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1 The performative preschool –narratives about the best practice in pre-school Annica Löfdahl Héctor Pérez Prieto Karlstad University Sweden.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The performative preschool –narratives about the best practice in pre-school Annica Löfdahl Héctor Pérez Prieto Karlstad University Sweden."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 The performative preschool –narratives about the best practice in pre-school Annica Löfdahl Héctor Pérez Prieto Karlstad University Sweden

2 2 If we write out that we are bad – its no good publicity! (quotation from interview with school leader Eva) …what we wish should be written, it is … It is hardly possible to have that kind of document. It is nothing that will sell!... (quotation from interview with pre-school teachers)

3 3 Background The last decades increasing societal interest on children and their education A new professionalism which stresses teachers responsibility for planning, accomplishment and evaluation of the practices The Swedish preschools new legitimacy, that also brought new demands on visibility Pedagogical documentation that contributes to childrens visibility as subjects The state and parental demands on visibility. Practices are supposed to be available for public inspection and control

4 4 The visible preschool – three interrelated perspectives A societal level – connections to the last decades increasing decentralization, privatization and new forms of control A local level – connections to parental choice and open competition on a quasi market A practice level – pedagogical demands on documentation, and access to public control, of children's and teachers activities

5 5 The purpose with this paper is to get more insight in the practice level- the significance of and the practical work with planning- and evaluation documents as well as quality accounts Talks and interviews with teachers and school leaders about these documents were analysed as institutional narratives about the Swedish preschool, about the teachers, the children and their conditions in the preschool

6 6 Theoretical frames Locally produced texts are regarded as institutional narratives (Somers & Gibson, 1994), designed for public control - from above and from outside – in which the teachers… … stress what the preschool is and should be … relate to local and national guiding documents … emphasize comparative advantages on the local (quasi)market … carry out their own projects As such, the texts are not only descriptions of the practice, but work as normative and powerful tools in the formation of the pedagogical practice.

7 7 Tools for analyses in this paper Performativity: Terrors of performativity (from Lyotard, in Ball, 2006) Performances as means for control and change We use the concept to interpret how teachers show their work and what teachers and school leaders regard as best practice education and teachers social identity are changed

8 8 Interview with Eva – 30 years of experience in preschool Teacher, superintendent and now a school leader Our talk focused on content in the preschool activities the efforts to visualize quality in the preschool we try to get her perspective as a school leader on the production of planning- and evaluation texts

9 9 Interview with the pre-school teachers Sven and Ingela Sven has 8 years and Ingela has 20 years of experience as teachers … … working in the same working team for two years Their pre-school is situated in an area with low SES, where many children have special needs Our talk related to the talk with Eva and focused on Their work with planning- and evaluation documents and quality accounts, and … … the significance of these documents in their daily work What priorities were made

10 10 Three themes were made from both interviews Flexibility and adjustment Priorities The market

11 11 Flexible and changeable are key words in Evas presentation There is always something, some new direction, a new way to look upon this that makes you change foot, a bit, even if you keep both feet firmly on the ground, you have to be flexible … It is also about balancing between different demands – from local and state public administration, parents and themselves – and realise what is reasonable and possible to do … what does these children need. The image of the flexible leader and the flexible staff is clearly portrayed in Evas words.

12 12 In the teachers talk, adjustment are the key word. In their daily work they must consider the concrete demands of the pre-school activity as well as specific needs among the children. We need to adjust to the situation as it actually looks, It might not be what one has imagined that is prioritized, but other things in need of prioritizing. Most of the planned activities are still there, but not in the same amount as initially planned. According to the teachers, what you have planned and written in the documents might come secondly when the real everyday situations appear.

13 13 About priorities: The quality account and its supposed content becomes an argument and a criterion for what is done in Evas preschools … but we cannot do everything at the same time, one have to pick out something, and of course it must characterize our work, because later it has to be part of our quality account – how it went on, how it turned out, what happened … Eva tells us they have been engaged with great effort in developing common templates with special design for content and structure of the accounts…

14 14 The teachers show another perspective of what is prioritized by focusing on what is not present in the pre-schools presentations. I think that one doesnt always show the whole practice, rather one show what is, what is visible in some way… They argue there is some pedagogical stuff that is not possible to show, due to the reasons of secrecy, as all the social work we do with the children. The templates – initially designed to visualize their practice- also contributes to the in-visibility of whats problematic in the practice

15 15 The market Eva and her colleagues discuss the possibility to write different accounts. When discussing it we thought like this: why are we doing this quality account?, why are we doing it for…for whom? Is it for us, for the administration, for the Agency for Education, for the government? For whom are we doing this? The parents maybe … Actually it is a quality account that we want to do for our own, to evaluate our own work related to the steering documents, to see if : are we getting better?, are we developing our activities?, if anything happens?

16 16 …continuation… Then, we ought to have one quality account for the Internet, where parents log in and look, and the public at large can log in and look …are we suppose to place our children at preschool xx, or xx, that might be something? And then they are reading… Who on earth want to write all failings!, …published on the net, and the parents who are suppose to choose our preschool, they should say – No, they never make it within the limits of the budget, they have to cut down, now this way, now that… We dont want that, because we want children to come here, that is for us to stay alive of course, we want children and parents to apply for our preschool… If we write out that we are bad – its no publicity!

17 17 …continuation… We want to keep that for our selves, so actually we should formulate one for our selves, one for the Internet and maybe one for the administration, so they can have their stuff, what they want to know about. We have been discussing this in my group of school leaders, but to be able to make three accounts - blowed if I know – because we discussed it a lot … for whom are we writing this? This is a keystone to one of the paradoxes of performativity: the accounts that are supposed to make the preschool more visible, might in practice make them more opaque The issue for Eva and her colleagues is to write one account that answer questions from authorities, and form the basis for their own development work, and to write in a manner that makes the failings and shortcomings invisible.

18 18 When talking to the teachers, they agree about the fact that it is common to produce a saleable account, though within this particular school-area, among families with low SES, the reality is somehow different. Ingela describes how she wishes to present their pre-school activities: What is written will be grounded in play based language learning, because this is a multi cultural area, … but then what we wish should be written, it is … It is hardly possible to have that kind of document. It is nothing that will sell! But we dont sell us either, because no one will buy us, they just come here. That is how I look upon it. But those who comes are very pleased, both parents and children. But you dont buy this place!

19 19 Some final words… When Eva thinks of receivers of the accounts, she refers to parents with other possibilities to make choices than those Ingela and Sven meet everyday. The discussions about the receivers of the quality account documents illustrate on the practice level, what Stephen Ball calls the struggle over visibility where tactics of transparency produce a resistance of opacity, of elusivity; but that this resistance is also paradoxical and disciplinary. Eva and her colleagues state that visualizing ones failings is no good publicity. Instead, in order to avoid such transparency, they find detours to make the accounts more opaque. Paradoxically, such detour actions will at the same time be disciplinary, as the preschool teachers adjust to the logic of performativity and competition.

20 20 Ingelas story of difficulties to fill in the templates with her stuff informs us about a pre-school that, through the templates, are adjusted to the school leaders ideas of the best practice and designed for a specific group of parents. It seems to be a less well functional market, a so called quasi- market where some parents are able to make choices while other neither choose pre-school nor bye the profile available for sale. Due to their everyday work with lots of children with special needs, Ingela and Sven show us the impossibility to fully work in accordance with the documents. Though, the presentations in the planning documents looks like in any ordinary pre-school. These institutional narratives outline a picture of a quasi-market where pre-school teachers - due to secrecy reasons – are unable to tell what they are good at or describe their actual practice, but rather stick to the templates and present a picture of a traditional ordinary best practice pre-school.

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