Pedagogical change is posited as a crafting process constituted by the relational activity of social and material actors. A case study was used to investigate how pedagogical change becomes enacted in everyday practices in an independent boys' school in Australia. In comparison to a scripted implementation plan, the pedagogical change process was more accurately characterised by multiple, disparate patterns of activity. The use of a set of guiding principles for cultivating a school environment that enables pedagogical change is proposed.
Reflecting a postmodern research persuasion, the investigation of pedagogical change reported in this paper generally challenges the making of a priori assumptions about what does and what does not matter in practice. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to explore practitioner accounts of pedagogical change. The applicability of any definitive conceptualisation of pedagogical change was not assumed in this study. Definitions of pedagogy, such as O'Brien's (2002) conceptualisation of 'new pedagogies' as changes in curricula, teaching and learning which promote lifelong inquiry for knowledge and conceptual understanding that is greater than the acquisition of content and information have been assumed to apply to investigations of pedagogy in schools. However, how accurate and relevant are such theoretically informed definitions to the lived experiences of teaching practitioners? To explore such a line of inquiry that ventures beyond defined research (and administrative) terrains, a research journey into murky waters is required. Working the space between academic research and the practical work of teaching professionals is an implicated issue. Indeed, it is the activity in this interstitial space that provides an opportunity for illuminating the complexity embedding pedagogy, change and practice.
In secondary education, where striking differences in teaching and learning may be found in classrooms in the same school, or even the same department, the importance of context is increasingly emphasised in writing on reform and policy. However, the orthodox understanding of context as either physical or social container fails to articulate the reciprocity of the mutual construction of physical and social space (McGregor 2004, p.367).Acknowledging that there are numerous pathways one can take when using the 'umbrella concept of practice' to pursue the quest for knowledge, Silvia Gherardi concludes that "altogether, practice articulates knowledge in and about organising as practical accomplishment rather than as a transcendental account of a decontextualised reality" (Gherardi, 2000, p.217). It is this sense of practical accomplishment that the term performance is used to position both a theoretical and empirical focus on changes in pedagogical practice. As opposed to the notion of a single pedagogical reality, it is also assumed that in practice, there are multiple pedagogical realities, performed incompletely and imperfectly. A radical view of postmodern change would challenge any establishment of order whatsoever. Instead, postmodern aspects of multiple realities and the endorsement of heterogeneity, difference, fragmentation and indeterminacy were used to guide the development of a research methodology. Poststructuralist notions of intertextuality and the displacement of taken for granted binary oppositions, also provided a theoretical underpinning for the development of an inclusive research approach for investigating how pedagogical change becomes enacted in everyday practices.
ANT grew out of semiotics and is now used in a growing number of disciplines. As a research method, ANT has its roots in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and initially emerged through the work of Bruno Latour, John Law and Michel Callon. ANT denies that purely social or technical explanations for practice are possible and does not consider these relations as potential contexts for each other. Instead, ANT provides an impartial framework for analysing network effects in which neither social or technical factors are given priority explanatory status (Tatnall & Gilding, 1999). According to classical ANT notions of translation, human and non-human actors engage in a politically charged series of negotiations during which acceptance of a viewpoint is arrived at via persuasion and trade offs. The notion of translation can thus be used to understand why a particular version (of pedagogical practice) gets established. A detailed explanation of this translation process can be found in Callon (1986).
The application of classical ANT n otions of translation is not without its critics. McLean and Hassard (2004) identify various problematic issues that have been described in the research literature. The first issue relates to an 'inclusion/exclusion' debate about the requirement that researchers continually must decide which actors to follow and where to draw network boundaries when applying ANT. As Law (1991) acknowledges, there is a price associated with following actors that includes problems associated with maintaining analytical distance and the risk of obscuring other significant actors. As demonstrated by Lee and Brown (1994) relations, negotiations and resistances may lie outside of the researcher's translations, meaning difference is simplified and marginalised. Thus, this 'inclusion/exclusion' issue requires the extension of actor status to the researcher.
Further, the ability of ANT researchers to practice generalised symmetry (the impartial view of the status and power of material and social actors) has also been questioned. This problem of representation has also been extended to historical ANT accounts involving concerns about the accuracy of contemporary interpretations. ANT has also been criticised for focusing attention on local levels of analysis and insufficiently attending to the broader social structures that influence local practices (McLean & Hassard, 2004).
These problematic issues have been considered by contemporary ANT notions that abandon the notion of coherence in and around networks and take a performative or practice turn by moving away from the idea of objects or networks as single entities. Instead, networks are consistent with precarious patterns of ordering and arrangements of space with no clear centre (Hetherington & Law, 2000). When investigating hospital relations, Mol and Messman (1996) demonstrated that when ANT is applied in a way that includes the 'noise' of entities which do not fall within an emergent pattern of ordering, the translation process can give rise to different, co-existent patterns of ordering. It is this application of ANT that is deemed particularly appropriate for providing for the possibility of multiple pedagogical change experiences in schools.
ANT predicates the existence of network space or spaces as performed through a network. Such networks are spatial configurations of heterogeneous actors brought together in an active relationship (McGregor, 2004, p.353).Moreover, as elaborated by Eric Laurier when commenting on the spatial direction of the work of ANT researchers,
... space and time come about as consequences of the ways in which particular heterogeneous elements are related to one another. The term 'topological' is therefore used to capture this sense of space being made out of relations between its parts (Laurier, 2004, p.203).
Case studies become particularly useful when one needs to understand some particular problem or situation in great depth, and when one can identify cases rich in information - rich in the sense that a great deal can be learned from a few exemplars of the phenomenon in question (Patton, 1986, p.205).In Australia a range of initiatives have been developed under the Federal Government's Spotlight on Boys policy ambit. These include 'Success for Boys', 'Boys Education Lighthouse Schools', 'Motivation and Engagement of Boys Research Project' and the 'Review of Gender Equity Framework'. Having publicly announced its commitment to addressing the challenges facing boys, engagement and learning, it was determined that the activity taking place in the selected case study would be information rich. The school was also generally referred to in the wider community as undergoing a period of change.
I think people have got the idea about pedagogy or whatever you call it. We get people from university coming out and they use a word that we don't use at the coalface. It just turned off 90% of the teachers and they were like kids. Big words, no practicality. It's got to be very delicate. It's got be about what it could be here, and about people like me modelling to show it can be done without turning to tears (Interview 1).The case study data that follows is structured according to (relational) themes that emerged. Conventional research methods report data 'findings'. Consistent with a postmodern approach, a 'data story' describing the activity constituting lived experiences of local conceptualisations of pedagogical change is reported in this paper.
... traditions value behaviour. We've always reflected on our results, for a private school is driven by results, and what's been happening in the last eight to ten years, we've been reflecting on total teaching time, on structures of the day, length of periods so, that's been in the back of the mind - how do we get better results through better learning. So that's been driving change in teaching styles (Interview 1).In this description it was the traditional concern with results that was viewed as a mobilising factor for changes in pedagogical practices. Similarly, tradition is also implied as a characteristic of the activity embedding changes in pedagogical practices in the following description of the management of change as deliberate and respectful, provided by a group of teachers.
They're not afraid to try anything, even if it is has not been something that they have always done - which is good. But it is not necessarily an aggressive approach. It has always been well thought out, it's calculated and then we proceed. I think there has always been a lot of respect for staff that work here and your opinion about something is really valued (Group Interview 1).Thus, in the space between tradition and change, familiarity and novelty, enactments of pedagogical change can be seen as being constituted, in part, as matters of concern.
We decided to introduce what is called an International Computer Driver's Licence to improve student learning in the classroom. It's a series of seven modules relating to IT competence. Now some staff were magnificent and undertook five, six, seven. But I had underestimated the fear of some staff; if I were to have my time over again I'd do it a different way (Interview 2).The rejection of the Computer Driver's Licence did not mean that pedagogical change involving information technology ceased. Rather, the nature of the process attempting to influence the change was transformed through what was locally described as 'Benchmark Classrooms'. Thus, as suggested in the following description of a relatively more successful experience with the use of computing technology to provide better learning experiences for students, the 'different way' may be one that is informed by a perspective that sees changes in teaching and learning practice embedded in a complex web of human and technological relations.
To meet the goal of helping teachers with this technology, we could bring it to them, so we have a data projector now and a video and a DVD and a computer network in these rooms as well as new furniture, nicer colours to brighten up because they were pretty dull - grey, cream type rooms - now we have a blue one and a yellow one and a green one and the boys have all commented when they've walked in - saying wow, yes, this is good (Interview 1).Benchmark Classrooms were literally there waiting (and not necessarily silently) for the teachers to experiment with a change in pedagogical practice. Teachers did not have to find extra time to attend training in computing and associated technology such as projectors. Benchmark Classrooms could be used simultaneously to conduct a lesson and experiment with new skills. What started out as a prescriptive, technology focused Computer Licensing process had been translated into a process that would see pedagogical change enacted in fluid ways.
In addition to technology, materiality in the form of architectural buildings played a constitutive role in influencing the nature of the change process. In relations with the activity of teachers, staff common rooms as well as smaller spaces between classrooms were identified as sites for pedagogical change. As noted by a senior school leader when reflecting on pedagogical change in a Junior School environment,
... even things as basic as the structure of the staffroom has an enabling impact, if you like, on teaching and curriculum change, curriculum discussion even. Because staff are in one common room there's more opportunity for primary teachers to share professional dialogue in an incidental way - morning tea, lunchtime, after school (Interview 2).Building on this notion of architectural space and learning, another senior school leader compares the activity taking place in the staff common room and smaller spaces between classrooms.
I think in the common room you don't talk about kids much. Whereas if you're in the rooms between classes you've got the other Grade 3 teachers, the way we teach is more relevant to all of them, something that you might be doing. In the staff room talk is very, very general (Interview 4).Further, reinforcing a strong presence for materiality (here, classrooms) as a constitutive force in shaping changes in pedagogical practice, a school coordinator notes that
... what we tend to do is try and give each year level the opportunity to present to the other classroom teachers about what their environment is like. So we rotate and teachers give a five or ten minute presentation of things within their classroom which may be of interest to other year level teachers (Interview 1).In other sections of the school (Middle School and Senior School) classrooms were not identified as an enabling factor for assisting in pedagogical change. For example, the way furniture was organised, in relation with perceptions of power, was described as a factor responsible for obstructing the learning dynamics between staff. In a group interview there was consensus on this.
I think sometimes it's the structure of the meeting, everyone sitting in rows at desks, instead of facing each other. It is like someone is there to control the meeting rather than it happening as an opportunity to flesh out ideas (Group Interview 2).During another group interview 'proximity' was identified as a key factor enabling changes in pedagogical practice. In particular, the role of offices and building locations were identified as influencing person to person encounters.
Physical spaces, where we sit, passing pieces of paper over the carrel, having a quick word as we bolt off to class, these are the ways we adapt lessons ( 'a discussion on the run'. It is not a formal forum where we discuss these things. That's also the good thing about sharing an office (Group Interview 1).
We used to have small meetings that were completely informal, voluntary. Departments focused on pedagogical practice. There would be no agenda and people would bring things with them. This sparked from a book a Head of department had read about pedagogical practice. We shared the book and then the informal meetings started. It all stemmed from that book and basically went from there (Group Interview 1).As opposed to 'completely informal meetings' formalised documentation, including meeting agendas, were very much a part of the way in which the Junior School experienced and performed pedagogical change. This was identified in numerous interviews.
There is a newsletter which has in it probably seven or eight articles based on reflections on classroom situations. (Interview 3) We have an official session where staff get up and talk about things that worked well for them. (Interview 2) We have curriculum summary to record all of this. (Interview 1) Then there's the maths enrichment document that the Maths Coordinator puts together (Interview 5).In addition to disparate versions of the role formality played in shaping pedagogical change, in the following snapshots of practice, it is clear that the strategic plan also mattered differently. The strategic plan featured prominently on the school's website and other publicity materials. Consistent with this strong presence in marketing materials, a teacher, recently promoted, identified a powerful role for the strategic plan in establishing a research orientated environment for pedagogical practice.
My new position is a direct result of strategic planning that took place and where the headmaster I think, in particular, really wanted to incorporate a research component into the school. It came as a result of the Council's and the School's change, promoting itself as a school of excellence in boys' education (Interview 3).Similarly, for some teachers working in one part of the school the strategic plan was perceived as playing a formative role in influencing teaching practice.
We have a long look at the strategic plan twice a year when we have a staff meeting just on that. We get updates and as a group say we are going to look at this. I've never felt that I haven't been able to contribute but I can't actually say exactly when and where (Group Interview 1).However, for a group of teachers spending most of their time working in another part of the school.
The strategic plan is not in the conversation. We don't tend to talk about it. I do know we have one. There is not a theme where we say we are working towards 'X' and this would contribute to 'X'. It's fairly random (Group Interview 2).
And we're now seeing her in a new light because of the fact that she was just a drama teacher. But now, all of a sudden, she's become a university researcher, reflective practice, and it's been great. She's been able to get staff thinking and doing. She's using her skills as a drama teacher and producer to sort of actively engender some activity in the school (Interview 2).Interstitial activity between research and practice was also implied in this account of change. Consistent with Richard Edward's identification of research as an 'intellectual technology', ethno drama in this school can be described as a mobilising agent that materially grounded practice 'in order to gain spatial and temporal endurance' (Edwards, 2004, p.436).
Further, in addition to multiplicity, the ways in which changes in pedagogical practice emerged were consistent with Solomon, Boud and Rooney's (2003) notion of 'hybrid space' to describe a connected, contested space that enables/generates new ways of working, learning and being. At this school, pedagogical change was experienced in multiple and sometimes disparate ways between categorical spaces. These experiences of pedagogical change can be posited in terms of a complex crafting process constituted by the activity of multiple objects, entities, effects, or as conceptualised in ANT terms, actors.
Specifically, the notion of crafting is taken from the contemporary work of John Law (2004b) that reflects on the (in)sufficiency of analytical methods to account for messy practice. 'If realities are being enacted multiply, then I have argued that it becomes important to think through modes of crafting that let us apprehend this multiplicity' (Law, 2004, p. 152). At this school, pedagogical change was enacted in everyday practices in ways that are consistent with Law's positing of practice as the crafting of many realities. (A comprehensive account of the notion of multiple realities can be found in Annemarie Mol's (2002) work, The Body Multiple.)
In accordance with an assumption of pedagogical change as a crafting process, an appropriate strategy for managing pedagogical change is one that involves the development of a guiding set of enabling principles. The data story told in this paper suggests that such principles may include the following ideas.
... learning takes place in the flow of experience, with or without our awareness of it. In everyday organisational life, work, learning, innovation, communication, negotiation, conflict over goals, their interpretation, and history, are co-present in practice (Gherardi, 2000, p.214).
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|Author: Suzanne Perillo is completing a PhD research study within the Faculty of Education, at the University of Melbourne, investigating innovation practice in the domains of pedagogical change and professional learning in schools. Her postgraduate qualifications include a Graduate Diploma in Education, an Honours degree in (Psychology) and a
Masters in Organisational and Industrial Psychology. She is currently working in the Independent school sector as a Director of Teaching and Learning and has also worked as a Senior Government Road Safety Policy Adviser and Organisational Psychologist. Email: email@example.com
Please cite as: Perillo, S. (2006). Crafting pedagogical change in schools. Issues In Educational Research, 16(1), 80-94. http://www.iier.org.au/iier16/perillo.html