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Udfordringer for fagdidaktisk forskning i Norden Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape. Middelfart, 2009-05-15. Udfordringer for fagdidaktisk forskning i Norden. Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape Background General Map The Common Places The Content The Students The Teachers

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Udfordringer for fagdidaktisk forskning i norden two cultures in a changing landscape

Udfordringer for fagdidaktisk forskning i NordenTwo Cultures in a Changing Landscape

Middelfart, 2009-05-15


Udfordringer for fagdidaktisk forskning i norden

Udfordringer for fagdidaktisk forskning i Norden

Two Cultures in a

Changing Landscape

  • Background

  • General Map

  • The Common Places

  • The Content

  • The Students

  • The Teachers

  • The School

  • Past and Present

  • Something for CurriculumProfessord to do


Two cultures in a changing landscape background

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- Background -

  • The academic institutionalization of Subject Matter Didaktik (SMD) is a rather late development in the landscape of Nordic educational research (compared to e.g. Germany).

  • Right from the start, the unfolding of Scandinavian SMD has not so much been about developing a specific ”Nordic” approach to SMD, but rather an attempt to catch up with important international developments.

  • This has been continued and enforced by the impact of inter-national comparative research, form the early beginnings by IEA to the present multinational efforts like CIVED, PISA, PIRLS, TIMSS ...

  • The advantage of these origins is, of course, the quite impressive emergence of high quality research in many areas – as convincingly shown by the contributions to this conference!


Two cultures in a changing landscape background1

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- Background -

  • The disadvantage seems to be a division of the field into two quite distinct, but at the same time interdependent ways of doing SMD: the ”surveyors” and the ”landscapers”.

    The Surveyors

  • The most visible strand of SMD is the one connected to the international and national assessment and standardisation projects. SMD specialist have been at the center of constructing the frame structures of assessment and accountability in Nordic countries (national tests, curriculum guidelines, evaluation procedures etc.).

  • Their influence on the policy arena has byfar exceeded that of other research areas.

  • Much of the tool kit used in building up these structures was and is taken from educational psychology, especially its measurement and assessment branches.


Two cultures in a changing landscape background2

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- Background -

The Landscapers

  • The second SMD community, the ”landscapers”, is oppposed to what it sees as the reductionist approach of the surveyors. For them, standardized testing routines do not give a full blown picture of what happens in class rooms.

  • They turn instead to the complexities of class room interaction and learning by using more wholistic approaches (such as constructivism, discourse analysis, and other social philosophies).

  • But one thing both groups seem to have in common: Both communities believe that it is scientific ”evidence”, which identifies and enhances the quality of the landscape, i.e.of teaching and learning in schools …


Two cultures in a changing landscape general map

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- General Map -

  • Journeys in complex landscapes need maps.

  • Mapping out the impact of SMD on the changing landscapes of schooling requires a look at the ”common places” within this landscape (putting Schwab in a didactical framework)

  • the content,

  • the students,

  • the teachers, and

  • the school.

  • Let’s highlight but a few predominant trends within the current SMD landscapeand the role the two culturesplay shaping it.

Content

School

Teachers

Students


Two cultures in a changing landscape the content

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Content -

  • Internationally we are witnessing a fundamental re-conceptualization of what the content of schooling should be about.

  • Key to this change is the replacement of a content-based curriculum by defining standards (levels) of ”competency”.

  • It is accompanied by a focus on what keeps students from achieving the ”standards”, often defined in terms of ”cultural gaps”.

Competencies-----------------Cultures

Content

School

Teachers

Students


Two cultures in a changing landscape the content1

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Content -

  • The basic idea is that there exist levels of competency, which can be aquired with one content and – if mastered – transferred to another (cf. Weinert, Klieme et al.).

  • This transfer shall secure the extra-curricular (future) value of what was learned (PISA).

  • Similar concepts have been around a couple of times in the history of curriculum making. (ever since Trapp’s seminal differentiation of ”formaler” and ”materialer Bildung”).


Two cultures in a changing landscape the content2

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Content -

  • Historically and empirically, such competence concepts of curriculum making have failed – each and every time.

  • Empirically because the link of content and competence is situated, i.e. embedded in social, cultural, etc. contexts. The transfer is non-linear and dependent on the actual situatedness as it is perceived by the learners.

  • Historically, because every attempt to construct hierarchies of competence, both valid inside and outside schools, never got beyond very general (common sensical) models, which don’t tell much about the actual teaching and learning sequences taking place in schools.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the content3

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Content -

  • Curriculum makers have time and again tried to solve the problem pragmatically, i.e. by letting school practitioners make informed guesses on which competence might be reflected by what content.

  • Conflicts are as well solved the traditional way, i.e. if one can’t agree on which competence / content is more important, both are included.

  • In the end, competence based curricula cover no less space in terms of content as former curriculum guidelines, but they add levels of mastery as additional requirements.

  • i.e.: the curriculum has never been more challeng-ing or ”optimistic”.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the content4

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Content -

  • That curriculum policies ask for more than is possible in average class-rooms is not new. What is new, however, is the belief that the competency levels can be measured as qualities of teaching as well as of the students’ learning.

  • Raising the (cognitive) bar shall lead to a higher quality of teaching and learning,

  • thus improving the average outcome of instruction,

  • which then shall resultin better results in comparative national orinternational competency testing.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the content5

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Content -

  • The problem with that approach is that there doesn’t exist a single historical example of sustainable growth in average student achievement through raising the bars (or competency levels).

    Rather the opposite: Higher stakes lead often to

  • systemic ”corruption” (Campbell’s law – Koretz).

  • a narrowing of the taught and learned curriculum (Berliner et al.).

  • growing inequality (Mintrop et al.).

  • ”failing schools” (Linn et al.).


Two cultures in a changing landscape the content6

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Content -

  • SMD constructs the ”cultural gap” pretty much depending on to which of the two cultures one belongs ...

  • The Surveyors do not focus on the cultural bias of the competency models at hand, but handle them as rather global requirements of future ”knowledge” societies.

  • By this turn, minorities of any kind (migrants, poor, etc.) often lack the cultural habitus supporting what school is asking for: ”diversity management” shall take care of this.

  • Special needs are likewise constructed as handicaps to achieve higher levels of competencies.

  • In short: Surveyors turn all kinds of socially constructed cultural otherness into individualized liabilities, which smart teaching has to eradicate or at least to reduce to ”sustainable” levels.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the content7

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Content -

  • The Landscapers are rather inclined to see the ”cultural gap” as ”multilayeredness” of class room interaction. They try to disentangle the ”multiple realities” at hand by all kinds of sophisticated techniques (from fenomenografy to discourse analysis).

  • Teachers are expected to arrange the content in a way that all voices can be heard and all perspectives be taken. More often than not this leads to proposing open formats of instruction, which leave leeway for individual access to the content (e.g. project methods).

  • In short: Landscapers turn all kinds of socially constructed cultural otherness into individualized voices, which smart teaching has to encourage or at least to comfort at ”sustainable” levels.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the students

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Students -

  • Internationally we are witnessing a fundamental re-conceptualization of what being a ”student” is about.

  • Key to this change is the so-called move ”from teaching to learning” (ECER 2008).

  • In most cases, this move is constructed as a focus on the ”cognitive” and ”social” conditions and constraints of students’ learning.

Cur-ricu-lum

School

Individual-ization-----------------Inclusion

Teachers

Students


Two cultures in a changing landscape the students1

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Students -

  • The basic idea is that learning in schools is about acquiring the expected competencies at the highest possible level, but that there exist ”cog-nitive” and ”social” conditions and constraints which support or hinder students in doing so.

  • Testing and research shall identify which conditions and constraints are at hand.

  • Teaching shall enable learning beyond the given conditions and constraints (”equity”).


Two cultures in a changing landscape the students2

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Students -

  • Taking these conditions and constraints into account is nothing new, has always been a part of schooling. What is new, however, is the way how these conditions and constraints are conceptualized.

  • Mostly, these conditions and constraints are constructed as factors influencing individual learners’ success.

  • The diversity of the student groupis transformed into individual (dis-)advantages in reaching a given goal.

  • In the next step, this leads to the assumption that ”individualized” learning is the best way to address the individual mix of conditions and constraints.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the students3

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Students -

  • This re-conceptualization leads to a fundamental shift in the understanding of both, the diversity and the individuality of students.

  • Diversity is turned from being a common ground into being an individual condition. It is not the curriculum which has to adapt to diversity, but the individual who has to be fitted into a given frame of expectations.

  • In such a frame, individuality is only an advantage if it fits the given learning requirements (as measured); in all other cases remedial action is required.

  • Such a view tends to marginalize students’ non-fitting competencies in favor of unified expectations, i.e. such individualization leads to the de-individualizing of the learner.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the students4

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Students -

  • The problem with that approach is that there doesn’t exist a single historical example of sustainable growth in average student achievement through such individualization.

    Rather the opposite: This kind ofindividualization leads often to

  • robbing students of the co-learner as most important school resource.

  • growing inequality (Matthew principle).

  • massive segregation pressure(co-students as constraints).

  • blaming ”failing groups” (families,cultures, etc.) insteadof blaming failing social institutions(Coleman et al.).


Two cultures in a changing landscape the students5

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Students -

  • Both cultures construct inclusion pretty much in the shadow of the ”individualization” drive.

  • A higher degree of individualization shall open the leeway to serve students with rather different needs within the same instructional setting.

  • Such ”inclusion” doesn’t construct a new common ground for all, rather it is meant to limit the impact of otherness on the respective student achievements.

  • At best, it leaves some room to move on the fringes of the curriculum, e.g. allowing for individualized responses or some extra-curricular activities(”intercultural interactions”) honoring the diversity of the students, which normally is rather treated as a constraint, not an advantage.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the teachers

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Teachers -

  • Internationally we are witnessing a fundamental re-conceptualization of what being a ”teacher” is about.

  • Key to this change is the concept of standards for teacher competencies.

  • In most cases, this move is constructed as a focus on the ”professional” qualities of teachers and of their ”personality”.

Cur-ricu-lum

School

Teachers

Students

Profession-alization-----------------Personality


Two cultures in a changing landscape the teachers1

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Teachers -

  • The basic idea is that teaching requires a certain amount of distinct qualities, which can be described and measured as levels of competency.

  • Testing and research shall identify which competencies are needed for good (i.e. successful) teaching (how many depends on the competency model in use from a couple to more than one hundred different abilities).

  • Teacher education shall provide aspiring candidates with the necessary broad range of competencies; practice demonstrateif these result in succesful teaching.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the teachers2

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Teachers -

  • Taking professional abilities into account is nothing new, has always been a part of schooling. What is new, however, is the way how these ”competencies” are conceptualized.

  • Mostly, these competencies are constructed as individual abilitiesto deal with certain aspects of teaching.

  • The diversity of teachers is transformed into different levelsof mastery of a unified code of conduct.

  • In the next step, this leads to the assumption that ”best practice”is the one coming closest to the highest level of ”master teaching”(cf. Shulman, Sweden)


Two cultures in a changing landscape the teachers3

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Teachers -

  • This re-conceptualization leads to a fundamental shift in the understanding of both, teaching and teachers.

  • Teaching is turned from being a situated (didactical) activity into the mastery of instructional patterns providing specific outcomes (in quite a few cases: ”scripted teaching”).

  • In such a frame, the given competencies or the lack thereof becomes the main culprit of instructional success and failure.

  • Such a view tends to put the soleresponsibility for the outcomes ofschooling on those who teach – irrespective of the situatedness and contingency of learning processes and school settings.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the teachers4

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Teachers -

  • The problem with that approach is that there doesn’t exist a single historical example of sustainable growth in average student achievement through such ”professionalization”.

    Rather the opposite: This kind of”professionalization” leads often to

  • robbing teachers of the possibility to adapt teaching to the needs of the students at hand (Shirley et al.).

  • turning teacher diversity intoa constraint, not an asset.

  • massive outcome pressures(”bad” students as constraints).

  • a successive de-professionalization of the teachers as professional group(Darlington-Hammond et al.).


Two cultures in a changing landscape the teachers5

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Teachers -

  • Both cultures construct the ”personality” requirements pretty much in the shadow of the professionalization drive.

  • Surveyors construct personality inventories mapping out and assessing the traits of ”good teachers”.

  • Landscapers prefer more wholistic concepts of ”mastery”, casting the teacher as kind and skillfull convenor of ”communities of learners”.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the teachers6

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The Teachers -

  • Both, the psychological inventories and the mastery concepts are but psychological re-constructions of the ”born teacher” approach.

  • They construct the ”re-born” teacher as a personality incorporating superior ”human” qualities of empathy, resilience, patience, authenticity etc.

  • Thus, ”personality” is not constructed as the uniqueness of different personalities, but rather as yet another gobalized competency.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the school

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The School -

  • Internationally we are witnessing a fundamental re-conceptualization of what ”schooling” is about.

  • Key to this change is the concept of schooling asa tool for internationalcompetition.

  • In most cases, this move is constructed as a focus on the ”outcomes” of schooling,both in terms of competetive advantages and of social cohesion.

Competiton-----------------Cohesion

Cur-ricu-lum

School

Teachers

Students


Two cultures in a changing landscape the school1

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The School -

  • The basic idea is that schooling is the most important resource for development in post-modern knowledge societies.

  • Testing and research shall identify which models of schooling are the most succesfull tools of economic growth.

  • Education policy shall provide the system experts with the power and the tools neededto transform schooling accordingly.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the school2

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The School -

  • Seeing school as a tool of national development is nothing new, has always been a part of modern mass schooling. What is new, however, is the way how this function is conceptualized.

  • Mostly, the success of schooling is constructed as the sum score of student achievements within a school system or parts thereof as compared to others.

  • The diversity of achievements is transformed into different levelsof success.

  • In the next step, this leads to the assumption that ”best practice” is the type of schooling providing the highest comparative level of ”achievement”(cf. Woessmann, Hanushek et al.).


Two cultures in a changing landscape the school3

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The School -

  • This re-conceptualization leads to a fundamental shift in the understanding of schooling.

  • Schooling is turned from being primarily a tool of social transition (Hegel) into a production function of society, thus marginalizing all other educative functions.

  • In such a frame, models of schooling are successfull even if they lead to collateral damage in non-economic terms such asgrowing segregation.

  • Such a view tends to put the shortterm effect of improving measuredachievements above long termimpacts in terms of reducing theschools ability to deal with andfoster diversity and individuality.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the school4

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The School -

  • The problem with that approach is that there doesn’t exist empirical evidence of economical growth because of small competitive advantages in the race towards higher student achievement.

  • Beyond a certain basic level, student achievements in international tests have never been a valid predictor for economic outcomes. Too many other factors and functions of schooling and society play a way more significant role.

  • Most embedded tools (such as national testing, school competition)have no proven record of enhancingschool outputs or social outcomes.

  • But they do have a history of moving the focus from social short comings towards a concept of schooling as an individualized competition betweencontestors with uneven opportunities.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the school5

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The School -

  • SMD re-constructs the problem of social cohesion pretty much depending on to which of the two cultures one belongs ...

  • Surveyors redefine the equity problem as one of achievement distributions within the normalized competency model thus devaluating all abilities and educational goals outside or beyond this model..

  • Socially intervening factors (such as gender, race, class, and other social background variables) are reduced to individualized risks.

  • Cultural diversity is transformed into degrees of adaption to the competency drive. It is welcome only, if it supports the globalized achievement categories.


Two cultures in a changing landscape the school6

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- The School -

  • Landscapers redefine the equity problem as one of uneven achievement distributions caused by ”multiculturality” and special needs.

  • Socially intervening factors (such as gender, race, class, and other social and cultural capitals) are transformed into individualized limits in case of culturally insensitive teaching.

  • Special needs and cultural awareness (e.g. gender, race, etc. appropriate examples and tasks) is supposed to transcendent the given limits of interaction and learning, thus creating an ”equitable” school environment.

  • Thus, both cultures expect schoolingto eradicate or at least reduce theimpact of socially given otherness.


Two cultures in a changing landscape past and present

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- Past and Present -

  • Historically seen, the reshaping of each common place is no more than the current version of the fundamental tensions between ”qualification” and ”cultivation” as basic functions of schooling.

  • The post-reformation model of the modern public school was based on a compromise between both expectations, balancing the individual qualification needs and cultures with the common good of schooling.

  • I fear we are witnessing the termination of this compromise, fragmenting the public system both on the outside (e.g. by private schools) and the inside (e.g. by didactical tools).

  • Most of the current trends in SMD are well-meant approaches to soften this transition, but they do not challenge its social and educational premises.

Competiton-----------------Cohesion

Competencies-----------------Cultures

Content

School

Individual-ization-----------------Inclusion

Profession-alization-----------------Personality

Teachers

Students


Two cultures in a changing landscape something for curriculum professors to do

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- Something for Curriculum Professors to do -

  • Internationally, we are experiencing a conflux of changes in the curriculum, teaching, and learning towards a funda-mental re-conceptualization of what schooling is about.

  • Key to this change is the political (and ”scientific”) transformation of social conditions into ”evidence based” constructions of compartmentalized factors supporting or inhibiting individual achievement.

  • This change doesn’t affect schooling only, but permeates the whole sector of public service rendering (as well as societyand economy in general).

  • In this situation, the problem is not the developmentof more sophisticated SMD,but rather that both cultures do notchallenge the implied affirmative notion of ”evidence based teaching”.


Two cultures in a changing landscape something for curriculum professors to do1

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- Something for Curriculum Professors to do -

  • The Surveyors happily involve themselves in the construction of ”evidence”, moving themselves into the center of ”quality” development in schooling.

  • The Landscapers want the teachers to oppose the reductionist impact of the surveying control mechanisms by creating inclusive, multilayered learning environments.

  • But both cultures complement each other easily: Surveyors point often to landscaping as didactical solution to achievement problems. Landscapers use surveyor results as proof of what has to be overcome, thus basically accepting their evidence as valid description.

  • Thereby, both cast schooling and the teacher as being in control of ”achievement”– something which is both historically and empirically a myth.


Two cultures in a changing landscape something for curriculum professors to do2

Two Cultures in a Changing Landscape- Something for Curriculum Professors to do -

From my point of view, we need instead a renewed SMD (and other educational research), which

  • engages itself in a radical de-mystification of the current re-conceptualization of the field,

  • does not raise the bar for teaching and learning, but rather supports actively those being confronted by the achieve-ment imperatives within the changing landscape.

    In short: a SMD and educational research, which sides scientifically and politically with those who are marginalized and excluded within the upcoming ”brave new world” of competency.

Thanks for your attention!


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