Tag Archives: Policy

“Precarious forms of employment”

I have found time to reply to a comment on my post about Stephen Ball’s work. Theresa raised the problems that sessional tutors sometimes find when attempting to collaborate and connect with professional development. It brought me back to my research into the participation of student teachers in the lifelong learning sector in England. The most recent campaigns by UCU concerning zero hours contracts don’t seem to be making much impact on HR processes, certainly in colleges. What follows is a review of some of the literature concerning the lifelong learning landscape, post fordism, and managerialism. I hope it helps with some of the background and context.

The landscape

Professor James Avis argued that under performance-led regimes prevalent in the FE sector (following the incorporation of FE colleges in 1993), contradictory phenomena emerge that on the one hand deny the legitimacy of some forms of professional practice, while on the other hand providing a context for new forms of ‘active ‘ professionalism (Avis 2005:212). Under the conditions faced by FE teachers characterised by accountability, ‘blame cultures’ (2005:250) and strategic compliance, both pragmatist and progressive practices can operate together. We may acknowledge here, too, the benefits of shared spaces for teachers, including social media.The resources marshalled for teachers include the development of a repertoire of professional knowledge and practice derived from repeated classroom experiences, increased confidence and frameworks by which to reflect on experience. What is often lacking however, particularly for sessional tutors is space within the institution to develop their expertise, pedagogy, and intellectual enquiry.

Allen and Henry (1997) discuss how perceived flexibility in the labour market translates into risk for those employees faced with a relationship based on contractualisation. While their research is about the contract service industry, it is their assessment of Beck’s characterisation of employment risk that might resonate with those who face ‘precarious forms of employment’ (Allen and Henry 1997:181). Both employer and employee can view their contracted labour as flexible on the one hand, and as risky and uncertain on the other, but when people work in what Beck calls ‘a risk-fraught system of employment’ (Beck 1992:143), the very constraints caused by insecurity can lead to a resourcefulness derived from individual biographies rather than collective identities.

Conversely, Avis suggests that resourcefulness can emerge from performative cultures (Lyotard 1984) that are based on Fordist industrial relations and low trust. Avis et al. (2009) invoke Giddens (1998), framing the teaching workplace as a process of reflexive modernisation ‘where restructuring has become commonplace’ and, more alarmingly still, where professionalism based on the legitimacy of pedagogical and curricular expertise has been rendered untenable and replaced with a conditional trust (Avis et al. 2009:245).

Post-Fordism

According to Brehony and Deem (2005:398), Post-Fordism is defined as the ‘decentralization, flexibility and the widespread use of [computer] technology in organisations’. Flexibility and willingness to undergo CPD are features of a post-Fordist interpretation of recent developments in the LLS since incorporation, as are customization, autonomy and accountability. Its use has become subsumed with ‘the knowledge economy’ and the ‘learning organisation’, yet aspects of the definition sit less well with current practices, one being the assumption of the worker having a sense of autonomy and being able to shape the identity of their organisation. This may be because of the confluence of post-Fordist principles with those of managerialism in the LLS.

Managerialism

Randle and Brady (1997) provide a list of characteristics of what they term new managerialism, such as strict financial management, devolved budgetary controls, efficiency, productivity, performance indicators, consumerism, accountability, flexibility of the workforce and the ‘right to manage’. For them, these characteristics set post-incorporated FE colleges in the mid 1990s in direct opposition to lecturers and academics who predicted a loss of professionalism as a result of the changes to the command and control of their duties and responsibilities (Hayes 2003). They argued that managerialism, as a paradigm, was incompatible with professionalism (1997), and that the limitations of professional control needed to be addressed through collective action. O’Leary (2013) argues that it represents a range of private sector inspired management techniques used as a template to improve productivity, performance and accountability. Ball (1990) and Enteman (1993) provide reductionist definitions where bureaucratic society is replaced and becomes a function of the sum of the application of organisational practices. In particular, Enteman argues that
The relationship between managerialism and the LLS is illustrated well by Pusey (1991:22), albeit from an Australian perspective, arguing that:

There can be no quarrel with the notion of efficiency as such. The inherent problem lies instead at another level – with the criteria that define what count as costs and benefits; with the loss of social intelligence; and with the number and range of potentially constructive discourses that have been suppressed.

If we accept this portrayal of the landscape for the lifelong learning workforce then we could ask 3 questions:
Who benefits?
So what?
What next?

I would be grateful for your thoughts.

References

Allen, J. and Henry, N. (1997) ‘Ulrich Beck’s Risk society at work: labour and employment in the contract service industries’. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 2 (2), pp.180-196.

Avis, J. (2005) Beyond Performativity: reflections on activist professionalism and the labour process in further education. Journal of Educational Policy. 20(2), pp.209-222.

Avis, J., Fisher, R., and Simmons, R. (eds.) (2009) Issues in Post-Compulsory Education and Training: Critical Perspectives. Huddersfield: University of Huddersfield Press.

Ball, S. (1990) Politics and policy making in education: explorations in policy sociology. Oxon: Routledge.

Ball, S.J. (2008) The Education Debate. Bristol: Policy Press.

Brehony, K.J. and Deem, R. (2005) Challenging the post-fordist/flexible organization thesis: The case of reformed educational organizations. British Journal of Sociology of Education. 26 (3), pp.395-414.

Enteman, W.F. (1993) Managerialism: The Emergence of a New Ideology. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.

Giddens, A. (1998) The Third Way. The Renewal of Social Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Hayes, D. (2003) New labour, New Professionalism. In: Satterthwaite, J., Atkinson, E., and Gale, K. (eds.) Discourse, Power, Resistance: Challenging the rhetoric of contemporary education. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books, pp.28-42.

Lyotard, J.F. (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

O’Leary, M. (2013) Surveillance, performativity and normalised practice: the use and impact of graded lesson observations in Further Education Colleges. Journal of Further and Higher Education. 37(5), pp.694-714.

Pusey, M., (1991) Economic Rationalism in Canberra: A Nation-Building State Changes its Mind. Cambridge University Press: Melbourne.

Randle, K. & Brady, N. (1997) Managerialism and Professionalism in the Cinderella Service. Journal of Vocational Education and Training. 49 (1), pp.121-139.

Where’s the Evidence of Evidence Based Practice? Exposing the ruinous twins of evidence and policy in Teacher Education

Professional Practice Conference, Saturday.

18th May 2013.

Hull University.

Image

I examine how ideas associated with what are commonly termed evidence-based practice (EBP) and evidence based teaching (EBT) have been re-formed and interpreted by governments and state funded gateways for teachers in the lifelong learning sector in England (such as LLUK, SVUK, LSIS, DFE, Ofsted). I chart the relationship between interpretations of educational research and EBP/T and teacher education policy and practice in the sector from the early 1990’s until the most recent reviews of vocational education (the Wolf

Report) and Professionalism in Further Education (Lingfield Report 2012). Links are made between notions of routinised practices (Iredale 2012) and the ‘ruinous twins’ of evidence and policy. The conclusion will caution against the influence of both simplistic ‘evidence-based’ approaches on teachers, systematic review, and the rising tendency for policymakers and managers in the sector to lose interest in wider more critical educational research.


“HERE is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it”.

What’s the deal with Guided Learning Hours? Six nudges.

IMGP1985

I have been teaching in further education since 1995, and looking back I didn’t appreciate how much my professional practice has been affected by the range of funding regimes. I accepted the rationale behind initiatives that reduced my time spent with students without realising that the quality of the student experience was being sacrificed in order to maximise funding. I didn’t question why the gains made didn’t seem to find their way into my classroom.

The Ofqual blog has prompted me to offer six nudges to any future thinking on funding methodology.  Many thanks to Bob Harrison for starting me off.

#1. Field of dreams: provide a funding methodology that focusses on process and the student, not units of production.

Any funding methodology needs to have the learner experience at the heart of the process. In recent years there has been an assumption that outcomes are already known, so curricula has been written around them. Clearly this logic is flawed. Granted there is a body of knowledge, and sometimes a known set of skills attached to curricula, but the outcome belongs to the the individual (curriculum as experienced) not the institution or the funding regime. Managerialist thinking has made the mistake of thinking that students are cans of beans. They are not. The Finnish system of education has taught me that where teachers are left to teach what they know is useful, interesting and engaging, students learn and flourish. Their outcomes are good, and they progress to their next study stage or employment with the confidence that they have achieved well. By building curricula from the foundations and researching the process (collecting data through formative assessment then coding and measuring that data) teachers and students learn. Build-measure-learn.

#2. Trust, responsibility and autonomy: provide a funding methodology that focusses on teachers making decisions about time and space in curriculum planning.

Teachers should be trusted to teach. Teachers need to take responsibility for their own development. Teachers need to feel that they belong to a community which can act autonomously in the best interests of those they serve – their students. I am regularly dismayed when I hear of  a good teacher who leaves the PGCE well equipped to begin his career in teaching only to report a gradual de-skilling through the pernicious management and control regimes. Mistakes, poor planning, unruly students, low achievement etc are part and parcel of the development of professional practice.  To think that by auditing and measuring, intervening and setting up capability mechanisms professional practice will improve is to miss the basic point that experience comes with practice, practice needs to be sustained and mistakes are how we learn.

#3. The teacher as researcher: provide a funding methodology that promotes research and curriculum development.

No other profession would allow its activities to ossify in the way that we have allowed in teaching. An outmoded industrial mentality still persists (see Ken Robinson – Changing Educational Paradigms), fuelled by the superstructure and educational reproduction ideologies (see Bourdieu and Passeron 1977). Tinkering at the edges (iPads in classrooms for example) fails to appreciate the diversity of activities that teachers promote and facilitate every day. Awarding bodies control the curriculum and all sections of society have a vested interest in a status quo, apart from the ones going through the process and they are rejecting the classroom in droves. Let teachers build, measure and learn alongside their students. A teacher is a researcher, just like a medic, and their practice will develop if they are encouraged to research.

#4. Trust, violence and responsibility (Biesta 2005) : find a funding methodology that reclaims teaching and education at the heart of the process.

When students are unruly attempts are made to ‘get the buggers to behave’. Whoever coined that phrase should be hounded out of the profession! Students behave inappropriately for a variety of reasons, and while their actions may be inappropriate at the time, their reasoning is usually very sound. Students know when they are being warehoused in the name of ‘learning’. Students are bored, especially with the five part lesson, especially in sixth forms, especially when they hear aims and objectives ‘shared’ at the beginning of the lesson. Why do teachers persist in ‘meeting every learner’s need’, having something for every ‘learning style’ or ‘multiple intelligence’? Because their grade depends on it. This is such nonsense and our students know it. Bring the students into the process. Share the vision not the outcomes, share the passion not the method. When students begin to think they are not a unit of production they will like the fact that their brains hurt.

#5. Pedagogy first: find a funding methodology that promotes pedagogy

We know that ‘pedagogy’ is a funny word. It sounds odd, a bit like ‘curriculum’, it is learned on a teacher education course and then promptly jettisoned in the drive to ‘deliver’ and administer classes. While ever accountants control the budget good pedagogy hasn’t got a chance. What does an accountant know about education? Nothing – and why would they? A teacher is not expected to be an accountant… no wait, actually they are!

The question of what is educationally desirable for a particular course is rarely asked. it should be the first question. Let’s take ourselves outside education for some parallels. The horsemeat scandal – G4S – Mid Staffs – Winterborne. One thing they all have in common is the drive to reduce cost without an understanding of the implications on the quality of outcome (food that is what it claims the be, sufficiently trained staff to support an event, patients who live, people who receive basic human kindness). How much does a typical college spend on teaching as a proportion of its overall costs? It should be a large proportion and be so proud of it that it is on the home page of their websites.

#6. Learn from the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement and Massive Open Online Pedagogy (MOOP): find a funding methodology that takes education out of the marketplace.

Buildings have to be paid for, staff have to be paid, libraries have to be stocked, college executives have to apply governance. All this costs money which has to come from somewhere. But education is not a commodity. Credentialism has created a market but it is a false one, based on a false premise. We all know this because we spend our adult time researching and learning using social media, f2f networks and online fora. Hundreds of thousands of us enrol on MOOCS, and millions of us use online tutorials to help us to understand a tricky problem. Some of us rely on our social and cultural capital to get by and get on.  We don’t ask for a certificate of achievement after we’ve solved our problem. Our credentials are there to wave when we need that first or next rung on the employment ladder. They do not represent the sum of all that we are, so why peddle this ridiculous notion to our young people? If employability is the new mantra then stop subsidising employers by doing their training for them. Make them pay a proper price for the training that colleges do (very successfully in most cases). If basic skills are lacking in 16 year olds then tackle the schools’ funding methodology first. Ask why our 16 year olds arrive in college with poor literacy and numeracy after 10 years of schooling. Colleges have about 2 years to compensate for the deficit caused by poor schooling, and add some vocational value for employers to benefit from. The funding methodology should recognise this and fund it as generously as in schools.

What’s the deal with Guided Learning Hours? – Ofqual

Last night I was busy minding my own business on @Twitter reading and retweeting. I like to know what’s going on in the world of FE and the skills agenda, and I follow @NickLinford as he is always on top of things. I caught a conversation between Nick and @bobharrisonset (another mine of information). It seemed as if there was a little disagreement going on:

and

so of course I waded in.

Well one thing lead to another, including getting incensed at the word “delivery” as if it describes what teachers do:

Bob pointed me to the Ofqual website and you can read it here, including my comment:

What’s the deal with Guided Learning Hours? – Ofqual.

I said that GLH in principle are all the things stated in the viewpoint, and on the face of they perfectly acceptable as a way of measuring student entitlement. However it is the reductionist way that they are used in institutions to compact curricula and tie teachers to physical spaces that causes the problem with regard to the poor outcomes achieved by a significant number of courses. Far from ensuring quality of experience and outcome they serve as a blunt surveillance tool managed by accountants. Teachers are the best people to know how many hours should be allocated, including whole group teaching, seminar, tutorial and supervised study/practice. Find a funding formula that allows professionals to thrive in a culture of education.

The reply from Bethany Hughes was positive, promising a review to look into GLH. I am keen to be part of that consultation and would welcome the opportunity to reflect a philosophical, professional perspective. Since the demise of the FTE as a funding formula FE has been managed by accountants, keen to balance the books (not a bad thing in itself), but not in  a position to understand that ‘delivery’ based models and methodologies have no place in an education process. More to come on this when I’ve thought about the things that I would suggest to the minister for skills Matthew Hancock.

GCSE Reform

My student has written this piece about GCSE reform. it is thought provoking and worth a read.

GCSE Reform.

Yvonne Hillier on professionalism

http://www.niace.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/events/C3075-1112/Yvonne-Hillier.pdf

These slides were presented at the 12th LSRN National Research Event in November 2012. More slides and materials can be found here:

Alison Iredale | Stuffaliknows | Scoop.it

Alison Iredale | Stuffaliknows | Scoop.it.

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