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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

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