.
This kind of perspectival frame shift for policy investigations is found in new-materialist and post- humanist actor network theory. The necessity is reflected also in our on-going studies and in the overarching practice-ecological lens we have adopted from the theory of practice architectures (TPA) (Kemmis & Grootenboer, 2008). As within policy network analysis, CPD is here understood as a practice, affecting other practices. In this respect the theory provides an ontological, methodological and analytical tool that makes it possible to analyze the enabling and constraining arrangements around teacher learning and professionality. In other words, it uncovers the relations between the practices of CPD and the material-economic, social- political and cultural-discursive arrangements that hold the practices in place (Kemmis, et al., 2014; Mahon, et al., 2017). Thus, the theory secures a dynamic view on policy practices and their connections as policy phenomena.
The overarching aim of the project is to deepen the understanding of teacher learning, in times when different stakeholders try to get external control and impact on education and teachers’ work. Furthermore, it aims to contribute with a fresh methodological approach and theory-package to interrogate policy and practices of teacher learning. The following research questions are addressed:
- Which CPD is offered to teachers in Sweden?
- What is the impact of CPD on the teacher profession?
- Who has power over CPD decisions and what are the characteristics of purchasers and providers of CPD provided in terms of links and network relations to these power brokers?
- How do contextual and site-specific conditions influence teachers' CPD?
The project recognizes that CPD is undergoing a significant process of change and that this circumstance needs investigating in depth using an innovative research design. The research design involves a choice to start in examining factual invoices connected to the municipal purchasing orders of CPD supply. This is a new and novel approach in the educational sciences that differs from previous research approaches, where studies rather start at a policy or at a teacher level. The design is part of a networked ontological approach to conceptualize and investigate policy and policy changes as advocated by Ball (2016) and responds to Lingard and Sellar’s (2013) identification concerning how education policy analysis needs a ‘rethinking’. In addition to the network policy frame we use a practice- ecology approach to identify and examine relations between the practices involved in policy networks. It enables a tracing of ideas, actions, events and ‘things’ across educational levels and fields and involves following policy in relation to and as part of new forms of governance and global policy networks by identifying the interplay between a variety of actors, commercial as well as non-commercial. The phenomenon that stakeholders, with different power and interests are involved and struggle to have impact and get hold of time (and money) is commonly referred to as a policy phenomenon. This fact underpins our theoretical and methodological decision to turn to policy ethnography (and network ethnography) inspired by Ball (2016). Its ontological view of networked practices implies that it is necessary not only to follow people but also things and events as subjects rather than passive objects or outcomes of investigation. Three municipalities and their primary, secondary and upper secondary education are included in the research due to varied characteristics which might influence CPD on a local level, for example size, area (rural-urban), number of schools, private schools and accredited teachers. Thus, the selection makes it possible to explore research question four on contextual and site-specific aspects of CPD.
Preliminary conclusions will be drawn on which CPD is offered to teachers, who the stakeholders are and who the purchasers are. Moreover, by comparing the selected municipalities, and their varying characteristics, conclusions will be drawn concerning how contextual and site- specific conditions potentially influence what type of CPD that is offered to teachers. Conclusions will be drawn on how professional needs and requests from teachers match the actual CPD activities offered. In addition, an insight in teachers’ professional learning ambitions and how they might be supported will be revealed. Conclusions will also be drawn in relation to a potential de- and/or re-professionalization of teachers. Moreover, by comparing the selected municipalities, and their varying characteristics, conclusions will be drawn on the relation between contextual and site-specific conditions and the impact of CPD on the teacher profession. Finally, conclusions will be drawn on the epistemological orientation of the variety of CPD actors and the proportions to which academic and non-academic CPD actors are engaged respectively. Conclusions will also be drawn on which actors that have ‘network capital’ (Ball, 2016). Moreover, by comparing the selected municipalities, conclusions will be drawn on how contextual and site-specific aspects potentially influence the characteristics of purchasers and suppliers, as well as how actors hang together in a network and the ‘things’ and ‘events’ involved in CPD.
Ball, S. (2016). Following policy: networks, network ethnography and education policy mobilities, Journal of Education Policy, 31(5), 1-18. Forsberg, E. & Wermke, W. (2012) Knowledge sources and autonomy: German and Swedish teachers’ continuing professional development of assessment knowledge. Professional Development in Education, 38(5), 741-758. Kemmis, S. & Grootenboer, P. (2008). “Situating Praxis in Practice: Practice Architectures and the Cultural, Social, and Material Conditions for Practice.” In S. Kemmis and T. J. Smith, Enabling Praxis: Challenges for Education. Rotterdam: Sense Publications, 37– 64. Kemmis, S., Wilkinson, J., Edwards-Grove, C., Hardy, I., Grootenboer, P. & Bristol, L. (2014). Changning Education, Changing Practices. Singapore: Springer. Kennedy, A. (2014) Understanding continuing professional development: the need for theory to impact on policy and practice. Professional Development in Education, 40(5), 688- 697. Langelotz, L. (2017). Kollegialt lärande i praktiken – kompetensutveckling eller kollegial korrigering? Stockholm: Natur & Kultur. Lingard, B. & Sellar, S. (2013). Globalization, edu-business and network governance: the policy sociology of Stephen J. Ball and rethinking education policy analysis. London Review of Education, 11(3), 265-280. Mahon, K., Kemmis, S.& Francisco, S. (2017). Introduction: Practice Theory and the Theory of Practice Architectures In K. Mahon, S. Francisco & S. Kemmis (Eds.) Exploring Education and Professional Practice. Through the Lens of Practice Architectures. Singapore: Springer, 1-30.
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