Looking to the Past to think about the Future of Policy Research

Looking to the Past to think about the Future of Policy Research

With the online European Conference on Educational Research 2021 fast approaching, to whet your appetite for what will doubtless be an exciting and stimulating event, you might like to revisit one of the academic highlights of spring 2021 for the Policy Studies and the Politics of Education Network (EERA Network 23). Our Online Seminar Series brought together leading academics in the field of education policy studies, all of whom have a close relationship with Network 23. Over 200 friends and associates of the network registered to attend the four seminars, reflecting the huge contribution made by each of our speakers to education policy research.

In one way or another, our speakers looked to the past to think about the future of critical education policy research.

Navigating Crisis: A reflection on 2020, entangled space-times of education, revisionist work and learning, and making histories

In the first seminar, Terri Seddon, Professor Emeritus of La Trobe University in Melbourne, reflected on the events of 2020 before looking to the future. In a powerful presentation, Terri brought together a variety of images and ideas with findings from a funded research project that investigated policy reform and policy effects in an ‘integrated partnership’ model of teacher education. Terri suggested that historical reading and writing can offer insights into educational knowledge building, and discussed processes of rereading the past and rewriting the future. Finally, in looking towards sustainable futures, Terri considered the place of doubt in partnership work and concluded with thoughts on the remaking of teacher education.

Multiple Temporalities in Critical Policy Sociology in Education

In the second seminar, Bob Lingard, Professorial Fellow in the Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education at the Australian Catholic University and Emeritus Professor at The University of Queensland, discussed multiple temporalities in critical education policy sociology. Extending the concept of ‘historically informed’ in Jenny Ozga’s definition of education policy sociology in 1987, Bob considered different conceptions of the temporal which, he suggested, refers to the complex relationships between past, present, and future. Bob then argued that the temporal is neglected in critical education policy sociology, and demands new research and theoretical work. Looking back in time will help us understand the present and possible future in policy terms, and relationships between them.

Elites and Experts in Education Policy

In the third seminar, Jenny Ozga, Professor Emeritus of the University of Oxford and one of the founders of our network, discussed elites and experts in education policy. Jenny drew on work investigating the changing relationship between knowledge, expertise, and policy, looking at the forms of knowledge available to policy actors and the effects of these on the capacity of policy actors, including experts and elites, to govern education. Jenny compared the knowledge technologies and material processes available to policy elites and experts in the 1980s with those in contemporary contexts, to better understand knowledge-policy relationships. She concluded with some thoughts on how the pandemic has affected relationships between experts and policymakers.

Sedimentation and/or re-politicization of a highly marketized education system

In the final seminar, Lisbeth Lundahl and Linda Rönnberg, both Professors at the University of Umea, were joined by Professor Piia Seppänen of the University of Turku to discuss highly marketized education systems, focusing on Sweden. Their work builds on research carried out over several decades on the economisation of public education and its consequences, which include increased social segregation, reduced democratic influence over education, and the impoverishment of curricula. They set each of these in historical perspective within the Swedish context. Based on interviews with leading Swedish system actors, including education business leaders and various interest organisations, Lisbeth, Linda and Piia then reported on the extent to which commodification, privatization and marketization in education have become institutionalized, normalized, and therefore taken for granted. They identified this process as one that Bob Jessop describes as sedimentation, although they remained hopeful that re-politicisation of policy debates was now emerging.

This series provided an opportunity for those within the wider education policy research community to connect with each other. For many, these seminars provided some relief from the enforced isolation of the global pandemic, and were well received by all who attended. The speakers were generous in the time they gave, and provocative and insightful in their presentations. I am sure you will enjoy watching and listening to them, whether for the first time or as a reminder of what was a wonderful series.

Dr Peter Kelly

Dr Peter Kelly

Associate Professor (Reader) in Comparative Education · Plymouth Institute of Education

Peter Kelly is Link Convenor for Network 23: Policy Studies and Politics of Education. If you would like to know more about Network 23, he is happy to be contacted: peter.kelly@plymouth.ac.uk.

References and Further Reading

Alexiadou, Nafsika, Lundahl, Lisbeth & Rönnberg, Linda (2019). Shifting logics: education and privatization the Swedish way, in: J. Wilkinson, R. Niesche & S. Eacott (Eds) Challenges for public education: reconceptualising educational leadership, policy and social justice as resources for hope, London, Routledge. http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A1267623&dswid=9840

Lingard, Bob (2021) Multiple temporalities in critical policy sociology in education, Critical Studies in Education 62(3) 338-353, DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2021.1895856. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17508487.2021.1895856

Manton, Claire, Heffernan, Troy, Kostogriz, Alex & Seddon, Terri (2021) Australian school–university partnerships: the (dis)integrated work of teacher educators, Asia Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 49:3, 334-346, DOI: 10.1080/1359866X.2020.1780563. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1359866X.2020.1780563

Ozga, Jenny (2020) Elites and Expertise: the changing material production of knowledge for policy, in: G. Fan and T. Popkewitz (Eds) Values, Governance, Globalization, and Methodology, Volume 1, Singapore, Springer Open. https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9789811383465

 

Managing Digital Learning during COVID-19 and Beyond

Managing Digital Learning during COVID-19 and Beyond

It is undisputed that Covid has had a massive impact on education and the way it is delivered, both in the UK and internationally. Whilst there have been a number of papers on the ways in which teachers have innovated during this time, and the impact this has had on their workload and mental health, there has been little on how school leaders and their senior teams have taken a strategic overview of online and blended learning. This post takes a look at a funded research project and explores why this area is so important for school leadership, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The recent pandemic has led to unprecedented challenges for school leadership teams and their staff. Almost overnight, they have had to create policies and working practices in a very short timeframe. One leader reported that a strategy meant to take three years had been achieved in three weeks!

In England, secondary schools have been shut down for the duration of two lockdown periods for all but the children of essential workers. Evidence from our pilot project suggests that school leaders have not only changed policies and practices but in many cases, their vision for education. The project, leading school learning through Covid 19 and beyond: online learning and strategic planning through and post lockdown in English secondary schools, investigates how senior leaders strategically planned for online learning – before, during, and after the pandemic. Our sample includes interviews with 70 senior leaders from English secondary schools, along with a questionnaire sent out via project partners to 4000 schools, and an analysis of 200 school websites.

 

level I – this is the lowest level of digital planning, in which technology is used passively by particular teachers in particular subjects to support learning. This level is termed – substitution. Level II this is where traditional pedagogy is adapted for online, this level is termed – augmentation. Level III – modification – this is where strategic thought is given to the design of online learning and enhancements that add value are implemented. Level IV – strategic planning for online learning – this links to a whole school or departmental approach.
Figure 1 : Strategic Planning for Online learning: Level 1 to 4, adapted from Puntedura, 2021.

Our project classifies the different levels of strategic planning for online education, via an adapted version of Puntedura’s (Puentedura, 2010), SAMR Model, in which the lowest level of planning is termed substitution, the second level is termed augmentation, the third level is termed modification, and the final and most advanced level is termed strategic planning for online learning. (See figure 1). It adopts a strategy as a learning approach which we have used successfully in previous projects relating to educational leadership and management (Baxer & Floyd, 2019; J.  Baxter, 2020; J Baxter & John, 2021).

Challenges

Analysis of the pilot project suggests some key themes that are emerging in both qualitative and quantitative data. It is clear that school leaders made some substantial changes to the management of online learning in the period between the first lockdown in March 2020 and the second principal lockdown in the winter of 2020/ 2021. For example, school leaders reported considerable issues with hardware and connectivity, particularly during the first lockdown. Evidence suggests that they have subsequently been creative in acquiring these elements, ensuring that learners were properly equipped to engage with learning during lockdown two.  

One of the major categories that has emerged within the study is well-being and care: this in terms of both teacher and learner welfare. School leaders appear to have placed the well-being of their staff and learners first and foremost. They report considerable stress amongst staff, and challenges in relation to learners, particularly those with particular learning needs, and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. This aligns with the findings of a report by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Leaders have also reported the considerable investment of time needed in building the competencies of parents and carers. This has offered both challenges and opportunities with engaging parents more fully in the learning processes of their children. Communication with parents and learners, and not least in managing online teachers and teams, was also a challenge. Yet again, out of the crisis, there appears to have been some considerable learning taking place, with senior leaders speaking to SEN students and their carers, in some cases on a weekly or even daily basis.

Leaders report that one of the most important tasks during lockdown has been establishing a baseline for effective teaching. Some schools cut down on curriculum to focus on the essentials. Sorting out policies and protocols with staff, governors, and unions, has taken up a great deal of management time, but respondents largely feel that it has been a worthwhile task going forward.

Opportunities

There is considerable evidence of pedagogical innovation and creativity, particularly during the second lockdown when school staff were taken less by surprise. Leaders report evidence of new ideas being tried and tested by teachers, free from the normal constraints. They also report new roles being created as a result of an enhanced focus on digital learning. For example, a new head of digital strategy and innovation at one multi-academy trust; a new head of digital training and development for both teachers and parents in the same MAT.

There is also evidence that some senior leaders are beginning to view education in a different way: one head of a multi-academy trust had already brokered a relationship with Apple to move the whole curriculum online. New and innovative practices adopted during Covid, born out of necessity, are reported as now being ‘business as usual’. An example of this is parent evenings – once held face-to-face and often poorly attended, particularly in schools in challenging areas – which have been much more successful online. Several school leaders state their intention to continue this practice and extend it to governor meetings and, in some cases, staff meetings too.

 In terms of quality assurance, this is one area that presented school leaders with their biggest challenges. But from the second lockdown onwards, some schools had already introduced strategies for peer observation of teaching, virtual learning walks, and other innovations to promote and sustain good practice. Some respondents reported using online engagement statistics to measure learner engagement.

One particularly interesting area reported by one senior multi-Academy trust leader: a number of teachers and headteachers across over 15 schools reported that quieter pupils, those who didn’t normally respond well in class, had engaged far more fully with lessons when delivered digitally. This is a potentially intriguing area that could be taken forward concerning introverted students and their more extroverted peers.

Going Forward

The central part of the framework links to well-being and access to learning in the next concentric circle moving outwards, is trust, communication, data privacy. The next concentric circle contains four quadrants, four aspects of digital learning in secondary schools: one – design differentiated learning experience for all students; two – build competencies of teacher students parents and carers; three – collaborate in multilateral strategies with teacher voice at the core; four – develop the digital environment with a combination of approaches. Outside the circle are for headings these headings indicate that the subjects are overarching in relation to the other quadrants of the circle: pedagogical innovation, flexibility and partnership, resources and infrastructure, equity ability and inclusivity.

The pilot research has revealed some interesting findings that will be taken forward into the main phase. It has also resulted in a theoretical framework for our research. This is illustrated in figure 2.

As can be seen in the framework, we place well-being and access to learning central to the future development of digital innovation in secondary schools.

The second part of our framework includes:

  • designing a differentiated learning experience for students
  • the importance of building the competencies of teachers, students, parents, and carers
  • collaboration in multilateral strategies with teacher voice at the core
  • developing a digital environment via a combination of approaches.

We look forward to continuing our reporting on the project, which will give rise to a free online course for school leaders hosted on the Open University’s open learning platform.

 Further details of our project, or to take part, see our website at: https://www.open.ac.uk/projects/leading-online-learning/

 or follow us on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/Covid_EduLeader

References and Further Reading

Baxer, J., & Floyd, A. (2019). Strategic narrative in multi‐academy trusts in England: Principal drivers for expansion. British Educational Research Journal, 45(5), 1050-1071.

Baxter, J. (2020). Schemes of delegation as governance tools : the case of multi academy trusts in education under review.

Baxter, J., & John, A. (2021). Strategy as learning in multi-academy trusts in England: strategic thinking in action. School Leadership & Management, 1-21. doi: 10.1080/13632434.2020.1863777

Jewitt, K., Baxter, J., & Floyd, A. (2021). Literature review on the use of online and blended learning during Covid 19 and Beyond. The Open University The Open University

Dr Jacqueline Baxter

Dr Jacqueline Baxter

Associate Professor in Public Policy and Management The Open University Business School

Dr Jacqueline Baxter is Associate Professor in Public Policy and Management and Director for the Centre of Innovation in Online Business and Legal Education (SCILAB). She is Principal Fellow of The Higher Education Academy, Fellow of The Academy of Social Sciences and Elected Council Member of Belmas. She is outgoing Editor in Chief of the Sage Journal Management in Education (MiE) Her current funded research projects examine the interrelationship between trust, accountability, and capacity in improving learning outcomes; and the strategic management of online learning in secondary schools during and beyond Covid19.

Dr Baxter is based in the Department of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise at the Open University Business School.

She tweets @drjacqueBaxter and her profile can be found at: http://www.open.ac.uk/people/jab899. Her latest book is: Trust, Accountability and Capacity in Education System Reform (Routledge, 2020).

Dr Katharine Jewitt

Dr Katharine Jewitt

Research Fellow and Educational Technology Consultant at The Open University

Dr Katharine Jewitt is a Research Fellow and Educational Technology Consultant at The Open University. Katharine works across four faculties (Faculty of Wellbeing, Education & Language Studies, Faculty for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, Faculty of Business and Law and The Centre for Inclusion and Collaborative Partnership) and teaches at access, undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Professor Alan Floyd

Professor Alan Floyd

University of Reading

Alan Floyd is a Professor of Education and his research and teaching activity focus on two substantive areas: educational leadership and doctoral education. Specific areas of interest include:

  • Academic leadership
  • School leadership and Multi Academy Trusts (MATs)
  • How people perceive and experience being in a leadership role
  • Distributed and collaborative leadership
  • Leadership development
  • Career trajectories
  • Identity Insider research and associated ethical issues
  • Supporting doctoral researchers
The ‘Logic’ Behind the Resumption of National Testing in the Danish State School System

The ‘Logic’ Behind the Resumption of National Testing in the Danish State School System

On the 1st of February, the Danish Minister of Education, Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil, announced that national testing would be resumed as of March 1st to evaluate the “learning loss” that has arisen in connection with the lockdown of state schools in Denmark. What is the logic behind this decision, and what does it say about the political priorities in relation to primary schools?

The Danish Minister’s announcement that national testing must be resumed immediately after the reopening of public schools has not been well received by the Danish Union of Teachers and many individual teachers. For example, in an interview with the Danish radio station P1, teacher Anne Hammer pointed out that there is a need to focus on well-being and re-establishment of the communities when the students return after the lockdown, rather than national testing. She also pointed out that national tests put students under pressure and create uncertainty, which directly counteracts the work around well-being.

Against these arguments, the Minister argues that there is a need for knowledge about learning gaps at the municipal and national level. This concept does not focus on the individual pupil and school class but rather on identifying overall patterns at the societal level. The argument for this societal need is presented by the Minister’s party colleague and spokesperson on education, Jens Joel, who in the same broadcast pointed out that the OECD has found a connection between learning losses and a decline in gross domestic product.

This argument reflects the so-called human capital approach to education, which roughly means that education must provide a skilled labour force and increasing productivity in the labour market. The OECD has advocated this approach for decades. It is a key component of the entire PISA program, which, citing education economist Eric Hanushek of the Neo-Conservative Hoover Institute, postulates a link between a country’s PISA performance and its GDP. However, this link has been emphatically disproved in numerous research publications by, among others, Hikaru Komatsu and Jeremy Rappleye. Similarly, the whole idea behind the human capital approach has been thoroughly dismantled by, among others, the British Professor of Education and Political Economy, Hugh Lauder, who demonstrates a lack of coherence between learning and earning in the global economy.

In terms of research, there is thus a picture of very dubious reasoning behind the requirement for national tests in the reopening public school. Therefore, it appears that the reason for national testing is more likely to be the desire to have some form of certainty and control of the public school by central authorities. This desire must be understood in terms of how education works globally, where international comparisons and an understanding of education is viewed as a determining factor for countries’ future competitiveness and, essentially, their long-term survival. As Professor John Krejsler has argued convincingly, global education policy is today driven by a fear of falling behind, and a well-functioning education system is understood as a system that delivers competitive academic results… and this requires certainty and control by the central authorities.

Blog Contributor

Christian Ydesen

Christian Ydesen

Professor (WSR) at Department of Culture and Learning, Aalborg University, Denmark

Christian Ydesen is a professor (WSR) at the Department of Culture and Learning, Aalborg University, Denmark. He is the PI of the project ‘The Global History of the OECD in education’ funded by the Aalborg University talent programme and the project ‘Education Access under the Reign of Testing and Inclusion’ funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark. He has been a visiting scholar at Edinburg University (2008-2009, 2016), Birmingham University (2013), Oxford University (2019), and Milan University (2021) and published several chapters and articles on topics such as educational testing, international organisations, accountability, educational psychology and diversity in education from historical and international perspectives. He currently serves as an executive editor of the European Educational Research Journal.

Webpages:

https://vbn.aau.dk/en/persons/124965

https://www.researchgate.net/procle/Christian_Ydesen

Project webpages:

EduAccess.aau.dk

https://www.en.culture.aau.dk/research/projects/global-history-oecd-in-education

References and Further Reading

Brown, P., Lauder, H., & Cheung, S. Y. (2020). Theœ death of human capital? – Its Failed Promise and How to Renew It in an Age of Disruption. Oxford University Press.

Hanushek, E. A., & Woessmann, L. (2015)The knowledge capital of nations: Education and the economics of growth. The MIT Press.

Komatsu, H., & Rappleye, J. (2021). Rearticulating PISA. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 19(2), 245-258. https://10.1080/14767724.2021.1878014

Krejsler, J. B. (2019). How a European ‘Fear of falling behind’ discourse co-produces global standards: Exploring the inbound and outbound performativity of the transnational turn in European education policy. In C. Ydesen (Ed.), The OECD’s historical rise in education: The formation of a global governing complex (pp. 245-267). Springer International Publishing.

Turning a leaf: a new procedure for European Education Research Journal Special Issues

Turning a leaf: a new procedure for European Education Research Journal Special Issues

2020 has been a year like no other. On 31st of December 2019, the WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of ‘pneumonia of unknown etiology’. Less than a year later, the COVID-19 pandemic has shattered social life as we know it. The disease has taken tens of thousands of lives, whilst confining billions to their homes in worldwide ‘lockdowns’, in an effort to mitigate the spread of the lethal disease. In a matter of days, the global health emergency led to an education crisis, too. As country after country ordered school closures, education was suddenly faced with an extraordinary new reality: billions of children around the world became homebound, unable to go to school.

Yet, education did not stop. From nurseries to schools to higher education, we saw concerted and speedy adaptation efforts to create home-schooling and online education environments where students and teachers can interact. The extent to which these solutions are effective, or even available to all learners, will be studied in depth in months and years to come. What is certain is that, similar to all other social policy areas, the effects of the pandemic in education are disproportionately worse for those from more unstable and weaker economic and social backgrounds.

This challenging context was the one in which the European Educational Research Journal changed editors’ hands; after the hard work of its founding Editor-in-Chief Professor Martin Lawn, and a successful five years’ spell under the editorial leadership of Professors Maarten Simons and Eric Mangez that followed, EERJ has now become an established and scientifically recognised journal in the field of education research in Europe and beyond.

 

EERJ is interested in the changing education research horizons in Europe. It sees the field as one that crosses borders through its subjects of study, our scholarly collaborations and the increasing complexity of a fluid and interconnected world. We see our work as the new EERJ co-editors as one of further enhancing the European research identity of the journal. We believe that this will be achieved by following the footpath of our predecessors in promoting the peer review and publishing of robust empirical education research, as well as balancing the journal’s publication profile by moving to a greater parity of the journal’s share of special issues with issues that feature independent article submissions.

 

As many of you know, EERJ has been closely associated to the annual European Conference of Education Research (ECER); we take part in the early career researchers’ conference, giving publishing advice to younger scholars; we organise the conference’s MOOT, a discussion forum around a topic of current interest; and we publish the keynote lectures. The journal, for a long time now, through this productive relationship with ECER, encouraged strong conference panels to submit articles as special issue proposals. Although EERJ will continue to do this important work, it also has to be acknowledged that the journal would now benefit from turning over a new leaf and allowing equal space for the publication of independent research papers, too.

 

Further, it has also become apparent that this is not just an aspiration that relates to scholarship only but perhaps also to practicality: at the moment there is a list of special issues in the pipeline; although all of them are high-quality contributions to the field of education research, the current reality of the global pandemic further increases the need for the journal to be able to be responsive to its contemporary, highly demanding and fluid historical and political environment by publishing independent articles timely and proactively.

 

Therefore, following a recent editorial board meeting and the agreement of all its members, EERJ will follow a new process for special issue submissions. This will be as follows:

 

EERJ will introduce a new ‘Expression of interest’ form with a deadline of the end of September annually. This form will be used as a tool for the evaluation of the significance of the proposal in relation to its empirical and conceptual analysis, and its contribution to the aims and the scope of the journal.  At the end of this competitive process, only a certain number of special issue proposals will go forward. The successful candidates will be invited to submit full proposals by the end of December. Full proposals will be evaluated closely: we will retain the option of rejecting a proposal if they do not fulfil the specified criteria, although we will be giving feedback and helping authors submit strong contributions. Following this process, we hope that annually, by late January, we will have an outcome that will trigger the preparation of three special issues per year.

 

The context in which EERJ is working today is one in which the mobilizing discourses of the European Education Area, combined with other ‘borderless’ flows of internationalisation of programmes, public-private partnerships and university alliances, are re-shaping the milieu of research in education. Above all, the current global pandemic, with its catastrophic effects on European economies and societies, has had -and will continue to have- a direct impact on education research in Europe. Regardless of the detrimental effects of this crisis, education research in Europe is currently thriving: a recent EERJ call for papers for a special issue on ‘Education in the Pandemic’ drew almost 200 high-quality abstracts of empirical research. A continuous challenge for EERJ is to be able to reflect on our current education condition and respond to it by publishing reflexive, robust and innovative research. We hope that this shift in the journal’s profile will help EERJ continue to flourish and grow in an increasingly competitive academic publishing environment and a highly uncertain and unequal world.

 

Professor Sotiria Grek

Professor Sotiria Grek

Professor of European and Global Education Governance / University of Edinburgh

Sotiria Grek is Professor of European and Global Education Governance at the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh. Sotiria’s work focuses on the field of quantification in global public policy, with a specialisation in the policy arenas of education and sustainable development. She has co-authored (with Martin Lawn) Europeanising Education: Governing A New Policy Space (Symposium, 2012) and co-edited (with Joakim Lindgren) Governing by Inspection (Routledge, 2015), as well as the World Yearbook in Education: Accountability and Datafication in Education (with Christian Maroy and Antoni Verger; Routledge, 2021). 

Paolo Landri

Paolo Landri

Senior Researcher of the Institute of Research on Population and Social Policies at National Research Council in Italy

Paolo Landri is a Senior Researcher of the Institute of Research on Population and Social Policies at National Research Council in Italy (CNR-IRPPS).  His main research interests concern educational organizations, digital governance and educational policies. His latest publication is: (2020) Educational Leadership, Management, and Administration through Actor Network Theory, London, Routledge.