01 SES 10 A, Education Reform in Wales: Professional Learning During Systemic Change
Wales’ education system is part-way through an extensive journey of reform. Two decades after the establishment of the Welsh Parliament in 1999, the launch of a new national curriculum promises a new age of teaching and learning. Based on four purposes and structured around six Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs), the new curriculum spans the entire age range from 3 to 16 and champions literacy, numeracy and digital competence as three cross-cutting responsibilities (Donaldson, 2015). At its core is the aim to develop children and young people as: ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives; enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work; ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world; and healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
Wales’ new national curriculum provides the cornerstone for wider, systemic change spanning many facets of education policy. Drawing on a range of unique perspectives, and with contributions from those directly involved in the reform of education in Wales, this symposium offers insight into some of the major policy developments introduced to support the education workforce in realising Wales’ ambitious new curriculum vision. It recognises the significant implications of these reforms for teachers, student-teachers and teacher educators, and explores the professional learning required to drive curriculum reform across the system. Using current and recent research, the symposium looks critically at how Wales is readying its professional workforce for forthcoming change and what lessons can be learned from a truly collaborative approach to educational reform involving a wide range of actors.
In the first of three papers, Sioned Hughes, Rachel Wallis, Kara Makara and David Morrison-Love consider the implications for teachers of curriculum planning, and their contribution to the pioneering ‘CAMAU’ project, designed to facilitate research-informed learning progressions to support Wales’ new curriculum (ie. teachers as curriculum-makers).
In the second paper, Gareth Evans, Sally Llewellyn and Jai Lewabe reflect on their involvement in a national project designed to build agency and support practising teachers in becoming professional enquirers (i.e. teachers as researchers).
In the final paper of the symposium, Kay Livingston and Jane Waters explore changes to initial teacher education (ITE) necessitated by Wales’ ambitious reform agenda. They consider the impact of a new model for ITE on staff based in both university and partner schools, and document their understanding of the change-process within which they are operating (i.e. teachers as teacher-educators).
Collectively, the papers in this symposium provide an in-depth and detailed account of a nation’s journey of reform and its implications for professional learning. They draw heavily on the experience of Scotland, in its implementation of 'Curriculum for Excellence' (Scottish Executive, 2004), and England, looking specifically at the evolution of 'evidence-informed teaching' to support professional development (Coldwell et al, 2017; Nelson et al, 2017). Perspectives from Australia are also offered through the symposium's Discussant, Diane Mayer.
Each paper recognises the interplay that exists between the different kinds of knowledge generated within school and university (Burn and Mutton, 2013) and provides fresh insight into the challenge and opportunity presented by whole-system reform. Indeed, its contributors acknowledge that a process of systemic transition, from old ways of working to new, is fundamentally dependent on the modeling of new values and behaviors required to displace those that exist currently (Elmore, 2004). It is with this in mind that this symposium, of interest to policymakers, practitioners and future teachers, is presented.
Burn, K., and Mutton, T. (2013) Review of ‘research informed clinical practice’ in initial teacher education. British Education Research Association (BERA)-Royal Society. Coldwell, M., Greany, T., Higgins, S., Brown, C., Maxwell, B., Stiell, B., Stoll, L., Willis, B. and Burns, H. (2017) Evidence-informed teaching: An evaluation of progress in England, Project Report. London: Department for Education. Donaldson, G. (2015) Successful Futures. Cardiff: Welsh Government. Elmore, R. (2004) School reform from the inside out: Policy, practice and performance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Nelson, J., Mehta, P., Sharples, J. and Davey, C. (2017). Measuring Teachers’ Research Engagement: findings from a pilot study (EEF, London). Available online: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Evaluation/Research_Use/NFER_Research _Use_pilot_report_-_March_2017_for_publication.pdf [accessed 21 January 2020]. Scottish Executive. (2004) A Curriculum For Excellence: the Curriculum Review Group. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive.
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