23 SES 02 B, Re-designing Education
Parallel Paper Session
Advocates for school reform propose that one of the key elements required for change is that central policy and school priorities are’ aligned’ (Wong 2006). Additionally, ‘systems’ are expected to engage in ‘capacity building’, to use appropriate policy ‘levers’ and to ensure that there is ‘effective’ leadership in place (Hallinger and Heck 2010). In this paper we interrogate these assumptions and offer an alternative approach.
Our analysis of the change literatures suggests that these have often but not exclusively been generated through commissioned research and consultancies which work for central authorities. They assume that the change problems to be solved are those of scaleability and reduction of system variation, in which identified models of school reform can be selected from and implemented in multiple contexts (e.g. Bodilly et al 1998, Fullan 2000). The solutions they offer are geared to ‘steering’ and regulating schools to ensure that they meet centrally determined priorities. They thus take a large-scale macro view, offer meta-categories to describe policy and change processes, and promote a view of a singular operational and machine like ‘system’ which is both manipulable and amenable to measurement, in the same way as any organisation, regardless of its provenance or purpose.
This is of course a legitimate perspective but it is not the only one. We are interested here in pursuing what can be seen and said about change from other points of view, if our researcher gaze is located at a different scale – namely the’ meso’ level of schools.
We have previously written about school change as (re)design, developing a notion of imbricated practices -spatial, temporal, cultural, structural, communicative, aesthetic and social- which work together (holistically, ecologically) within a single site (Thomson and Blackmore 2006). Now, after considerable empirical research in two countries, we extend this analysis. The theoretical premises on which we work differ from the dominant change literatures. To our theorisation of (re) design we now add :
(1) an institutional not a system perspective. We argue that within the social institution of education a set of material, social and cultural resources are made available for institutional actors. Policy, a bricolage, works to discursively frame these resources (we address resources in the results section)
(2) the notion that school communities exercise agency within the overall institution. They do not simply implement policy and may actually decide to contest or resist it. They determine their priorities for change, but the choices they make, and thus what they can and actually do, are delimited by the institutional resources that are available.
(3) the view that different macro policy regimes offer schools different institutional resources for change, with some being more enabling than others.
In this paper, our focus is on elaborating the resources that are made available to schools in England, UK, and in the state of Victoria, Australia.
Ball, S. (1998) Big Policies/Small World: An introduction to international perspectives in education policy Comparative Education 34(2) Blackmore, J. et al (2012) Innovative Learning Environments Research Study DEECD/OECD Bodilly, S. et al (1998) Lessons From New American Schools' Scale-Up Phase Prospects for Bringing Designs to Multiple Schools Darling-Hammond, L. (2002) 10 Features of Good Small Schools: Redesigning High Schools, What Matters and What Works Stanford http://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/287 Elmore, R. (1995). Getting to scale with good educational practice. Harvard Educational Review, 66, 1-26. Fullan, M.G. (2000). The return of large-scale reform. Journal of Educational Change 1(1), 5-28. Hallinger, P and Heck, R. (2010). Collaborative leadership and school improvement; understanding the impact on school capacity and student learning. School Leadership and Management 300(2) 95-110. Elmore, R. (2007) School Reform from the Inside Out: Policy practice and performance Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press Lupton, Ruth(2005). Social justice and school improvement: improving the quality of schooling in the poorest neighbourhoods. British Educational Research Journal 31:5,589 — 604. Lingard, B. (2011) Policy as Numbers: Ac/counting for educational research Australian educational researcher 38(4) Thomson, P. and J. Blackmore (2006). Beyond the power of one: redesigning the work of school principals. Journal of Educational Change 7(3): 161-177. Thomson, P., K. Jones, et al. (2009). Creative School Change Research Project, Creativity, Culture and Education: 105. Thrupp, M. and Lupton. R. (2006) Taking school contexts more seriously: the social justice challenge British Journal of Educational StUdies 54: 308-28 Wong. K. (2006) Systemwide efforts to Improve student Achievement. (293/300)
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