Category Archives: Journal Articles

Bringing Effective Instructional Practice to Scale

10833The Journal of Educational Change publishes important ideas and evidence of educational change. Contributions represent a range of disciplines, including history, psychology, political science, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and administrative and organizational theory. The journal also draws attention to a broad spectrum of methodologies, including quantitative and qualitative approaches, documentary study, action research, and conceptual development.

The journal’s most recent special issue, edited by Santiago Rincón-Gallardo and Brahm Fleisch, brings together articles by reform leaders and scholars who have developed and/or studied education change efforts in various contexts: Escuela Nueva in Colombia, the Learning Community Project in Mexico, the Gauteng Language and Mathematics Strategy in South Africa, Pratham’s Literacy Strategy in India, the Ontario Literacy Strategy in Canada, and Long Beach Unified School District’s system-wide instructional strategy in California, United States.

The editors also share two commentary papers by Richard Elmore and Michael Fullan. As the editors explain in their introduction to the special issue, “The two concluding essays pull together common and divergent threads across the six cases, derive key lessons, and articulate critical perspectives for the future of improvement in the education sector. While Elmore raises fundamental questions about the very project of policy-driven improvement, Fullan argues that, though elusive, whole system improvement centered around deep learning is doable.”

To read the complete introduction, click here:“Bringing effective instructional practice to scale: An introduction.”

To find the complete special issue, click here: The Journal of Educational Change.

To read IEN posts focusing on these reforms, click on the following links:

Attempting Change from Within: Student-Centered Change in Mexico

Bringing Effective Instructional Innovation to Scale through Social Movement in Mexico and Colombia

An interview with Vicky Colbert, co-founder of Escuela Nueva (Lead the Change)

Brahm Fleisch on building a new infrastructure for learning in Gauteng, South Africa

Learning from successful education reforms in Ontario

Learning from successful education reforms in Ontario: Part II

Curriculum reform in Australia

In 2010, Australia established its first national curriculum: the Australian Curriculum. The Australian Curriculum has defined content and achievement standards for the entire country. After a staged process of development, it is now being implemented. Recently, this curriculum was reviewed for the first time by the Australian federal government. The review raised a number of concerns that have led federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne to announce he will work with advisors to make sure it is serving the needs of Australian students. Pyne has stated, however, that any changes to be made as a result of the review won’t be implemented until at least 2016, due to the difficulty of earning the support of states and territories.

To learn more about this curriculum reform and the context of reform in Australia, I spoke with Dr. Glenn Savage of the University of Melbourne. Dr. Savage, with Kate O’Connor, recently published an article in the Journal of Education Policy titled “National agendas in global times: curriculum reforms in Australia and the USA since the 1980s.” From his perspective, there may be similar driving forces for reform in the US and Australia, but the reforms themselves have been quite different.

Savage and O’Connor (2014) wanted to understand how curriculum reform in Australia and the US were playing out, given that both countries have federal systems and histories of state and local control over education. Their research identified three key historical phases in the development of curriculum, which are shared by both nations. The first is the late 1980s, when both countries developed national education goals for the first time. They see this phase as a shift towards thinking in national terms, but also as a precursor to the standards movement of the 1990s and the push towards nationalizing aspects of the curriculum. The second was in the 1990s, when both countries attempted to create national curriculums or frameworks. In both countries those efforts failed when the realities of actually having to put the reforms into practice came along. For example, in both countries there was strong pushback against the idea of moving towards a national approach. The third phase was when each country rejuvenated their national reform efforts as a result of global economic and social pressures in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Influences included the global PISA testing program, which put the performance of each country in a global perspective and helped put standards-based national reforms back on the agenda. 

While there have been common historical driving forces in both countries, Savage and O’Connor (2014) see current reforms as very distinct in scope and form. In the US, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are voluntary national standards that focus on the areas of literacy and numeracy, whereas in Australia the national curriculum is more extensive and discipline-based. Savage and O’Connor (2014) argue that the distinctive nature of reform in each country can be explained to a large extent by four key differences in the ‘national policy space’ of each nation: 1) contrasting system diversity and complexity; 2) different roles and expectations of federal governments; 3) different forms of state-to-state intergovernmental cooperation; and 4) the contrasting involvement of non-government policy actors. The authors argue that the distinctive features of each system mean that each country provides different “conditions of possibility for reform” (Savage & O’Connor, 2014, p. 18). Their key argument is that while global flows of policy ideas and practices are powerful, these influences manifest differently in different national contexts. As such, reforms must be thought of as both national and global

Looking ahead, Savage identifies several issues that Australia will need to work through in relation to the curriculum.

First is the fall-out from the recent review of the curriculum. It is the first review of the curriculum and it has been heavily politicized. There are ideological arguments around it and it has raised questions about what a contemporary curriculum should look like. There is the possibility that the review could lead to the reshaping of certain elements of the Australian Curriculum.

Second is an ongoing debate about federalism and the role of state and tertiary governments in education. A Reform of the Federation White Paper, which was developed by a taskforce in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, was released in late October. The goal is to work out the appropriate division of responsibility between states and government. In contrast to the US, national intergovernmental organizations have long been essential to the Australian reform process and have the capability of bringing all of the states together with the federal government to consider a number of education-related issues.

Another issue Savage identified is that even though Australia now has a national curriculum, there are differences in how states interpret and enact the standards. Despite a common national framework, state-based inflections emerge. While this can be positive, in that it allows for tailoring to state-based needs and issues, it can also present problems of consistency, which is partly what the national curriculum set out to tackle in the first place. In one example, the state of Victoria has adopted a hybrid curriculum called “AusVELS” that takes some from the national Australian Curriculum, and some from the prior Victorian Essential Learning Standards.

Savage also said that since federation in 1901, there have been debates around the role of academic knowledge versus vocational knowledge and skills. From the early 1900s, for example, many Australian states tracked students into either high schools (academically-focused) or technical schools (vocationally-focused). In 1980s, most states eliminated tech schools and established a common, unified school system that aimed to provide all students with the opportunity to go to university. While this effort was intended to be a more inclusive model, it has also led to an increase in high school drop out rates. In order to address this, the pendulum has swung back and there are now proposals at Federal and State levels to return to a more vocational curriculum.

Finally, Savage said there are now debates about what a curriculum should look like for the future. Some argue that the curriculum should prioritize disciplinary knowledge, while others argue more for 21st century skills and competencies so that students are ready to participate in global workforce. There are huge tensions around this issue as many feel the skills focus is too short-sighted and too focused on what students should be able to do, rather than what they should know.

As Savage explained, the issues that Australia is grappling with at the moment are also educational issues that many countries across the globe are dealing with, illustrating the point that educational policies need to be recognized as simultaneously national and global in nature.

Deirdre Faughey

Education reform in East Asia

Dr. Philip Hallinger

Dr. Philip Hallinger

This post is drawn from a conversation with Dr. Phillip Hallinger, the Joseph Lau Chair Professor and director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.  He spoke with us about some of the issues surrounding the last two decades of education reform in East Asia, which he addresses in his most recent article, Synthesis of findings from 15 years of educational reform in Thailand: lessons on leading educational change in East Asia,” published in the International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice. 

East Asian countries have been actively pursuing education reform over the past two decades. Largely, goals of such reforms have included student-centered learning, teaching with technology, school-based management, and teacher empowerment – ideas that have originated in either the US, the UK, or Australia, and travelled around the world on what Hallinger calls “the winds of globalization.” As Hallinger explained, where Asian societies years ago were once much more isolated, cultural and national boundaries today are permeable. While this “policy borrowing” can be interpreted as a move to build a more modern education system, it belies a “cultural mismatch” that can render the policy ineffective in practice. As Hallinger (2013) suggests, “where educational changes conflict with fundamental cultural values, the process is likely to encounter even greater resistance and require a longer time frame for implementation” (p. 17).

Hallinger’s (2013) recent article, written with Darren A. Bryant, focuses on Thailand and identifies lessons that can apply broadly to the region and beyond. As Hallinger and Bryant explain, Thailand aimed to expand access to education during the 1990s by increasing compulsory education from six to nine years, and finally to 12 years of free schooling, in an effort to improve the knowledge and skill level of the labor force. However, with the increase in access came concerns over educational quality, and in 1999 the National Education Act (1999) was passed, setting ambitious new goals for teaching and learning that many today feel the country has not attained in the ten years since the initial implementation of the reform. Some have also  linked the country’s recent social unrest to the perception of unequal access to quality education.

Hallinger and Bryant also note that in countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Taiwan, there is a similar gap between the vision of educational change and the reality on the ground. In Thailand, for example, despite the government directive that all teachers implement student-centered learning, a survey of 1800 principals found that only about a one-third reported that their teachers actively engaged the reforms in their teaching practice. Hallinger attributes this disappointment to “over-promising,” rather than faulty strategy, and explains that a successful implementation would require more than a decade in any country. In Thailand, “local factors,” such as budget constraints, cultural mismatch, and political instability, have further tested reform efforts.

Teacher Education in Norway

In “Examining Features of Teacher Education in Norway,” recently published in the Scandinavian Journal of Education, Karen Hammerness, a Fulbright Grant recipient (2009-2010), describes the vision, coherence, and opportunities to learn she observed in teacher education programs in Norway.  In this post Hammerness and Kirsti Klette, Professor at the University of Oslo, Co-Directors of an ongoing study of comparative teacher education in Norway, Finland, the US, Chile, and Cuba, discuss recent teacher education reforms in Norway.

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Karen Hammerness, Inga Staal Jenset, and Kirsti Klette

At the beginning of this millennium, Norwegian educators and policy makers were surprised to find that Norwegian students had performed lower than the mean in comparison to other OECD countries (and in comparison to other Scandinavian countries) on international tests—a phenomenon that became known as “PISA shock.” In response, educators and policy makers in Norway took a number of steps to improve the quality of teaching, to boost recruitment into teaching, and to increase respect for the profession of teaching. For instance, in 2009, the Ministry of Education proposed new standards for teacher education curriculum and created new curricular guidelines. In addition, in recent years, the country has been investing substantial resources in teacher education, including supporting research grants intended to better understand and develop quality teaching and teacher education.

One of the key debates around teacher preparation today in Norway is one that we see in many of the other countries in our study as well—it revolves around the role that practice plays in teacher preparation. For example, the study described in “Examining Features of Teacher Education in Norway” revealed that the Norwegian teacher educators interviewed saw schools as the primary site where student-teachers should learn about practice: an assumption that learning about practice should be relegated specifically to school settings. They did not describe university courses as a site for novices to learn about teaching practice—reflecting a historical separation between theory and practice that has characterized the field of teacher education in many countries for years. This separation can make it difficult for student-teachers to see the relationship between what they learn in their university courses and their experiences in real schools.

However, some teacher educators in Norway are now embarking upon efforts to try to address these issues and bring the teaching of practice more directly into the teacher education curriculum. For instance, the teacher education program at the University of Oslo has redesigned its curriculum to focus upon core practices of teaching (such as observation of children; classroom management; and assessment of learning). Faculty report that the pilot program has been successful, in terms of student-teachers’ evaluations of their experiences and learning, so that initial plans to revise only the mathematics coursework have been extended to other subject areas.

These efforts in Norway build on work by educators like Deborah Ball and Pam Grossman in the U.S. who have been examining the teaching of “core” and “high leverage” practices to novice teachers. In our ongoing comparative  study of teacher education programs in five countries we are also seeing a number of different efforts to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Programs in Finland, for instance, have increased the use of videos that student teachers take of their own practice, so that student teachers have multiple opportunities to examine their own classroom teaching with expert teacher educators coaching them in their work.  In addition, the Oslo University program and a program in the US at Stanford University, provide student teachers with extensive opportunities to analyze pupil learning, drawing on samples of K-13 classroom work.  Meanwhile, student teachers at the University of Santa Barbara in the US and at the University in Havana in Cuba report that teacher educators explicitly model the kinds of practices discussed in class, such as how to give good feedback, orchestrate classroom discussions, and organize groupwork. All these examples reflect different ways that teacher education courses can make linkages between theory and practice. One of the challenges of this work, however—which we again see across many contexts—is that focusing upon teachings practice in university courses requires very different roles for teacher educators. This shift to practice demands teacher educators use many more materials and resources from real classrooms and requires them to shift their own teaching to provide more attentive and careful coaching around specific, targeted teaching practices.

For more information:

Coherence and Assignment Study in Teacher Education (CATE) at the University of Oslo

Scanning the world: Alternatives to Public Schools

cape20.v033.i01.coverReports in both academic journals and news publications from around the world show that alternatives to conventional public schools, including migrant schools, private vocational schools, and unaccredited schools, have been a recent topic in the news as many countries try to meet the diverse needs and demands of growing populations.

In the latest issue of The Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Sang Kook Lee examines “Migrant schools in the Thailand-Burma borderland: from the informal to the formal.”  The article explores the existence of migrant schools and how they enable children to “have their own education even in the absence of proper legal status.” The growth of these schools indicate the building up of migrant education institutions. For example, since the mid-2000s, Thailand has supported migrant schools in an attempt to “regularize them as learning centers” under the guidance of the government. The article argues that government interest in these unaccredited schools does not indicate a victory of the state over migrants, and migrant schools; instead, they believe it shows the impressive growth of migrant education, which has “achieved recognition from the state as a legitimate formal institution.”

As noted in an earlier post, China has also addressed the issue of migrant schools; however, China decided to shut down the schools and change policy to allow non-native students to attend public schools. While some of these schools were deemed unsafe, parents lamented the loss of the private institutions that they believed their children to be both happy, and learning.

Recently, an article in The New York Times  titled “Trade Schools Offer Hope for Rural Migrants in China,” highlighted the issue of funding for private-run vocational schools operating in China. According to the article,

“While China has long had state-run vocational schools, critics say that they are bogged down by bureaucracy and overwhelmed by the huge number of youths who need training. Private enterprises like BN Vocational School can fill that gap, but only with the outside funding needed to be able to train poor students for free.”

Schools like BN Vocational School operate with support from charities, corporations, and both the Chinese and foreign governments.

Meanwhile, as reported in The Hankyoreh, in “More unaccredited schools popping up to offer international-style education,” South Korean parents have been paying exorbitant tuition rates send their children to unaccredited alternative educational facilities that provide an education that is “not recognized as regular schooling by the Ministry of Education.” Since these schools do not have to report what they teach or register with the government, they are not subject to regulations. Many focus on international education and immersive English education, and charge such high tuition that they are not available for low-income families. While some have called for the government to regulate the excessively high cost of these schools, the government is searching for ways to satisfy the demand for alternative education through public schools, and “help unaccredited alternative schools become places that can serve the interests of the entire public.”

Scan of Ed News: University Rankings, Curriculum, and Teacher Training

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Beyond the issues of protests, unions, and funding, which were highlighted in the first part of this monthly scan, part II brings together links to a number of recent articles and reports that touch on the kinds of issues raised by the latest Academic Reputation Survey.

Academic Reputation Survey

Each year, Times Higher Education and Thomson Reuters sends an email to thousands of academics worldwide inviting them to participate in the annual Academic Reputation Survey, which aims to gain insight on the reputations of academic institutions within the academic community. While this method of ranking has been controversial, education news reports show that many countries take these rankings very seriously, making improvements to their education systems that they hope will elevate their national reputation on a global scale.

In their effort to produce the most college-ready students in the world, many countries are focused inward on issues such as language and curriculum, teacher training and evaluation, and school accountability, while also paying close attention to competitive outward measures.

Language Requirements in Higher Education

Of the top 20 schools, the only one from a non-English-speaking country is Japan’s University of Tokyo; all other schools are located in the US, the UK, Australia or Canada. Since 2006, Prime Minister Abe’s has focused on fostering “global talent to reverse the nation’s declining competitiveness on the world stage,” an effort that has led him to target English-language studies as an area of improvement. His plan would mandate that people reach certain scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to gain college admission, graduation, and to qualify for government jobs.

Seen in Beijing, a T-shirt mocking poorly spoken English. Photo: AFP

Seen in Beijing, a T-shirt mocking poorly spoken English. Photo: AFP

Meanwhile, in China, a 2010 survey showed 80% of people polled agreed that there is a language crisis. “Because students devote more effort into passing English tests, they spend less time studying for courses for their major, dealing a ‘heavy blow’ to overall education,” said Zhang Shuhua, head of the Intelligence Research Academy. In March, some of China’s top universities dropped the requirement of an English test as part of their recruitment exams, yet over 40,000 Chinese students poured into Hong Kong to take the SAT exam, and the best are opting to study at foreign universities. This “brain drain” is a trend the leadership is seeking to reverse.

Similarly, Russia will begin testing foreign migrants in the Russian language and establish a “universal history textbook,” a fact that has many concerned. Education Minister Livanov said, “A history manual must not interpret events, but list a sequence of historical facts,” and indicated that it will be the teacher’s job to assess the facts and the logic behind them.

Teacher Training and Evaluation

REPORT CARD: While most schools have adequate numbers of classrooms, separate toilet facilities for girls and boys, the availability of playground, school ramp, kitchen shed and boundary wall remains a major challenge in many States. Photo: K.R. Deepak

REPORT CARD: While most schools have adequate numbers of classrooms, separate toilet facilities for girls and boys, the availability of playground, school ramp, kitchen shed and boundary wall remains a major challenge in many States. Photo: K.R. Deepak

In India, low test scores on basic math and literacy assessments have led to calls for a higher standard for teacher training. Yet, private schools, which many feel provide a superior education, do not offer their teachers the same level of training. According to child rights activist Vasudev Sharma, the disparity in teacher training “is one of the major differences between private and government schools,” yet parents continue to rely on the reputation of private schools.

In a similar move to raise the bar for teachers, Australia will require all future teachers to score in the top 30% of a literacy and numeracy test, and Scotland will require that teachers become content area specialists as well as pedagogues. Yet, as we have seen in Guatemala, efforts to enforce higher standards for teachers leads to concerns about exclusion. Ireland is pushing back against this notion. According to Education Minister Quinn, “a diverse society needs a diversity of teachers, not a ‘one size fits all’ approach which ‘streamlines a particular cohort into teaching’.” At the International Summit on the Teaching ProfessionJohn Bangs went a step further, stating that “a national teacher appraisal scheme is not essential to an education system’s success…. For appraisal to work, therefore, it must be valued by teachers and be seen as a welcome addition to their professional lives.” We have seen further examples of this notion in recent research conducted in Korea, Mexico, and India.

Data Manipulation

Phil Baty, Times Higher Education

Phil Baty, Times Higher Education

While teachers might struggle to see evaluations as essential to an educational system’s success, universities seem to have accepted the importance of the international ranking systems – so much so that they will go to extreme lengths. In response to the University of Cork’s recent attempt to manipulate the data, Phil Baty, editor of the international rankings of Times Higher Education, explained, “Global university rankings have become phenomenally influential in recent years – not only helping students to decide where to invest many thousands of dollars in tuition fees, but also in helping university leaders shape strategies and in helping governments to make multimillion-dollar funding decisions in some parts of the world.” Additionally, as seen in another recent example of educators manipulating data in the US, intense pressure to be successful within systems that value strict measures of evaluation can also lead to unintended outcomes.

Scan of Ed News: Protests, Unions, and Educational Funding

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This month’s scan of recent educational research and news reveals a number of inter-connected issues that are arising in different places around the world.  In part one of this month’s scan, we highlight teacher and student protests, the role of teacher unions, and the uses of educational funding. Part II, which will appear later this week, will share reporting on issues of curriculum, testing, teacher and school evaluations, and higher education.

Teacher and Student Protests:

Ongoing protests highlight a globalized concern surrounding the issue of access to high quality education. Student protests in countries such as Portugal, Chile, Bulgaria, and Spain, focus on changing the system in ways that allow greater opportunity for access, while teacher protests Spain, Greece, and France, aim to preserve an established system now threatened by austerity measures. These protests highlight issues dominant in global news reports in recent weeks, such as the role of teacher unions and educational funding.

The Role of Teacher Unions in Ed Reform: Mexico and South Korea

The Hankyoreh

Korea Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU), The Hankyoreh

Mexico recently witnessed the arrest of Elba Esther Gordillo, long-time president of Mexico’s teachers’ union. Charged with organized crime, Ms. Gordillo’s arrest was widely seen as a boon to education reformists and government officials because it called into question the integrity of unions and provided an example of the disruption of “business-as-usual,” at a time when the government is imposing drastic new reformsUnion leaders say these reforms will lead to students having no guarantee of free public schooling; however, the arrest of Gordillo highlights Mexico’s struggle with corruption, seen by many to be the main prohibitor of change. Two recent studies published by the Asia Pacific Journal of Education, found that school reformers should be “advised to rethink the school change model design in a way of fully capturing human aspects in the reform process.” Nevertheless, we can see direct examples of government threats against unions in South Korea, where teachers are now fighting against government efforts to withdraw recognition of the teachers’ union, and in South Africa, where politicians and lawyers are fighting to have education declared an “essential service,” a move that would make it illegal for teachers to go on strike.

Educational Funding:

While most student protests demand affordable higher education, many governments are focused on providing free education to children of all ages. One example is India, where the Karnataka High Court has declared that all private school students between six and 14 years of age are eligible for free education, not just those from poor families gaining admission under a 25% quota fixed by the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act. However, it is also interesting to note that India’s private schools are expanding and raising their tuition rates. According to L.R. Shivarame Gowda, chairperson of the Joint Action Committee of Private Schools, tuition hikes are necessary for providing quality education: “The numbers of private schools in the city are multiplying, so schools need to provide better facilities to keep in pace with the development and retain students.”  In Japan, the issue of educational funding has become more political, as the government has decided to deny North Korean schools access to their tuition-free program. Education Minister Shimomura presented his view that schools under the influence of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan conflict with the Fundamental Law of Education which calls for education free from any undue political influence. As reported in the International Review of Education, China’s private universities offer an example of institutions that struggle financially, yet provide the people with alternatives that might ultimately allow more students to benefit from the advantages of higher education; however, China also provides an example of how funding alone might not provide children with the education they deserve. The country’s system of residential registers favors those who live in big cities – a holdover from the era of a planned economy, originally used as the basis for rationing of food and other necessities – is fast developing into a serious social issue.

The Hindu

The Hindu