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Path ahead ~ vigilance

August 24, 2014


Selected reference

Wheatley, M.J. (2012). So far from home: Lost and found in our brave new world. Berrett-Koehler: San Francisco, CA.

trust culture

August 24, 2014
The inspiring dramatisation of Grapes of Wrath I saw last night at WAAPA made me hanker for Steinbeck’s words on the page. Search as I might this morning, no copy of that mighty tome turned up. Wondered whether Daughter One took it with her when she moved out 4 weeks ago.
Nothing on her shelves apart from textbooks, an incomplete set of Stig Larsson Dragon Tattoo novels, worn copies of Papillon and The Riders.
Cue the play’s opening chords:
So I will have to paraphrase.
Ma says to Al that she hasn’t got 1000, but only one way ahead. He is young, and still has options. Her choices have been made, so the path is set.
I related in the sense that my determination to practice teaching arts more than 20 years ago means there’s no point in baulking when the road gets blocked with storm debris or the jalopy I steer breaks down.
Vignette from the field:
This week’s final oral presentations for Year 12s tackling their Jasper Jones character readings in Stage 3B English was a tumultuous passage beset by students’ ill-health, perplexity at my feedback from their last orals, and uncertainty at what was being asked of them. The tutorial task was a challenge. Pervading undercurrent? Fear.
While I persisted with strategies, probing questions, catch-up conversations during private study sessions, forward motion eventually proved compelling, and they came unstuck from their former fixed positions. Trust moved them on/ commitment to the cause (improvement) yielded shift.
Here’s their plenary review:
That point right there, now, has taken 20 months with this particular group of students. 25 years to refine the practice. One path.
Here’s where life and capital-s Study crossover. Hold on to the ropes:
Researchers claim that global reform imperatives are embedded in policy documents which are enacted by micro level actors in schools and classrooms. Teachers. The space thereby defined becomes contested terrain (Ozga, 2000).
While the policy documents themselves – and their review processes – might emphasise implementation as if actors were mere instruments and not Joads, what gives me hope for improvement is the identification of challenges as:

 * Compliance-based, top-down, surveillance approach to the implementation process
* ƒ Misinterpretation of the Standards
ƒ * Difficulty in ensuring and encouraging teachers to engage with the Standards in the context of other significant national reforms such as the Australian Curriculum (AITSL, 2014, p. 10).

My week that was also sheltered moments of privileged access to colleagues’ teaching practice where my role as line manager involved bearing witness to their own shaky jalopy.
Shaky only in the sense of being vulnerable.
Then – by nature of our performance & development process – I wrote up observation records in a template with our subsequent coaching conversation providing feedback against the AITSL standards.
In formal terms, a semantic shift away from the old performance review, but still loaded.
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There has been some trepidation expressed about this process.
  • Deprivatised practice vs surveillance
  • Self-reflection vs assessment against standards
  • Enactment vs implementation
No one likes to feel they are not trusted.
Professionals expect to be treated as such.
….And imposed coaching can still feel like coercion (says the preacher: If it feels like a sin to you in your head, why it’s a sin….).
What makes the difference?
Relationships. And the whole edifice is built on trust.
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Selected references
AITSL. (2014). Evaluation of the implementation of the Australian professional standards for teachers: Interim report on baseline implementation
2013 key findings. Retrieved August 21, 2014
Ozga, J. (2000). Policy research in educational settings: Contested terrain. Buckingham: Open University Press.

understanding the dynamics of distrust

August 17, 2014

understanding the dynamics of distrust

Selected reference

Sitkin, S.B. & Stickel, D. (1996). The road to hell: The dynamics of distrust in an era of quality. In Kramer, R.M. & Tyler, T.R. (Eds). Trust in organizations: Frontiers of theory and research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

contested spaces

August 17, 2014

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Day 2 at uni clarified notions of devolution and accountability policies as a couplet shaping the landscape of educational reform. While devolution is apparent in the relaxing grip of centralised bureaucratic power where localised autonomy increases  (and administrative burdens at the school level may be experienced as weighty workloads) accountability pressures are simultaneously exerted by

  • performance management
  • peer review
  • observations
  • evaluations
  • testing regimes
  • published school results perceived as league tables
  • moderated assessments
  • reporting processes
  • teacher quality measured by and against AITSL standards (Vidovich, 2014).

Push/pull tensions at play within inter-connective, dynamic global, national and local contexts. Incredibly complex. Also intriguing to investigate as a practitioner, if a little contentious.

And daunting…

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So, the 4000 word paper I am attempting to outline here currently occupies a skeletal frame of sub-headings and dot point questions in Evernote. I wonder about the level of difficulty involved in synthesising an analysis of quality teaching - the verb as an enacted practice, note, not a noun – within its historic, political, global, richly conceptualised framework.

Hence contested spaces. What is adopted becomes

a rather different, more diffuse view of policy as a process rather than a product, involving negotiation, contestation or struggle between different groups who may lie outside the formal machinery of official policy making (Ozga, 2000, p. 2).

Visible marker stakes (top down):


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Afterword/ word of warning: Research into reform efforts reinforces the need for focus on what is known about effective teaching. Levin claims that

much education policy has been unsuccessful in improving student outcomes or in reducing the inequities in those outcomes while also having negative effects on educators’ morale.

Any historical moment offers both opportunities and constraints (Levin, 2010, p. 739).

The art to sustaining improvement, then, focuses on adaptation which engages participants in thoughtful processes at the local level. There is a concomitant need for supportive infrastructure. Back to hearts/ minds, passion projects, meaningful learning around strategies which enhance teaching as a profession by building capacity in a community of practice.

According to Bottery, a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention began with the imposition of large-scale reform in the 1980s and stems from lack of trust, where

non-recognition can lead to hostility, the dramatic lowering of morale, and problems with sustaining teacher numbers (Bottery, 2003, p. 248).

Seems to me that regenerating trust, and thus ensuring teacher wellbeing are crucial to promotion of quality teaching.

Selected references

Bottery, M. (2003). The management and mismanagement of trust. Educational Management Administration & Leadership 31(3). Retrieved July 21, 2004 from

Ozga, J. (2000). Policy research in educational settings: Contested terrain. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Levin, B. (2010).  Governments and education reform: some lessons from the last 50 years. Journal of education policy, 25(6), 739-747. Retrieved July 5, 2014 from

Vidovich, L. (2014). Devolution & accountability policies (topic 4). Retrieved August 16, 2014 from

promoting trust

August 10, 2014

Promoting trust

Selected reference

Ozga, J. (2009). Governing education through data in England: from regulation to self-evaluation. Journal of education policy, 24(2), pp. 149-162.

‘Policy’ as a process of change

August 10, 2014
P1040673Full moon, clear skies, and catch up in the afternoon with friends Heather and Angus who recently moved house. Sounds like a report from the interior.

Not really.
More like a frame of reference to place my learning.
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Yesterday’s six hour session at uni still feels like an exercise in front-end loading.
Education Policies & Practice. My dinner guest last night took a sidelong glance at the blue unit outline I had placed on the kitchen table, and her aghast reaction ruled out further conversation on that topic.
Hope prevails.
In redefining policy as a process of change with enactment rather than implementation as the key verb – and serving to embed active negotiation, resistance and transformation into new practices – possibilities arise.
Dear reader, we are active participants in this drama. This is our part:
Text and action, words and deeds, what is enacted as well as intended (Ball, 1999, p. 10).
This morning’s trawl through online resources generated tantalising points of connection to be examined later:
My purpose?
Conduct an analysis of an interesting/ relevant policy document for this semester’s assignment… 
This morning, I am wondering about the wisdom of tackling AITSL teacher standards as a policy document in relation to Performance & Development.
The topic is immediately relevant to our school contexts.
I am also interested in teasing out its history and emergence within a political framework. Strikes me that this area is messy with emotions, and complex, too, but that’s no reason to avoid analysis.
What’s intriguing is the requirement to
  • investigate contemporary education policy trends globally, nationally and locally;
  • examine and asses the changing nature of policy directions in the domains of devolution, accountability, privatisation, marketisation, school choice, funding, curriculum and international education, and critique the implications of these changes for practices in schools and classrooms.
So, we move beyond forced duality of macro-micro by exposing tensions and perceiving agency for micro-level actors - teachers.
Selected reference
Ball, S. (1999). Global Trends in Educational Reform and the Struggle for the Soul of the Teacher. London: Centre for Public Policy Research, King’s College.

Learning from each other

August 3, 2014

learning from each other


Selected reference

Levin, B. (1998). An epidemic of education policy: (what) can we learn from each other? Comparative Education, 34(2), 131-141.

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