23 SES 04 B, Teacher’s work, Training and Professionalism II
The image of teachers as a profession that exercises a high degree of autonomy, meaning that they don’t necessarily get shaped by for example school political reforms and national curriculum plans, has for a long time been strong (Lortie, 1975; Little, 1990; Imsen, 2001). Within this frame, researchers from various fields have concluded that teachers respond to pressures from the outside world by rejecting or recoding demands and expectations directed towards the teachers' practice (Meyer and Rowan, 1977; Deal & Celotti, 1980; Firestone, 1985). Such an understanding implies that the different pressures are decoupled or recoded through the teachers' filter and conceptions of what is suitable in their practice. The traditional image of the autonomous teacher who closes the classroom door from unwanted pressure has thus provided an explanation for why numerous school reforms have failed to reach the classroom level (Cuban, 1993; Elmore, 1996; Sarason, 1990; in Coburn, 2004).
However, recent theories in new institutional theory question this traditional image. They do so by providing evidence that pressures from the outside world influence schools and classrooms to a greater extent than previous findings (Coburn, 2004). A study conducted by Coburn (ibid.) shows that instructions and messages in the environment influence teachers’ practices, and in this process teachers’ preexisting beliefs and practices and the nature of the instructions themselves play an important role. This implies that the institutional environment influences core organizational processes.
The purpose of this paper is to identify various factors that contribute to change Norwegian teachers’ practices. Relevant research questions are: To what extent do school reform efforts and national curriculum plans in Norway change teachers' practice? Do key measures such as accountability, assessment, teacher collaboration, goal-steering and consumer orientation reach the classroom level and change teachers' practice? Is the process of decoupling less relevant today in an educational system where transparency is at the centre of attention? Are there other factors which contribute to change?
In this paper I intend to use new institutional theory as a theoretical framework. Within organizational theory, new institutional theory emphasizes insight in culture and social norms as crucial to understand how organizations work (Mik-Meyer & Villadsen, 2007). This is an opposite perspective to traditional organizational theory, where formal organizations often are seen as systems of coordinated and controlled activities, or like Meyer & Rowan (1977, p. 342) emphasizes:”This assumption is based on the view that organizations function according to their formal blueprints: coordination is routine, rules and procedures are followed, and actual activities conform to the prescriptions of formal structure”. An important feature in new institutional theory, is how to understand what happens with ideas and reforms when they meet the field of practice (Røvik, 2007). What happens when new ideas meet the single organization and its traditions, values, insights and experiences?
Coburn, C.E. (2004) Beyond Decoupling: Rethinking the Relationship Between the Institutional Environment and the Classroom. Sociology of Education, 77, 211-244. Deal, T.E., & Celotti, L.D. (1980) How much Influence Do (and Can) Educational Administrators Have on Classrooms? Phi Delta Kappa, 61, 471-473. Firestone, W.A. (1985) The Study of Loose Coupling: Problems, Progress, and Prospects. Research in Sociology of Education and Socialization, 5, 3-30. Imsen, G. (2001). Endringer i lærerrollen – politiske reformer eller skiftende pedagogiske vinder? In T. Bergem (Ed.), Slipp elevene løs! Artikler med søkelys på lærerrollen. (1.edition, s. 46-62). Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk. Little, J.W. (1990). The Persistence of Privacy: Autonomy and Initiative in Teachers` Professional Relations. Teachers College Record, 91 (4), 509-536. Lortie, D.C. (1975). Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study. Chicago: University of Chicago Pressure. Meyer, H.D. & Rowan B. (1977). Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structures as Myth and Ceremony. The American Journal of Sociology, 83 (2), 340-363. Mik-Meyer, N. & Villadsen, K. (2007). Magtens former. Sociologiske perspektiver på statens møde med borgeren. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Røvik, K.A. (2007). Trender og translasjoner. Ideer som former det 21.århundrets organisasjon. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
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