Results from a Survey on Post-Primary Teachers’ Experiences with Calculated Grading during COVID-19

Results from a Survey on Post-Primary Teachers’ Experiences with Calculated Grading during COVID-19

In May 2020, as a result of Covid-19, the high stakes assessment at the end of post-primary education in Ireland (the Leaving Certificate Examination – LCE) was cancelled replaced by a system of calculated grades. In documentation sent to schools, the Department of Education and Skills (DES) made it clear that a calculated grade would result from the combination of two data sets:

  • an overall percentage mark and ranking in each subject awarded to each student by their teacher (the school-based estimation process)
  • data on past performance of students in each school and nationally (the standardisation process)

Following the issuing of results to students and the completion of the appeals process, an online questionnaire survey was conducted in the final months of 2020 by researchers at the Institute of Education, Dublin City University, with the aim of investigating how teachers’ engaged with the calculated grades process in their schools.  Data from a total of 713 respondents were used in a report published by the Centre for Assessment Research, Policy and Practice in Education (CARPE) on April 15th 2021. This report is now available to download from www.dcu.ie/carpe.  The following are some highlights from this report.

 

Assessment Evidence Used

Teachers considered many different types of formative and summative assessments when estimating mark and ranks for their students. Particularly important were final year exams prior to lockdown (98%) and final year continuous assessments (92%). Four out of every five teachers indicated that knowledge of how previous students had performed in the LC influenced their decision-making.  Significantly, 88% said that formative assessments were important also. One respondent noted:

Personally, I feel very competent in assigning the predicted grades to my LC students in 2020 since I had assessed their performance in detail over a 2-year period…. Each exam/ portfolio/homework was assigned a weighting and a record of their performance updated to our Schoology platform. Students could readily assess their own progress over this period and all this data enabled a solid predicted grade for each student.

 

Teachers’ Reflections on the School-Based Estimation Process

At least 90% of teachers indicated that they were able to apply the DES calculated grades guidelines strictly when estimating marks and ranks for the majority of their students. However, some reported experiencing difficulties in adjudicating marks at grade boundaries.  For example, 61% said that they gave 5% or more of their students the benefit of the doubt and gave them a mark that moved them above a grade boundary, with 21% saying that they should have awarded a failing mark but didn’t.  One-third of respondents said that they awarded a higher mark for 5% or more of their students because they thought the national standardisation process might bring the student’s grade down.  While 73% said that the moderation process to align grades within their schools worked well, 26% reported raising a mark and 17% lowering a mark following engagement in the process. Significantly, the vast majority of teachers (92%) felt that the marks they awarded were fair.

 

Other Reflections

One in three respondents added commentary at the end of the questionnaire, with many focusing on the stress brought about by the fact that they lived in the same small communities as the students they were grading. Many identified parents, school management, media and politicians as sources of the pressure they felt.  One teacher expressed it thus:

I believe that while it would be ok for more teacher involvement in urban centres, the nature of rural and small town Ireland made the entire process very uncomfortable and I am sure that teachers will feel the rippling exponential impact of this for some time.

A number of events that transpired following the submission of school data to the DES were also highlighted as problematic.  The fact that the DES provided students with their rank order data came as a surprise to teachers and caused great disquiet. The removal, in late August, of school historical data from the standardisation process, following controversy about its use for calculated grades in the UK, was a source of great annoyance, especially among those working in high achieving schools. That said, some teachers noted that calculated grades had been an acceptable option in the context of a pandemic and that many students benefited from the fact that the grades awarded in 2020 were the highest ever.

 

Conclusion

The implementation of calculated grades in Ireland was a historic event as, for the first time since the introduction of the LCE in 1924, post-primary teachers engaged in the assessment of their own students for certification purposes. While difficulties arose, all those involved worked diligently to ensure that the class of 2020 could progress in their education and/or careers.  In 2021, Irish teachers will be asked to engage in a similar process while at the same time they will be preparing their students to take the traditional LC examinations.  The plan is that the two assessment systems will run side-by-side, and students will be given the option of choosing their best result in each subject.  Our hope is that findings from this survey will be useful to all those responsible for overseeing and implementing this challenging task.

References and Further Reading

Doyle, A., Z. Lysaght and M. O’Leary. 2021. Preliminary Findings from a Survey of Post- Primary Teachers Involved in the Leaving Certificate 2020. Calculated Grades Process in Ireland. Dublin: Centre for Assessment, Research, Policy and Practice in Education (CARPE), Dublin City University. Accessed April 15, 2021. https://www.dcu.ie/sites/default/files/inline-files/calculated_grades_2020_preliminary_findings_v2_2.pdf

Doyle, A., Lysaght, Z., & O’Leary, M. 2021. High stakes assessment policy implementation in the time of COVID-19: The case of calculated grades in Ireland. Irish Educational Studies, 40. DOI: 10.1080/03323315.2021.1916565 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03323315.2021.1916565 

Prof. Michael O'Leary,

Prof. Michael O'Leary,

Prometric Chair in Assessment, School of Policy and Practice, Institute of Education, Dublin City University

Michael O’Leary holds the Prometric Chair in Assessment at Dublin City University where he also directs the Centre for Assessment Research, Policy and Practice in Education (CARPE). He leads a programme of research at CARPE focused on assessment across all levels of education and in the workplace.

Dr. Audrey Doyle

Dr. Audrey Doyle

Assistant Professor, School of Policy and Practice, Institute of Education, Dublin City University

Audrey Doyle is an assistant professor in the School of Policy and Practice in DCU. A former second-level principal of a large all-girls post-primary school in Dublin, she achieved her Ph.D. in Maynooth University in 2019. She now lectures on curriculum and assessment across a diversity of modules in DCU, contributing to the Masters in Leadership and the Doctorate in Education.

Dr. Zita Lysaght

Dr. Zita Lysaght

Assistant Professor, School of Policy and Practice, Institute of Education, Dublin City University

Zita Lysaght is a member of the School of Policy and Practice and a Research Associate and member of the Advisory Board and Advisory Panel of CARPE at DCU. She coordinates and teaches classroom assessment and research methodology modules on undergraduate, masters and doctoral programmes and directs and supervises a range of research and doctoral projects.

Making Connections in Higher Education

Making Connections in Higher Education

Relational Pedagogies

What does it mean to teach and learn in higher education today? And more importantly, what should, and could, it mean? These are fundamental questions that speak to the values that underpin our practice, and that shape the cultures we foster and work within and the experiences our students have as they transition into and through university. In recent work, we have suggested that despite the dominant discourses that focus on student satisfaction, that depict higher education as a product, and construct students as consumers, meaningful interpersonal relationships remain of paramount importance to both students and staff. Meaningful connections enable learning, and situating connections as fundamental to higher education can offer openings to reorientate the way we experience our work as educators.

This is a theme we have explored in our recent work. For example, using a creative story-completion method, we examined how relationships impact upon students’ experiences of higher education and surfaced the importance of relational pedagogies, where meaningful relationships are positioned as critical to effective learning and teaching. In this article, we drew upon data from a longitudinal study, in which students were invited to complete stories that enabled them to surface experiences and discourses surrounding relationships at university. Our data suggest that meaningful connections are crucial to accessing support. Most notable within the data were a number of key themes that recurred within the students’ stories and interviews.

Firstly, students reported that they desired the individuality of their experiences to be recognised. This resonates with other recent work examining how students experience belonging in higher education and highlighting the situated, granularity, and diversity of students’ experiences. Such work indicates a need to move away from understanding students’ experiences as universal and uniform. Second, our article surfaced the importance of achieving connections with others, and the experience of alienation when interactions are not genuine, or when communication breaks down. For students, feeling that they are understood and that they matter can be a fundamental part of their learning experience. In a broader sense, we can understand learning as situated within a wider web of relations, in which students do not exist independently and in isolation, but intra-act (Barad 2007). This leads us to ask new questions about how we want to engage with both our students, with one another, and encourages us to look again at the broader networks in which learning occurs.

From Metrics to Mattering

However, relational pedagogies, and the need for students to experience a sense of mattering, are situated against a backdrop of tensions within higher education learning environments that mean that such relationships cannot always develop. The higher education landscape has shifted dramatically towards a predominant focus on accountability and student satisfaction. At the same time, a wider era of global economic and health uncertainty means that students and staff often work and learn in contexts that are challenging for engagement. Within the neoliberal university, the student is positioned as a self-governing agent, as a consumer. Staff are under increasing pressures and experiencing high levels of workload and burnout. Our findings suggest that a greater understanding of the need to interact care-fully with our students is essential. In particular, we suggest that students need to be understood as more than customers, with diverse experiences, and that adopting such an understanding may enable more generative pedagogic relationships to develop. However, we also advocate the need to prioritise relational pedagogies, to find spaces for new conversations around relational learning to take place, and, crucially, for staff to be recognised and supported in their work developing learning.

Future Directions

There is further work to be done to understand more about what meaningful connections for students look like. This is an evolving area, generating key questions such as how we might foster connections when learning and teaching, as well as what broader sociomaterial actors might be involved in learning interactions, and how might we trace these practices and relations. Future work on relational pedagogies, connections, and mattering, to be published in 2022, will examine further the role of the relational within higher education and will argue that such a perspective offers an enriched understanding of higher education pedagogies that can be potentially transformative in creating the higher education pedagogies and practices we might want to be a part of. For now, we suggest that asking who and what matters within higher education, as well as acknowledging the importance of the relational, may be the first steps in moving towards creating opportunities for supporting staff to prioritise their connections with students. This might be in terms of increasing time for student-staff interactions, prioritising the value of teaching within institutions (and providing further resourcing), attending to the diverse day-to-day practices of learning interactions, or even just creating spaces for conversations regarding relational pedagogies to take place.

References and Further Reading

Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Duke University Press. https://www.dukeupress.edu/meeting-the-universe-halfway 

Gravett, K. and Winstone, N. E. (2020). Making Connections: Authenticity and Alienation Within Students’ Relationships in Higher Education. Higher Education Research and Development. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2020.1842335

Gravett, K., Kinchin, I. M. and Winstone, N. E. (2020) ‘More than Customers’: Conceptions of Students as Partners Held by Students, Staff, and Institutional Leaders. Studies in Higher Education, 45 (12), 2574-2587. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2019.1623769 

Gravett, K. and Ajjawi, R. (2021) Belonging as Situated Practice. Studies in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2021.1894118

Gravett, K. (due 2022) Connections and Mattering in Higher Education: Reimagining Relational Pedagogy, Practice and Research.  London: Bloomsbury.

 

Dr Karen Gravett

Dr Karen Gravett

Lecturer in Higher Education

Dr Karen Gravett is a Lecturer in Higher Education at the Surrey Institute of Education, at the University of Surrey, UK. Her research focuses on staff and students’ experiences of learning and teaching in higher education. In particular, she explores the role of connections in learning, and the impact of discourses and narratives in higher education. Her work also considers how theoretically informed approaches (posthumanism; poststructuralism; sociomaterial studies) can help us to understand how we learn. Karen is co-convenor of the SRHE Learning, Teaching and Assessment network, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Associate Editor of the Higher Education Research and Development journal, and a member of the editorial board for Teaching in Higher Education.
Dr Naomi Winstone

Dr Naomi Winstone

Reader in Higher Education, Director of the Surrey Institute of Education

Dr Naomi Winstone is a Reader in Higher Education and Director of the Surrey Institute of Education at the University of Surrey, UK. Her research focuses on the processing and impact of instructional feedback and the influence of dominant discourses of assessment and feedback in policy and practice on the positioning of educators and students in feedback processes. She is also an Honorary Associate Professor in the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE) at Deakin University, Australia. Naomi is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a UK National Teaching Fellow.

Internationalising research on teaching assistants: A call for expressions of interest in creating a research network

Internationalising research on teaching assistants: A call for expressions of interest in creating a research network

Across the globe, the drive towards the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools has become contingent on the creation and utilisation of a paraprofessional workforce, commonly known as teaching assistants or teacher aides (TAs).  

Australia, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, the US, and the UK have all experienced large increases in this section of their education workforce over the last quarter-century. It is claimed that in many territories, policies of inclusion and provision for pupils with SEN rely heavily on this ‘non-teaching’ workforce (Masdeu Navarro, 2015). And recent evidence from the UK shows how vital TAs have been to keeping schools open and ensuring children can learn during the COVID pandemic (Moss et al, 2021). 

The growing prevalence and prominence of TAs in schools has attracted attention from researchers, who are keen to identify effective approaches to TA deployment and preparation, describe and measure their impact in various forms, and to characterise their experiences of work. Peer-reviewed papers on TAs started to noticeably pepper the academic literature in the mid-1990s, appearing mainly in US journals. Yet, in the subsequent decades, there have been no collections of international writing on TAs.

Until now.

A new special issue of the European Journal of Special Needs Education, which I have guest-edited with Anke de Boer (University of Groningen), draws together research and perspectives on the role, deployment, and impact of TAs from international contexts. It intends to serve as an indicative summary of work and thinking in the field to date and as a point of departure for future research and development. All articles in the special issue are free to access online from 14 May until the end of June. 

The call for papers generated a truly international response. We received nearly 50 abstracts from researchers in 17 countries across five continents. The selected papers provide insights into the liminal space between educator, caregiver, behaviour manager, and facilitator of learning and of peer relations, which characterises the TA role.

The papers consider the features of team-working and cooperation between TAs and teachers and explore the TA’s role as a facilitator of peer interactions, personal care, and instructional support for pupils with SEN. Two papers focus on the pupils’ perspective of TA support and the implications for social inclusion and the development of independence. One of the foremost researchers on TAs, Michael Giangreco from the University of Vermont (USA), reflects on more than 40 years of experience in the field in a specially-commissioned article.

Our own contribution (Webster & de Boer, 2021) draws attention to a situation that came quickly to light in the process of curating the special issue. While the call for papers shows the extent of the activity and global reach of research on TAs, it also revealed how the field lacks any coordinated network or forum for researchers to convene, share and debate ideas, and disseminate their work.

Many national educational research associations have a special interest group for those researching special and inclusive education. While these tend to provide an intellectual home for researchers studying TAs, research on/involving TAs transcends this discipline and straddles areas such as economics, feminism, and labour relations. Therefore, the launch of the special issue presents a timely opportunity to call for the creation of a network specifically designed to support research on TAs.

It could be, however, that TAs is too narrow a focus for a viable special interest group and that our field would be better served by widening and reframing our focus onto something we might nascently term ‘paraprofessional studies’.

The increase of TAs in education can be seen in the broader context of the rise in paraprofessionals across a range of public services. These are people who work alongside and support those working in professional roles in fields such as medicine, health, social work, law, and the police. Evidence from the UK and the US shows how the introduction of paraprofessionals has led to a redrawing of the boundaries between the roles of established professionals and others who work in their respective fields (Kessler, Bach & Heron, 2005; Thornley, 1997; Wallace, 2003). Indeed, papers in the special issue (for example, Östlund et al., 2021; Zhao et al., 2021) suggest that there are contexts in which TAs may have multiple paraprofessional identifies, with the roles of individual TAs combining or bridging between functions of education and care.

Our international research network would be a lively, democratic space in which researchers from across education and the social sciences could convene around the topic of paraprofessionals. Work on TAs would constitute a productive site for activity in its own right. Still, there would also be potential for rich, innovative ideas to bloom from exciting exchanges and interactions with researchers across the world investigating the role and lives of paraprofessionals in other areas (e.g., healthcare assistants). We would want our network to draw in policymakers and practitioners as well, thereby creating a dynamic, multidisciplinary interface between the worlds of research, policy, and practice.

The pandemic has reshaped ideas about connectedness. It is easier than ever (at least technically) for researchers to come together with multiple stakeholders to share experiences, discuss, debate, and develop ideas and proposals. We see potential for online gatherings and discussion, leading in years to come to real-world symposia and even an international conference – all with a major focus on TAs and TA research.

Such an endeavour, we believe, would greatly expand, empower and raise the esteem of the field of scholarship on TAs. The publication of the special issue presents an unmissable opportunity to reach out to researchers across a range of disciplines, studying any and all aspects relating to the life and work of TAs, who are interested in creating an international network for TA research.

Our paper invites readers to make contact in order to express support for, and thoughts on, establishing such a network. It is an invitation that I am happy to extend to readers of this blog. Please email rob.webster@ucl.ac.uk.

 

Dr Rob Webster

Dr Rob Webster

Associate Professor at UCL Institute of Education, UK

Dr Rob Webster is an Associate Professor at UCL Institute of Education, UK. He was part of the research team that conducted the world’s largest study of teaching assistants: the ground-breaking Deployment and Impact of Support Staff project. Rob writes extensively on the role of teaching assistants, and he also created the award-winning Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants programme for schools (maximisingtas.co.uk). Prior to research, Rob worked as a teaching assistant in mainstream and special schools.

Website: www.rob-webster.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobWebster_
http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1416-4439

References and Further Reading

Kessler, I., Bach, S. & Heron, P. (2005) Assistant roles and changing job boundaries in the public services. Final report. London: ESRC.

Masdeu Navarro, F. (2015). Learning support staff: A literature review. OECD Education Working paper no.125. https://doi.org/10.1787/5jrnzm39w45l-en.

Moss, G., Webster, R., Harmey, S., and Bradbury, A. (2021) Unsung Heroes: The role of teaching assistants and classroom assistants in keeping schools functioning during lockdown. London: UCL Institute of Education http://maximisingtas.co.uk/assets/unsung-heroesfinal.pdf 

Östlund, D., Barow, T., Dahlberg, K. & Johansson, A. (2021) In between special needs teachers and students: Paraprofessionals work in self-contained classrooms for students with intellectual disabilities in Sweden. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 36(2). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08856257.2021.1901370

Thornley, C. (1997) The invisible workers: An investigation into the pay and employment of health care assistants in the NHS. London: Unison.

Wallace, T. (2003) Paraprofessionals. Minnesota, USA: Center on Personnel Studies in Special Education.

Webster, R. & de Boer, A. (2021) ‘Where next for research on teaching assistants: The case for an international response’. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 36(2).

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08856257.2021.1901368

Zhao, Y., Rose, R. & Shevlin, M. (2021) Paraprofessional support in Irish schools: From Special Needs Assistants to Inclusion Support Assistants. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 36(2). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08856257.2021.1901371  

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.

ECER 2021Geneva – Theme: Milestones and Challenges

ECER 2021Geneva – Theme: Milestones and Challenges

ECER 2021 Geneva will focus on ‘Education and Society: expectations, prescriptions, reconciliations’. How relevant is this theme today in this specific context? Why is the city of Geneva a fertile ground in the field of education and of the development of the individual for hosting debates on reconciling societal expectations (sometimes disparate, diffracted or even contradictory) with the realities on the ground, and the needs of those involved in education, teaching and training?

This contribution from Dr Stefan Bodea aims to provide some socio-historical and cultural milestones which should support decanting the essence of the Geneva call for contributions covering this theme: an ‘urgent’ call, of fairly obvious topicality, stemming above all from the need to understand the tensions, resistances, pressures and cleavages with which the educator/teacher/trainer is confronted on a daily basis.

 

Education for All and its endeavours

Thanks to the decree of the Reformation, the birth of the Republic of Geneva (21 May 1536) coincided with the creation of the first compulsory and free public school in the world. Elementary education in Calvin’s City thus became accessible to and free of charge for all, regardless of the pupils’ status, and “the invalid, the orphan, the widow, the old man, and any need for assistance is taken into consideration in the same spirit”[1].

In the collective memory, this historical vocation of the Geneva educational institution even outweighs its other assets, such as the international reputation of its teachers[2]. Indeed, as Joy Kündig notes, “the most important aspect of Calvin’s Academy is not the great names of its teachers or students, but the fact that it really contributed to the democratisation of studies […] In Geneva, education was really for everyone” (Kündig, J., op.cit., p. 59).

However, although Geneva is generally considered to have successfully met this challenge, this success has always required, for the education actors engaged in this democratisation process, the handling of numerous tensions between expectations and feasibility, between injunctions and realities on the ground, between official prescriptions and the real needs of the students and educators. From this point of view, it can be argued that teachers should be considered as divided actors, ‘plural individuals’ as the sociologist Bernard Lahire would say; not insofar as self-unity would be an illusion, but because of the heterogeneity and the often-contradictory nature of the expectations that guide their social actions. Whether they are experienced as professional ‘sufferings’ or as structuring challenges of the educational praxis, these expectations seem to render more complex, or even make more difficult, the necessary construction of what Jacques Ardoino[3]calls the “authorisation capacity” as a process of “progressive and continuous creation of the self, both of social as of personal origin”, which is to be distinguished from “complacency in conformity, and therefore from the tendency to reproduce, characteristic of social practices which are artificial by dint of wishing to be only professional, strategic and technical”.

For the societal call for the creative accomplishment of educational action seems itself contradictory in that it is a matter of both “learning to enter the order of the law” and “developing the capacity for transgression”, which characterise the “impossible and yet necessary” professions[4].

From this point of view, ECER 2021’s invitation to reflect on and work towards the reconciliation of ‘divided’ socio-political/socio-cultural/socio-economic demands implies, among other things, working on the concrete modalities that today allow for socially meaningful, legitimate and acceptable articulations and adjustments of the different positions, roles, attitudes, experiences, convictions, options… of the actors concerned.

But what are the forces likely to generate such adjustments? They will undoubtedly be listed, discussed in detail, questioned and dealt with within the 33 EERA networks. We will limit ourselves here to pointing out essentially two of them, which fall within the scope of two types of problems widely shared by the actors in the field of education.

– The first concerns the need to work towards inclusive education that is permeable to difference and diversity, while ensuring a balance for all, through shared values and practices. In concrete terms, this means, among other things, that the school system can no longer “presuppose of all the pupils it welcomes what only some of them have built up before and outside their school experience and not to build it up explicitly in those who do not have it”[5]. We are indeed dealing with the issue of the equitable educational provision and the construction of common bases and habitus, concerned with considering the differential particularities of educational support and, in general, the heterogeneity of the social, political and cultural environment.

– The second has to do with the relationship between the requirements formulated by educational policies and the real needs of learners/students, taking into account the expectations of civil society. This is seriously considered in Geneva, where teaching, from the outset, has been thought to be directly linked to practice. In this respect, we should not forget the importance given in Geneva to the empirical and experimental paradigms that developed in Europe at the end of the 19th century in educational sciences.

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that nowadays, in the field of teacher education, this articulation is the subject of numerous debates, particularly with regard to the relationship of trainees to the academicisation of training, following the importance given to research in recent times. Beyond the variations of the relationship between training and academic research (which can be broadly grouped into two categories: training by and respectively to or for research), this phenomenon seems to produce painful effects on the trainees’ side; when certain aspects of the theoretical content prove to be of little use in the exercise of their profession or do not immediately show the empirical interest of their exploitation. Consequently, looking into the empirical potential of the conceptual systems used in training, in line with the specificities and needs of the field, emerges as an important subject for further reflection and study.

While there are many demands on teachers and trainers, pupils/students are also affected, albeit at different levels. They have to deal with, among other things, the thickness of the different institutional expectations, which are sometimes not fully harmonised or are already divided at the inter-institutional level; the pressure of certificate-based assessment (the frequency of certificate-based assessment practices specific to certain teaching systems could even suggest that in the educational economy there is more assessment than teaching); the impact of the health crisis on the current situation of young people, which undermines the mission of social workers notably, etc., is the icing on the cake[6]

The Geneva student, like an athlete in competition, is above all a student who must accept a double contract: training and academic endurance. Seen from this angle, his or her work is unquestionably part of the Geneva history of academic requirements, which reminds us of a memorable reply addressed by Theodore de Bèze to the father of one of his boarders[7]: “I fear that nothing good will ever come of your son, for in spite of my prayers, he does not want to work more than fourteen hours a day” (p. 78).

 

Education Nouvelle and the interest of the main questions it raises

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Geneva advocated an educational renewal that placed at the centre of its investments the study of the child, the laws that ‘govern’ his or her development, his or her needs and potentialities… Despite the difficulties in reconciling its assumptions with those of education sciences, this trend, fuelled perhaps more by reformist hopes than scientific challenges, has generated and continues to generate numerous reflections on the centrality of the pupil, on his or her development but also on the pupil as an object of study. Some of these ideas might be more fruitful; others seem to be more risky.

This ‘Copernican revolution’, as Edouard Claparède described the Education Nouvelle programme, essentially oriented by experimental projects, has not only had moments of fervour; it has also been questioned, debated and even accused. No doubt because of the emphasis given to the talents, interests and psychological predispositions of the pupil.

Today, the promises, opportunities and interest of this international movement[8] are being studied, researched and assessed. The aim is to understand its actual and/or potential contributions to the development of educational sciences, teacher training and research, apart from the numerous school reforms to which this movement has given rise.

In 2018, the LIFE laboratory of the University of Geneva organised a study day[9] of immense scientific interest, which deserves particular attention for the quality of the issues and debates raised, beyond the polemics that they may cause. The main argument of this event, by virtue of the questions it raises, invites a careful analysis of the real and potential contributions of New Education to the evolution of ordinary teaching practices. As the text of the argument suggests, this analysis cannot avoid the [three] major criticisms made of it (the weakening of school authority, the concealment of knowledge and the naturalisation of pupils’ difficulties and inequalities):

 One hundred years later, what remains of this hope? Is it outdated, even old-fashioned? On the contrary, is it necessary, because it was never realised? Or neither, because practices never evolve as ideals would like, but never without reference to them either? / […] what assessment can be made of the promises kept or aborted? Slogans such as “the pupil at the centre”, “the tailor-made school” or “teaching is learned” have been (and still are) alternately accused of undermining the authority of the school and of teachers, of hiding knowledge or erudition under activities, of naturalising difficulties and inequalities. 

Education Nouvelle raises questions, doubts, debates and critical analysis concerning teaching practices. It, however, also allows for extremely useful reflections in terms of research and of the construction of training systems based on scientific and experimental contributions relating to the study of the pupil (more precisely, to the study of what Christian Orange calls the ‘intellectual activity of the pupil’[10]).

The flagship programme envisaged by Edouard Claparède in his landmark work ‘Child Psychology and Experimental Pedagogy’ (1905) is in many respects echoed in research focused on the analysis of the cognitive activity of the pupil and the organisation of his or her actions within the framework of the specific school tasks. In this context, probing the student’s interests in order to better respond to his or her needs, means above all converting these interests into levers for the diagnosis and treatment of learning/educational/developmental needs, as anchored in the formalised expectations of the educational system. This aspect is of great importance in the training of teachers, centred on the study of the pupil, insofar as it makes it possible to distinguish between needs belonging to the private/intimate sphere and objectively identifiable educational needs, in order to better articulate them, when their articulation is possible and, above all, necessary.

In this respect, the invitation of the ECER 2021 scientific committee to focus on the issue of the tensions between, on the one hand, “the stated aims of formal education” (insofar as they are the result of a “collective, mandated endeavour”) and, on the other hand, “the realities or social contexts within which the education process takes place”, seems to us to be of great interest and of great international relevance, as it can be witnessed by the reality in Geneva.

Indeed, educating, teaching, training, in a multicultural context such as that of the City of Calvin, are missions that are difficult to think about without a certain mastery of the social conditions that allow the construction of living together as the main entry point in the formation and development of the citizen, but also in the resolution of social problems.

In summary, this is what allows us to say that a theme such as that of ECER 2021 could not be better received than in Geneva, the home of reconciliation, probably “the most conducive to happiness”, to quote Jorge Luis Borges’ memorable phrase.

 

ECER 2021 - Online Conference

ECER 2021 (online) will take place over four and a half days, starting Monday morning 6th September and ending Friday 10 September at lunchtime. In addition to interactive paper sessions, research workshops, panel discussions, ignite talk sessions, poster sessions, and symposia, there will be a poster exhibition a publisher exhibition, both exhibitions offering opportunities to chat and/or get together for a one to one video meeting.

We plan to have the keynote videos available prior to ECER and the ECER week will culminate with the Keynote Panel on Friday. There will be plenty of opportunities to socialise and network throughout the conference and there will be special activities organised by networks as well as Geneva-themed events hosted by the local organising committee in Geneva.

ECER Programme

Find out about the ECER theme, the general timetable as well as keynote speakers, and other ECER events here.

Emerging Researchers' Conference

The Emerging Researchers' Conference (ERC) precedes ECER and is organised by EERA's Emerging Researchers' Group.

Keynote Speakers 

At ECER 2021 six keynotes will be held by: Jo-Anne Dillabough (University of Cambridge), Phillipp Gonon and Lorenzo Bonoli (University of Zurich and Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET), Kirsti Klette (University of Oslo), Laura Lundy (Queen’s University, Belfast), Anne Rohstock (University of Tübingen), Ninni Wahlström (Linnaeus University).

Registration and Fees 

Information on how to register, the fee structure, terms of registration etc. Registration deadline for presenters is 1 July 2020.

Dr Stefan Bodea

Dr Stefan Bodea

Lecturer in art didactics at the University of Geneva

Stefan Ioan Bodea is a lecturer in art didactics at the University of Geneva. In April 2015, he defended a thesis in educational sciences on the didactic dimension of the teaching action in the discipline of plastic and visual arts (“Teaching praxeologies and professional postures in the teaching of plastic and visual arts. A didactic analysis of experienced and novice practices in Geneva secondary schools”). His research focuses on: the didactisation of works and cultural practices of reference in artistic education; the intelligibility of the joint teacher-student action, as well as the specificity of their semiotic organisation; the didactic approach to the learning-creativity relationship in the context of artistic education; the professional training of teachers of artistic disciplines.

https://www.unige.ch/fapse/dam/equipe/

https://www.unige.ch/fapse/dam/?cID=151

References and Further Reading

[1] ‘Geneva 1536. Independence and Reformation’ [Genève 1536. L’indépendance et la Réforme]. Brochure published in 1986 by the Department of Public Education of Geneva, for students in lower secondary school (p. 79).

[2] At the end of the 16th Century, “the best teachers in the world were in Geneva” (Kündig, J. (2009). Ils ont découvert Genève. Éditions du Tricorne, p. 54).

[3] Ardoino, J. (1994). Praxeology and poietics. In Recherche scientifique et praxéologie dans le champ des pratiques éducatives. Actes du congrès de l’AFIRSE : Aix en Provence, Tome 2, 1994, p. 107- 117.
https://afirse-international.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Praxeologie-et-poetique.pdf (p. 8).

[4] Idem, p. 2.

[5] Rochex, J.-Y. (2003). Some reflections on the relationship between school and cultural institutions. In Alberton, S. (coord.) (2003). Ecole et culture. Proceedings of the symposium initiated by the Cellule pédagogique, Département de l’Instruction Publique, Bâtiment d’art contemporain. Geneva, 26 and 27 February 2002, pp. 19-26 (p. 20), with reference to Bourdieu P. & Passeron J.-C. (1964). Les Héritiers. Les étudiants et la culture. Paris: Minuit.

[6] A Geneva administrative councillor recently said: « We are only interested in the health aspect, but the social impact of what we are doing to young people is immeasurable ».

[7] Reply quoted by Gabriel Mutzenberg, in his contribution (cf. chapter “Calvin”, p. 78) to the collective work « Genève 1536. L’indépendance et la Réforme », mentioned above.

[8] The International League for New Education brings together, thanks to its emblematic figures, Swiss, Italian, Belgian, French, English-American and Japanese specialists, among others.

[9]  « The New Education: trapdoor or course for better teaching? A pedagogical utopia put to the test of ordinary work » [L’Éducation nouvelle : trappe ou cap pour mieux enseigner ? Une utopie pédagogique à l’épreuve du travail ordinaire]. LIFE Interviews © AIJJR. University of Geneva, 1 November 2018. https://www.unige.ch/fapse/life/files/6115/3891/8134/entrevue-life-l-education-nouvelle.pdf

[10] cf. Orange, C. (2006). Analyse de pratiques et formation des enseignants. In Recherche et formation [en ligne], 51 | 2006. http://journals.openedition.org/rechercheformation/506.

Artificial Intelligence in Student Assessment: What is our Trajectory?

Artificial Intelligence in Student Assessment: What is our Trajectory?

Bengi Birgili is a Research Assistant in the Mathematics Education Department at MEF University in Istanbul. Here she shares her research and insights into the development of Artificial Intelligence applications in the field of education and explains the current trajectory of AI in the Turkish education system.

As a mathematics teacher and doctoral candidate in educational sciences, I closely follow the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications in the field of education. Innovations in AI become outdated within a few months because of the rapidly increasing studies on image processing, speech recognition, natural language processing, robotics, expert systems, machine learning, and reasoning. With Google, Facebook, and IBM AI studies being open source, these companies help speed up developments.

If we think of education as a chair, the legs are the four essential parts that keep it standing: that is, the student, the teacher, the teaching process, and measurement-evaluation – the four basic elements of education. Key areas of AI for education are determining the right strategies, making functional decisions, and coming up with the most appropriate designs for the education and training process. I believe there are many areas in which teachers can work in cooperation with Artificial Intelligence systems in the future.

Human behaviour modelling

The main focus of AI studies worldwide is human behavior modelling. The relationship between how humans model thinking and how we can, therefore, accurately measure and evaluate students is still a subject of exploration. Essentially, the question is: how do humans learn, and how can we teach this to AI expert systems?

Presently, AI expert systems learn in three ways:

  • supervised learning
  • unsupervised learning
  • reinforcement learning

As an educator, whenever I hear these categories, I think of the conditional learning and reward-punishment methods we learn about in educational sciences. These methods, which are prevalent at the most fundamental level in the individual teaching and learning process, are central to the design of AI systems being developed today, which are developed on the behavioristic approach in learning theories.

Just as in the classroom environment, where we can reinforce a students’ behavior by using a reward, praise, or acknowledgment in line with the behaviorist approach while teaching knowledge or skills so that we can strengthen the frequency of the behavior and increase the likelihood that how the response will occur. In a similar vein, an agent or a machine which is under development learns from the consequences of its actions.

AI in the Measurement-Evaluation Process

One area for the use of natural language processing in the measurement-evaluation process is the evaluation of open-ended examinations. In Turkey, large-scale assessment consists mostly of multiple-choice examinations, chosen for their broad scope, objective scoring, high reliability, and ease of evaluation. On the other hand, open-ended examinations are more challenging because they measure students’ higher-level thinking skills in much more detail than multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks, true-false, and short-answer questions.

Education systems in other countries make more use of open-ended items because they allow students to thoroughly use their reading comprehension skills. Also, students are able to demonstrate their knowledge in their own words and use multiple solution strategies, which is a better test of their content knowledge. But these open-ended items do not just measure students’ knowledge of a topic; at the same time, they mediate between higher-level thinking skills such as cognitive strategies and self-discipline. This is an area in which AI studies have begun to appear in the educational literature. 

Countries using open-ended items in new generation assessment systems are France, the Netherlands, Australia, and, in particular, the United States and the UK. These systems provide teachers, parents, and policymakers with the opportunity to monitor student progress based on student performance as well as student success. The development of Cognitive Diagnostic Models (CDM) and Computerized Adaptive Tests (CAT) changed testing paradigms. These models classify student response models in a test into a series of characteristics related to different hierarchically defined mastery levels. Another development is immersive virtual environments such as EcoMUVE, which can make stealth/invisible assessments, evaluating students’ written responses and automatically creating follow-up questions.

AI in Student Assessment in Turkey

It is a very broad concept that we call “artificial intelligence [AI] in education”. To simplify it, we can define it as a kind of expert system that sometimes takes the place of teachers (i.e., the intelligent tutors) by making pedagogical decisions about the student in the teaching or measurement-evaluation process. Sometimes the system assists by analyzing the student in-depth in the process, enabling them to interact with the system better. It aims to guide and support students. To make more computational, precise, and rigorous decisions in the education process, the field of AI and Learning Sciences collaborate and contribute to the development of adaptive learning environments and more customized, inclusive, flexible, effective tools by analyzing how learning occurs with its external variables.

Turkey is a country of tests and testing. Its education system relies on selection and placement examinations. However, developments in educational assessment worldwide include individual student follow-up, formative assessments, alternative assessments, stealth assessments, and learning analytics, and Turkey has yet to find its own trajectory for introducing AI in student assessment.

However, the particular structure of the Turkish language makes it more difficult than in other countries to design, model, develop, and test AI systems – which explains the limited number of studies being carried out. The development of such systems depends on big data, so it is necessary to collect a lot of qualified student data in order to pilot deep learning systems. Yet the Monitoring and Assessment of Academic Skills report of 2015-2018 noted that 66% of Turkish students do not understand cause and effect relationships in reading.

In AI testing, students are first expected to grasp what they read and then to express what they know in answering questions, to express themselves, to come up with solutions, and to be able to use metacognitive skills. The limited number of students who can clearly demonstrate these skills in Turkey limits the amount of qualified data to which studies have access. There is a long way to go in order to train AI systems with qualified data and to adapt to the complexities of the Turkish language. In short, Turkey is not yet on a trajectory for introducing AI for education measurement and evaluation – we are still working to get ourselves on an appropriate trajectory. We are still oscillating through the universe. However, there are signs that the future in this area will be designed faster, addressing the questions I have raised.

The Outlook for AI in Student Assessment

While designing and developing such systems, it should be remembered that students and teachers also need to adapt to the system. Their readiness to do so will help us measure the quality of education in general as well as the level of students’ knowledge and skills in particular. Authentic in-class examinations and national and international large-scale assessments should serve the same purpose. In the future, we will need AI systems to play a greater role in generating and categorizing questions and evaluating student responses. And they need to do this is a system whose main goal must be to provide a learning process that positively supports the curiosity and ability of all our students
Bengi Birgili

Bengi Birgili

Research Assistant in the Mathematics Education Department at MEF University, Istanbul.

Bengi Birgili is a research assistant in the Mathematics Education Department at MEF University, Istanbul. She experienced in research at the University of Vienna. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Educational Sciences Curriculum and Instruction Program at Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara. Her research interests focus on curriculum development and evaluation, instructional design, in-class assessment. She received the Emerging Researchers Bursary Winners award at ECER 2017 for her paper titled “A Metacognitive Perspective to Open-Ended Questions vs. Multiple-Choice.”

In 2020, a co-authored research became one of the 4 accepted studies among Early-Career Scholars awarded by the International Testing Commission (ITC) Young Scholar Committee in the UK [Postponed to 2021 Colloquium due to COVID-19].

In Jan 2020, she completed the Elements of AI certification offered by the University of Helsinki.

Researchgate:https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bengi-Birgili-2

Twitter: @bengibirgili

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bengibirgili/

ORCID:https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2990-6717

Medium: https://bengibirgili.medium.com

What can international data tell us about education paraprofessionals? Almost nothing

What can international data tell us about education paraprofessionals? Almost nothing

In many schools and classrooms across the globe, the drive towards the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools has become contingent on the creation and utilisation of a relatively new paraprofessional workforce, known variously as teaching assistants or teacher aides (TAs). It is claimed that in many countries, policies of mainstreaming pupils with SEN rely heavily on this ‘non-teaching’ workforce (Masdeu Navarro, 2015).

The intertwining of inclusion and TAs leads to the view that TAs have become ‘the mortar in the brickwork … hold[ing] schools together in numerous and sometimes unnoticed ways’ (Webster et al., 2021, p2). Its relative intuitiveness – more individualised support for pupils that struggle most – is arguably why it is the model of choice for education systems and schools striving for inclusion and why it has replicated itself more successfully than just about any other model. 

Despite all this, there are virtually no macro-level data on the characteristics, role, and contribution of TAs and their relationship to and impact on inclusion. The most influential international study on schools and classrooms, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), is lauded by policymakers and researchers of advanced nations for the richness of its data and the detailed insights it provides. It, however, has vanishing little say about TAs.

The third and most recent wave of TALIS from 2018 – which involved over 275,000 respondents from 31 countries (OECD, 2021a) – stated that ‘teacher aides [and] pedagogical support staff … were not considered to be teachers and, thus, not part of the TALIS international target population’ (OECD, 2021b). Leaving aside whether there is, or there ought to be, an equivalence between TAs and teachers, the decision to exclude TAs from TALIS matters. Not just, I would argue, in and of itself, but because other high-level analyses of education rely on the data it collects, such as the authoritative Global Education Monitoring (GEM) annual report (which is hosted and published by UNESCO).

The focus of the 2020 GEM report was inclusion, yet it was unable to report much at all about TAs because ‘data on teaching assistants is limited, even in high-income countries’ (UNESCO, 2020, p300). The report concluded that ‘comparable international data on inclusion-related use of support personnel are not generally available’ (UNESCO, 2020, p306).

Elsewhere, a rare international survey, commissioned by Education International (the global union federation of teacher trade unions), of the characteristics, employment and working conditions of just over 3,000 ‘education support personnel’ [ESP] – a group among which TAs are prominent – concluded: ‘there are significant gaps in the knowledge and understanding of ESP: who they are, what they do, and what they need to do their jobs effectively’ (Butler, 2019, p1). 

If recent trends are anything to go by, and as the near-global drive towards inclusion continues, large amounts of public money will be spent on employing more and more TAs. In England, for example, school census data show that 28% of the school workforce are employed as TAs (and 35% of the primary schools’ workforce)1. However, there are no public data on what this costs or to what extent it represents value for taxpayers’ money. Such questions can be both reductive and a rather blunt way of quantifying TAs’ highly nuanced contributions to education. Nonetheless, these are the kinds of questions that motivate policymakers and imply a prima facia case for national governments to show as much interest in the working lives, practices, and perspectives of TAs as they do in those of teachers.

For this reason, in a paper for an upcoming special issue of the European Journal of Special Needs Education2, guest editors Anke de Boer (University of Groningen) and I, call for the OECD to extend TALIS in ways that reflect, and are proportionate to, the global trend towards employing and deploying TAs in educational settings (Webster & de Boer, 2021). 

Many of the themes selected for inclusion in the 2018 TALIS survey are relatable to the lives of TAs:

    • instructional practices
    • professional practices
    • initial preparation for the role
    • school climate
    • job satisfaction
    • human resource issues
    • stakeholder relations
    • career opportunities
    • professional responsibility and autonomy.


At the more basic but nonetheless essential, descriptive level, a survey of TAs would be able to track demographic trends relating to equality, diversity, and representation. Crucial, you would think, for a role synonymous with inclusion.

UNESCO Global Education Monitoring reports ‘serve as a foundation for evidence-based advocacy to promote progress towards SDG 4’ (the fourth Sustainable Development Goal on education) (OECD, 2021c). The 2020 report on inclusion points to how a broader ‘shortage of data on teachers’ from countries that are not included in TALIS represents one of three ‘data gaps remain[ing] in key areas of the SDG 4 monitoring framework’ (UNESCO, 2020, p198). The macrodata gap relating to TAs can be seen as part of the same issue. Providing and sharing the robust evidence needed to underpin policymaking and practice, and to hold world leaders to account, are essential if we are to achieve SDG 4. Progress will be all the slower, if not unworkable, without a coordinated and consolidated data collection effort that incorporates and reflects the role and contribution of TAs.

In our paper, we argue that the potentially transformative ideas for improving policy and practice in relation to TAs exist in the skillful accumulation, harmonisation, and utilisation of data at the macro, meso, and micro levels. Expanding an existing data collection effort that is funded by, and maps education labour force trends in, the world’s most advanced economies seems to us a good place to start.

The next cycle of TALIS, due in 2024, is perhaps the first opportunity to pilot a survey for TAs in a select number of territories where they are a well-established part of the school workforce.

Survey items could be limited to questions drawn from several of the most relatable themes from the teacher survey (see above), and trialled in countries such as the US, the UK, Norway, and Finland; countries that are not only above the OECD average in terms of TA-pupil ratio (7.3 TAs per 1,000 pupils) (Masdeu Navarro, 2015), but also have large enough numbers of TAs from which a meaningful sample can be drawn. We might extend our pilot to Brazil, Chile, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden, which interrogation of the most recent OECD data from 2018 suggests also have sufficiently sizable and sampleable TA populations across both primary and secondary education (OECD, 2021d).

A successful pilot could lead to approaches which, within a couple of TALIS cycles, are capable of producing the kind of data on TAs that have impressively – and in relatively short order – transformed and enhanced our understanding of teachers and teaching.

Dr Rob Webster

Dr Rob Webster

Associate Professor at UCL Institute of Education, UK

Dr Rob Webster is an Associate Professor at UCL Institute of Education, UK. He was part of the research team that conducted the world’s largest study of teaching assistants: the ground-breaking Deployment and Impact of Support Staff project. Rob writes extensively on the role of teaching assistants, and he also created the award-winning Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants programme for schools (maximisingtas.co.uk). Prior to research, Rob worked as a teaching assistant in mainstream and special schools.

Website: www.rob-webster.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobWebster_
http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1416-4439

Further Reading

Notes

  1. Department for Education (2021) School Workforce in England: November 2019. Available at: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/school-workforce-in-england (accessed 09.03.21).
  2. A special issue of the European Journal of Special Needs Education entitled ‘Teaching assistants: Their role in the inclusion, education and achievement of pupils with special educational needs’ will be published in April 2021. It draws together research and perspectives on the role, deployment and impact of TAs from six European countries.

References

Butler, P. (2019) Understanding the invisible workforce. Education support personnel’s roles, needs and the challenges they face. Brussels: Education International. Available online: https://issuu.com/educationinternational/docs/research_esp_final_report. Accessed: 04.02.21.

Masdeu Navarro, F. (2015). Learning support staff: A literature review. OECD Education Working paper no.125. Available online: https://doi.org/10.1787/5jrnzm39w45l-en. Accessed: 11.02.21.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2021a) TALIS FAQ. Available online: https://www.oecd.org/education/talis/talisfaq/. Accessed: 04.02.21.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2021b) Annex A. Technical notes on sampling procedures, response rates and adjudication for TALIS 2018. Available online: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/1d0bc92a-en/1/3/1/index.html?itemId=/content/publication/1d0bc92a-en&_csp_=1418ec5a16ddb9919c5bc207486a271c&itemIGO=oecd&itemContentType=book. Accessed: 04.02.21.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2021c) The Global Education Monitoring Report, in brief. Available online: https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/about. Accessed: 04.02.21.

 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2020) Global Education Monitoring Report 2020: Inclusion and education: All means all. Paris: UNESCO. Available online: https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/report/2020/inclusion. Accessed: 04.02.21.

 Webster, R. Bosanquet, P., Franklin, S. & Parker, M. (2021) Maximising the impact of teaching assistants in primary schools: Guidance for school leaders. Oxon: Routledge http://maximisingtas.co.uk/our-books.php

 Webster, R. & de Boer, A. (2021) ‘Where next for research on teaching assistants: The case for an international response’. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 36(2). https://doi.org/10.1080/08856257.2021.1901368 

The Promise of Donna Haraway’s Philosophy: Knotting Together Better Educational Futures

The Promise of Donna Haraway’s Philosophy: Knotting Together Better Educational Futures

As we have grappled with critical questions in our research and teaching, all of us contributing to this blog have been energised by Donna Haraway’s work. This blog explores the promise of Haraway’s philosophy for knowledge, learning and education. Donna Haraway’s philosophy offers conceptual and practical resources for navigating the complexities of contemporary educational problems.

Reconceptualising knowledge, learning and education with Donna Haraway

Haraway’s major early intervention was to challenge traditional notions of objectivity – which she called ‘the God trick’ (Haraway, 1988). She argued that objectivity was a Western masculinist, patriarchal tradition, which presumed researchers could be impartial, observe and produce ‘Truth’. This damaging fallacy has conferred epistemological status on science delegitimizing many other ways of knowing. Haraway opposes ‘the God trick’ with the concept and practice of ‘situated knowledges’ which pose a feminist critique demonstrating that knowledge practices are ‘political’ and that some knowledges have been (illegitimately) disqualified by dominant science. Recognising that all knowledge is located and relies on partial perspectives allows for the inclusion of lived material realities and feelings that shape our educational experiences.

The concept and practice of learning is central to Haraway’s oeuvre. Learning happens in the world, attending to our being-in-relation with the world and other species. Learning is an enactment: she calls it a ‘corporeal cognitive practice’ (Haraway, 2016a: 277), a material semiotic co-composition of relational acts of thinking and doing. Learning comes about through specific, mundane, embodied acts of communication that forge partial connections across the differences (of race, class, geography or species) that divide us.

Haraway’s philosophy, and its promise for education, demonstrates the need to move beyond human exceptionalism. It is an urgent call for us to take responsibility for how humans have produced alarming natural-cultural conditions, and to take action to address these. The task of shaping better human/planetary futures has been recognised as core to education as an ethical-political project (Strand, 2020). Haraway’s philosophy offers an affirmative biopolitics that can be useful in extending curricula on global education (Barratt Hacking and Taylor, 2020). Her transdisciplinary thinking, feminist situated ethics, and situated politics of knowledge might be the basis for renewing educational approaches for composing more relational futures.

How has Haraway’s philosophy been influential in our research? 

Carol has taken up Haraway’s philosophy outlined in When Species Meet (2008) to rethink what comes to matter in educational relations. Her work addresses the question: How can multispecies knowings and matterings give us hope to build a better world for the future? Haraway (2008: 134) uses multispecies thinking to argue for ‘compassionate action’ to promote well-being for individuals, species and communities. Carol has considered how such thinking can be the foundation for different forms of educative flourishing by fashioning education as a form of posthuman Bildung that bring new possibilities for knowledge/praxis (Taylor, 2016). Carol has also considered how nonhuman-human relations can centre around play and pleasure in ways which make consequential differences in our lives as academics (Taylor, 2017).

Nikki (Fairchild, 2017) has drawn on The Cyborg Manifesto (1991) to reconceptualise young children’s gender identities. Haraway uses the cyborg both as figuration and ontological position to explore the breakdown and fluidity of technological, natural and cultural bodily boundaries. Nikki’s research shows how the cyborg figuration ‘moves beyond traditional notions of the feminine body’ (Benozzo et al., 2019: 89). Her doctoral thesis considered how girls are expected to perform and act in certain ways (Fairchild, 2017) and how the cyborg can ‘produce[s] new articulations of gender at the same time as making traditional gendered societal roles ‘available’’ (Taylor & Fairchild, 2020: 520). The cyborg subverts gender and provides new political possibilities for women.

In Staying with the Trouble, Haraway posits ‘lived storying’ (2016b: 150) as ‘the most powerful practice for… becoming-with each other’. Shiva has written of co-storytelling as a way of making-together, co-theorizing and co-enduring (Niccolini, Zarabadi & Ringrose, 2018). Lived storying foregrounds the care-full response-ability required when researching participants’ experiences. Towards the end of her PhD thesis writing, the COVID pandemic put the world into multiple lockdowns and made racism intelligible in new ways. Shiva’s PhD participants are from British Bangladeshi backgrounds, they live in overcrowded households and, like other BAME populations, suffer disproportionate social and educational inequalities (Booth, 2020). Their COVID storyings speak of histories of exclusion, troubled times and uncertain futures.   

‘No adventurer should leave home without a sack’ writes Haraway (2016b: 40) in Staying with the Trouble. Haraway learned about the carrier bag theory of storytelling from Ursula Le Guin (1989). During her PhD, Anna experimented with a Bag-lady positionality (Moxnes, 2019), figuring herself as an (elderly) woman collecting whatever she found carrying everything with her in bags. For Anna, the carrier bag theory became a story of research, a methodological and methodic concept, a feminist force enabling her to do research differently. Carrier bag research provides a compass ‘to think otherwise’ – it changes our understandings of the world we live in and how we make meaning about it.

In our work together, Haraway’s philosophy gives us the courage to find philosophical and practical ways of troubling dominant educational thinking, research and writing (Zarabadi et al., 2019). Haraway’s philosophy informs our collaborative research experiments in theory, method and practice enabling us to continue to think of new ways to produce academic knowledge differently.

Some Final Thoughts

Haraway’s books are not easy, but they repay the focus, immersion and concentration needed. Haraway makes you think about how you can do research and teaching differently and in more creative ways. Her writing is an encouragement to slow down, ponder, not rush to action too quickly, and to focus on details and specificities. She offers intellectual resources to contest neoliberal imperatives of competitive individualism, performativity and measurement. Haraway’s philosophy provides a stimulus to new, creative, experimental ways of producing knowledge; her generative, ecological, life-affirming thinking offers important insights for reshaping educational thinking to contest the damages of the Anthropocene.

Citations and Further Reading

Biography of Donna Haraway 

Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective – Haraway, 1988

Situated Knowledges – Monika Rogowska-Stangret

Manifestly Haraway – Haraway, 2016

Rethinking Ethical-Political Education – Strand, Torill

Reconceptualizing international mindedness in and for a posthuman world – Barratt Hacking and Taylor, 2020

When Species Meet – Haraway, 2008

Is a posthumanist Bildung possible? Reclaiming the promise of Bildung for contemporary higher education – Taylor, 2016

Producing Pleasure in the Contemporary University – Taylor, 2017

Earthworm disturbances: the reimagining of relations in Early Childhood Education and Care – Fairchild, 2017

Simians, Cyborgs, and Women (The Cyborg Manifesto) – Haraway, 1991

Disturbing the AcademicConferenceMachine: Post‐qualitative re‐turnings – Benozzo et al., 2019: 89

Towards a posthumanist institutional ethnography: viscous matterings and gendered bodies – Taylor and Fairchild, 2020

Staying with the Trouble – Haraway, 2016

Spinning Yarns: Affective Kinshipping as Posthuman Pedagogy – Niccolini, Zarabadi & Ringrose, 2018

BAME groups hit harder by Covid-19 than white people, UK study suggests

Dancing at the Edge of the World – Ursula Le Guin

Working Across/Within/Through Academic Conventions of Writing a Ph.D.: Stories About Writing a Feminist Thesis – Moxnes, 2019

Feeling Medusa: Tentacular Troubling of Academic Positionality, Recognition and Respectability – Zarabadi et al., 2019

Authors

Professor Carol A. Taylor

Professor Carol A. Taylor

Professor of Higher Education and Gender in the Department of Education, University of Bath

Professor Carol A. Taylor is Professor of Higher Education and Gender in the Department of Education at the University of Bath where she is Director of Research and leads the Learning, Pedagogy and Diversity Research cluster. Carol’s research focuses on the entangled relations of knowledge, power, gender, space and ethics in higher education and utilizes trans- and interdisciplinary feminist materialist and posthumanist theories and methodologies. She is currently exploring the relations between feminist praxis and quiet activism, women’s academic leadership and mentoring, and institutional power. She is engaged in various experiments in doing academic writing differently. Carol is co-editor of the journal Gender and Education. Her latest books are Taylor, C. A., Ulmer, J., and Hughes, C. (Eds.) (2020) Transdisciplinary Feminist Research: Innovations in Theory, Method and Practice. London: Routledge and Taylor, C. A. and Bayley, A. (Eds.) (2019) Posthumanism and Higher Education: Reimagining Pedagogy, Practice and Research.

Dr Nikki Fairchild

Dr Nikki Fairchild

Associate Head (Research and Innovation), School of Education and Sociology, University of Portsmouth

Dr Nikki Fairchild is Associate Head (Research and Innovation), School of Education and Sociology, University of Portsmouth. Her research interests include posthumanist and material feminist theorizing to articulate more-than-human subjectivities in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). Her recent research centres on place/space in classrooms and gardens, this has been enacted using walking-with methodologies. She is also part of any International collective which challenges the knowledge practice in conference spaces. The collective enacts arts-based research-creation workshops at conferences to consider how human, non-human and other-than-human bodies interact. The collective has recently been awarded a Special Commendation for the BERA Anna Craft Creativities in Education 2020 Prize.

Shiva Zarabadi

Shiva Zarabadi

PhD research candidate at UCL Institute of Education

Shiva Zarabadi is PhD research candidate at UCL Institute of Education. Her research interests include feminist new materialism, posthumanism and intra-actions of matter, time, affect, space, humans and more-than-humans. In her PhD she uses walking and photo-diary methodologies to map these relational materialities. She is the co-editor of the book Feminist posthumanisms/ new materialisms and Education (Routledge 2019) and the leading author of the journal article “Feeling Medusa: Tentacular troubling of academic positionality, recognition and respectability” (2020) in Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology, and chapters “Post-Threat Pedagogies: A Micro-Materialist Phantomatic Feeling within Classrooms in Post-Terrorist Times”(2020) in Mapping the Affective Turn in Education Theory, Research, and Pedagogies,  “Re-mattering media affects: pedagogical interference into pre-emptive counter-terrorism culture” in Education Research and The Media(2018) and a co-authored article ‘Spinning Yarns: affective kinshipping as posthuman pedagogy in Parallax(2018).

Dr Anna Moxnes

Dr Anna Moxnes

Associate Professor at the department of Pedagogy, University of Southeastern Norway

Dr. Anna R. Moxnes is an Associate Professor at the Department of Pedagogy at the University of Southeastern Norway. Anna’s research interest is feminism and new materialist perspectives. Her recent projects involve both higher education and early childhood practices, including children and animals, and children and aesthetics, in Early Childhood Education and Care institutions, but also classroom teaching and materiality in Early Childhood Teacher Education ECTE) and research connected to education of mentors for students in teacher education. These research interests brought her in contact with international researchers, which have expanded her professional network and her writing experiences. Right now, she is co-editing a book about research-projects in ECTE in Norway. In 2019, she was honored with a Norwegian national prize for teaching.