Publications

Recent Publications

Book Chapters

Baxter, J., Lawn, M., Segerholm, C., & Grek, S. (forthcoming). Inspection and the local. In S. Grek & J. Lindengren (Eds.), Governing by inspection: embodied regulation. London: Symposium.

Baxter, J., Rönnberg, L., & Ozga, J. (forthcoming). Inspection in the Media. In S. Grek & J. Lindengren (Eds.), Governing by Inspection: Embodied Regulation. London: Symposium Books

Baxter, J., & Segerholm, C. (forthcoming). Shifting Frameworks: shifting Criteria. In S. Grek & J. Lindgren (Eds.), Governing by Inspection: embodied regulation Oxford. : Symposium Books

Journal Articles

Baxter, J. (2013a). Bridging the gap: the role of the media in school inspection. Forthcoming

Baxter, J. (2013b). The Power to persuade: iterations of Ofsted’s media strategy 1992- 2013. Forthcoming.

Baxter, J. (2014b). Ofsted in the Media: the relationship between education inspection, education policy and education in the media. . forthcoming

Baxter, J., & Hult, A. (2014). School inspectors in Sweden and England: the impact of policy on practices. .In revision for The Journal of Education Policy

Baxter, J. (2014). Public Service Professional identities: the case of pre-16 teaching and Higher Education in England; challenges and opportunities. Under review Cambridge Journal of Education

Baxter, J. (2014c). Regulatory policies: the shifting objectives of school governor accountablity under review  for The Journal of Education Policy

Baxter, J. (2014d). Shifting criteria : using critical discourse analysis to analyse the strategies used to frame major policy change and shifting notions of excellence in education.  under review For BERJ

Clarke, J., & Baxter, J. (2014). Satisfactory Progress? Keywords in English School Inspection.Accepted Education Inquiry.

 

Baxter.J., & Haycock, J. (2014). Roles and student identities in online large course forums: implications for practice. International Review of Open and Distance Learning, Forthcoming – accepted March 2014 volume. In press

 

Baxter, J., & Clarke, J. (2014). Knowledge, Authority and Judgement: the changing practices of School Inspection in England. Sisyphus Special Issue (Special Issue of Sisyphus: Frameworks of Regulation: Evidence, Knowledge and Judgement in Inspection forthcoming March 2014 in press

Baxter, J. (2014a). An independent inspectorate? Addressing the paradoxes of educational inspection in 2013. School Leadership and Management http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/tY4sKEuNn6NBQAggrGkM/full. Print version – April 2014.

Baxter, J., & Clarke, J. (2013). Farewell to the Tickbox Inspector ?Ofsted and the changing regime of school inspection in England. Oxford Review of Education 39(5), 702-718.

Baxter, J., & Wise, C. (2013). Federation governing: translation or transformation ? Management in Education: special issue Governing and Governance 27(3), 106-111.

Baxter, J. A. (2013a). Professional inspector or inspecting professional? Teachers as inspectors in a new regulatory regime for education in England. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(4), 467-485.

Ozga, J., Baxter, J., Clarke, J., Grek, S., & Lawn, M. (2013). The Politics of Educational Change: Governance and School Inspection in England and Scotland Swiss Journal of Sociology, 39(2), 37-55.

2012

Baxter (2012) Who am I and What Keeps Me Going? Profiling the distance learning student in higher education International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning : Volume 13, No.4: 107-129: online at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1283

Baxter (2012) The Impact of Professional Learning on the Online Teaching Identities of Higher Education Lecturers. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, Volume 11: online at: http://www.eurodl.org/?article=527

2011

Baxter, J. (2011a). An investigation into the role of professional learning on the online teaching identities of Higher Education Lecturers Doctorate in Education The Open University UK, Milton Keynes.Retrieved from http://oro.open.ac.uk/33928/

Baxter, J. (2011b). Public Sector Professional identities: etiolation or evolution; a review of the literature. Retrieved from http://oro.open.ac.uk/29793/

Baxter, J. (2010) Bien dans Sa Peau; the role of professional learning in the development of online teaching identities of part time HE Lecturers. Paper presented at the 2010 Academic Identities for the 21st Century Conference. ISBN 978-0-947649-72-72

Baxer, J., Daniels, H., Haughton, J., Gaskell, A., Macdonald, J., Mcdonnell, E., McQueen, B., Pagis, Z., Parsons, R. and Rasheed, L. (2008). Teaching and learning at the Open University, a guide for Associate Lecturers. Milton Keynes. Open University Press: ISBN 978-0-7492-1271-1

Conferences (Forthcoming)

BELMAS 2014: Taking the conversations public: School Leaders’ perceptions of social media as a policy influence. (Accepted)

ECER: 2014: The policy media interface in Education: framing, naming and shaming a case of the English inspectorate. (Accepted)

CV

Hello & Welcome

Hello and Welcome.

I’m Dr Jacqueline Baxter

I work as a Lecturer in Social Policy at The Open University UK.  You can find out a little more about me and my research interests by clicking on the tabs above.

Thanks for visiting my site . While you are here why don’t you have a quick look at my blog .

 

You can also find me in my Education Column on WWW.Theconversation.com

profile picture the convers (1 of 1)

Roles and identities in online large course forums : implications for practice

I vividly remember my first foray into a large online forum. I was a class teacher at the time: teaching French and Spanish in a sixth form college. I had only just purchased my own laptop and was excited about the potentialities of teaching languages using IT.   My first experience of a large online forum came about thanks to the Association of Language Learning. Their online forum was designed to be used by all members as a way of networking and flagging up and sharing good practice and teaching resources. I still remember breaking out in a sweat as I tentatively made my first posting; very much aware of the fact that I may be talking to hundreds if not thousands of people!  I found seeing my own posts online to be both satisfying and cringe making – did I really say that in response to that……

Working full time in a distance learning environment as I have for some considerable time now, you tend to forget how much those who aren’t used to this environment may agonise over a single post. Of course, times have changed since my first online foray; many students of varying ages already have experience of talking online via Facebook, Twitter and other social apps. They already have experience of creating an online persona: of articulating their own personalities online. Yet this is not always of benefit when transferring the type of interactions used on e.g. Facebook, to a more formal academic forum.

In a recent paper written in collaboration with Jo Haycock a very experienced Associate Lecturer working at The Open University UK, we explored what elements of online participation enhance learner identity and sense of agency, and how student to student contact online helps or hinders this. Identity has been strongly linked to learning by many researchers (Baxter, 2012; Davies & Thomas, 2004; Erikson, 1968; Henderson & Bradey, 2008; Lave & Wenger, 1991) and a strong and articulate online identity is often associated with an individual’s perceptions and capacity to feel good online (Turkle, 1993). Sherry Turkle was one of the first to investigate how it felt to engage in online interactions in her well known book Life on The Screen: Identity in the age of the internet and Gilly Salmon took her work much further in her early studies of online forums (Salmon, 2002).

With the advent of MOOCS (Massive Online Courses) and recent articles which have shown that increasing numbers of students are choosing online offerings (Newton, 2013), such as a the one describing a recent survey by The Guardian (Ward & Shaw, 2014), which,

‘Suggests that parents are now open to cheaper alternatives to the conventional full-time university route: a majority (57%) said internet-based courses in which students watch lectures online are a good idea.’

we felt it was a good time to consider how being online makes you feel and how this may impact on your studying staying power. Our review of the current research into online large forums revealed some of the fascinating insights that have already come out of a number of recent studies . As you can see from list below, they all link strongly to student resilience and perceptions’

  1. Learners adopt the cultures and practices of the community (Soden and Halliday (2000)
  2. Effective interactions involve full engagement with the posts of others (2000)
  3. Cultural differences may impede full integration (LeBaron, Pulkkinen, and Scollin,2000)
  4. Although vital for online integration, student to student communication has lower percieved value than student to tutor communication (Loizidou-Hatzitheodolulou et al, 2001)
  5. Moderator contribution and rate has an impact on motivation and integration (Mazzolini and Maddison, 2003).
  6. Cultural differences may impede full integration (LeBaron, Pulkkinen, and Scollin,2000)
  7. Communicative learners feel responsibility for group processes but are not necessarily the best learners (Hammond,1999)
  8. Familiarity with online forum participation aids swifter integration with other online forums (Zembylas,2008)
  9. Peer Facilitation can encourage deeper levels of participation and concomitant feelings of integration (Hew and Chueng,2008)
  10. Successful creation of online presence aids retention and participation in online forums (Ardichvili et al ,2003.Angelaki et al,2013).
  11. Effective conflict resolution, either by students or tutors aids integration (and the converse)

(Baxter & Haycock, 2013)

The list above shows that for students, online forums are not just about the cognitive but are very much influenced by the affective dimensions of learning too. For example; although one study revealed that student to student interaction has lower perceived value than student to tutor interaction, Hew and Cheung’s study indicated that peer facilitation (students helping other students), actually encouraged deeper levels of participation and feelings of belonging to the academic community (Hew & Cheung, 2008). A number of studies including our own, revealed that feelings were very important: if a student felt alienated or foolish or if they didn’t feel that the person they were online was a true representation of their personality, they tended either not to engage with forums or in a worst case scenario;they withdrew from study.

In many ways this reminded me of when I was teaching languages, particularly with my adult learners who tended to learn a language for communicative purposes rather than to gain a qualification. The parallel was apparent with those learners who felt they couldn’t be themselves in the foreign language: that they couldn’t articulate who they fundamentally were in the foreign language, and, as a result they dropped out of class. Later research in this area supported this, and found that those that felt comfortable in their self-representation in the foreign language, often went on to use the language as a means to employment (Baxter, 2004)

Our research indicated that the tutor or moderator can have a substantial impact on student feelings about online participation in large forums: they can mediate conflict and engage in a type of ‘engueulade’[1] which can actually strengthen the tutor student relationship. In addition, our research supported a number of other studies which outlined the need for tutors and forum moderators to address student expectations of forum engagement right from the very outset. On the module under scrutiny, students were offered a number of forums: some with a social purpose (largely unmoderated), some with a clear academic function. Students often seemed to become confused by this; expecting levels of tutor moderation in the social forum which were only offered within the academic focused version. This type of misunderstanding proved highly detrimental to the students’ future engagement and in some cases impacted negatively on their experience of the course itself.

If identity is core to learning and learning to identity, it is vital that research into this facet of online learning is considered when designing online learning environments. To negate it is to risk losing many who would otherwise profit from this way of learning.

References.

Baxter, J. (2004). Investigation into motivational factors behind using a second language as a means to gaining employment. Retrieved from http:/www.cilt.org.uk/research/statistics/labourmarket/accessed 060906

Baxter, J. (2012). The impact of professional learning on the online teaching identities of higher education lecturers:the role of resistance discourse European Journal of Open,Distance and E-Learning 1(2).

Baxter, J., & Haycock, J. (2013). Roles and student identities in online large course forums: implications for practice. International REview of Open and Distance Learning 15(1).

Davies, A., & Thomas, R. (2004). 6 Gendered identities and micro-political resistance in public service organizations. Identity politics at work: resisting gender, gendering resistance, 10, 105.

Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.

Henderson, M., & Bradey, S. (2008). Shaping online teaching practices: the influence of professional and academic identities. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 25(2), 85-92.

Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2008). Attracting student participation in asynchronous online discussions: A case study of peer facilitation. Computers & Education, 51(3), 1111-1124.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate periperal participation. Cambridge Cambridge University Press

Newton, D. (2013). Online students and teachers are no different from the rest of academia The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog+education/online-learning

Salmon, G. (2002). Moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online. London Routledge.

Turkle, S. (1993). Life on the Screen: Identity in the age of the Internet. New York: Touchstone.

Ward, L., & Shaw, C. (2014). University education : at £9000 per year, parents begin to question its value, The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/26/university-education-parents-question-value


[1] Engagement in argument offers a level of mutual respect that was not present before the argument took place. (Adamson Taylor1999 Culture Shock)

Lesson Observations and teaching style: counting caterpillar legs or producing butterflies.

Image

Lesson Observations and teaching style: counting caterpillar legs or producing butterflies.

The recent publicity and debate surrounding Ofsted inspections and lesson observations is an interesting one: not least in terms of the function of inspection. The 2012 Inspection Framework does put a great emphasis on teaching and learning; and rightly so. It also structures inspections in such a way that inspectors may have to fit observation of 50 lessons or more into just a two day period during which time inspectors are also expected to explore teachers’ professional development plans.

During the course of the ESRC inspection project : Governing by inspection http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/governing-by-inspection/ the three research teams based in Sweden, Scotland and England, interviewed a considerable number of inspectors and engaged them in discussions about their work: the challenges it brings and their own expectations of the role, whilst investigating inspection as a means by which to govern complex education systems (Ozga, Baxter, Clarke, Grek, & Lawn, 2013). The research revealed a number of challenges inherent within lesson observation as part of the inspection process; not least of these was the communicative challenge of conveying inspection outcomes to schools: in both written and oral form.

In England the changes made by the 2012 inspection regime, on the surface, appear to be something of a return to the HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate) form of inspection, with an emphasis on development and on teaching and learning as core to the inspection process. But we are not living in the period 1945-1984, a period when, as Stuart Maclure pointed out,

‘The Inspectorate was not like the rest of the Ministry. It was not neat and tidy. HMI’s were a disparate group of talented individuals. For much of their time they acted as such, dependent on their own professional initiative and controlling their own time. (Maclure, 2000:105)

But even then, resting on individuals’ professional judgement was far from unproblematic, as John Dunford describes in the case of Madeley Court in Shropshire, in which the criteria for judgement by HMI in school inspection were different from the philosophical basis on which a school was being run (Dunford, 1998:111): a pressing issue for the current inspectorate given the number of free and academy schools within the current system.

The post 1992 inspectorate Ofsted, was deliberately designed to be a very different beast from its predecessor. Founded on the principles of John Major’s Citizen Charter which advocated amongst other things, transparency of practice in the public services; the agency developed a series of criteria inspection frameworks from 1992-2009 which meticulously detailed 29 criteria on which schools were to be judged. This was accompanied by voluminous sets of handbooks designed to be read by both inspectors and school staff, and aimed again at opening up not only the secret garden of education to public scrutiny, but the equally secret garden of inspection. (Maw, 1995). The initial frameworks never appeared to set out to define good and bad teaching styles, but over a twenty year period they began to take on a life of their own. To understand how this came about it helps to understand the way in which Ofsted was and is structured.

When the agency was first developed many of the HMI that had been employed full time, were made redundant. The shortfall in HMI and the far more regulatory nature of the new inspectorate gave rise to an organisation whose day to day operation was run by numerous sub-contractors. In the early days this amounted to well over a hundred tiny agencies that were contracted to perform inspection (Baxter & Clarke, 2013). It is not difficult to imagine how difficult it must have been to attain consistency of practice across such a devolved system. In 2009 the contracts were streamlined and awarded to three main contractors: Serco, Tribal and CFBt. (Ofsted, 2009). To a certain extent this did streamline operations but meanwhile, due to the 2005 Education Act which implemented a multi -agency approach advocated in the Every Child Matters paper,(DFE, 2003), the agency was tasked with integrated inspection which added the inspection of all children’s services 0-18 and, following the inception of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 the inception of a new agency on the 1st April 2007. The new agency brought together: the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI); the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI); Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration.

The considerably extended remit of the new agency rendered it more powerful than ever; rendering it an  inspectorate of both national and international renown: a study carried out early in 2011 revealed that 45% of the UK population had heard of the agency (Baxter, 2014). But as the agency broadened, so did the vast industry that had developed around it, offering everything from; how teach the Ofsted way, to a full package of consultancy for schools on, for example, how to present your school in such a way as to gain a higher grade at inspection. Added to this, many local authorities and consultancies offering training either post or pre inspection, had developed checklists instructing teachers (and heads) how to get a 1 in teaching observations.

The 2012 Framework not only reduced the amount of judgements but has also brought back the idea of professional judgement, creating a superficially simple framework that in many ways, occludes the super complexity of the job it is tasked with: judging schools that are in many cases autonomous and lack post inspection LEA support in cases in which they are judged to be failing; schools that form part of complex academy chains or federations or schools or schools that have for example recently been taken over by chains with little knowledge of local contexts.

The first key challenge inherent within the observation of teaching and learning is as our study revealed, to be found in the communicative elements of the inspectors’ work. The inspection criteria may well state judgements must not be made on the basis of particular teaching styles, but in a system which relies upon the extensive experience of inspectors, many of whom are in service head teachers, it is highly likely that individuals will base their judgements upon what in their considerable experience tells them is good teaching,this in combination with  information that permits them to gain an impression of how successful that teaching has been over time. This may well be a good basis upon which to proceed, but it is one thing to judge a lesson and yet another to be able to articulate that judgement in a way that whilst not judging teaching styles, does involve making a judgement on the teaching. The communicative element of the work of inspectors has been recognised by those tasked with their training, and is indeed the focus of a great deal of intensive work on the part of both Ofsted and its contracted agencies (see for details Baxter & Hult, 2013), but nevertheless, the communicative challenges inherent within the inspector role remain considerable.

The second key challenge for inspectors is located within the history and culture of the organisation itself : inspectors do not go into schools with a ‘clean slate’ they carry with them the baggage of an organisation that has evolved against the political, historical, economic and social background of the country in which it is placed. The teaching profession has a long memory and although Ofsted may have said Farewell to the Tick box inspector;  the minds of many teachers he lingers on; producing the type of misunderstandings, myths and confusion around inspection that have never really never gone away. These were particularly well summed up some thirty years previously, in the words of Ann Jones, then head of a very successful school in Hounslow, who describes here her experiences of inspection in 1984 under the then HMI:

In the HMI inspection of my school in 1984 by a team of 29 delightful intelligent inspectors, I was constantly caught in a tension between the traditional and the transitional. There was a sense in which they seemed to be counting caterpillar legs, whereas we were trying to produce something quite different, namely, butterflies. Furthermore, they caught us at the chrysalis stage when it was rather difficult to judge what would come out at the other end. We found ourselves backtracking to produce evidence of caterpillar legs. However, in my view, our caterpillar legs were not very convincing because we were in the process of giving them up and moving on to a new way of working. So there was this built in tension between what we were trying to do, what we thought we were expected to have done and what we were doing.

 I expect this is a common dilemma for schools (Jones, 1987:203)

It may be that although teaching styles themselves are not being judged, that during the communication of the basis upon which the inspector judges lessons, it appears that in praising certain elements of the lesson whilst questioning others, that inspectors are almost certain to favour elements that are core to certain teaching styles and not others. Overcoming this communicative element whilst creating a convincing narrative that is shared by teachers and that, in addition, may be considered to be developmental is perhaps where the real challenge lies.

References

Baxter, J. (2014). An independent inspectorate? Addressing the paradoxes of educational inspection in 2013. School Leadership and Management http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/tY4sKEuNn6NBQAggrGkM/full.

Baxter, J., & Clarke, J. (2013). Farewell to the Tickbox Inspector ?Ofsted and the changing regime of school inspection in England. Oxford Review of Education 39(5), 702-718.

Baxter, J., & Hult, A. (2013). Professional training for professional inspection: contrasting inspector role, professionalism and development in England and Sweden Paper presented at the ECER Conference : Creativity and Innovation in Educational research Istanbul, Turkey.

DFE. (2003). Every child matters  Retrieved 121213, 2013, from https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/downloadableDocs/EveryChildMatters.pdf

Dunford, J. E. (1998). Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Schools Since 1944. London: Woburn Press

Jones, A. (1987). Leadership for tomorrow’s Schools Oxford: Blackwell.

Maclure, S. (2000). The Inspectors’ Calling Oxford: Hodder and Stoughton.

Maw, J. (1995). The Handbook for the Inspection of Schools: a critique. Cambridge Journal of Education, 25(1), 75-87.

Ofsted. (2009). Press Release: New inspection contracts signed, Ofsted Retrieved from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/news/new-inspection-contracts-signed

Ozga, J., Baxter, J., Clarke, J., Grek, S., & Lawn, M. (2013). The Politics of Educational Change: Governance and School Inspection in England and Scotland Swiss Journal of Sociology, 39(2), 37-55.

What have education systems in the UK ever done for social mobility?

What have education systems in the UK ever done for social mobility?

The post-war period  marked the beginning of an era during which it was hoped that education systems in the UK could be re-designed in order to ensure that no individual’s background would be a barrier to opportunity: that rigid pre-war class divisions could finally be put aside in order to create a more equal society, and the kind of social mobility that had erstwhile seemed unattainable. But the halcyon optimism of the post war period has faded from memory, to be replaced by what appears to be a yawning chasm between the attainment of children from poor homes and those from more privileged backgrounds. (Clifton & Cook, 2012).

International comparators such as the OECD’s PISA report (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Programme for International Student Assessment); have revealed that although an attainment gap exists in most OECD member countries, the English case is particularly concerning. In England pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds do less well than their peers (Mortimore & Whitty, 2000). With 77% of the between school differences in student performance linked to socio economic background, pupils in England appear considerably disadvantaged compared to their counterparts in the rest of Europe (OECD average 55%) (OECD, 2010(a)). A report by the same organisation revealed this gap to be almost three times larger in England than in other OECD countries (OECD, 2006; Schütz, Ursprung, & Wößmann, 2008). This data combined with recent damning reports in the English press , and a new Chief Inspector (Sir Michael Wilshaw) who believes that too many children in England are ‘being failed, after spending their entire primary or secondary education in schools rated no better than ‘satisfactory’ (Paton, 2012), place increasing levels of pressure upon Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills), to ‘raise the bar’  and create an inspection system which transfers that increasing pressure onto schools, demanding that they raise standards and ensure that England’s international education ranking is improved.

But the problem is not confined purely to England: a report commissioned in 2007 into Scottish education revealed that although Scotland has one of the most equitable school systems among OECD countries, there is no room for complacency and in spite of a number of policy innovations aimed at closing the attainment gap, a recent report from the London School of Economics revealed the gap to be as wide as ever: there is still much to be done as their blog reports:

Furthermore, our findings show deep levels of inequality in Scotland, particularly between pupils from different socioeconomic groups. For example, the PISA data for maths in Scotland in 2009 show that the difference between the most advantaged quarter of young people and the least advantaged quarter is 93 points. The top quarter achieved 549 points, which is on a par with the average score in Hong Kong (which was placed third in the OECD for maths that year), while the bottom quarter achieved only 456 points, on a par with Turkey (which was placed 44th). Source –http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/archives/35369.

Wales too gives cause for concern as this recent article illustrates : http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/08/oecd-adult-literacy-numeracy-uk-poverty-inequality

But a substantial body of research for example that carried out by Rasbash et al (Rabash, Leckie, Pillinger, & Jenkins, 2010), indicates that only 20% of variability in a pupil’s achievement is attributable to school quality and the rest is down to pupil-level factors (family influence, neighbourhood etc.) : factors that are often sidelined in international reports compiled from statistical data.

Attempts to bridge the gap have resulted in a plethora of  policy development  in education; development which many teaching professionals perceive to be ‘innovation overload’: too many policies that are not based on cumulative research within the sector, but perceived by many to be driven by the political whims of successive governments. As David Hopkins writes in his recent paper, ‘Exploding the myths of school reform,’:

‘the failure of so many educational reform efforts to impact on the learning and performance of students, is due to misguided action based on a number of myths associated with school reform that remain prevalent in education to the present day.’ (pp:304)

So what has the UK School system ever done for social mobility? 

Join the debate on Facebook: November 1st: Friday Thinkers on the Social Science Website.

https://www.facebook.com/theopenuniversity.socialscience

References.

 

Clifton, J., & Cook, W. (2012). A Long Division: closing the attainment gap in Engand’s Secondary Schools London: IPPR and Save the Children

Hopkins, D. (2013). Exploding the myths of school reform. School Leadership and Management, 33 (4), 304-321.

Mortimore, P., & Whitty, G. (2000). Can School Improvement Overcome the Effects of Disadvantage. London: Routledge.

OECD. (2010(a)). PISA 2009 Results. What students know and can do. In OECD (Ed.). Paris.

Paton, G. (2012). Ofsted: one million children stuck in coasting schools, The Telegraph.

Rabash, J., Leckie, G., Pillinger, R., & Jenkins, J. (2010). ‘Children’s educational progress: partitioning family, school and area effects’. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 173(3), 657-652.

BERA Brighton

BERA Brighton

Let’ hope it won’t be quite this bleak ! Find the papers at:

http://open.academia.edu/jacquelineBaxer

The Power to Govern? Pressures, powers and regulation of English school governing bodies in a changing educational landscape

The Power to Govern? Pressures, powers and regulation of English school governing bodies in a changing educational landscape

One of the papers that I shall be presenting at the forthcoming ECER Conference in Istanbul in two weeks time, is about school governors and the ways in which they are regulated : The Power to Govern? Pressures, powers and regulation of English school governing bodies in a changing educational landscape. The paper, to be given as part of a symposium  contribution ID: “755”, “Governing By Inspection: School Inspecting As Brokering and Mediating Work”, focuses on the confusion surrounding the role of school governing bodies, and how this is articulated in terms of their regulation. There’s a great deal of research that reflects on the ways in which the role of these volunteers has changed and evolved; moving from the very earliest forms of educational governance as stewardship, to a more democratic function, provoked largely by John Major’s Citizen’s Charter and the need to involve more parents in education. The move towards a skill based ideal of school governors was largely prompted by The 1988 Education Reform Act; an act which provoked the consumerisation of education (Chitty, 2004) and a far greater emphasis on inter school competition, guided by the principles of market forces and a focus on the parent as consumer.

But since then the role of the school governor has really gained pace: an increase in the number of academies; rising from just 202 in 2010 to 3049 in 2013 according to The Guardian Datablog; combined with a reduction in education support functions of the Local Education Authorities, has placed inordinate pressures on governing bodies. These are compounded by a ‘far tougher’ regulatory regime: The 2012 Ofsted Inspection Framework, which for the first time, integrates governor performance into a single judgement on leadership and management.

But, as our research has shown , there is a great deal of confusion not only around what constitutes good school governance, but also the way in which this important volunteer body is to be regulated in the new education landscape in England.  The recent enquiry into the role of school governing bodies (Parliament, 2013a, 2013b, 2013c), produced no less than three volumes of evidence debating the issues; and left little doubt that educational governance has not only reached a watershed, but as Prof James and colleagues described ;may well be reaching its ‘perfect storm’ (James, Brammer, Connolly, Spicer, James, & Jones, 2013).  Even the term ‘school governor’ appears to be causing tensions, with some governors referring to themselves as ‘executive board members’, and others ‘parent reps’, reflecting what they feel is a democratic representative role which lacks decision making or financial powers (Baxter & Wise, 2013).

Perception has been shown to be powerful in regulatory terms, reflecting themes which emerge from organisational  literature. But if perceptions of governor roles are outdated, particularly if they hearken back to a governor who as HMCI recently put it spends”Too much time spent looking at the quality of school lunches and not enough on maths and English,”(Wilshaw, 2013); however stringent the regulatory framework, it will struggle to function as an effective tool by which to govern education. But while both governors and regulators struggle with a role which has morphed with the times and now often represents the only interface between schools and government, it is not enough to purely analyse the system in regulatory terms. As one witness during the enquiry articulated:

Does that work, when you have a governor who is unpaid and a head in London on £190,000 standing beside you, so there you are, working every hour God gives to support the school, and the person beside you is on £190,000 a year. (Parliament, 2013b:Q35)

Studies into third sector governance have recognised that in order to evaluate efficiency of boards and ensure that volunteers are retained in their governing capacity;  it is important to focus on skills and capacities which fall outside of the skill based approach which seems currently to be dominating discussions on school governing in England (Balduck, Van Rossem, & Buelens, 2010) .These capacities, such as the ability to think strategically, to innovate and to ask questions that provoke action and not stultifying compliance, may well be possessed by those from a business or professional background: on the other hand, possibly not. More to the point; it is a very tall order to ask inspectors to measure and assess these  capabilities over the course of a two day inspection. It may be argued that the proof lies in the success or failure of the school. But this implies that schools must be failing before action is taken and negates any developmental possibilities that inspection may engender.

http://open.academia.edu/jacquelineBaxer: The power to govern? Pressures, powers and regulation of English School governing bodies in a changing education landscape.

Balduck, A.-L., Van Rossem, A., & Buelens, M. (2010). Identifying competencies of volunteer board members of community sports clubs. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 39(2), 213-235.

Baxter, J., & Wise, C. (2013). Federation governing: translation or transformation ? Management in Education: special issue Governing and Governance 27(3), 106-111.

Chitty, C. (2004). Education Policy in Britain. . London: Palgrave Macmillan. .

James, C., Brammer, S., Connolly, M., Spicer, D. E., James, J., & Jones, J. (2013). The challenges facing school governing bodies in England A ‘perfect storm’? Management in Education, 27(3), 84-90.

Parliament. (2013a). The Role of School Governing Bodies: Second Report of Session 2013-14 Volume 111 ` (Vol. III). London: HMSO.

Parliament. (2013b). The Role of School Governing Bodies: Second Report of Session 2013 -14 Volume II (Vol. II). London: The House of Commons.

Parliament. (2013c). The role of school governing bodies:Second Report of Session 2013-14 Volume 1 (Vol. Volume 1). London: The House of Commons Education Committee.

Wilshaw, M. (2013). The School Data Dashboard London: Ofsted

The Business of inspection

The Business of inspection

I was interested to read an article in The Guardian online today about the confusion that teachers feel about inspection and what is expected by inspectors when they visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/jun/17/teaching-inspections-ofsted-transparency. In it the writer, an ex teacher bemoaned the confusion caused by changing of the inspection schedules and their attendant expectations re teaching:

‘Back in the mid-2000s, the criteria for achieving an outstanding lesson were lengthy but specific. Included were things such as: using technology, varying activities, developing positive relationships. The array of requirements was overwhelming. Sometimes the job of teaching involved being a ringmaster of an elaborate circus of activities. Concerns then arose that this frenetic effort was not translating into outcomes. Ofsted therefore split the criteria, offering a grade for teaching and one for student learning. But this led to its own problems. Schools told teachers they must prove student learning was continually happening. In some classrooms, teachers were pressurised into having students mark their work every 20 minutes to show how they were progressing.

By the start of 2012, when Sir Michael Wilshaw took over at Ofsted, teachers breathed a sigh of relief as he promised to simplify the criteria and said inspectors had “no preferred teaching style“. Yet the era of “anything goes” felt short-lived. With detailed criteria gone, school leaders try to “guess” the right approach….’

For the last 2 years I have been working alongside colleagues from The Open University, The University of Edinburgh, Oxford University, the University of Mid Sweden and Umea University on an ESRC project called: Governing by inspection: http://jozga.co.uk/GBI/. Working on the project has been a fascinating journey into the workings of the inspection and the ways in which it is used to govern systems of education during particularly turbulent times (Ozga, Baxter, Clarke, Grek, & Lawn, 2013) The article above caught my eye for two reasons: firstly due to the sense of confusion about what the agency expects of teachers and secondly because of this in relation to the new inspection Framework (Ofsted, 2012). Successive reports into the role and purpose of Ofsted pointed to the agency’s so called tick box approach to inspection;(Parliament, 2011). The previous framework had some 28 judgements and sub-judgements which in the new framework have been reduced to just four. This in theory should make life easier all round, but the challenges of ensuring consistency of approach, a core element in any public service inspection regime (see Boyne, Day, & Walker, 2002), have traditionally been a bone of contention with both public and profession.

The system has been in existence for 20 years and as Abrams so rightly stated ,’ Try asking serious questions about the contemporary world and see if you can do without historical answers, (Abrams,1982: 1). But the history of the agency is not confined purely to its own procedures and evolution but equally to the massive industry which has grown up around it. Books offering guidance as to ‘The Perfect Ofsted Inspection’ or the Perfect Ofsed lesson (Beere, 2011; Beere, 2012), offer myriad suggestions as to how to proceed during an inspection. Training courses advertise how to convey their school in the best light during an inspection and recently governors too have been targeted by the multi-million pound industry which rides on the back of inspection. That is not to say that such material is not constructive: some of the courses I attended both as a teacher and later as a researcher were often well run and very informative, offering practical tips and hints on many aspects of teaching and learning. But in general it was the Ofsted label that sold them; it was the thought of being able to get a 1 that got most of the participants through the door.

Ofsted is more than an inspection agency, it’s a brand, and one that is instantly recognisable to some 42% of the English population (Baxter, 2013; Baxter & Clarke, 2013), that is without considering its international reach. You only have to trot around your locale to see that now famous sign ‘Ofsted Outsanding,’. But at what cost to its primary purpose as ‘The parent’s friend’ as John Major put it in his speech to the Centre for Policy Studies (Major, 1991) ? Has the brand overtaken the machine ?

Much of the strength of an Ofsed Inspection Framework lies in the ways in which it is interpreted: by both professionals and lay people and while there is confusion around whether the perfect lesson is the same as the perfect Ofsted lesson its purpose as an instrument by which to govern education may well be compromised.

Baxter, J. (2013). What Counts as sucess in education in England, shifting criteria. Forthcoming

Baxter, J., & Clarke, J. (2013). Farewell to the Tickbox Inspector ?Ofsted and the changing regime of school inspection in England. Forthcoming Oxford Review of Education 39(5).

Beere, J. (2011). The Perfect Ofsted Inspection London: Crown House

Beere, J. (2012). The Perfect Ofsted Lesson

Boyne, G., Day, P., & Walker, R. (2002). The evaluation of public service inspection: A theoretical framework. Urban Studies, 39(7), 1197.

Major, J. (1991). Education: all our futures Paper presented at the Centre for Policy Studies London.

Ofsted. (2012). The Framework for School inspection 2012

Ozga, J., Baxter, J., Clarke, J., Grek, S., & Lawn, M. (2013). The Politics of Educational Change: Governance and School Inspection in England and Scotland Swiss Journal of Sociology, 39(2), 37-55.

Parliament. (2011). The role and performance of Ofsted London: The House of Commons Education Committee.

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Living online, working online – Part One

Living online working online- part one.

 

The subject for my doctorate in education was the impact of professional learning on the online teaching identities of higher education lecturers. It struck me some years ago during a period during which I was employed as a teacher trainer, that engaging with students online was a very different experience from teaching in a face to face environment. Not only was the teaching experience different, but job satisfaction; feelings of ‘doing a good job’ were also substantially different from those experienced in a face to face environment. Drawing on the work of Gilly Salmon and Sherry Turkle (Jaques & Salmon, 2006; Salmon, 2002; Turkle, 1994, 1999; Turkle & Papert, 1990; Wilson & Peterson, 2002), I set out to explore the ways in which online teachers were working within their online contexts and more particularly what type of development activities enhanced their online identities and role performance (see Baxter, 2011; Baxter, 2012).

The study took three years to complete (Baxter, 2011) and during this time my own online interactions increased considerably as I engaged in blogs, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and other online applications; subsequently rejecting or increasing my use of them over time. My blog during this period juxtaposed my own online identity development with that of the online lecturers in my study, an element which proved to be very helpful in understanding the emotions engendered within online identity formation and sustenance.

The study offered a number of useful insights into the cognitive, affective and situative elements of online teaching, but one particularly useful insight was the link between participants’ social use of the internet and its contribution to their online teaching identities and confidence. This link, which proved far from incidental, revealed that individuals perceived that their online teaching identities developed and grew more rapidly depending upon the extent of their social immersion on the internet: that development for them was seen in much broader terms than the opportunities offered to them within their working contexts.

In terms of teaching, many of those teaching face to face would say the same thing: face to face teaching identities have long been seen as a trajectory, formed from past experiences, biographical in nature and formed via a complex mix of personal and professional interactions (Connelly, 1990; Maclure, 1992; Menter, 2010). But they are also often modelled on others and the online teacher has, unless they have undertaken online study themselves, little to go on in this respect. Many established professional development opportunities for online teaching now take account of this need but, in terms of the development of salient online teaching identities and ability to articulate them in a convincing and authentic manner, there is still much to be learned from the specific ways in which online teachers model behaviours from online interactions in their social as well as professional lives.

As online learning increases and points to future paradigmatic shifts in the ways that learning is conceptualised across the educational spectrum (Clark & Berge, 2012), it becomes ever more pressing to continue to investigate what makes and motivates good online teachers: who are they and what keeps them going? Particularly when the going gets tough.

 

“Online learning now depends more on the ability of educators and trainers to tutor and support learners online than on the technology itself.” Dr. Ian Heywood, 2000 World Open Learning Conference and Exhibition, BirminghamEngland.

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References.

Baxter, J. (Producer). (2011). An investigation into the role of professional learning on the online teaching identities of Higher Education Lecturers CREet : The Faculty of Education and Language Studies. Retrieved from http://oro.open.ac.uk/33928/

Baxter, J. (2012). The impact of professional learning on the online teaching identities of higher education lecturers:the role of resistance discourse European Journal of Open,Distance and E-Learning 1(2).

Clark, T., & Berge, Z. (2012). Virtual Schools Trends and Issues in Distance Education: International Perspectives, 97.

Connelly, M. a. C., J. (1990). Stories of Experience and Narrative Inquiry. Educational Researcher, 19(5 (Jun-Jul 1990)), 2-14.

Jaques, D., & Salmon, G. (2006). Learning in groups: A handbook for face-to-face and online environments: Routledge.

Maclure, M. (1992). Arguing for yourself: Identity as an organising principle in teacher’s jobs and lives. British Educational Research Journal, 19(4), 311-322.

Menter, I. (2010). Teachers – formation, training and identity Creativity Culture and Education Newcastle Upon Tyne: Creativity Culture and Education

Salmon, G. (2002). E-tivities: The key to active online learning: Routledge.

Turkle, S. (1994). Constructions and reconstructions of self in virtual reality: Playing in the MUDs. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1(3), 158-167.

Turkle, S. (1999). Cyberspace and identity. Contemporary Sociology, 28(6), 643-648.

Turkle, S., & Papert, S. (1990). Epistemological pluralism: Styles and voices within the computer culture. Signs, 16(1), 128-157.

Wilson, S. M., & Peterson, L. C. (2002). The anthropology of online communities. Annual review of anthropology, 449-467.