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policy gap

August 31, 2014

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Wednesday’s athletics carnival showcased exuberant community spirit at our K-12 College. Later that evening, a Year 10 entrant in the Youth Out Loud competition held at the Midland Arts Centre won his way through to next week’s finals with a 6 minute speech on music and technology.

How did he get through such a long, eventful day? Student JC admitted that he had managed to squeeze in a sleep on the new sofas in our cyber cafe space. Did I know – he asked me – that the sofas flatten into beds?

Well, yes, the Humanities team decided to purchase 4 sofa beds as part of our annual budget submission. Funky and functional, even if the flat pack assembly proved challenging…

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Made me appreciate that there’s often a gap between stated purpose/ intention and end-use/ outcome. Similarly, teaching-learning as a process is both complex and dynamic, thus not useful to consider only in a formulaic sense, reduced to curriculum, guidelines, final test scores or stated policy alone.

Also, policies are understood (or not) within diverse contexts.

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As a lived, enacted practice imbued with emotions which serve to glue relationships at the local or micro level in schools, classrooms, and on sportsfields, a plethora of policy is mediated by actors who seek to resolve anxiety arising from

…concerns about the future, and of the need for schools to do something different in preparation for a future that is different from the past (Yates, 2012, p.266).

No wonder the OECD maintains that teacher status is dependent on innovation and research (Vidovich, 2014); thus, high quality teaching is seen as equipping

students with the competencies they need to become active citizens and workers in the 21st century. [Teachers] need to personalize learning experiences to ensure that every student has a chance to succeed and to deal with increasing cultural diversity in their classrooms and differences in learning styles. They also need to keep up with innovations in curricula, pedagogy and the development of digital resources (OECD, 2011, Foreword).

To assist in specifying and evaluating teacher quality, much of the research focuses on attraction and retention of the best graduates with the problematic underlying assumption being that the most able students “make the best teachers“, whereas students acknowledge the importance of subject knowledge to quality teaching, along with pedagogy, relationships, and an ability to make learning fun (Graham, 2014).

Is it possible to measure these qualities on a scale?

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Investment in ongoing professionalism is seen as vital in order to ensure teachers are

equipped with subject-matter knowledge and an evidence- and standards-based repertoire of pedagogical skills that are demonstrably
effective in meeting the developmental and learning needs of all students for whom they have responsibility – regardless of students’ backgrounds and intake characteristics, and whether or not they experience learning difficulties (Ingvarson & Rowe, 2007, p. 2).

In a period of rapid global educational reform driven by

  • neoliberalism
  • privatisation
  • marketisation, and
  • school choice policies (Vidovich, 2014),

where funding sources have swung away from supporting notions of public good (Reid, 2012), and the Gonski Review has been rejected by a federal government intent on managing change efficiently, devising viable means of sustaining as a practitioner within this macro level context seems far more complicated than enacting AITSL standards or undertaking Performance & Development may suggest.

Is it any wonder that since the 1980s we have been witnessing a steady erosion of morale and trust, along with spiking points of fear in the embrace of hyper-accountability?

Then again, as I return to my earlier carnival vignette, and the insight shared by student JC about the suitability and comfort of our school facilities: A counter-discourse of hope, care, commitment and passion emerges in relationships (Hargreaves, 2001). We just need to be open to these possibilities with others in our schools.

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There is, after all, a continual opportunity for us to operate in the praxis which we cultivate, and – from this vantage point, together – the policy gap presents as a potential s-p-a-c-e or landscape in which to build trust and make sense or meaning.

Selected references

Graham, L.J. (2014). ATAR scores only part of the picture for teaching. The Conversation. Retrieved August 30, 2014 http://theconversation.com/atar-scores-only-part-of-the-picture-for-teaching-28445

Hargreaves, A. (2001). Emotional geographies of teaching. Teachers College: Columbia University. Retrieved August 30, 2014 http://ww2.faulkner.edu/o/admin/websites/jfarrell/emotional%20geographies%20of%20teaching.pdf

Ingvarson, L. & Rowe, K. (2007). Conceptualising and evaluating teacher quality: Substantive and methodological issues. Australian Council for Educational Research. Retrieved August 30, 2014 http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1007&context=learning_processes

OECD. (2011). Building a High-Quality Teaching Profession: Lessons from around the World. OECD Publishing. Retrieved August 31, 2014 http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/programmeforinternationalstudentassessmentpisa/buildingahigh-qualityteachingprofessionlessonsfromaroundtheworld.htm

Reid, A. (2012). Federalism, public education and the public good. Whitlam Institute: Perspectives. Retrieved July 5, 2014 http://www.whitlam.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/399624/Perspectives_7_-_Professor_Alan_Reid_AM.pdf

Vidovich, L. (2014). Education policy trends: Global to local (EDUC 5658) – Topic 9. UWA course materials.

Yates, L. (2012). My School, My University, My Country, My World, My Google, Myself…What is education for now? The Australian Association for Research in Education, 39, pp. 259-274. Retrieved August 30, 2014 http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/663/art%253A10.1007%252Fs13384-012-0062-z.pdf?auth66=1409550338_58c4cadaf1d992c03c3fdc20ac79c62e&ext=.pdf

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