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Curriculum for Excellence: aligning schools and universities? Mark Priestley University of Stirling.

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Presentation on theme: "Curriculum for Excellence: aligning schools and universities? Mark Priestley University of Stirling."— Presentation transcript:

1 Curriculum for Excellence: aligning schools and universities? Mark Priestley University of Stirling

2 A fair assumption? According to a recent Universities Scotland report: “The approaches to learning and teaching and the skills emphasised in CfE are, in many respects, bringing schools in line with those already in place or being developed within universities, and this may signal opportunities to extend collaborative activity.” (p.13)

3 Questions Does CfE articulate well with current practices in university: –In terms of the CfE policy intentions? –In terms of developing practices in schools? –In terms of university practices?

4 Academic excellenceCritical thinking and effective communication In-depth and extensive knowledge, understanding and skills at internationally-recognised levels in their chosen discipline(s); A breadth of knowledge, understanding and skills beyond their chosen discipline(s); An ability to participate in the creation of new knowledge and understanding through research and inquiry; A contextual understanding of past and present knowledge and ideas; An intellectual curiosity and a willingness to question accepted wisdom and to be open to new ideas A capacity for independent, conceptual and creative thinking; A capacity for problem identification, the collection of evidence, synthesis and dispassionate analysis; A capacity for attentive exchange, informed argument and reasoning; An ability to communicate effectively for different purposes and in different contexts; An ability to work independently and as part of a team; A diverse set of transferable and generic skills Learning and personal developmentActive citizenship An openness to, and an interest in, life-long learning through directed and self-directed study; An awareness of personal strengths and weaknesses, A capacity for self reflection, self discovery and personal development An awareness and appreciation of ethical and moral issues; An awareness and appreciation of social and cultural diversity; An understanding of social and civic responsibilities, and of the rights of individuals and groups; An appreciation of the concepts of enterprise and leadership in all aspects of life; A readiness for citizenship in an inclusive society Graduate attributes Source – University of Aberdeen (

5 CfE’s Four Capacities

6 Policy constructs in CfE Active learning –‘New’ practices: cooperative learning; formative assessment; practicals; fieldwork; enquiry-based learning Interdisciplinary learning –Hybrid subjects; rich tasks; cross-curricular themes; the BGE Focus on skills/competencies –Literacy; numeracy; ICT; political literacy Independent learning –‘Responsibility for own learning’; pupil questioning; enquiry; metacognition

7 So far, so good….

8 [Re]contextualisation Successive [re]interpretation of policy has led to mutations and confusion within CfE 2004 A CfE 2007-10 BTC series HMIe ‘guidance’ LA ‘guidance’ BTC summaries School practices e.g. assessment 2007 – E&Os not assessment standards 2010 – BTC 5; local authority levels within levels

9 Tensions within the CfE model CfE as a process curriculum Making sense of big ideas Developing ‘fit for purpose’ practices: –Powerful knowledge –Powerful pedagogies CfE as an outcomes curriculum Auditing existing practice against outcomes –Tweaking –Tick-box approaches –Incremental/piecemeal change ‘Amnesia and déjà vu’ (Priestley and Humes, 2010)

10 Teacher agency “Within a clear framework of national expectations, teachers will have greater scope and space for professional decisions about what and how they should teach, enabling them to plan creatively within broader parameters”. (Scottish Executive Education Department, 2006) Teachers expected to be agents of change Big push to raise teacher capacity –Donaldson review –Teaching as a Master’s profession –New GTCS teaching standards – professional enquiry But can teachers be agentic in curriculum development?

11 What is agency? Agency: the ability to direct one’s actions (and be responsible for them) –Decision and judgement –Manoeuvre between repertoires –The ability to do otherwise An ecological view of agency –Not something people can have, but something that people can do; –Outcome of the interaction of individual and social/material environment The question is therefore: –Not: What is an agentic individual? –But: How is agency achieved?

12 Teacher agency model (Priestley, Biesta and Robinson, 2013)

13 A balancing act? (Leat, Livingston and Priestley, 2013)

14 Input regulation in Scotland Policy seems to reduce input regulation. But –National guidance helps frame discourses around education Continued framing of curriculum around old domains of knowledge Teachers adopt the technical language of policy –Variation between local authorities Hierarchical nature of Scottish education – “You just do a good job. You try your best. You do not muck around. You do not do things you should not do or challenge superiors in a way unless it’s obviously something genuine”. Mandatory teaching materials and procedures in many authorities Macro level policy reduces input regulation, but systemic features maintain it in many cases

15 Output regulation (1) Statistical use of attainment data –Standard Tables and Charts (STACS) Comparison of teachers across secondary schools –Assessment of performance against curriculum outcomes Comparison of primary schools –Comparator league tables Comparison of ‘similar’ schools Mission creep in assessment – Curriculum for Audit? –Recent guidance on reducing bureaucracy –New benchmarking tool planned. But will it make a difference?

16 Bureaucracy “Living thru the paperwork nightmare that is strangling good CFE learning n teaching! You want 2 see N4/5 assesm” (Twitter, November 2013)

17 Output regulation (2) External inspections –School inspections – HMIe Revamped in 2006-7, but ‘cosmetic, since the basic instruments and methodology remain the same’ (Reeves, 2008) Further changes recently – greater focus on self-evaluation But continue to be high-stakes events associated with performativity –Local authority audits Shift since late 1990s from a supportive advisory role to a quality improvement role Mirrors inspection processes High emphasis on accountability and evidence

18 The balance between input and output regulation (Leat, Livingston and Priestley, 2013)

19 Implications for teacher agency Over-emphasis in policy on the role of the individual teachers: –Through extending teacher autonomy Raising capacity through CPD Exhorting teachers to be agents of change A continued focus on output regulation acts against such aspirations –a set of social structures (systems, power relations, roles, etc.) –cultural expectations about what is possible –a practical issue (what is actually possible) –and an evaluative issue (how professionals judge aspects such as risk)

20 In practice Most Scottish schools are improving in response to CfE. But, output regulation potentially impacts radically on the possibilities for agency –by enabling or precluding particular practices –undermining professionals’ ability to take responsibility for their work Implications for CfE –Many new practices adopted to tick the box rather than for curricular purposes –Change tends to be incremental and piecemeal –Teachers struggle to achieve agency

21 Losing sight of the big ideas Purposes of CfE trumped by more instrumental imperatives: –Inspections –League tables –University entrance The result: –Performative cultures (playing the game, teaching to the test, fabrication) (see Keddie, 2013) –Students ill-equipped for the worlds of work, university and for democratic citizenship

22 Tension between the old and the new

23 And the universities? Implications for: –Admissions: “University leaders affirm that they continue to be committed to fair admissions policies and that these will allow equal consideration of candidates who possess the necessary knowledge and skills base irrespective of what routes they may have taken through the Senior Phase.” (p9) –Pedagogy Dialogical/enquiry-based learning (seminars) The traditional lecture. ‘Listen again’? E-learning Teaching skills –Assessment Variety Continuous assessment Formative assessment

24 Articulation between school and university If CfE develops as intended: –“The approaches to learning and teaching and the skills emphasised in CfE … [will] … bring schools in line with ….. universities” But –Still considerable progress to make –Some of this needs to come from the university sector

25 References Leat, D., Livingston, K. & Priestley, M. (2013). Curriculum deregulation in England and Scotland - Different directions of travel? In W.Kuiper & J. Berkvens (Eds.), Balancing Curriculum Regulation and Freedom across Europe, CIDREE Yearbook 2013. Enschede, the Netherlands: SLO Keddie, A. (2013). Thriving amid the demands of the contemporary audit culture: a matter of school context. Journal of Education Policy, 28{6}, 75- 766 Priestley, M., Biesta, G.J.J. & Robinson, S. (2013). Teachers as agents of change: teacher agency and emerging models of curriculum. In M. Priestley & G.J.J. Biesta (Eds.), Reinventing the curriculum: new trends in curriculum policy and practice, London: Bloomsbury. Priestley, M. & Humes, W. (2010). The Development of Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence: amnesia and déjà vu. Oxford Review of Education, 36[3], 345-361.

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