Chapter 1: Traction or Slippage in Education Policy’s Drive of Pedagogical Reform? 1.

1 The education reform policy context and pedagogical practice

The connection between education reform aspirations and teachers‟ classroom practice has assumed high-profile importance. By the end of the twentieth century policymakers cross-nationally were making unprecedented efforts to reform education “by reforming teaching practice” (Mayer 1999a: 29). This was an important change of emphasis, as historically education reform had “tinkered at the edges of the educational process” (ibid), remaining aloof from a concern with actual pedagogical practice. Earlier era reform levers included the marketization of education, with removal of school zoning and encouragement of competition between schools as an envisaged improvement driver, and adjustments to funding provisions alongside a variety of major structural changes. However these are now paralleled by a prevailing interest at government and bureaucratic policy levels in levering change in the fine-grained details of pedagogical practice itself (see Walsh 2006), partly through increasing efforts to specify and potentially mandate approved teaching practices, while linking improved teaching effectiveness to the achievement of benchmarked outcome goals. This thesis examines how education reform policy connects with pedagogical practice. In examining the level of correspondence between education reform policy expectations and the actual practice of teachers, the research is situated in the field of policy impact analysis (Kennedy 1999). The study aims to assess the impact of policy interventions which are targeted at improving student learning outcomes by penetrating directly into prevailing teaching practice. In the specific context of Victoria, Australia, in April 2009 the Minister for Education launched the “instructional model for teachers”, as foreshadowed in the Government‟s September 2008 Blueprint 2 education reform policy. The attempt to connect the engine of policy-level education reform with

2 wheels-on-the-ground traction through classroom pedagogy is a significant development for teachers, schools and the education system. The particular government policy framework which the research explores is the Victorian Government‟s Blueprint for Government Schools (generally referred to in the Victorian education community simply as The Blueprint), released in November 2003, and elaborated in a body of policy implementation documentation and support material published subsequently. In the primary policy itself and in ancillary policy documents, such as Principles of Learning and Teaching P-12 (PoLT), The Blueprint is explicitly positioned as the Government‟s “reform agenda” (DET 2004: 1). The Blueprint set education reform expectations for the following five-year term and is now extended in the current Blueprint for Education and Early Childhood Development (generally called simply Blueprint 2), published in September 2008. Blueprint 2 builds on The Blueprint and is not seen as replacing it. This continuity between the two reform phases is important as it assures the policy currency of The Blueprint and the implementation measures. The Victorian education reform policy taken as a whole, with its core policy statements, myriad of support documentation, plethora of materials and implementation strategies, and a consistently articulated, energetically sustained reform message, is generally seen as a strong example of thoughtfully orchestrated reform policy. It has broad credibility as a coherent strategic approach to system-wide reform (Elmore 2007). The relative longevity and stability of the then Government, the anchoring of its education reform aspirations in a widely supported international agenda with broad economic and civic credibility, combined with intricacy of detail in the implementation strategies, makes this policy a particularly suitable one for study. Elmore (2007: 2) portrays Victorian education reform as unusual in its “level of agreement among policy-level actors and practitioners ... In most settings outside Victoria there are costly gaps in understanding between policymakers and practitioners”. Indeed, in Elmore‟s analysis (2007: 5), Victoria “is on the leading edge of policy and practice in the world”. This associated

3 makes Victorian education reform policy fertile ground for study. If poorly framed policy fails to gain traction there is little to be learned compared to the insights to be gained by investigating the penetration of what is widely regarded as exemplary policy. In outlining “the case for reform” with an explicit emphasis on reforming the nature of student classroom learning itself, The Blueprint (DET 2003: 8) is consistent with education reform policies in other jurisdictions (see Furlong 2005) in its intent to impact directly on the pedagogical work of teachers as a policy priority. In pursuance of this, The Blueprint (DET 2003: 15) explicitly undertakes that “the Government will develop principles of learning and teaching for Prep–Year 12 to support teachers in areas such as diversity of learning and thinking styles, student-teacher relationships and in authentic learning experiences. Teachers will use these principles to renew their teaching practices”. Blueprint 2 (DEECD 2008), presenting itself as “the next generation of reform”, keeps alive the emphasis on the importance of the learning experiences provided for students by the professional pedagogical practice of teachers. It sets out “the strategies and the specific actions we will take to achieve our vision”. The Government specifically resolves to develop and promote “new models of teaching and learning such as greater cooperation and sharing of practice between teachers and work practices that make the best use of flexible learning spaces and technology”. This research investigates the connection between this espoused policy intention and its enacted effects. Of particular significance in this regard is the Blueprint 2 promise in the following twelve months (from September 2008) to “disseminate an instructional model for teachers”. When formally released by the Victorian Minister for Education in April 2009 this officially endorsed pedagogical framework was, as had widely been foreshadowed for more than two years, the e5 instructional model.1 Because of its importance as an

This is a re-interpreted and re-contextualised version of the constructivist 5E instructional model used to underpin US-devised Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) curriculum materials since the 1980s. According to Bybee et al. (2006: 3) this basic constructivist model is traceable back to “the philosophy and psychology of the early 20th century and Johann Herbart [whose] psychology of learning can be synthesized into an instructional model that

4 envisaged reform lever, the roll-out of the Victorian instructional model is examined in this thesis. 1.2 Education reform as a cross-national agenda

Education reform is a global policy agenda, or at least a cross-national one, despite subtle differences between jurisdictions. In the Australian education environment, policy ideas are strongly influenced by thinking emanating particularly from the United Kingdom, but also the United States. There is a „travelling scholarship‟ of influential education reform proponents. Elmore (2007: 1), for example, presents his work in Victoria as “part of a larger program of research and practice … primarily within the U.S., around the state of knowledge about large-scale improvement efforts in public education”. Key education reform drivers adapted from the UK by Australian states in recent decades, with varying emphases in different jurisdictions, have included rigorously applied, socio-economic status (SES) compensated, per capita funding, with school-managed global budgets supplemented by the requirement of independent fund-raising; removal or modification of school zoning to raise competition; incentives for the development of „specialisations‟ (the favoured UK reform term – see Caldwell 2004: 30) in all schools; institutionalised use of benchmarked data to assess school and teacher effectiveness, with mandated school closures for „failing schools‟ associated with „new start‟ programs underpinned by high reliance on a belief in transformational principal-level leadership; and centrally dictated and funded information and communications technology (ICT) initiatives aimed at levering radical changes to pedagogy. In seeking to lever change in teachers‟ pedagogical work directly, the current education reform policy in Victoria is evolving closely in line with counterpart policies in other jurisdictions. The desired changes can be summed up in terms of a policy-driven move away from students learning abstract knowledge, directed primarily through teacher explanation and the practising
begins with students‟ current knowledge and their new ideas that relate to the current knowledge”.

5 of routine procedures, towards active contextualized learning in which knowledge is constructed by students in collaborative ways, in relation to real world situations, and which assumes the more effective acquisition of knowledge and skills by their immediate and direct application to practice. Comparisons between these two sets of teaching approaches are stark enough to be framed as virtual polar opposites (Kennedy 1999), with one pedagogical set presenting as conventional practice and the emerging reform-oriented pedagogy strongly promoted by policy at government and bureaucratic levels with the support of an established and continually expanding body of academic or quasi-academic theory and research. Definitions of the contrasting pedagogical approaches are consistent across jurisdictions. The rhetoric for expressing the reformist vision tends to be quite consistent also. The Queensland Government, for instance, has committed itself to the Queensland Smart State Strategy 2005-2015, promoting “radical change” in the form of “a transformation of the educators, curriculum and learning environments so that there is relevance for students … To embed the transformation in education will require a significant culture shift for many educators” (Smart State Council 2007: 1). Underlining the consistency of reform across jurisdictions was the rapid incorporation of related Queensland material on the Victorian Department of Education website (accessed 9 April 2007), referring to and hotlinked to the Queensland Principles of Effective Learning and Teaching policy under the heading Pedagogy around Australia. The Victorian website noted that the Queensland principles “are expected to underpin learning and teaching practices across all sectors of schooling”. In England too, the Key Stage 3 National Strategy Key Messages: Learning and Teaching policy documentation (DfES 2003) notes “design of effective lessons is fundamental to the pursuit of high quality teaching and learning. The Strategy intends to strengthen its emphasis on pedagogy … promote the use of direct, inductive and exploratory approaches”. It goes on to declare that “classroom organization need[s] to support interactivity … the Strategy will provide further advice on these aspects of classroom organization”.

6 US reform policies provide parallel examples. The State of New Jersey Department of Education Core Curriculum Content Standards places emphasis on higher order critical thinking skills and is as concerned to specify pedagogical approaches as it is to specify expected achievement standards for students at key stages. These are articulated at an unusual level of detail in providing a comprehensive range of specific Standards, each elaborated in a descriptive statement and „cumulative progress indicators‟ describing the student learning behaviours and understandings which teachers‟ pedagogy is expected to facilitate. As the policy analysis aspect of the research reveals, policy nuances vary subtly from place to place and even over the policy roll-out phases within the one jurisdiction. For example, pedagogical practice envisaged in English reform policy is generally consistent with but somewhat more conservative than the Australian or New Jersey examples. Noting the increased commitment to driving education reform at the level of classroom instruction, Fullan et al. (2006: 27-29) caution that while “coherence between the multiple levels of schooling [systems, schools, classrooms] is an important precondition for successful school reform … the knowledge base about classroom instruction is surprisingly tenuous, and in much policy discussion about school reform, the classroom remains something of a black box” [italics in original; explanation inserted]. More research is required to investigate the connection, or disconnection, between education reform intentions and actual classroom practice. As Cochran-Smith (2005: 6) rather nicely puts it: “everybody likes teacher quality and wants more of it. The problem is there is no consensus about what it is.” Reform policy anticipates the specifying, and spreading by ostensibly best practice transfer, of pedagogical approaches considered desirable (Cochran-Smith 2005). However, Kennedy (1999: 345-348) proposes “a central problem for policy researchers is how to document a clear path of influence that extends from policy manipulations to student outcomes”. She urges that sustained research is needed to investigate “how policies influence the intellectual character of classroom events [and] the quality of student learning”.



Policy penetration into practice

A simplistic model may envisage the transfer from policy to practice as a straightforward rational-technical process in which an authority determines that a particular line of action is required and undertakes some explicitly communicated steps to specify the action and the implementation process. The failure of this „theory‟ to accord with reality is nicely captured in an observation generally attributed to Dutch mathematician and computer scientist van de Snepscheut: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” There is already a reasonably substantial body of research investigating the policy-practice gap in terms of education reform policy and teachers‟ actual pedagogical practice. Mathematics education research has been particularly active in studying the connection between education reform expectations and what transpires in teachers‟ pedagogical practice. While a detailed overview of this research is provided later, by way of introduction it is helpful to cite Kennedy‟s (1999: 346) observation that a lack of adequate research evidence still causes education reform to “depend instead on a hypothesised model of the path of influence that leads from policy to student learning”. Absence of sufficient research evidence on influences and determinants of actual practice is a problem in any policy field, but particularly so in the complex case of pedagogical practice which remains insufficiently researched and difficult to bring to the surface for close examination. Teachers‟ pedagogical knowledge is particularly difficult to uncover, and highly resistant to change, because it is intricate and situated knowledge (Mishra and Koehler 2006). It is largely tacit knowledge deeply embedded in the subtle socially constructed contexts of teachers‟ specific work cultures, and for better or worse it has a stability which proves almost impervious to imposed radical change of the kind envisaged in transformational reform policy. It is essential to undertake investigations to cast better light on the policy-practice gap,

8 particularly because theoretical frames of reference or assumptions commonly underpinning education policy formation are not sufficiently developed from a teacher practice point of view (Moss 2006). As Spillane and Zeuli (1999: 3) observe, “careful analysis of teaching practice [is] an essential, though frequently neglected, component of policy implementation research”. Another gap in the existing research base is that there has been little research on the ways in which the different professional „communities‟ involved in education construct their understandings of policy and practice. This study aims to “compare the discourse about education reform policy by those who devise it with the discourse about the same thing by those who are expected to enact it” (Eisenhart 2002: 221). Additionally, drawing on Argyris and Schön‟s (1996) organizational learning framework, the study examines teacher discourse in their own descriptions of their pedagogical practice and compares their „espoused theories‟ with their „theories-in-action‟ as evidenced in classroom observation. Discourse analysis, which has its own theoretical frames, is applied as a research technique in this study. As an investigation method it is used in line with Mayer‟s (1999a) encouragement of detailed classroom discourse analysis as a way of getting to deeper evidence about the actual character, including the cognitive demand level, of the learning activities provided by teachers for students. This is consistent with an emerging „participationist‟ and communities-of-practice approach to students‟ classroom learning in that classroom discourse must be studied in detail to see beyond superficial impressions of reform pedagogy being enacted. Additionally, discourse analysis is applied in this study to policy documents and implementation materials, and to the interviews conducted with members of a variety of distinct education constituencies, leading to the proposition that education reform is impeded by incongruent frameworks and concepts of pedagogical practice held within the different „discourse communities‟, and also by insufficiently sophisticated „transfer of best practice‟ notions of teachers‟ own professional learning which predominate in policy models but are at odds

9 with the complex reality of how teachers‟ pedagogical practice is actually constructed. 1.4 Theoretical frameworks

The conceptions of professional practice informing this research are drawn from the theories of situated cognition, communities-of-practice and organizational learning. (See Chapter 3.) While these frameworks have discrete identities, separate origins and varying emphases, they entail a conception of professional practice as a culturally situated activity. The theoretical perspectives are inter-connected by an understanding of practice as embedded and largely tacit behaviour acquired over a long period in the presence of a complex web or network of socially situated factors. They have considerable utility and explanatory power in building on the findings of a body of previous research, particularly in the US mathematics education context, which sees teachers‟ pedagogical practice as enacting complex, culturally embedded, implicit knowledge. An emerging discourse among mathematics educators explicitly draws on the communities-of-practice understanding of learning in developing a domain-specific „participationist‟ learning model. This supports a shared discourse about learning within this particular educational community. However, despite reform policy aspirations to get at pedagogical practice directly, and lever it in particular directions, prevailing policy assumptions remain largely aloof from and oblivious to the intricacies of pedagogical enactment. The communities-of-practice framework (eg. Brown and Duguid 1998; Lave and Wenger 1991; Lakomski 2004) provides a theoretical foundation to interpret the situated and contextualised nature of learning. This depends only partially on symbolic knowledge held inside individuals‟ heads, explicitly expressed and verbally transmitted. Knowledge and learning are embedded and embodied as distributed properties of organizational, communal and collegial settings. Tacit knowledge, in the form of largely taken-for-granted professional know-how and shared sense-making, is understood in this conceptual framework as more potent in shaping practitioner behaviour than

10 explicit, symbolically and consciously codified, verbally communicated „canonical‟ knowledge. From this perspective, knowledge is understood to be locally produced social and cultural property (Lakomski 2005) which is highly resistant to imposed or exhorted change. An implication of the professional communities of practice and culturally situated learning perspectives amassed in an extensive body of research literature on teaching specifically (eg. Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin 1995; McGregor 2003) is the difficulty of policy-driven initiatives making any deep impression on pedagogical practice, unless they are highly coherent, effectively orchestrated, well resourced and energetically sustained over a very long term. Even then, as Cohen (1995: 16) cautions, “coherence in policy is not the same thing as coherence in practice”. Elmore (1995: 357) laments the recurring disconnection between reform policy and teaching practice, observing “it often seems as if policymakers believe that changing the regulatory structure within which schools operate is sufficient in itself to produce large-scale reform in student learning, without any of the complications of changing teaching practice and school organization”. Identifying school inertia in the form of “an enormous capacity to resist” reform, Elmore contends that attempts to reform teachers‟ practice need to take account of the socially situated and co-constructed nature of teachers‟ work. Echoing this perspective, O‟Neill (2003) urges an approach to research on school reform which moves away from generic macrocosmic policy to closer engagement at the detailed microcosmic „policy ethnography‟ level, bringing teachers‟ situated practice out of the „black box‟ and placing the actual work of teachers in their professional community of practice at the centre of school improvement efforts. Complementing this view, McGregor (2003: 127) calls for research along lines which “articulate with new theories of situated learning ... [which] take knowledge as created through practice, so learning is social and participative rather than cognitive”. In seeking a theoretically grounded and research based approach to school improvement, McGregor

11 argues that “the concept of communities-of-practice and of situated learning has some considerable utility”. In the present research, analysis of current reform policy discourse will shed light on how far this potential „utility‟ is recognised at the policy framing and implementation levels. The exceptionally complex process of education reform cannot be understood using a simple mechanical metaphor. The policy-making engine cannot just deliver a drive thrust which then goes through a transmission system to be converted into movement in the desired direction, delivered by the wheels of classroom teaching. In the „muddle inside a muddle‟ reality of school education (Gardiner 2009) there is no linear transmission process operating across connections between inert parts. Rather, there is a bewilderingly intricate array of partial connections, loose couplings, slippages, and parallel competing and conflicting systems coexisting within an organic whole. Uncovering and examining the assumptions about pedagogical effectiveness embedded in the partially explicit but largely implicit paradigms of the different educational discourse communities should contribute to a better conceptualisation of how the loosely coupled or detached elements of educational improvement drives may be more coherently connected or, to use a more appropriate term, aligned. 1.5 Reasons for the focus on mathematics pedagogy

While the research is not a study in mathematics education per se, and is not intended to propose specific recommendations for the improvement of mathematics teaching, the area of pedagogical practice chosen for study is middle secondary school mathematics. The priority placed on numeracy in education reform policy cross-nationally, as well as the relatively high levels of consistency in mathematical curriculum content across educational jurisdictions compared to other areas of the curriculum, suggests it would be useful to analyse mathematics teaching in assessing reform policy impact on pedagogical practice. Therefore, the observed lessons are somewhat controlled for curriculum content, allowing a clearer focus on the pedagogical
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12 dimensions specifically. While the distinction between curriculum and pedagogy is an imperfect one, being able to standardise the discipline context of the observed lessons to some extent enables the lens to be focused more closely on the nature of the pedagogy itself. Additionally, as already indicated, there is a substantial established body of research in mathematics pedagogy specifically in the context of education reform policy. This study is intended to add to that knowledge within a particular Australian setting. 1.6 Specific research questions

Originally investigated in a US teaching reform context by Spillane and Zeuli (1999), this current study asks: to what extent does teachers‟ actual professional practice reflect change in the desired reform policy direction? Spillane and Zeuli identified several distinctive patterns in the ways their mathematics teacher participants adapted, evaded, deflected or distorted pedagogical reform intentions. The question is redirected here, in a different decade and jurisdiction, to the teaching and learning focus of the Victorian Government‟s education reform agenda. The present study also asks why education reform policy is or is not succeeding in gaining the expected penetration into pedagogical practice. What socio-cultural factors in the regularities of teachers‟ work practices enable or impede their willingness and ability to embrace, resist or deflect pedagogical reform policy expectations? How do teachers experience pedagogical change expectations, including how aware of and explicitly knowledgeable are they about them? How do they perceive their own and others‟ responses to education reform policy? How do teachers, members of school leadership teams, policy framers and influencers, mathematics education specialists, and other identifiable constituencies position themselves within the landscape of policy discourse? Indeed, is there an identifiable discourse positioning (Wood and Kroger 2000) generally shared within these sets but not shared between the sets?


By asking these questions, the field work undertaken in this study seeks to establish why the specific policy direction is either failing or moving very slowly, despite the best policy intentions, or why it is showing indications of succeeding despite the complex obstacles and impediments to be identified. The research will thus contribute to an understanding of what policy can achieve in influencing practice and what its limitations are. It will result in new explanations and proposals concerning the impact of policy on practice. 1.7 The research approach

While adopting and extending Spillane and Zeuli‟s (1999) research question, the mixed methods research approach devised for this investigation is original. Using an original lesson observation schedule to rate two lessons taught by each of twelve participant teachers on a measure of reformalignment scale, the study seeks to reflect back and forth between the expressed and implied aspirations of education reform policies and the observed evidence of teacher practice. Along with a pedagogical practice survey of a larger group of over a hundred secondary mathematics teachers, the results provide important data for interpreting whether the low correspondence between reform aspirations and actual classroom practice reported in other studies, to be reviewed in Chapter 2, applies to the current Victorian government education reform policy agenda. The teaching and school administration background of the researcher positions him as a „somewhat native‟ observer in the professional worlds of the teacher participants and their situated work culture. While the research does not purport to be ethnographic in the sense of deep immersion in the experiential worlds of the participants, it takes a naturalistic approach to the study of the teacher participants‟ work. This is necessary because it is the socio-cultural context which most influences beliefs, tacit assumptions and actual work practices.

14 Eisenhart (1988) defends the pragmatic adaptation of ethnographic research approaches to the goals of educational research, clarifying that the social immersion called for in pure ethnography need not be the goal. Eisenhart (1988: 100) argues that while traditional ethnography, like other useful research approaches, “speaks a distinct research language”, much could be gained in educational research by drawing on its descriptive power based on close observation and attending to the importance of specific socio-cultural settings. This position is in line with Trow‟s (1997: 14) concern that policy studies have made “little use of ethnographic research methods, the method of direct observation of customary behaviour and informal conversation”. While a purist notion of ethnography would demand much greater immersion in the lives of participants in the culture under study than Trow has in mind, his view is closer to the partially ethnographic approach taken in the present research. The study remains true to ethnographic principles in its concern with uncovering and „foregrounding‟ (Lather 1991) the situated realities of teachers‟ actual professional practice, which need to be better understood if reform policy is to have any prospect of penetrating below the surface features of pedagogical practice. The study is ethnographic in so far as it places “emphasis on context and thick descriptions” (Freebody 2003: 76). The picture obtained is viewed as a “piece of culture … examined in depth to identify larger cultural issues and elements” (Green et al. 2003: 36). The research aims to uncover the “explicit and tacit cultural knowledge that members use” (Neuman 2006: 382). Detailed descriptions of behaviour and talk in the specific context of teaching activity form a core element of the study (Freebody 2003), in keeping with Neuman‟s (2006: 381) definition of ethnography as “providing a very detailed description of a different culture from the viewpoint of an insider in the culture to facilitate understanding of it”. In selecting a naturalistic approach to examining teachers‟ pedagogical work it is useful to note Freebody‟s (2003: 127) explicit call for “rich and grounded accounts of … teaching and learning.

15 That is, the goal here is … to explore in detail what members of a culture routinely do”. Discourse analysis, as explained in Chapter 4 both in the theoretical terms of discourse analysis and in its direct practical application within the research methodology, is used to uncover implicit conceptions of pedagogical practice and its reform. Discourse analysis techniques (Wood and Kroger 2000; Phillips and Hardy 2002) are applied to a substantial body of interview data from participant teachers and other respondents drawn from a range of identified education policy constituencies, with a view to establishing their shared patterns of discourse. This leads to the identification of what are presented as „discourse communities‟. A ‘disconnect’ is suggested between the different discourses of identified constituencies in the policy-practice relationship. Policy framers, policy officers and bureaucrats, policy analysts and commentators, principal-class school leaders, mathematics teachers and mathematics education specialists (including researchers) emerge as distinct „discourse communities‟. Their discourses both reflect and actively constitute different assumptions and beliefs about education reform and its relation to pedagogy (see CochranSmith 2005). They operate as virtually self-referring separate universes. These independent discourse worlds slip and slide past one another, touching or bumping at the edges, spinning on the understandings of their members and affiliates, largely oblivious to other discourses except at the most surface level. The thesis proposes that the slippage between these only loosely coupled discourse systems represents a significant barrier to education reform, in the form of a critical gap between policy and practice. 1.8 Outline of the thesis structure

The thesis is organised into seven chapters, including this introduction. Chapter 2 establishes the complexity of studying pedagogical reform in the context of mathematics teaching specifically. The chapter reports on previous research in this area, in the process showing how notions of reform, and the

16 connotations of the term itself, vary markedly across different education communities. Chapter 3 explores conceptions of practice which are useful in interpreting the policy-practice relationship, and which are drawn from key theoretical frames widely cited in current studies of mathematics teaching specifically. While the theoretical frames are discrete, they share in common an emphasis on the implicit and embedded dimensions of professional practice. These subtle, tacit dimensions are difficult for policy to penetrate in order to produce significant changes in teachers‟ pedagogical work. These concepts of practice and the theories on which they rely for explanation are developed in the chapter to clarify the theoretical and research context within which the study is situated. They are chosen both for their currency in existing research and for their explanatory power. Chapter 4 explains the mixed methods research design, describing the research approach in detail for clarity. The research combines direct pedagogical practice observation and classification in field work conducted in six Victorian government secondary schools, along with supplementary teacher surveys of pedagogical approaches, and interviews with respondents from different education policy constituencies. The detailed methodological discussion is intended to ensure that the study is replicable in different policy and pedagogical practice contexts. Chapter 5 presents results of the research drawn from lesson observation and survey data, which to some extent can be presented as measurements and represented statistically. Taking into account the mixed methods design, the presentation of results is divided across two chapters, with interpretive analysis of the data drawn from open-ended (semi-structured) interviews in different identified education communities held over and presented separately in Chapter 6. The reason for this organizational separation is to acknowledge the inherently interpretive nature of results drawn from analysis of discourse, entailing an overlap between the presentation and interpretation of results. The presentation of interview analyses, by virtue of the selection of

17 material for inclusion and the application of discourse analysis, both reflects and foreshadows emerging interpretive strands. Reasons for and possible effects of not quarantining the presentation of interview results from interpretive commentary on them are discussed within Chapter 6, referring to Freebody‟s (2003) and others‟ work on qualitative research methodologies. Chapter 7 presents the conclusion that we find predominantly slippage, rather than traction, in current education reform policy implementation. The reasons for this, and suggested responses, are proposed in this closing chapter, which distils the findings, applies the theoretical frames in developing an explanation of the observed patterns, and draws out implications for theory and for practice. The thesis concludes that prevailing reform policy expectations lack adequate theoretical understanding of how enacted pedagogical practice is socially constructed. The argument developed supports a more realistic and defensible conceptualisation of teachers‟ professional knowledge, proposing an incremental improvement process (in contrast to transformational reform) based on directly building teachers‟ collaborative pedagogical development capacity, from the ground up and within authentic and viable professional communities-of-practice.


Chapter 2: The Case of Mathematics Pedagogy Reform 2.1 Purpose of the mathematics pedagogy focus

This chapter sets the context for the present study, expands on the reasons for the focus on mathematics teachers‟ pedagogy in particular and introduces concepts of practice used to frame the research. Some elements of these concepts are already widely employed in existing research on mathematics pedagogy, particularly in the context of investigating the impact of reform agendas. These concepts of practice are drawn from a range of separate theoretical frameworks which, while discrete, have some key elements in common. The theoretical frames are identified in this chapter but considered in detail in Chapter 3. This present chapter focuses specifically on the mathematics pedagogy reform research landscape in which the current study is situated. A body of research (eg. Spillane and Zeuli 1999) has sought to assess and explain the degree to which mathematics teachers are teaching in ways aligned with reform principles. This present study aims to contribute in this area by studying mathematics teachers‟ pedagogy in classrooms, and eliciting mathematics teachers‟ perspectives in terms of how they understand and respond to expectations of pedagogical change. Teachers in the mathematics domain encounter a complex array of inconsistently defined and competing pedagogical reform expectations. While demands for reform at the level of classroom teaching press from all around, what is actually envisaged by this is inconsistently framed. As will be seen, some reform propositions are incongruent with others and even oblivious to other constructions of reform.


Inconsistencies lie in nuances and in the envisaged scale of reform. Technically the term „reform‟ means improvement through the removal of system faults or errors (Concise Oxford English Dictionary). It is not inherently transformational in pitch. However a prevailing cross-national reform policy agenda (eg. Gladwell 2001; Caldwell 2004; Hargreaves 2004) envisages radical transformation of schooling as part of a „new imaginary‟ (Beare 2006) which would see the very notion of the classroom as largely obsolete. However other education reform agendas appear on the surface considerably more modest in envisaging improvement in classroom learning not as an overall educational restructure but as more effectively interconnecting learning across disciplines and between school-based learning and real life applications. This vision of making school-based learning more relevant and therefore more engaging is part of the thrust of current Victorian education reform policy, which strongly emphasises building the interconnectedness of student learning with the development of confident, engaged and contributing members of society. Even given the apparent relative modesty of these aspirations here, as will be discussed, achieving real change at the fine-grained level of classroom learning is still highly elusive. Working virtually on a different page altogether are calls for reform within the tightly defined realms of individual subject disciplines. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the area of mathematics education. Within the mathematics realm reform is highly contested territory, so much so that in the United States the debate has been dubbed „the Math Wars‟ (Schoenfeld 2004; Klein 2007). Essentially the contention revolves around the question of whether mathematics learning at school level is inherently undermined by attempts to make mathematics more instrumental to serving other disciplines, and trivialised by supposed real life applications. Reform mathematics, as articulated in the US National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) mathematics standards and associated curriculum and pedagogy materials, is generally consistent with the inter-connectedness thrust of more generic pedagogical reform policy such as that in Victoria. However the mathematics reform debate is extremely fine-grained as it involves counter- propositions

20 about authentic reform residing essentially in attempts to move to less repetitious computation and increased higher-order thinking through diverse high-cognitive demand tasks, while remaining „purely‟ mathematical in construct and intent. The practical implications of this specialist vision of reform may be quite incompatible with the more generic reform thrust that is concerned with making mathematics more „relevant‟ by integrating mathematics with other disciplines and presenting its value as primarily instrumental in serving direct practical applications. A central point which will emerge in this thesis is the disconnectedness from one another of the concepts of education reform held within the discourses of different communities. In the discussion the term policy community will be used to indicate an identified common interest group which formulates, influences, or is affected by, policy decisions and policy initiatives. The term discourse community will be used to indicate an interest group which acts on a particular understanding of what is entailed in the reform agenda and, regardless of whether consciously contesting another construction, frames discussion in terms commonly understood within that particular community. As indicated in the introductory chapter, the reform focus on the nature of pedagogy itself characterises prevailing reform agendas, no matter how otherwise diverging they may be. This reflects findings of numerous studies (eg. Hill 2003; Hattie 2003; Rowe 2004; Jensen 2010) that the effect size on student learning of teachers‟ pedagogical efficacy outweighs all other schoolbased factors affecting student learning outcomes. So the importance of bringing about pedagogical improvement in every classroom is generally acknowledged, even though there may be little functional agreement about what constitutes effective pedagogy beyond some broad generic principles. The difficulty of changing teachers‟ pedagogical practice is well documented. Hattie (2008) found that reducing class sizes had minimal effect on student learning because teachers do not alter their teaching practices even if group sizes are reduced. Numerous studies have investigated limitations on the degree to which and ways in which teachers have the capacity to modify their

21 pedagogy (eg. Firestone et al. 2004). While some studies have attempted to suggest ways of enabling change, others have proposed factors in the construction of teachers‟ work which help explain observed resistance to change in pedagogical practice. As will be described in this chapter, the research is particularly welldeveloped in the area of mathematics teaching. It is for this reason, and also because of the generally agreed central importance accorded to numeracy skills in education reform in virtually every government jurisdiction, that this study focuses specifically on mathematics pedagogy. A vast body of existing research in this area has attempted to measure, assess and explain the construction of teachers‟ pedagogical practice. In doing so, some of the research to be cited has drawn explicitly on the explanatory power of concepts of practice based on established theoretical frameworks such as communitiesof-practice, socio-culturally situated cognition and organizational learning. There is considerable overlap in the key principles of concepts of practice drawn from the respective theoretical frames. These will be detailed in the next chapter, but in essence they share an emphasis on the shaping of practice by forces and factors which are tacit, implicit and embedded, and therefore resistant to conscious deliberate modification. Much of the research in mathematics pedagogy draws directly on the theoretical frames to be utilized in this current study. For example, Mishra and Koehler (2006) propose a framework for understanding the nature of mathematics teachers‟ pedagogical knowledge which they are expected to modify in the highly ICTenabled teaching environment of the contemporary school. In line with other researchers who pay close attention to the nature of teachers‟ enacted practice, Mishra and Koehler (2006: 1017-18) draw attention to the “complex, situated form of knowledge” that teachers require. In denial of some reformist expectations of ICT proving the „magic bullet‟ for transforming pedagogy (based on ICT transformation in some other work domains), Mishra and Koehler observe “in education the reality has lagged far behind the vision”.

22 The elusiveness of pedagogical change is partly because of the inadequate use of theoretical frameworks to interpret and understand the nature of teachers‟ practice and how their professional knowledge is formed and maintained. Mishra and Koehler (2006), writing primarily in a mathematics context, cite Selfe‟s (1990) largely unheeded plea for the development of a theoretical framework for understanding how mediating factors such as ICT intermesh with the complex, situated nature of pedagogical work across all subject areas including English. They argue that this is the only way to avoid myopic, ad hoc, and isolated efforts to bolt on to existing pedagogy some disjointed extension offered through ICT interventions, with little change or improvement to the foundations of practice to which ICT becomes loosely and unevenly attached. It is useful to give close consideration to Mishra and Koehler‟s (2006) work because it provides a substantial framework for understanding how discipline-grounded notions of pedagogical practice and pedagogical reform may be at odds with more generic policy level education reform constructs, both in practice and theoretical framing. Mishra and Koehler (2006: 1020) propose that the difficulty of implementing new approaches so that they become embedded, rather than remaining inconsistently assimilated add-ons, reflects that “teaching is a highly complex cognitive skill occurring in an illstructured, dynamic environment”. They question the reform reliance on professional development which emphasises generic pedagogical principles, decoupled from discipline-specific subject matter, and argue for the integrity of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as the foundation of effective teaching. The argument is that deep content knowledge is a necessary, while insufficient, condition for effective teaching. It provides the essential foundation. It follows that shallow content knowledge cannot be transformed into effective teaching by any generic form of content-free pedagogical competency. Mishra and Koehler (2006: 1026) cite a body of theory and previous research which suggests that neither technology nor pedagogy can be understood as context-free or neutral:
Teachers must know and understand the subjects that they teach, including knowledge of central facts, concepts, theories, and procedures … explanatory frameworks that organize and connect

ideas … the rules of evidence and proof … the nature of knowledge and inquiry.

The foundations of this pedagogical knowledge are discipline specific. Pedagogy cannot be approached as if it were “a form of applied technocratic rationality” (Mishra and Koehler 2006: 1031). However, as will be seen, this view of pedagogical knowledge is not at the core of prevailing government level reform policy agendas. At the heart of Mishra and Koehler‟s (2006) contribution is their insistence that teachers‟ pedagogical knowledge must not be simplified, underestimated or undervalued. It is complex specialist knowledge belonging to specific subcommunities of teachers, and which is more than the sum of its parts because it is integrated and socially situated. “This knowledge is different from the knowledge of a disciplinary expert and also from the general pedagogical knowledge shared by teachers across disciplines”. Quoting Marks (1990), Mishra and Koehler present pedagogy as “a class of knowledge that is central to teachers‟ work and that would not typically be held by non-teaching subject matter experts or by teachers who know little of that subject”. Drawing explicitly on the situated cognition and communities-of-practice theories which the mathematics education reform community widely uses in its shared discourse, Mishra and Koehler portray effective teachers as skilled facilitators of students‟ carefully graduated immersion as practitioners of a discipline rather than passive learners about a discipline. Ogawa‟s (2003) work provides further support for this view of teachers‟ pedagogical practice as a highly developed form of socially mediated specialised expertise. It seems highly unlikely that a transmitted instructional model, no matter how elegant and coherently presented, will produce this high quality pedagogical knowledge in the absence of collaborative work by teachers anchored in their own subject disciplines, informed by theories congruent with the „participationist‟ notion of student learning and involving the profession itself as co-developers in conjoint agency with curriculum area specialists at university level. There is a sense of excitement and energy about pedagogical reform in these discourse communities, but their meaning of

24 „reform‟ is radically different from that envisaged in the centralised education reform policy framing, to be examined with specific reference to the example of the Victorian agenda. 2.2 specifically Much reform policy discourse is infused with hyperbolic rhetoric around a vision of transformational change. As one interview respondent in this study, a UK-based international mathematics educator2, put it: “We cloak it in all this tipping point stuff.” This was in reference to the global education reform policy discourse as framed, for example, by Caldwell (2004: 16) who, in endorsing the Blair Government education reform strategy of relentless topdown insistence on reform, proclaims “expectations for schools have … changed. Nothing short of transformation is now expected”. Caldwell asserts that education is being successfully transformed and citing Gladwell‟s (2001) metaphor of the „tipping point‟ proposes that we have reached a watershed where fundamental reform of schools will be not only achievable but also irresistible. Sliding his metaphor into that of an educational epidemic, Gladwell (2001) proposes that belief assures success: “what must underlie successful epidemics … is a bedrock belief that change is possible, that people can radically transform their behaviour or belief in the face of the right kind of impetus” (cited in Caldwell 2004: 76). However, different discourse communities hold conflicting views on education reform in two senses. Firstly there is lack of agreement about the pace of reform which is both possible and advisable; gradual incremental improvement in collaborative professional practice is a very different proposition from the transformational scope associated with mega-reform policy discourses. Secondly, there is lack of agreement about the locus of reform. The mathematics education community proposes incremental improvements to mathematics pedagogy which are informed by emerging
Anonymity was a condition of all interview respondents‟ participation, except in cases of established writers or academic researchers whose words are cited, with their agreement, as representative of their published body of work.

Education reform policy and mathematics reform

25 theories and research anchored in a discipline-specific understanding of mathematical knowledge. Whether education reform policy at the macroscale can spiral down to connect with cautious micro-scale adjustments envisaged in the specialised mathematics education community is a major question. Reading literature emanating from the different policy discourse communities can seem like moving between parallel universes. Specialised mathematics education research forms a distinct community of practice with its own frames of reference. Different professional communities can appear almost hermetically sealed, with a taken-for-granted prevailing discourse enacting understanding within but not between the different communities. One of the participant teachers in the current research, who emerged as a highly reflective practitioner with a detailed knowledge of mathematics education theory and research internationally, commented that in overseas educational settings, “They‟ve never heard of PoLT [the Victorian Principles of Learning and Teaching]. In retrospect it‟ll just be the latest fad that went away.” This observation is included here as a bridge to the discourse on mathematics education reform which operates not only in an academic community but also in a „research-in-schools‟ universe removed from Victorian education reform policy discourse. It is specialised, reflective and based on a strong body of research and theoretical literature. Yet this is set against a prevailing popular image of secondary mathematics teachers and tertiary mathematics specialists as belonging to an unreflective reproductive culture. As will be seen in the presentation of the research outcomes, mathematics educators tend to be caricatured as die-hard conservatives with an attributed failure to connect with reform aspirations. However, mathematics specialists are deeply interested in „reform‟, albeit in a different discourse frame. While there is overlap in terms of a seemingly shared concern for high cognitive demand complex thinking tasks to be incorporated into student learning, the operational definitions of higher order thinking skills are framed in distinctly different ways in the respective communities. This conceptual disconnection contributes to a policy-practice gap.



The specific discourse of mathematics reform

As an international professional cohort, mathematics education specialists may never have heard of PoLT but many have certainly heard of communities-of-practice. As models of student learning evolve, conceptual tools used to understand and frame the nature of effective pedagogy develop in parallel, and thereby create perhaps unexpected connections. In a „person in the street‟ view, improving secondary mathematics teaching may be envisaged as a fairly straightforward technical process. It may be thought that there is little connection between this and complex theoretical frames such as organizational learning, communities-of-practice and socio-culturally situated cognition. Nevertheless these links are established. In an emerging mathematics education discourse (eg. Lerman 2001) effective student learning is envisaged as dependent on participating as a „novice‟ in a classroom community-of-practice, where the teacher‟s role is that of an experienced facilitator and collaborator in developing specialist mathematical knowledge. The learning is seen as co-produced by teachers and students within „normative socio-mathematical practices‟. A substantial body of contemporary research on mathematics pedagogy frames student learning in terms considerably beyond the basic constructivist model of learning apparent in prevailing education reform policy discourses, including in Victorian policy currently. Leading international proponents of this specialised discourse include Paul Cobb (Vanderbilt University) and his numerous collaborators; and Anna Sfard (University of Haifa, Michigan State University, and the Institute of Education, University of London). Taking a „participationist‟ view of mathematics learning, as an extrapolation from the “sociocultural approach to cognition”, Sfard (2001: 28) proposes mathematical learning must be “defined as an initiation to mathematical discourse, that is, initiation to a special form of communication known as mathematical”. This requires that mathematical learners are inducted into a community of practice which understands the use of the „mediating tools‟ of mathematical discourse and the „meta-discursive rules‟ that regulate the

27 discourse among the initiated (whether „experts‟ or „novices‟) and which “usually remain tacit for the participants of the discourse” (Sfard 2001: 13). Sfard‟s work belongs within an emerging body of mathematics education research supporting the participationist model of student learning. Her findings cohere with the extensive research conducted by Cobb and others emphasising the central importance in learning (in fact, constituting the essence of the learning itself) of students being inducted into „sociomathematical norms‟. A key attribute of these norms according to Yackel and Cobb (1996: 458) is that they constitute “normative aspects of mathematical discussions that are specific to students‟ mathematical activity”, explaining how students “develop a mathematical disposition … [with] the teacher‟s role as a representative of the mathematical community”. This notion of developing „a mathematical disposition‟ is a widely shared concept within the mathematics education community, the term being embedded in the influential US NCTM [National Council of Teachers of Mathematics] Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (1991, and subsequent versions). Mayer (1999a: 30) notes “prominent science, mathematics and technology education reform movements throughout the United States and other developed countries [are] heavily influenced by the NCTM standards”. In essence the NCTM approach is reformist in its emphasis on application, reasoning and conceptual understanding, achieved through engagement, participation and collaboration, rather than memorisation and mastery of routines. Going further and building on the Vygotskian communicational approach to cognition principle that “communication should be viewed not as a mere aid to thinking, but as almost tantamount to the thinking itself”, Sfard (2001: 1314) develops the notion of „learning-as-participation‟. She cites extensively the established communities-of-practice and situated cognition literature, including Lave and Wenger‟s (1991) seminal Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, in which the authors argue for a learning model in which students as „novices‟ are inducted into a particular learning community by graduated immersion, in the presence of existing holders of the socio-

28 cultural norms. Also cited by Sfard is Brown, Collins and Duguid‟s (1989: 32) exposition of learning as a kind of “cognitive apprenticeship … which honors the situated nature of knowledge”. Pointing to the slow pace of reform in practice, Sfard (2001) highlights that it is many decades since mathematics educators like Brownell (1935) urged a move away from a „learning-as-acquisition‟ model to a model which combined a constructivist notion of learning with a concern for deep thinking. Brownell (1935: 31) proposed that we need “full recognition of the value of children‟s experiences” and must make “arithmetic less of a challenge to a pupil‟s memory and more a challenge to his intelligence”. Sfard (2001: 18) sees effective teachers as relying on „”a set of intuitions” based on their domain-specific, discipline-framed, pedagogical content knowledge, in constructing opportunities for what she terms meaningful learning or learning-with-understanding. As a mathematics educator, Sfard‟s interest in a participationist model of learning stems from the proposition that in still prevailing „learning-asacquisition‟ models, teachers do not have well-developed techniques for identifying the cognitive reasons for students‟ failure to understand presented concepts. Testing, whether formal or informal, indicates only that there is or is not a desired level of understanding, but provides no guidance about how to get to the cause, or process of understanding. This results, at best, in the representation of the same concepts in a marginally reframed way. However, adoption of a constructivist approach does not address this problem either. Sfard (2001) presents this approach as little more that an extension of a basic knowledge-as-acquisition model, in that “acquisition may take place either by passive reception or by active construction”. In Sfard‟s (2001) analysis the dominant cognitivist approach has:
equated understanding with perfecting mental representations and defined learning with understanding as one that effectively relates new knowledge to knowledge already possessed … knowledge itself is conceptualized as a certain object which a person either possesses or not, and learning is regarded as a process of acquiring this object.

29 Sfard (2001) reports analysis of student discourse in collaborative classroom interactions to show the difficulty of getting to the root of mathematical misunderstanding, and the consequent difficulty of determining how representation of concepts can overcome misunderstanding if the causes of this are not understood. Explicitly citing the Brown et al. (1989) phrase „cognitive apprenticeship‟, Sfard proposes a „sociocultural‟ approach to pedagogy emphasising the process of interaction which leads to the student‟s alignment with the teacher and with the knowledge co-constructed in the interaction of initiated expert and novice. Sfard‟s overall body of work is concerned with the development of an approach to pedagogical research which enables convincing explanation not just description of students‟ learning activity. Part of this explanation she argues (eg. Sfard, 2001: 36) resides in the mediating role of mathematical artefacts in the learning discourse. While Sfard‟s work can be considered „reform-aligned‟ in the general education reform policy sense of emphasising relational elements of learning and the interconnectedness of learning processes, it demonstrates a more intricate level of discipline-specific grounding entailing a different notion of reform from that envisaged in generic education reform policy. This suggests the latter may be of dubious applicability to better understanding and improving pedagogy in practice. In line with Sfard‟s position, Yackel and Cobb (1996: 459, quoting Bauersfeld 1993) extend the basic constructivist learning model towards “a model of participating in a culture rather than a model of transmitting knowledge”. In this socially-grounded model, students learn mathematical know-how, in the sense of being deeply adaptive in knowing when and how to do what. In Yackel and Cobb‟s (1996: 460-464) understanding of effective mathematics classrooms students learn mathematics socio-culturally, reflexively coconstructing “acceptable mathematical activity”. This entails co-construction of shared norms about what counts as “different, sophisticated, efficient and elegant solutions”. „Difference‟ is particularly valued here as it supports students‟ „reflective activity‟ on mathematical processes. In this model, didactic „procedural instructions‟ are occasional and peripheral rather than

30 the core pedagogical methodology prevailing in conventional mathematics teaching. While their primary research interest is mathematics teaching specifically, Yackel and Cobb (1996: 460) consider that similar principles should operate in other domains, such as science and literature classes. Relevant to the current thesis is their model of teacher professional development in the form of guided small-group collaborative teacher enquiry in situ “to help them radically revise the way they teach mathematics”. This proposal rejects the prevailing reform policy approach of transplanting an imported „best practice‟ instructional model. Yackel and Cobb (1996: 467-468) propose that effective professional learning comes from teachers working collaboratively in their own work settings on changing the actual activity of mathematics, where “teachers were typically the only members of the classroom community who gave explanations”. They contend that in the absence of a deep and sustained cultural change created through close teacher collaboration, working at the level of their own classes, “children interpret traditional mathematics instruction, as arbitrary procedures prescribed by their classroom authorities – the textbook and the teacher”. To differentiate between „participationist constructivism‟ and fuzzy brands of „discovery learning‟, Yackel and Cobb (1996: 474) cite their earlier proposition (Cobb, Yackel and Wood 1992: 27-28): “given our contention that mathematics can be viewed as a social practice or community project … the suggestion that students can be left to their own devices to construct the mathematical ways of knowing compatible with those of wider society is a contradiction in terms”. Their envisaged participationist approach does not reduce the importance of the teachers‟ role; it underscores it as that of an experienced participant in a mathematical community of practice. Clement (1991: 423-426) agrees that while still “transmitting mathematical content, a major part of the teacher‟s role is seen as providing conventions for mathematical language as a tool for communication among the students”. For a skilled pedagogical practitioner this is a reflexive process: “Teachers are also

31 constructors of learning environments through their efforts to modify or construct (rather than transmit) the curriculum. The teacher also listens carefully and converses interactively with students”. However, understanding this and actually doing it are two different things. As Sfard (2001) cautions, when collaborative problem solving is claimed to be incorporated into teaching it may be operating only superficially and, in the absence of detailed discourse analysis, an impression of collaborative approaches adopted by teachers in problem-solving „conversations‟ with students may constitute an illusion of deep learning rather than an achieved reality. Overall for Yackel and Cobb, Sfard and the identifiable education community in which their work resides, education reform is subject discipline-embedded, not a disembodied activity. „Reform mathematics‟ itself is a contested forum and the term does not connote the same thing to all parties. However in the cultural participation model of mathematics education it is clear that there is at least some general alignment with generic education reform principles. Yackel and Cobb (1996: 469-473) contend that in the participationist classroom students learn “by generating their own personally meaningful ways of solving problems instead of following procedural instructions … their explanations were conceptual rather than calculational”. Their reform perspective is that “the development of intellectual and social autonomy is a major goal in the current educational reform movement, more generally, and in the reform movement in mathematics education, in particular”. Yet, a practical problem for education reform policy expectations resides in the very generality of this alignment. The current research examines the utility of generic education reform principles for change in teachers‟ discipline-specific and socio-culturally situated practice, given the micro-levels at which the specialist literature shows pedagogy must be orchestrated. 2.4 The inseparability of pedagogical reform and subject

discipline framing Challenging the notional separation of curriculum and pedagogy, Cobb, Yackel and Wood (1992: 27) propose that in skilled participationist teaching:

what is traditionally called the content could be seen to emerge in the course of the teacher‟s and the students‟ interactions as the teacher guided both the individual student‟s constructive activities and the evolution of the classroom community‟s taken-as-shared meanings and practices … knowing has a social as well as cognitive aspect in that to know is to be able to participate in a social practice.

In a witty turn of phrase Cobb, Yackel and Wood (1992: 3) dismiss the „representational‟ view of knowledge, if taken literally, as akin to a belief in „immaculate perception‟. This conception of knowledge as culturally specific and socially embedded entails rejection of the importation of generic reformist approaches into mathematics pedagogy. Citing the reform-aligned emphasis on making student learning concrete through the use of physical models as „external representations‟, Cobb, Yackel and Wood (1992: 24-25) caution that while their research findings are:
partially compatible with several other analyses of learning in instructional situations that emphasise the experiential aspects … materials typically characterized as instructional representations are of value [only] to the extent that they facilitate students‟ individual and constructive activities and thus their increasing participation in the mathematical practices.









manipulatives‟ have little or no positive effect if simply bolted on to existing practices. What follows is that “correctness does not mean conforming to the dictates of an authority … it means making mathematical constructions that have clout”. Emerging from this analysis is the importance of drawing on grounded research on learning and teachers' construction of pedagogy. In proposing this, and in endorsing „microsociological analyses‟, the authors have a far more fine-grained conception of careful pedagogical research than passes for „data-informed‟ enquiry in much of the more generic education reform discourse.3 They highlight „clashes‟ in different teaching models and a close reading of their examples raises questions about internal inconsistencies in pedagogical principles promulgated in the current Victorian education reform context, for example the reliance on the cross-discipline pedagogical leadership of principals.

See the examples provided in Chapter 6 of this thesis in Section 6.5


Cobb (2008) elaborates on the relationship between fine-grained pedagogical research and large-scale education reform policy drives. In cross-referencing reform discourses, Cobb cites Elmore [exact source not stated by Cobb] as observing that the closer policy gets to the decisive interactions between teachers and students, the less likely it is to be implemented and sustained. Reflecting on various education reform levers which have been used across jurisdictions, Cobb highlights the unanticipated obstacles encountered when centralised reform principles collide with other existing initiatives, producing conflict over priorities and resources and contributing to „policy fatigue‟. Cobb argues that it has proven difficult for centralised reform initiatives to connect with specialised „local knowledge‟ [in the cultural sense] and penetrate existing knowledge structures. Cobb argues that for reform aspirations to gain traction it is necessary to „map backwards‟ from an identified local culture agreement on what constitutes high quality instruction in any particular discipline context. Cobb cites a key figure from his own discourse community, Ball (1993), as proposing that an advance in teaching effectiveness depends on each teacher‟s professional capacity, primarily in form of deep pedagogical content knowledge, to drill down to interrogate and bring to the surface students‟ conceptual understandings. While on the surface this may sound like a form of constructivism compatible with more generic current education reform agendas, the disconnection lies in the depth of specialised discipline-specific knowledge envisaged as a necessary precondition of being brought to bear effectively on the task. Coming from a researcher situated in a specific mathematics education discourse community, what is striking is Cobb‟s (2008) emphasis on the intricate pedagogical content knowledge required by the teacher to make explicit the basis of students‟ mathematical understanding. The teacher is envisaged as making continual micro-adjustments as s/he reads and interprets students‟ mathematical reasoning in fine-grained detail. Cobb endorses the viability of educational improvement only if school and system

34 resources are directed at overcoming teachers‟ professional isolation so they develop shared specialist pedagogical knowledge. In Cobb‟s (2008) analysis this requires collaborative participation, with expert consultative guidance, to co-construct high-quality practice; it cannot be achieved merely by dispensing „best practice‟ pedagogical advice. Resourcing remains a challenge, with adequate time-release for professional collaboration a necessary, although not sufficient, condition replacing the prevailing „professional development by seminar attendance‟ approach (which itself relies on the discredited knowledge-as-acquisition model of learning). Cobb (2008) presents an optimistic view of educational reform at the finegrained level, given a reversal of the top-down “from the system to the school to the classroom” direction of reform. He identifies blockers to improvement in the form of „schisms‟ between conflicting agendas. A key claim of Cobb‟s is that a shallow emphasis on the “form rather than the function” of reformaligned indicators favoured by bureaucratic and leadership communities obfuscates the things which actually need to be addressed. Cobb (2008) provides as examples of a superficial focus on pedagogical form the generic reform policy promotion of the use of models and manipulatives and the allocation of a large proportion of lesson time to discussion, as if these constituted inherently positive developments. In policy-level reform these are promulgated without in-depth analysis or understanding of their function and outcomes in learning. Cobb argues that policy makers and their bureaucratic change agents must bring forward for identification and examination their own theories of learning. Citing the body of research of another leading member of the mathematics education specialist community, Mary Kay Stein [exact sources not identified by Cobb], Cobb argues that to be credible leadership agents must be able to demonstrate detailed content knowledge. Principal-level feedback to teachers is of little value if it is located at a surface impression level, where certain generic indicators of reform-aligned practice such as the use of student discussion groups and innovative presentation methods are assumed to constitute high quality pedagogy. Principals are placed in a difficult situation because they are not equipped to provide convincing pedagogical leadership, partly because policy can provide them

35 with only a nebulous picture of what high quality instruction actually entails in a specific domain. Mathematics teachers themselves need to acquire the shared professional discourse to account for their own instructional practices. Taking account of this overview of the fine-grained discussion of mathematics learning and teaching which is situated in the domain-specific context of the particular discipline, there are grounds for profound scepticism about a generic „transfer of best practice‟ model of pedagogical reform, mediated through principals‟ instructional leadership. The degree to which the different reform discourses connect in their conceptions of practice and of pedagogical improvement is investigated further in this current study. 2.5 Previous research on reform alignment in mathematics

pedagogy Moving from concepts of practice and models of learning underpinning the mathematics education discourse, to an overview of existing research on the question of mathematics teachers‟ pedagogical reform alignment, the complexity and richness of the field is clear. The theories of knowledge and conceptions of practice which the literature reflects are further developed in the theoretical frames to be described more fully in the next chapter. The discussion which follows on previous research on mathematics teachers‟ pedagogical approaches also gives rise to methodological considerations which are taken up in the discussion of the research methodology adopted for the current study, as described in Chapter 4. The participationist learning models of Sfard, Cobb and others already discussed are grounded in classroom discourse analysis as a method of researching how mathematics pedagogy is and could be enacted. Across a broadly-based mathematics education field there is a rich and diverse literature documenting a wide range of pedagogical research, some explicitly in relation to questions about reform policy penetration. Spillane and Zeuli (1999: 3), for example, view direct teacher practice observation and lesson

36 analysis as “an essential, though frequently neglected, component of policy implementation research”. Kennedy (1999) makes a significant contribution to the assessment of potential measures of classroom instruction when applied specifically with the aim of gauging the influence of reform policies. She examines a range of frequently advocated pedagogical research approaches in terms of “their potential to inform policymakers about policy influences on student outcomes”, leading to the conclusion (Kennedy 1999: 362) that “the best firstlevel approximation available to researchers would be classroom observation focusing on the nature of intellectual work students do in class”. As a mathematics education researcher, Kennedy (1999: 358) pursues an interest in a central problem for policy researchers:
how to document a clear path of influence that extends from policy manipulations to student outcomes. Education reform policy research must ultimately aim at better understanding how policies influence the intellectual character of classroom events and the quality of student learning.

Kennedy (1999) cites Argyris and Schön‟s (1996) foundational work on organizational learning, to be described in the next chapter, in the context of explaining that teachers‟ self-reports on their pedagogical alignment are unreliable because their „espoused theories-of-action‟ reflect the dominant discourse while their „theories-in-use‟ (ie. enacted practices) do not. From this point of view surveys can yield only very limited insight into the nature of the learning experiences provided by teachers for their students. Interview responses, similarly, must be interpreted with great caution because, as Kennedy argues (1999: 354), they “are best thought of as revealing teachers‟ espoused principles of practice; they may not reveal much about teachers‟ theories in action”. Kennedy cites as a caution Oliver‟s (1953) research finding that “the correlation between these two measures – espoused practices and observed practices – was only .31”. Spillane and Zeuli (1999) investigate how teachers deflect policy by adapting to it in ways that undermine the core intent of reform. This accords with Handal and Herrington‟s (2003) overview of an extensive range of research showing that even when teachers explicitly

37 express support for reform-aligned teaching, their actual pedagogical enactment tends to distort or deflect key reform principles. Consistent with this concern is a body of research (eg. Mayer 1999a) warning that while education reform policy relies on data purporting to „measure‟ instructional practice, data are commonly in the form teacher self-reports, through interviews or more often surveys, and their validity is dubious. Mayer (1999a: 33) cites Cohen‟s (1990) finding of teachers characteristically overestimating or overstating their own pedagogical reform alignment. After demonstrating the serious limitations of using survey-based data to establish actual pedagogical practice, Mayer suggests that surveys cannot substitute for detailed lesson observation in situ, time consuming and expensive as this may be, in order to distinguish between espoused reform alignment and alignment in practice, which may then be shown to be negligible or perfunctory. Stecher et al. (2006: 119) provide as an example of this the case of a teacher who selfreported that she was reform-oriented and presented her use of open-ended instead of multiple choice test items as evidence of this. However actual examination of her test items showed that they required only short and undeveloped correct answers to what were in reality „closed‟ questions. Freeman (1996) explains the characteristic discrepancy between self-reported and actual practice, the former being more reform-oriented than the latter, with the proposition that what people say they know may have little correspondence to what they actually know, in the sense of being able to operationalise. Teacher self-reports are “never the thing, but the version of the thing”. Usually this is not a matter of conscious misleading for a “hiddenfrom-others but known-to-self” reason. Freeman (1996) draws on the communities-of-practice theory of Lave and Wenger (1991), in particular, in arguing that participation in a discourse shared by a specific community defines who an individual is. Language can be seen as social rather than individual. “Words are not expressions of individuals, but rather statements of connection to and within … social systems”. The use of certain words and phrases connects with and constructs shared ideas which are valued by specific groups of people and in this way are an act of identification with

38 specific others forming a discourse community. As Phillips and Hardy (2002: 4) observe, “discourses do not „possess‟ meaning. Instead, discourses are shared and social, emanating out of interactions between social groups”. Of relevance to the current thesis is the proposition, drawing also on Elbaz (1991), that the ability to discern conceptual categories defined by particular discourses “constitutes power” (Freeman 1996: 736). The observed absence of specialised pedagogical terms in the „speech community‟ of teachers may be due as much to teachers‟ generally egalitarian and pragmatic attitudes as to limited specialist knowledge. However, an unanticipated consequence may be the social reproduction of a popular view of teachers as lacking a practice deserving of professional status. By contrast, those aspiring to membership of social groups which draw on an elaborate education reform discourse may employ characteristic elements of this discourse as an expression of affiliation as much as, or rather than, an expression of actual knowledge and enactment capacity. Participation in the characteristic discourses of the education reform policy community, whether located in the political, bureaucratic, school leadership or academic domains, may confer power or influence advantages to participants (Phillips and Hardy 2002: 15). This is not to imply the outcome as a deliberate motive. Discourses create social realities, which affiliated participants construct, espouse and recreate. Teachers, apart from aspiring leaders, may not identify with reform policy discourse, yet are shown by Stecher et al. (1996) to adopt it whenever seeking to demonstrate compliance with policy expectations. In any event, even if there were correspondence between teachers‟ espoused views on a policy direction and their unexpressed views, or their abilities to enact their beliefs, Kennedy (1999: 345) challenges a prevailing policy reliance on “assuming that teacher attitudes will lead to changes in student outcomes”. Teacher attitudes are very difficult to unearth anyway, but even if uncovered they don‟t necessarily connect with the nature of students‟ learning experiences which underpin learning outcomes. Kennedy employs the term „slippage‟ to highlight the very loose coupling “between espoused practices and complex student learning” (ibid). Kennedy goes on to conclude that

39 teachers‟ espoused principles of teaching bear “only a modest relation to teachers‟ likely practices and an even smaller relation to complex student learning”. In terms of transmission slippage between education reform policy and student outcomes, there are multiple disconnections. At the very least these involve discrepancies between what policy proposes for teaching intent and what teachers may believe; between what teachers believe and what they enact; and between what teachers enact and what students actually learn as a result. With regard to the desirability of „complex student learning‟ Kennedy (1999: 345) contends that while there is a general consensus on the need for high cognitive demand activities which involve “learning to engage in rigorous intellectual work … learning to reason from evidence (perhaps incomplete evidence), learning to evaluate evidence, and so forth … much more than being able to recite the main facts or rules that constitute the knowledge base in a given field”, any operational definitions of high cognitive demand learning necessarily vary markedly across disciplines. This further complicates the challenge for education reform policy research in the absence of what Kennedy (1999) considers necessary in terms of “generally agreedupon indicators of complex student learning”. Kennedy (1999: 346) concurs with the frequently voiced criticism of those who point to the coarse-grained measures of student learning provided by standardised achievement tests of the kind cited in Government and bureaucracy educational outcome measures.4 While these measures can provide a summation of overall levels of achievement in areas considered important, they cannot provide an explanation of the links between learning activity and outcomes at a usefully fine-grained level and thereby leave unchallenged “a hypothesised model of the path of influence that leads from policy to student learning”. Additionally they typically yield only a moderate correlation between the test-indicated attainment levels and measures of the

In the current Victorian context these would include the AIM or now NAPLAN standardised testing data at year levels 3, 5, 7 and 9.

40 „complex student learning‟ outcomes which are notionally the goals of espoused reform policy (Kennedy 1999: 348; 358). In reviewing a variety of research approaches to the investigation of student learning outcomes, Kennedy (1999) presents lesson observation as a „firstlevel approximation‟, compared to second, third and fourth level approximations with decreasing levels of trustworthiness. Some examples are teacher log books and lesson vignettes (second-level); espoused principles and practices from interviews or surveys (third-level); self-reports about the effect of a policy or program (fourth-level). In terms of the frequently employed „third-level‟ research approaches Kennedy argues that while they are relatively easy, and in the case of surveys inexpensive, they are vulnerable to the following critical disadvantages: espoused principles are often unrelated to practice; there may be no shared meaning of terms; there is a susceptibility to self-serving biases. Kennedy (1999: 347) also acknowledges significant pitfalls of classroom observation including that their time-consuming nature entails that “observations necessarily sample relatively small portions of the entire curriculum of any one teacher and sample only small proportions of all teachers, schools, or districts of interest”. Given this constraint, Kennedy (1999) goes on to argue that an additional limitation is the lack of an agreed focus for lesson observation and on observation instruments for achieving it “make it hard to reconcile differences in findings from one study to the next and difficult to aggregate findings across studies”. The current study heeds Kennedy‟s (1999: 347) call to “focus on aspects of instruction that might indicate complex student learning”. Newmann et al (1996) conducted lesson observation studies in mathematics and in social sciences. In their research the authors assessed classrooms for evidence of teaching that required students to actively construct knowledge; to develop in-depth adaptable understanding; and to undertake work with personal, aesthetic and utilitarian as well as academic value. Using tests of complex student learning outcomes they demonstrated “a correlation of .59

41 between [high demand] learning activities observed in classrooms and their indicator of complex student learning”. Saxe et al (1999) also found a complex student learning outcome correlation of .77 when studying the cognitive complexity of the work done by students referenced against its assessed rating using a classroom observation instrument consisting of two scales of teaching practice, representing the “continuum from traditional, rule-bound mathematics to mathematics conforming to the [reform-aligned] standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics”. In line with this research approach, the classroom observation schedule developed for the current study is original and based on dual conventional and reform-aligned scales as explained in Chapter 4. 5 With regard to the difficulty of reform policies gaining traction, even if teachers express commitment to them, Kennedy (1999: 358) cites a series of studies showing marked disparity between teachers‟ claims about their adopted practices and evidence from observers‟ independent assessments of their pedagogical orientations. While self-serving biases and susceptibility to „estimation errors‟ in their testimonies may provide some of the reason for the discrepancy, Kennedy suggests that “teachers incorporate reform ideas into their ongoing practices in such a way that the essence of the original idea is lost or distorted”. This possibility suggests a challenge for penetration into pedagogical practice of education reform prescriptions and provides a central focus for the investigation with participant teachers in the schools-based fieldwork in the present research. Cohen (2000) provides cautious optimism about the possibility of reform policy gaining traction in practice, under tightly specified conditions. Reiterating that reform policy is based on an assumed pathway connecting policy to teachers‟ practice and in turn to students‟ learning, Cohen notes that the familiar cross-jurisdictional list of instruments commonly includes the elements of revised curriculum frameworks, assessment regimes and pedagogical models for teacher guidance (with variations across place and
However it is not the intention or within the scope of this study to produce „complex student learning‟ outcome measures for cross-referencing with the classroom analyses.

42 time in the degree to which the latter are mandatory or advisory). Disconnection between policy and practice is obscured by the assumption that because policy is normative, practice will fall into line with its prescriptions. However there is slippage between policy expectations and teachers‟ espoused principles, and then between espousal and enacted practice. Cohen aligns with Kennedy‟s (1999) position on the disparity between teachers‟ beliefs and practice, claiming that while exposure to reform policy has some effect on their reported beliefs, influence on actual practice is much weaker. The nub of Cohen‟s argument is that coordinating the various instruments at government policy makers‟ disposal is extremely complex and leaves out the most essential element, teachers‟ access to deep professional learning which directly links to their own students‟ learning, in domain-specific terms. The key point in all this is that policy is generic while teacher efficacy is specific and contextualised. Cohen (2000: 315) suggests that state agencies characteristically lack the resources, including the intellectual resources, to support their reform expectations with appropriate teacher professional development. They are also impatient with the intricacies of change, which typically occurs slowly and partially. Only under conditions involving broadlybased professional action, not only or primarily state action, can even modest change be expected, with teachers incrementally blending new elements into their practice while reducing reliance on some older practices. This involves teachers gradually embedding the incorporated elements of reformist teaching, as distinct from the occasional or perfunctory performance of reform-aligned strategies. 2.6 Instructional studies within mathematics pedagogy research

From the empirical research perspective there is now a substantial body of evidence on the difficulty of establishing the degree to which reform alignment is actually occurring, which is essential for any assessment of success of the reform policy agenda becoming embedded into regular practice. As Stecher et al. (2006: 101) view the problem, while “it is difficult to evaluate the progress of the reforms (e.g. the degree of implementation) without

43 measures of instructional practice ... accurate descriptions of classroom practices to judge implementation and impact [are] difficult to obtain”. A condition for research on teachers‟ pedagogical orientation in the context of reform is clear and agreed description of the characteristics of reform-aligned pedagogy compared to the prevailing existing pedagogical approaches. Stecher et al. (2006: 104) report on their development of operational definitions of „reform-oriented instruction‟, offering their evaluations of various potential measures of it. Drawing more widely, a substantial body of policy, mathematics education and pedagogical literature can be incorporated to provide a distillation of the key features of the contrasted pedagogical approaches, the characteristics of which are quite consistently portrayed across different educational jurisdictions and curricular domains. Whether emanating from Victoria, other Australian states, or internationally, depictions of conventional and reformist constructs show a high degree of consistency even in the absence of standardised formal definitions. Conservative pedagogy is portrayed as traditional, conventional and rulebound. For example, Stecher et al. (2006: 104), define the main focus of student learning in „traditional instruction‟ in mathematics specifically, and consider that it “emphasizes factual knowledge, mastery of algorithms, and solving structured problems”. The predominant student learning behaviours derived under conservative pedagogy are detailed in Appendix A, with specifications drawn mainly from Mayer (1999a) but with many other congruent definitions published. Stecher et al. (2006: 104) consider that by contrast reformist instruction emphasises “developing conceptual understanding, solving novel or complex problems, and communicating mathematical and scientific ideas”. Reformaligned pedagogy is also based on “moving from a teacher-centred classroom to one that is centred on student thinking and reasoning” (Stein 2001: 110). Factoring in the current DEECD PoLT initiatives and the e5 instructional model promoted in the Victorian Government education reform context, reformist approaches across all discipline domains entail specific pedagogical

44 indicators as shown in Appendix A. Students‟ predominant learning behaviours under reform-aligned pedagogy can be further elaborated in the particular curriculum area of mathematics, as also indicated in Appendix A. Consistent with these conventional-reformist characterisations, Kennedy (1999) depicts conventional pedagogy as expecting students‟ learning behaviours to be non-conjectural and showing a reliance on teacher coaching to elicit a correct answer “even if a problem is phrased as a hypothetical anchored in the real world”. By contrast reform-oriented pedagogy is aimed at deep and complex mathematical thinking. In elaborating, Kennedy cites the Newmann et al. (1996) definition of authentic learning as involving knowledge constructed by students rather than given; in-depth understanding of ideas; and tasks with personal, aesthetic and utilitarian value to the student as well as academic value. Agreement on definitions is one thing, but finding suitable methods of studying pedagogy is another. Given the time-consuming nature of lesson observations using classification schedules, where observation schedules themselves can be open to concerns about validity and reliability, Stecher et al. (2006) propose the use of teaching vignettes (contextualized descriptions of classroom scenarios) to focus structured reporting by teachers on their own practice. Teachers self-rate the degree to which their own regular teaching corresponds with depictions of pedagogical approaches with varying degrees of reform-alignment in the selection of vignettes. Despite acknowledging that there is no “guarantee that teachers‟ responses to vignettes will reflect their behavior in a classroom setting”, the authors found moderate correlations with other potential measures of pedagogy and recommend vignettes as an efficient and appropriate instrument to establish pedagogical orientation. Their study arrived at this conclusion after assessing a range of pedagogyorientation measurement instruments including teacher logs. A modified use of vignettes drawn from the New Jersey Mathematical Standards support materials is undertaken in the present study, as detailed in Chapter 4. The important issue arising from this research on methodological approaches is the agreement about the difficulty of measuring pedagogy in a way that

45 enables evaluation of policy impact. Given the decision in the current research to employ a version of what Stecher et al. (2006: 102) consider „the gold standard‟ for measuring classroom practice, analysis of lesson observations (including the audio records of them), it is important to note their caveat about fine-grained classroom observation as a method. Their reservation goes beyond a concern about the difficulty, time and expense involved. They point out that lesson observation studies are vulnerable to unknown sampling errors and “might not provide an accurate measurement of the typical practices teachers use throughout the entire year. Surveys, which are quite distant from actual classroom events, are the most common way of collecting information about instructional practice on a large scale”. Surveys, in common with interviews, are not only vulnerable to respondents‟ inaccurate estimations of their use of particular teaching strategies but as Stecher et al. (2006) note they are incapable of distinguishing between quantity and quality: they may reveal something about frequency of use of reform-aligned practice but with no indication of how effectively the practice was used. An example of a large scale survey approach using lesson observation in tandem, is the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which assembles its picture of teachers‟ pedagogical practice through teacher surveys, supplemented by a „video survey‟ of teachers‟ pedagogy at work in a selection of classrooms. A report on the teaching of mathematics in Australia specifically, using the TIMSS 1999 video study material was undertaken at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) by Hollingsworth et al. (2003). In her commentary on the study, Stacey (2003: 122) concludes that generally the mathematics work in schools

“reduced to problems that are solved by statements of facts or routine

procedural work”. Labelling the prevailing approach in the observed lessons “the shallow teaching syndrome: procedures without reasons”, Stacey draws attention to “low complexity of problems undertaken with excessive repetition, and an absence of mathematical reasoning in the classroom discourse” (Stacey 2003: 119). As evidence Stacey draws attention to Australian students spending 65% of their individual work time repeating

The lessons in the TIMMS 1999 Australian study were all delivered at the Year 8 level.

46 procedures that had just been demonstrated. In fact the Hollingsworth et al. (2003) analysis found that on average 76% of problems were repetitions of previous problems, without significant conceptual variation or extension. This was the highest procedural repetition figure of the seven countries represented in the video survey. In common with most of the other countries a serious concern was that problems set tended to be rated low on procedural complexity, requiring four or fewer steps to solve (Hollingsworth et al. 2003: xviii). The authors also found little difference in procedural complexity between different student skill levels, even if higher ability students were „streamed‟ into separate classes. Hollingsworth et al. (2003) found that around 90% of the 1999 Australian mathematics lessons made use of a standard textbook or worksheet, which all the students in the class worked from, that students worked on the problems individually, rather than collaboratively, for around 75% of classroom time, and that teacher talk dominated verbal communication. They report that the ratio of teacher to all student (publicly expressed) words was at least 8:1 and most student contributions consisted of fewer than 5 words. Hollingsworth et al. (2003) measured that teachers on average apportioned about half of the total lesson time to teacher explanation to the whole class, perhaps involving a masquerade question and answer format rather than a straight lecture, to explain “correct use of the correct procedure to obtain the correct answer”. The other 50% of lesson time was devoted to „private‟ interaction in the form of procedural clarification for individuals or small groups of students, with literally 0% of all observed class time allocated to students presenting information. In the Hollingsworth et al. (2003) study, teachers identified „content‟ and „process‟ goals as the main thing they wanted students to learn, with „perspective‟ goals (such as mathematical participation) being infrequently identified. Problems involving proofs as distinct from computation of the solution were rare. More than 90% of all mathematics problems were presented to students as having only one solution, with little opportunity or encouragement to “think of and discuss other possible solutions or solution

47 methods” (Hollingsworth et al. 2003: xix). Reflecting on the findings, McIntosh (2003: 106) is blunt: “there are a lot of pretty boring, artificial, lowlevel, irrelevant mentally stifling lessons being delivered”. Drawing together from the findings a confronting thumb-nail sketch of the typical mathematics lesson in which “the teacher talks a lot … and very few connections are drawn out”, McIntosh (2003: 108) concludes with the hope that we may “do something about it”. 2.7 ‘Doing something about it’

This, of course, is the core aim of education „reform‟. However the reform agenda is spun out in different and disconnected discourse realms, including the coarse-grained domain of the political policy community, and separately in the fine-grained, discipline specific, mathematics education community. While there is overlap, there are important differences of understanding and emphasis which make the orchestration of reform a difficult and messy challenge. If we factor in the situated cognition and communities-of-practice proposition that „knowledge‟ and ways of understanding are culturally shaped, it is unsurprising that the reform agenda is viewed in incompatible ways across the different professional communities. That the different discourses acknowledge a need for reform, but envisage reform priorities and processes in incongruent ways, represents a significant obstacle to the achievement of any of the divergent reform aspirations. As Hiebert et al. (1996: 12) observe, “the confusing array of ideas on how classrooms should look leaves teachers with the difficult task of sorting out what is essential”. Given teachers‟ multiple responsibilities, including for a disciplined and safe classroom environment, it is not surprising that reform is impeded partly by concern about the unpredictable. Hiebert et al. (1996: 15) cite Dewey‟s (1926) claim that “were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked”. In this light the current „transformational‟ education reform movement (eg. Gladwell 2001; Caldwell 2004; Beare 2006) has been a long time coming. However, in

48 proposing “understanding means participating in a community of people who practice mathematics”, Hiebert et al. (1996: 16) align with a communities-ofpractice perspective ignored in policy-level generic reform agendas. Their frames of reference are grounded in a discourse community which draws together the communities-of-practice and situated cognition understandings of Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989) and Lave and Wenger (1991), for example, and the domain-specific research knowledge of mathematics education specialists like Cobb et al. (1991; 1992) and Ball (1993), whom they explicitly cite. The generic policy-level discourse will not readily align with this other more specialised and highly elaborated reform discourse. Cobb et al. (1991) are cited by Hiebert et al. (1996) as providing evidence that students who participate in a problematized curriculum develop a positive disposition towards the subject discipline, not in an abstract sense but because they come to see themselves as participants and practitioners in that particular community. The authors go on to contend that learning is best approached as a „cognitive apprenticeship‟ in which “learning is treated as enculturation into a community of practice”. They propose that the locus for change resides in the classroom; and that the required change in the culture of classrooms needs to begin with teachers themselves. An important question thrown up by this proposal is whether this kind of reform, which must be begun by teachers, can be initiated by the coarser-grained reform policy agenda and its spin-off implementation materials. At the specific level of reform penetration in mathematics particularly, again explicitly drawing on an understanding from organizational learning theory, Spillane and Zeuli (1999) are mindful of the possible gap between teachers‟ espoused principles and their „theories-in-action‟. It is not difficult to find agreement on the need for reform as an abstract proposition. However the researchers investigate the question of how effectively teachers who claim to identify with reformist pedagogical intentions actually employ reform-aligned practices in their classroom instruction. Their study aims to enable conclusions “about the relations between reform and teaching … about the progress of reform in practice”. They examine practice in 25 mathematics

49 classrooms where the teachers themselves report using pedagogical approaches consistent with reform policies, as well as claiming familiarity and agreement with reformist national or (Michigan) state mathematics standards. Spillane and Zeuli (1999: 4) consider the reformist agenda, as elaborated in the discipline-specific framing of the NCTM standards from 1989 onwards, in terms of the proposition that students must “develop the ability to engage in mathematical thinking, learn to develop conjectures, and frame and solve problems, as well as explain, justify and defend their solutions”. Spillane and Zeuli are concerned to establish the degree to which the observable practice of teachers who purport to be reform-aligned actually „resonates‟ by embedding pedagogy which engages students in high cognitive demand tasks, making what they term “real-life and meaningful mathematical connections”. They are consistent with Kennedy (1999) and others in regarding classroom observation as yielding the closest approximation to a measure of the student learning activities actually provided, as distinct from espoused by teachers. In this regard Spillane and Zeuli (1999: 1) propose as amenable to study the following classroom elements: the questions teachers pose, the materials with which students and teachers work, the ways students interact with each other and the teacher, and the intellectual material explored. Spillane and Zeuli (1999) cite previous findings (eg. Cohen and Ball 1990; Elmore et al. 1996) that teachers appear to be able to embed some reform principles more readily than others, with changes to materials used (eg. lower dependence on set text books) and the incorporation of group work being more easily accommodated than orchestration of the cognitive demand level of the work and changes to discourse patterns (what Yackel and Cobb 1996, call „sociomathematical norms‟). This is supported by Stein‟s (2001: 110) proposition that “the most difficult recommendation [of mathematics reform] to put into practice is that of orchestrating classroom discourse … Few examples or guidelines exist, however, to help teachers orchestrate such discussions”.


Until much more research in intensive classroom observation is carried out and reported there will be uncertainty not only about the degree to which teachers‟ espoused beliefs are enacted, but more fundamentally what particular elements in pedagogy need to be measured, and how. Spillane and Zeuli‟s (1999: 2) research interest is devising and testing a methodology of classroom observation, as much as the direct findings on their research question. Their research is intended to “concentrate on overall trends, leaving finer grained analysis of practice (e.g., problem-solving discourse norms) for future work”. While the authors do not explicitly consider the participationist or community of practice classroom model, they share elements of Sfard‟s (2001) framing in their emphasis on students learning mathematical sociocultural norms through participation in mathematical discourse, with learning being constructed not in the abstract but within the specifically situated context of what Spillane and Zeuli (1999: 5) term the „sociointellectual‟ environment. In this framing, and in employing the situated cognition theoretical framework of Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989), they share the overall discourse positioning of Sfard‟s body of work. 2.8 The current study placed in this context

In deciding to take up in this study Spillane and Zeuli‟s (1999: 19) call for further research to assess the effectiveness of attempts to reform pedagogy through public policy, it is important to note that the outcome of their own research on the “slow and erratic progress of reform in classroom practice … was not to spin another tale of woe about the progress of instructional reform”. Rather their research outcome was the finding that reform is difficult to implement coherently because “teaching is a multidimensional practice, and our analysis suggests that some dimensions of the practice appear to be more responsive to reform than others”. In Spillane and Zeuli‟s (1999) research, the practice of the 25 teacher participants was studied to see how closely and in what dimensions it corresponded to the teachers‟ espoused reformist principles. While the three

51 specific patterns of pedagogical reform adaptation which the researchers identified were complex in their combinations of characteristics, generally they found only partially and superficially changed practice. They concluded overall that “only 4 of the 25 teachers taught mathematics in ways that resonated with reformers‟ proposals”. These four teachers reported that the NCTM standards, with which they claimed to be „very familiar‟, were their main source of written information in planning their teaching. The authors consider that only these four teachers had actually developed “a rather elaborated and situated understanding of the reform ideas”. A different subgroup of the teachers who reported a higher level of familiarity with generic state education reform policy than with the domain-specific NCTM standards showed a lower level of effectively enacted complex reform practice. Although their “talk overlapped with the reform rhetoric … their understanding of the reform ideas was less situated, that is, grounded in principled mathematical ideas … [they] infrequently attempted, and rarely managed, to surface students‟ mathematical thinking”. Around half the teachers in the Spillane and Zeuli (1999) study represented what they term “peripheral changes, continuity at the substantive core”. These were all teachers who identified with and espoused reformist pedagogical beliefs, supporting the concern that “self-reports may be a weak proxy for the enactment of reform”. In the present research the participants did not necessarily espouse any reform-alignment at all in terms of Victorian education reform policy, and one question to be investigated is how explicitly knowledgeable about reform expectations for teachers‟ practice these Victorian teachers actually are, some five years into the Government‟s current education reform agenda. This review of existing research into the state of mathematics pedagogy reform sets the background for the current study. The research questions specified in Chapter 1 (Section 1.6) emanate from issues established in these previous investigations cited. Additionally, important methodological considerations to be discussed in Chapter 4 are raised in the concerns and cautions highlighted by these studies. Before moving to a description of the research method, however, Chapter 3 provides an elaboration of underlying

52 conceptions of practice following from the theoretical frameworks on which the current research draws, and in which much of the mainstream contemporary mathematics reform research has been shown to be grounded.

Chapter 3: Conceptions of Practice 3.1 Key conceptual lenses

Education reform is contested territory, although rhetorical work undertaken by the official reform discourse at public policy level may suggest otherwise. In exploring the landscape in which reform efforts seek to gain traction, this study foregrounds the intricate nature of teachers‟ situated professional practice, setting it against the Victorian Government‟s reform policy reliance on „transfer of best practice‟ models of pedagogical performance improvement. Education reform policy framing operates on assumptions, stated or implicit, about the nature of learning and teaching practice. In attempting to lever changes in pedagogical practice, education reform policy faces contentious and unresolved issues about the nature of teachers‟ professional practice. A key question is the degree to which prevailing education reform policy, as framed in the dominant discourse, is informed by sufficient awareness of the complexity of pedagogical change, as revealed in a proper consideration of theories about practice, to enable a clearer understanding of how teachers‟ work is actually shaped.

53 Reform policy at government and bureaucratic levels, as will be shown, generally adopts a rational-technocratic framing in its reform discourse, representing reform as an orchestrated process of identification and dissemination of best practice. However a counter-discourse holds conceptions of practice as socio-culturally embedded, primarily tacit rather than explicit and therefore highly resistant to imposed change. Given the reform policy intent to lever change in pedagogical orientation relying largely on a transfer of best practice model, it is crucial to appreciate the complexity of situated practice to investigate the degree to which education reform policy incorporates a sufficient awareness of the daunting magnitude of the pedagogical reform endeavour. The key theoretical frames used in the study to provide the conceptual lenses for the examination of pedagogical work are situated cognition, communitiesof-practice and organizational learning. Each of these is steeped in its own literature and will be explained to clarify how it contributes to the overall theoretical proposition employed in the study. This is that, like most other work practices, teachers‟ work is based on a contextualised know-how which can be expected to be pragmatic, largely implicit, and resistant to imposed canonical prescriptions or exhortations. While separate in their origins and distinct in their implications, the informing concepts share the emphasis on the tacit, sub-symbolic essence of enacted as distinct from espoused practice. Existing research on teachers‟ pedagogical work has established the importance of the situated and implicit nature of pedagogical know-how. It is a central purpose of this study to register teachers‟ accounts of the ways in which they go about making contextualised choices in enacting their pedagogical intentions. According to Easterby-Smith and Lyles (2003: 8), who take an organizational learning perspective, it is essential to uncover “the unexpressed knowledge and experiences of organizations which provide the unique competencies that cannot easily be replicated‟. Embedding organizational reform in schools and school systems is not such a neatly manageable task as policy-level ambitions suggest. This is underlined by Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin (1995: 597) in their argument that “the

54 situation specific nature of the kind of teaching and learning envisioned by school reformers is … the chief obstacle to policy makers‟ efforts to engender systemic reform”. Teaching know-how, the mediating agent of student learning outcomes, is an embedded, embodied and essentially tacit set of professional understandings constructed within the situation-specific settings of teachers‟ actual workplaces. Rebutting the prevailing approach to reforming education as “shaped and structured primarily by school systems”, Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin (1995: 600) argue that for reform attempts to have any deep and lasting effect they must “focus on teachers‟ communities of practice … and must be connected to and derived from teachers‟ work with their students”. They emphasise the crucial importance for the performance of schools of the professional decisions made by teachers for their classrooms. Accordingly they argue for an approach to reform based on developing teachers‟ consultative professional capacity. This process would acknowledge pedagogical know-how as acquired within and constructed by practitioners for use in their own contexts, rather than something to be levered through generically articulated top-down implementation. These understandings of practice are not given a central place in the prevailing policy discourse, where teachers generally are cast in the role of recipients of pedagogical prescription. By contrast, as shown in the previous chapter, the contemporary specialist mathematics education research literature does draw on the key conceptual frames to understand mathematics pedagogy as it is transacted in actual practice. The following discussion will explain this notion of practice and the key theoretical frames of situated cognition, communities-of-practice and organizational learning. Situated cognition is a useful theoretical frame for understanding that ways of knowing, seeing and doing are socio-culturally embedded. Communities-of-practice theory makes sense of how practice is shaped and shared within specific professional communities and is relevant to notions of knowing, learning and teaching. Organizational learning helps to

55 explain how agents within organizations learn to change practice and also the limits on enacted as distinct from espoused change in practice. While each of these theoretical frames has its own evolutionary history and integrity, the theories are linked by an emphasis on the implicit, tacit and socio-culturally shared know-how which practice enacts. They are employed here for their utility in establishing conceptions of practice, and for their currency in much research on pedagogy generally and mathematics teaching specifically. 3.2 Situated cognition

The notion of professional knowledge and behaviour being embodied in anything other than individuals‟ minds, albeit networked at a conscious level of professional idea-sharing in a collaborative organizational culture, can be quite difficult to grasp given the predominant Cartesian paradigm whereby knowledge, particularly at the level of professional knowledge, is generally taken for granted to be symbolic intellectual content held at a conscious level inside individuals‟ heads and then transferred by being communicated explicitly. However this basic cognitivist notion is challenged by an opposing view of cognition as a complex socially-situated cultural process. This proposition is developed in the work of Strauss and Quinn (1997), who call their paradigm “a cognitive theory of cultural meaning”, simultaneously presenting the corollary concept of a cultural theory of cognition. Their interest lies in how certain forms of „knowledge‟ become commonly shared understandings inside specific cultures. The multi-directional networked processes they delineate establish the reciprocal relationship between cognition and culture. Key writers in the situated cognition field include Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989) who mount an argument that learning and cognition are fundamentally grounded in the specific social setting, from which they are operationally inseparable. Brown et al. (1989: 32) refute the prevailing implicit assumption that “conceptual knowledge can be abstracted from the situations in which it is learned and used”, arguing instead that “knowledge is

56 situated, being in part a product of the activity, context and culture in which it is developed and used”. An explicit consequence for pedagogy entailed in the situated cognition proposition is that learning is a process of enculturation: students cannot be expected to learn to use the tools of any subject discipline separately from learning its culture. As noted in Chapter 2, this implication is considered explicitly in a body of research on mathematics pedagogy focusing on how socio-mathematical norms are developed and acquired through classroom „cognitive apprenticeship‟ in mathematical intellectual work. In precursor work in this area, Collins et al. (1989) explored the pedagogical implications of situated cognition theory in terms of authentic enculturation as both a condition for and a product of effective learning. This dimension is ignored in the prevailing education reform policy discourse at government and bureaucratic levels. Other important researchers contributing to the development of situated cognition theory include Lauren Resnick. Highlighting the socially constructed nature of knowledge Resnick (1989: 1) proffers that learning is not acquisition but rather the co-construction of knowledge in a social situation to which “learning is highly tuned”. Knowledge is retained as a residue of the learning only when embedded in a socio-cultural organising structure which elicits the knowledge performance organically and enacted as a social operation. Citing Vygotsky (1978), Resnick (1989) endorses the idea of individual thought being best viewed as a function of social participation, and is therefore aligned with Strauss and Quinn‟s (1997) proposition that cognition is inherently cultural. Resnick challenges the dominant paradigm of cognition as essentially the intra-cranial „symbolic activity‟ of individual human minds and proposes that knowledge is best conceived as the coconstructed product of social activity. In the domain of formal learning, the model which logically follows is a collaborative cognitive apprenticeship model, foreshadowing the communities-of-practice theoretical framework in which this understanding is elaborated. As noted in Chapter 2, emerging mathematics pedagogy research develops this notion in connection with the

57 modelling of socio-mathematical norms underpinning students‟ knowledge co-construction. As will be demonstrated, mainstream contemporary education policy is still predicated on an individual ownership model of knowledge, construction. In subsequent work Resnick (1991) confronts the virtual hegemony of the individual ownership perspective, noting that in the predominant paradigm cognition as a socially situated activity rather than an activity bounded within the individual brain is dismissed without consideration, as if it were a selfevident contradiction in terms. Resnick mounts an argument against the prevailing constructivist view of knowledge (itself a rejection of an even more simplistic view of knowledge as symbolic images of the real world stored in the brain and available for explicit transmission and acquisition by others) as based on a reliance on a dubiously individualist notion of „idiosyncratic‟ schemas. In putting the question of how social groups, including work groups, could function in any effectively coordinated way across the gulf entailed in the notion of individual knowledge, constructed independently, Resnick argues for the primacy of co-constructed, socio-culturally shared knowledge. She presents this position as a fundamental challenge to the cognitivist paradigm and refutes any suggestion that it is merely a marginal adjustment to take account of the social complexity of intellectual functioning. This is a pivotal point in clarifying that Resnick (1991) proposes a basic distinction between the cognitive and social views of learning. In the latter construction cognition is framed as culturally situated activity which doesn‟t reduce to „stand alone‟ symbolically represented intellectual content held in individuals‟ heads. Similarly Lave (1988: 1) argues for the indivisibility of knowledge in the head and the social world outside, so that cognition is “stretched over, not divided among – mind, body, activity and culturally organized settings”. Extending this view of cognition as not only essentially social, but also inherently distributed beyond the human actors, Hutchins (1995) proposes oblivious to this cultural understanding of knowledge

58 that our knowledge of the world is actually a contextually-supported enactment repertoire held not only across human minds but also outsourced to environmental artefacts - what Evers and Lakomski (2000: 83) term “extensions of our minds”. This understanding is represented in Rogers‟ (1997: 2) depiction of social-cognitive systems dissolving the traditional inside/outside boundaries of cognitive functioning, with cognition viewed as a socially situated activity calling into play “the interactions among a number of human actors and technological devices for a given activity”. This perspective logically results in Evers and Lakomski‟s (2000: 82) rejection of the “individual ownership model of human cognition”. This is contested ground. Some cognitivists dismiss perspectives which frame cognition as a largely tacit situated socio-cultural activity. Duncan and Weiss (1979), for example, insist that knowledge and learning obviously must be explicit or else how could they be „communicated‟? However Cook and Yanow (1996: 449) oppose Duncan and Weiss‟ position that what is learned within an organization must be “capable of being stated in terms that are in principle understandable to other members of the organization”. The nub of the dispute centres around the meaning of the word „stated‟, because what is „understandable‟ in the cognition-as-social-activity paradigm is not entirely, or even primarily, communicated and understood in explicit symbolic terms, but is part of a tacit „web of meaning‟ (Cook and Yanow, 1996: 450), powerful enough to constitute enacted shared meanings for the organization‟s members and also to enable the incorporation of new members into the organization‟s unique way of doing things - with little reliance on explicit guidelines and also little change to organizational norms and routines as a result of the assimilation. There are important implications in situated cognition theory not only for pedagogical practice but also for policy-level expectations of pedagogical change. Cook and Yanow‟s (1996) cultural proposition that professional knowledge is embedded and embodied, largely tacit and sub-symbolic, suggests that while change may take place it will be only slowly and by small incremental degrees; and certainly not rapidly or dramatically in ways readily

59 moulded by highly deliberate, externally imposed implementation designs. Cook and Yanow‟s insistence on the unique nature of every workplace entails that transferability of „exemplary‟ processes from one setting to another will be fraught with difficulty, because practices are socially and culturally embedded. Yet, as will be shown, education reform policy places reliance on the dissemination of exemplary practice. Investigating what she proposes as the culturally embedded conservatism of schools, and their consequent resistance to imposed reform processes as distinct from incremental inner change, Hannay (2003: 101) is consistent with the situated cognition frame in showing teachers‟ professional knowledge to be both tacit and pragmatic. That is, while largely unarticulated knowledge, “because it is known to work practitioners are loathe to change it, and so it is essentially conservative … here lies the difficulty in implementing and sustaining substantial change in secondary schools”. The foundational work of Jean Lave in situated cognition theory is widely acknowledged. While Lave‟s research approach is essentially ethnographic and at heart anthropological, she undertook substantial arithmetic lesson observation studies for comparison with other cognitive activities (Lave 1988). She found from these that even when presumed to be abstract and generalised, academic learning still operates as a contextualised socio-cultural activity. The inter-relatedness of the theoretical frames, despite their discrete origins, is illustrated in Lave‟s development of the concept of legitimate peripheral participation as a key element of the communities-of-practice perspective. 3.3 Communities-of-practice

Key proponents in the development of communities-of-practice theory include Lave and Wenger (1991) and Brown and Duguid (1991, 1998). In studying communities of practice and their shared culturally situated cognition, Brown and Duguid (1998: 96) propose that organizational functioning, incorporating largely informal problem-solving processes used

60 by teams, is shaped by collaborative situated practice in the form of “collective knowledge, shared sense making and distributed understanding that doesn‟t reduce to the content of individual heads”. They highlight the essentially tacit, implicit, shared experiences and understandings around which organizational practice coheres and which operate at a partially if not primarily sub-symbolic level. Emphasising the implicit nature of shared social practices, Lave and Wenger (1991) studied how novice members of informal groups gradually learn, virtually become steeped in the established group practices and become assimilated fully as members, having acquired or absorbed the know-how to participate as group members with an established, albeit tacit, status and function. In this sense the process of a community of practice accommodating new members entails a significant identity change for the incoming participant while largely preserving the cultural continuity of the community of practice itself. The process is essentially one which enables the assimilation of new members while ensuring cultural conservation. The term „community‟ in this context is used broadly without a tight definition. As Lave and Wenger (1991: 98) present the concept a „community of practice‟ in this sense does not inherently constitute a tightly bounded group “with socially visible boundaries” but rather it is “an activity system in which participants share understandings concerning what they are doing”. Central to this discussion is Lave and Wenger‟s (1991) concept of legitimate peripheral participation. Through this process, it is proposed, social actors become encultured into the complex tacit practices and norms of a working group or collective. Newcomers and novice members observe and are gradually inducted into the processes of the work construction, which are inherently social. The cultural continuity of the group is maintained by this process of peripheral participation, a form of graduated entry into the tacit organizing culture of the work practices, in effect a form of „cognitive apprenticeship‟.

61 Brown and Duguid (1991) examine the importance of informal group processes such as the use of shared narrative and institutional myths rather than an organization‟s canonical statements of policy and procedures in determining how real work in an organizational setting is actually shaped and gets done. They emphasise the informal collaborative learning-how-to-do processes within culturally-connected work groups, for learning, for the production of organizational know-how and for situated innovation. Calling his own approach „ethnographic‟, Orr (1996) argues for the importance of shared narratives and other implicit cultural elements in workplace cultures, in which informal situated knowledge is used to get the job done. Orr finds multiple complementary or contradictory discourses existing side-by-side in organizational contexts, with various operational level discourses coexisting with the official discourses. Explicit managerial discourses are disconnected from pragmatic decisions enacted in work practices. This discrepancy is reflected in counter-discourses, often in narrative form, which enable resistance and help to enact the membership identities of the participants. The emphasis on cultural resistance to the officially sanctioned processes and to imposed change entailed in the communities-of-practice perspective is convincing as an explanation of failed reform drives, but it is vulnerable to the criticism that it is latched onto as a theoretical justification for countercultural anti-managerial romanticism. Cox (2005: 533) observes the key case studies used in developing the seminal communities-of-practice propositions “have a flavour of resistance to authority, almost of organizational misbehaviour”. It is interesting in this light that there is an inescapable dimension of ideological positioning in the framing of the communities-ofpractice perspective. Alongside the suggestion that the communities-ofpractice perspective has provided a basis for appeal to anti-establishment and antileadership proclivities and has continued to gain a following while generally lacking adequate functional definition, Cox (2005) argues that there is a tussle over the application of the concept in organizations and over the ways in which and in whose interests the theory can be pressed into service.

62 Noting emergent attempts to annex the communities-of-practice approach, very uneasily in his view, to the service of managerialist goals, Cox (2005) considers it a paradoxical notion that employee collaboration, arising in part out of worker alienation and resulting in the evolution of a community-ofpractice as a nurturing and sustaining habitat for workers, can somehow be turned into a tool of management. Yet, according to Cox (2005: 527), this is what is envisaged in the fundamental redefinition of the concept which puts “the proposition that managers should foster informal horizontal groups across knowledge boundaries”. Cox sees this position as entailed in Wenger‟s later writing (Wenger et al. 2002), which applies the communities-of-practice schema to the objectives of organizational management. Cox‟s (2005) account of the evolution of the communities-of-practice perspective into a widely accepted and indeed orthodox element in the organizational management „toolbox‟ is a plausible and engaging critique. However, while change-scepticism may not be an inherent condition of applied communities-of-practice theory, it entails a perspective on organizational change which takes more sophisticated account of cultural constraints than conventional managerialism generally admits. Wenger (1998)7 emphasises the mutual engagement of members as the defining quality of a community of practice, along with the features of mutually defining identities, shared discourse, unifying narratives and locally invented repertoires. These repertoires of practice are resilient and enduring, allowing finely graduated adaptations or even maladjustments to conditions but resisting fundamental change. In privileging locally produced practice over „canonical‟ policies and procedures, Brown and Duguid (1991) straddle the fields of communities-ofpractice and organizational learning. They call their work „Organizational Learning and Communities-of-Practice: Towards a Unified view of Working, Learning and Innovation‟. In this they foreshadow the substantial organizational learning work of Argyris and Schön (1996) in equating
Wenger (1998) abandons the earlier concept, developed with Lave, of legitimate peripheral participation.

63 „canonical‟ practice with espoused practice compared to the actual practices “that determine the success or failure of organizations” (Brown and Duguid 1991: 59). This focus on work in organizational contexts, and the communityof-practice as the locus for and agency of any changes in the work itself, makes their research relevant to the study of professional work in institutional contexts, as undertaken in the current investigation. Whereas much other research in the field particularly emphasises the cultural conservation and therefore change resistance effects of communities-ofpractice, Brown and Duguid (1991: 60) express their concern to study them as „sites of innovating‟, viewing organizational learning as “the bridge between working and innovating”. However, in emphasising from the communities-ofpractice perspective that learning in an organization does not occur by the transmission of explicit abstract knowledge but rather by social participation embedded in the contextualised mutual negotiation of work practices, the authors advocate a focus on the more subtle and tacit elements when analysing how collaborative work is shaped and enacted and how it might be subject to change. This approach is taken up in the present study. There is certainly a tension, if not as Cox (2005) claims a „paradox‟, in proposing to contrive and control communities-of-practice as agencies for achievement of deliberate organisational intention. Communities-of-practice exist and are effectual, but whether their effects can be guided to serve official imperatives remains an unresolved question. Certainly in their emphasising of the gap between “espoused and actual practice”, Brown and Duguid (1991: 7477) note endemic “organizational tendencies to resist enacting innovation”, and propose recognition of communities-of-practice within organizations, and the orchestrated strengthening of their innovative capacity, as the only possible path to viable change in organizational practice that can actually work. On the basis of the investigation conducted, to be reported, this view finds an echo in the thesis conclusion. In closing this section it is important to note that the current study explores observed practice through the lens of communities-of-practice theory in two

64 separate frames. Teachers‟ professional work is studied in terms of the ways in which and degree to which it is collaborative and appears to be supported by a developed community of practice operating in their work environments. Separately the lesson observations seek to establish the ways in which and the degree to which student learning is framed within classroom communities of practice of the kind envisaged by researchers in mathematics education, such as Cobb and Sfard, detailed in the previous chapter. 3.4 Organizational learning

The preceding sections establish the considerable overlap of key concepts in the situated cognition and communities-of-practice fields. By contrast organizational learning, while developing common aspects such as emphasis on the importance of the tacit elements of practice, has its grounding in a pragmatic managerial intention. Key proponents include Argyris and Schön, noted for their influential body of work on organizational learning consolidated in 1996. As researchers who set out to assist improvement in organizational practice they moved to the „reluctant‟ conclusion that there is much greater difficulty in reforming the elusive taken-for-granted practices within an organization, which define the organization‟s characteristics and actual performance, than there is in just achieving some limited modification to a specific routine. In their organizational learning work Argyris and Schön (1996) pose the key question: “What is an organization that it may learn?” Learning is a capability generally ascribed to individual beings, but not commonly ascribed to organizations. This is because individuals obviously have a physical brain, while organizations do not. From a cognitive perspective learning is most commonly seen as an intra-cranial process leading to a change in an individual‟s knowledge, skills and understanding as a result of the processing of experience within the individual‟s own mind or, more strictly speaking, own brain. If this is so, then certainly the individuals who comprise an organization may learn, and in communicating their changed knowledge to others within their organization they may bring about a change in

65 organizational practices, procedures and even culture. Nevertheless it may be argued at the taken-for-granted common sense level that the organization itself cannot be said to learn, independent of the sum-total of the individuals‟ learning. However, Cook and Yanow (1996) demonstrate the inability of a cognitivist perspective to yield an understanding of the means by which organizations can accomplish complex and demanding tasks beyond the capability of the individuals composing them, either severally or conjointly, except within the context of the organization itself. As Cook and Yanow (1996: 438) define it: “Learning is related to knowing … it is the act of acquiring knowledge … when a group acquires the know-how associated with its ability to carry out its collective activities, that constitutes organizational learning”. Acknowledging that individual cognition is a necessary condition for organizational knowledge and learning within an organization, Cook and Yanow find that it is not a sufficient condition to explain organizational learning. They argue that to understand what capabilities for learning organizations possess, we must not look to an inapplicable notion of cognitive capacity but to what organizations actually do have: a social construct. According to Cook and Yanow (1996: 440) this social construct is expressed as an organizational culture which entails socially shared “values, beliefs and feelings, together with the artifacts of their expression and transmission (such as myths, symbols, metaphors, rituals) that are created, inherited, shared and transmitted within one group … [and] distinguish that group from others”. This explains why every organization or division of an organization knows and learns in a unique way, why learning may involve a preservation of behaviour rather than changed behaviour, and why organizational learning cannot be understood adequately through cognitivist or behaviourist perspectives. Cook and Yanow (1996) insist that their case for taking a cultural perspective on organizational learning is not based on presupposition or a predisposition to favour any particular perspective on conceptual grounds; rather, that organizational learning when actually examined is demonstrably more explicable in cultural than cognitive terms and is distinct from and largely

66 unaffected by the cognitive learning of individuals in the organization. Cook and Yanow‟s work establishes that organizations acquire capacities for action which transcend the conscious or intended learning of members. As Cook and Yanow (1996: 430) frame the proposition: “there is something that organizations do that may be called organizational learning that is neither individuals learning in organizations nor organizations employing processes akin to learning by individuals”. Organizational learning is a decisive force impacting on enacted behaviour. However, it is not readily amenable to deliberate and conscious control with planned intentionality. Given that organizational knowledge capacity and that for task performance represents organizational changed

organizational knowledge represents organizational learning, and in so far as these capacities are held by an organization in ways which are distinguishable from the cumulative and explicitly communicated knowledge and learning of individuals within it, Cook and Yanow are among the body of research scholars who propound that a social orientation or cultural perspective must be adopted to understand organizational learning. While organizational learning theory is thus inextricably tied to the cultural approach, rearguard actions are fought in defence of a cognitive perspective, as Cook and Yanow (1996: 125) themselves attest in quoting Simon (1991) who defends the cognitivist position this way: “All learning takes place inside individual human heads; an organization learns … by the learning of its members … or by ingesting new members who have knowledge the organization didn‟t previously have”. In arguing for a cultural perspective, Cook and Yanow (1996: 431) clarify that they propose their approach as “a complement to, not a substitute for, the cognitive perspective”. They acknowledge that the cognition of individuals, and processes within the organization which in some respects resemble the cognitive processes of individuals, act as agents of organizational knowledge and organizational learning. However they insist that cognitive processes are a misleading construct when applied to interpretations of organizational learning, and are better seen as components of essentially social, and largely sub-symbolic,

67 systems of knowing and learning. Quoting Vickers (1976), Cook and Yanow (1996: 448-449) clarify that rather than assuming individual cognition to be the primary point of focus, the cultural perspective focuses on groups of individuals as social entities moving within “a net of expectations … [from the organization‟s] explicit constitution to the most subtle mutual understandings between its members”. Organizational knowledge is to be understood as embedded in organizational practices and embodied in the contextual totality of the work enacted in situ: “What is known is known and made operational only by … individuals acting in congregate”. In so far as learning represents a change in knowledge, Cook and Yanow (1996: 449) define organizational learning as “acquiring, sustaining, or changing of intersubjective meanings through the artifactual vehicles of their expression and transmission and the collective actions of the group”. Cook and Yanow‟s insistence on the unique, because socially embedded, nature of every organization‟s knowledge, entails that transferability of understandings based on generic principles, and their deliberate application to drive change in practice and performance outcomes, are likely to fail. Approaching organizational learning from communities-of-practice theory, Wenger (1998: 47) insists that organizational learning requires far-reaching and at points subtle change, beyond the conscious knowledge held in organizational members‟ heads, in the “language, tools, documents, images, symbols, well-defined roles, specified criteria, codified procedures, regulations and contracts … implicit assumptions, tacit conventions, subtle cues, untold rules of thumb, recognizable intuitions, specific perceptions, well-tuned sensitivities, embodied understandings, underlying assumptions, and shared world views”. This is an elusive list of elements for intentional reform to orchestrate sufficiently to implement substantive change of a deep and sustainable order. In line with this caveat, Fiol and Lyles (1985) emphasise the point that organizational learning runs on a different track from planned organizational improvement. Consistent with this, EasterbySmith and Lyles (2003: 10) caution that while it may be “desirable to maximize the efficient use of knowledge in organizations … there are substantial, largely human, obstacles in its way”.


It is the complexity of this challenge which underlies Argyris and Schön‟s (1996) observation that in several decades of research and consultancy they never encountered a single example of what they term organizational deuterolearning, or a higher level development in the organization‟s learning how to learn. Change in what Argyris and Schön call single-loop learning when confined to a simple procedural change or double-loop learning when it involves some change in organizational norms or mindsets can be orchestrated only up to a point. In terms which resonate with Wenger‟s (1998) list, Argyris and Schön (1996: 16) propose that restricted lower level change in practice, which requires sustained managerial effort to achieve, can‟t be considered organizational learning in the sense of reforming organizational practice by becoming “embedded in the images of the organization held in its members‟ minds and/or the epistemological artifacts … embodied in the organizational environment”. In this sense organizational learning theory is important in helping to explain the complexity of organizational behaviour and performance and account for the often observed enduring regularities of practice.8 Consistent with March‟s (1991) argument that organizations store knowledge in the form of an implicit organizational code which constitutes a shared mental model, Argyris and Schön (1996: 16) propose that a lower level modification to practice, or what they term “organizational theory in use”, is

Levitt and March (1988) see organizational inertia as resulting from a tendency to develop stable patterns of behaviour which allow lower-level incremental change while resisting higher level reform. „Competency traps‟ inhibit organizational learning through members accumulating more and more experience with sub-optimal or even maladaptive practice, thereby reinforcing it and rendering it resistant to change. According to Pfeffer (1977), organizations acquire enduring strengths and weaknesses in the form of a culture with a web of characteristics resistant to deep, sustained change. In line with this, Hedberg (1981: 3) argues “as individuals develop their personalities, personal habits, and beliefs over time, organizations develop worldviews and ideologies … organizations‟ memories preserve certain behaviours, mental maps, norms, and values over time”. Organizations acquire embedded patterns of practice which admit, at most, gradual incremental change while more ambitious reform efforts are avoided or deflected. Argyris and Schön (1996) identify the powerful effects of organizational „defence routines‟ which deflect change while simultaneously espousing adoption, avoiding conscious acknowledgment of any discrepancy. Avoidance techniques embedded in the psycho-social dynamics of organizations ensure that open acknowledgment of discrepancies between members‟ espoused theories and enacted theories-in-use remains taboo.

69 not sufficient to denote organizational learning as it does not change the mental maps on which practice is based and enacted. According to Argyris and Schön these mental maps operate at two levels often in conflict with one another. The espoused theory is a representation of what individuals believe ought to guide action, but it is their unexpressed (ie. not openly articulated) theory-in-use which holds the mental maps on which action is actually based. The essential challenge for Argyris and Schön in building productive organizational learning is to change the ways in which organizational enquiry is approached, in order to bring to consciousness the latent beliefs that underlie action and to close the gap between espoused theory and organizational theory-in-use. However, this task is an extremely difficult one characteristically underestimated by reformers who are then frustrated by what they perceive as unexpected and unreasonable resistance to change efforts. Beyond the primarily unconscious collusion in avoiding recognition of incongruence between espoused belief and actual practice, because of potential conflict situations over organizational theories of action or potentially embarrassing situations over interpretations of performance, avoidance behaviours are common to organizations. This is a complex phenomenon which is clarified in Argyris‟ subsequent work. Having established in the 1996 organizational learning publication the changeresistant power of entrenched organizational defensive routines, Argyris (1999: 166) further highlights their inhibition of the capacity of organizations to recognize and confront potentially creative conflicts of ideas and to produce alternative scenarios and paradigms: “Organizational members normally bypass threats and embarrassments whenever possible, act as if they are not bypassing them, do not discuss the bypass while this is happening, and do not discuss the undiscussability of the undiscussable”. Establishing the paralysing effects on organizational learning of defensive routines such as attribution and skilled incompetence, Argyris (1999: 7) puts the difficulty of overcoming them very starkly: “defensive routines – whether at the individual or organizational level – are powerful. Efforts to „outlaw‟ them, or bypass them

70 with new structures, new value statements, new policies, or new incentives do not work”. That organizational learning is difficult to orchestrate and not readily controllable is also suggested by Cook and Yanow‟s (1996) proposition that in pursuing a modification to practice an organization may deepen and entrench its fundamental culture and in this sense it may learn to preserve rather than to change practice.9 The point is reinforced by Huber (1996) and again by Argyris and Schön (1996) in their caution that it must not be assumed that organizational learning can be deliberately controlled, or is necessarily constructive. An organization may learn false concepts, maladaptive strategies and inappropriate skills. Directing, controlling and containing the outcomes of organizational learning may defy attempts at orchestration. As Dodgson (1993: 377) notes, while learning will occur throughout all the activities of an organization, “it occurs at different speeds and levels. Encouraging and coordinating the variety of interactions in learning is a key organizational task”. However, the required coordination is enormously complex and difficult. To sum up the relevance of organizational learning theory for the current study, Argyris and Schön‟s (1996) distinction between organizational members‟ espoused theory and their theory-in-use is applicable in the sense of understanding how the concept of organizational learning theory helps to explain the failure of ostensibly widely supported change ideas gaining real traction in practice. In their concept theory of action Argyris and Schön draw attention to the espoused purposes and processes of an organization which may bear little resemblance to how it operates in practice, in that there is likely to be a considerable and undiscussed gap between the explicit articulation of organizational purposes and norms and the actual, only tacitly revealed, reality of organizational practice: that is, the theory-in-use.

In Cook and Yanow‟s (1996) study of fine-grained change in organizational knowledge, they found small modifications in practice could be implemented successfully only if grafted onto existing procedures within an established community of practice, and whenever this was achieved the existing community of practice was strengthened rather than undermined. This point is revisited in Chapter 7.


Applying this understanding to the professional practice of teachers specifically, Ogawa (2003: 35) reports that “research on teacher narrative suggests that teachers conceal and obscure inconsistencies between policies and their classroom lives”. Ogawa (2003: 31-32) argues that in the discrepancy between the overtly espoused and the „sacred and secret stories‟ of teachers‟ professional activities, the former yields to the rhetoric of powerful institutional agencies, including government and bureaucratic-level policy, while the latter reveals the real and “intensely social nature of teaching [where] teachers utilize social relations to accomplish their instructional purposes”. In the application of organizational learning perspectives to pedagogical policy and practice it is perhaps not self-evident what one takes the „organization‟ to be. In the current study the Victorian Government‟s education reform policy is seen as directed at levering institutional change to produce „organizational learning‟ at system level in, to cite Ogawa (2003: 28), „the core technology‟ of schools, teaching. In this framing, teachers may be seen as constituting the professional community of practice in which the organizational learning must be embedded. Ogawa (2003: 34) urges that it is unwittingly destructive of reform intentions that the situated nature of schools‟ organizational knowledge, mediated by teachers‟ professional communities of practice and embedded in unique organizational cultures, is marginalised from the dominant reform discourse. This theoretical perspective needs to be taken into account in the present study, because it is aimed at uncovering and interpreting the participant teachers‟ accounts of their professional practice, and their attributions of influences on it in their own organizational contexts. An important question in the current study concerns the „organization‟ in which teachers‟ professional practice may be seen to be embedded. Is it the individual school, the teaching profession as a whole, a particular sub-set of it, an individual faculty or team within a specific school, a school system, or some other locus of affiliation and connection? Analysis of the participant teachers‟ discourses

72 as well as observation of the settings of their pedagogical practice will help to cast light on this question. The study seeks to establish to what degree teachers‟ pedagogy currently is shaped as collaborative and self-reflective practice in a professionally supportive cultural environment. Argyris and Schön‟s (1996) organizational learning research demonstrates that creating the requisite level of openness and trust for organizational improvement is not easily achieved. 3.5 How the inter-related theories connect with the purpose of

the study It is apparent from the preceding sections that the discrete theoretical frameworks share particular emphases which are important for the present research. In fact a substantial body of existing research moves freely across the theories, drawing on the common elements. Brown and Duguid (1991) themselves directly inter-relate organizational learning and communities-ofpractice. In terms of the current research, a key proposition flowing from the theories described is that, despite policy ambitions to the contrary, it is inordinately difficult to orchestrate reform of practices deliberately, when the practices are embedded through implicit, culturally-mediated and sociallydistributed processes. Reservations about the viability of policy-driven transformational reform ambitions are suggested in all the theories: organizational learning, sociallysituated cognition and communities-of-practice. All give rise to a central claim for this research: any attempt at school reform which does not take into account the embedded, embodied and largely tacit nature of the pedagogical work of teachers will inevitably assume an over-simplified and rationalmechanistic recipe approach, incapable of producing deeply-rooted change for improvement. The relevant common thread linking the theoretical frameworks is their emphasis on practice, including professional practice, being mediated by knowledge which is at least partially if not primarily subsymbolic. Because it is tacit rather than explicit or codified knowledge, teachers‟ pedagogical knowledge is problematic in terms of its limited

73 amenability to being radically changed by ambitiously orchestrated transformational reform initiatives, as distinct from modest and gradual incremental adjustment. It is counter-productive in practice, then, that characteristically policy level reform drives are based on belief in the transferability of identified „exemplary practice‟ through generic recipe-style dissemination. Paradoxically this rational-technocratic approach is commonly accompanied by an uplifted rhetorical appeal to a highly idealised, charismatic vision of transformational reform. Beare (2006: 11), for example, deploys the diction associated with a morally charged discourse when proclaiming that “a new imaginary about learning and schooling is gathering prodigious power across the globe”. Similarly Caldwell (2004: 39) attaches a lofty dimension to transformational reform when he declares it “a noble pursuit” and appropriates the value-laden descriptor „mission‟ to denote its high moral purpose. Although Caldwell (2004: 57) acknowledges that processes in sharing knowledge and understanding are sometimes “messy and complex”, those subscribing to deliberately orchestrated reform processes generally rely on explicit knowledge generation and the subsequent transfer of identified best practice. By contrast, the key informing theories in this current research emphasise culturally mediated rather than linear-rational aspects of group and organizational functioning, stressing the dominance of tacit, sub-symbolic (subconscious) processes in confounding conscious reform attempts, and often in maintaining a status quo, even if this stasis is sub-optimal in terms of reform visions. These particular theoretical frames have been selected because of their strong currency in published research on teachers‟ practice in a policy analysis context and because collectively they have considerable explanatory power to account for the commonly noted disconnection between the aspirations and the actual achievements of education reform policies. As noted in the previous chapter, the relevance and utility of the theories is evidenced by their incorporation into the specific contemporary research discourse on mathematics education and pedagogical reform. By contrast

74 policy-level discourse on education reform generally ignores these somewhat „inconvenient‟ theoretical frames. Taken together and extracting their common emphasis on the resilience of embodied and embedded tacit knowledge, the situated cognition, communities-of-practice and organizational learning theoretical frames

explain why reform initiatives imposed from outside the workplace culture of schools are likely to be „successfully‟ resisted (even if this is maladaptive). They are unlikely to prevail over the long-term unless the culture of the workplace at the „grass roots‟ level of teachers‟ regularised practice in their distinct socio-cultural and physical settings is directly engaged and connected. The theoretical perspectives have considerable explanatory power in establishing why reform efforts face considerable difficulties even in the absence of any strong conscious resistance or any deliberate sabotage. The present study is intended to cast light on what policy directions could more productively be pursued, beyond transformational rhetoric, to build schools‟ educational capacity by aligning improvement efforts with a better understood and appreciated picture of teachers‟ situated professional practice. The research seeks to establish to what degree and in what ways this awareness is reflected in current Victorian Government school reform efforts, given that its policy reliance on levering change through the instruments of leadership and best practice models still suggests a continuation of the difficulty in policy penetrating deeply into practice. The research seeks to assess the implementation of the Victorian Government‟s education reform agenda in this light. The review of the key theoretical frames in this chapter suggests that teachers‟ professional practice needs to be viewed as a primary locus of schools‟ improvement, rather than being viewed as merely a mediating variable or even as the actual impediment to reform which must be dragged reluctantly forward by centralised reform policy initiatives. Research supports the centrality of “teachers‟ professional community in restructuring schools” (Louis et al. 1996: 757). Crowther et al. (2001) propose that viable

75 school reform can be achieved only through enlisting the power of teachers‟ professional communities of practice. The current study aims to establish how teachers perceive, experience and respond to implementation of the education reform agenda. The following chapter describes how the research was conducted.

Chapter 4: The research method - what was studied, how and why 4.1 The context of the research design

Education reform is increasingly focused on changing pedagogical practice at the classroom level. This policy impact analysis is designed to enable observation and description of the learning experiences devised for students by teachers in order to assess the degree of alignment between actual practice and the preferred pedagogical orientation specified or implied in education reform prescriptions.

76 To assess any gap between policy expectations and enacted practice it is necessary to devise techniques for the examination of both policy and practice. The former is undertaken in this study primarily through inspection of publicly available government policy documentation and the elaboration of policy in associated official publications. In Victoria these are mainly published by offices within the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) or the predecessor Department of Education and Training (DET). Education reform policy documents and associated material emanating from the Government‟s specific reform action plans (commonly referred to as The Blueprint and Blueprint 2) are core references for identifying reform-aligned pedagogy. Additionally, the study involves interviews with authorised policy officers, proponents and commentators. Teaching practice is investigated in parallel using a range of methods including direct lesson observation, teacher surveys, and interviews with teachers and designated school leaders. The research is a mixed methods study in policy impact analysis. The key research question is: to what extent are teachers shaping their pedagogical practice in ways which are aligned with the expectations of education reform policy, and why? This question is investigated in a policy setting, at the time of conducting the main field research during 2008 and 2009, some five years into the Victorian Government‟s official education reform policy agenda. The methodology is in part naturalistic, entailing field study and close description of the pedagogical practice of a constructed sample of twelve teachers in six different government secondary schools. Discourse analysis techniques (Wood and Kroger 2000), to be outlined separately, are used to interpret the mental models (Johnson-Laird 1980) of teaching and of education reform policy constructed in the discourses of different policy communities, such as teachers, designated school leaders, policy framers and specialist academics. In terms of the research question, in some ways it is helpful to see the present study as separated into „measurement‟ procedures addressing the first part of the question, and the more interpretive procedures addressing the „why?‟ part of the question. This is a useful but imperfect distinction, as design of the

77 pedagogical measuring instruments themselves involves application of criteria drawn from interpretations of the pedagogical characteristics considered relevant to the research question. Nevertheless it is reasonable to consider the direct lesson observations in the study as relatively objective and amenable to some limited use of descriptive statistics. The lesson study procedure represents an attempt to achieve what Kennedy (1999: 362) considered “the best first-level approximation” to studying student learning: observing the kinds of work provided for students to do in class and analysing the classroom discourse. The research design entailed developing an original classroom observation schedule to enable the objective rating of observed lessons on conventional and reform-aligned pedagogy scales. The research required close observation and description of an adequate number of classroom lessons, manageable within the time and resource constraints of a single-researcher doctoral study. During the initial design phase a number of around 20 lessons was considered an appropriate target. As the research developed the final target number was set at 24 lessons, and this ended up the number of lesson observations actually achieved. Notwithstanding the value of direct instruction study (Kennedy 1999; Stecher et al. 2006) a limitation of the intensive observation required is that the restricted number of lessons which can be included on practical grounds raises serious representativeness issues. These are discussed in the next section. Supplementary teacher surveys, while more time-effective, yield more limited kinds of data and are vulnerable to self-rating and attribution errors. In different ways this limitation applies to the interview component of the study also. These research limitations are considered in Section 4.10 of this chapter. The two original instruments devised for this research are the classroom observation schedule; and the survey of prevailing instructional practices using 20 items to be scored by mathematics teacher respondents on a Likertscale. These instruments are shown as Appendix B and Appendix C respectively. As discussed elsewhere, the interviews were semi-structured and

78 the interview schedules in Appendix D provide a general indication of the intended lines of enquiry. In investigating the degree of teachers‟ pedagogical reform alignment, for the reasons explained in the previous chapters, it was decided to provide a degree of commonality about curriculum content to enable closer concentration on the pedagogical elements of lessons. Because of the priority of numeracy (along with literacy) in education reform policy cross-nationally, and because of the relatively high consistency in mathematical curriculum content across educational jurisdictions, the decision was made to focus on mathematics pedagogy. As Stecher et al. (2006: 106) put much the same research point, with regard to elementary school mathematics, area and perimeter and 2-digit multiplication content, for example, “because they are common to almost all fourth-grade mathematics curricula”, can provide mathematics curriculum control so the lens can be turned on the pedagogical approach specifically. This orientation to a mathematics focus in the research was reinforced by a substantial body of research, reviewed in Chapter 2, demonstrating an interest in the traction of reform efforts in mathematics specifically. In the present study the particular focus is on secondary (compulsory years) mathematics. It was intended to find out what sorts of mathematics learning experiences are being orchestrated for students by teachers in Victoria and to establish the degree to which the observed teaching approaches represent an alignment with reformist pedagogical principles. It is important to reiterate that in this sense the study is only instrumentally, and not as its core purpose, concerned with mathematics education particularly; it is not the intention to produce specific recommendations for improved mathematics teaching. Curriculum settlements occur in complex contested landscapes, mathematics curricula and pedagogy being no exceptions. Additionally, despite a popular image of mathematics teaching as particularly conservative, there is a vast body of theory and research on curriculum and pedagogy issues in mathematics education which makes mathematics especially fertile ground for a study of pedagogical reform. Recognising this, Stecher et al. (1996: 112), for

79 example, in evaluating methods of instructional study using direct classroom lesson observation, discriminate between examining pedagogy in terms of “Mathematical understanding: extent to which the teacher facilitated deeper mathematical understanding”, on one hand, and simultaneous examination on the other hand of “Overall reform: extent to which the lesson embodied selected elements of reformed teaching”. Given the necessity of narrowing the focus sufficiently to enable a focus on pedagogy by „controlling‟ the variable of curriculum content area, this study cannot make claims about the degree of reform-alignment in other subject learning areas. However, describing the research approach thoroughly will enable adaptation of the study design to investigation of pedagogical practice in other subject domains. The underpinning theories on which this research draws suggest that many of the situated factors which shape teachers‟ pedagogical practice in mathematics could be expected to apply, albeit with subtle sub-cultural differences, to teaching in other discipline areas. Within the constraints of an essentially naturalistic study design, in the sense of working in collaboration with participants in their own work settings, only a small number of teacher participants could be included for observation. Ultimately it was decided on practicability grounds to work with two teachers in each of six government secondary schools and observe two full lessons (varying from 45 to 70 minutes duration) with each teacher, while spending additional informal time with each participant in their working environment, and also formally interviewing them on three separate occasions using a semistructured approach with a particular focus on their pedagogical planning and decision making. This „sample‟ of two lessons per teacher does not purport to be a representation of that teacher‟s pedagogical repertoire. While Kennedy (1999: 347) notes that variance in establishing the nature of student learning orchestrated by a teacher is reduced by around 20% when two lessons are observed rather than one and is further reduced as additional lessons are included, within the scope of this current research going beyond the two lessons per teacher was not practicable.

80 In focusing on middle-secondary mathematics teaching as a particular „case‟ in assessing the degree of observable pedagogical reform-alignment it was decided to include only government secondary schools because, as The Blueprint explicitly acknowledges, “In Victoria, the large majority of people are educated in our government schools” (DET 2003: 1). Moreover government schools are more directly exposed to policy demands, whether involving explicit compliance measures or „lighter touch‟ policy expectations than are non-government schools.10 4.2 Sampling and representativeness issues

Six schools, the maximum realistic target number for the intensive site-based research in the present study, are not anywhere near sufficient to constitute a representative sample of government schools, even if selected randomly. Moreover, for practical reasons in this study it was necessary to select from schools whose principals were willing to consent to an invitation to be made to members of their teaching staffs to consider participating in the research. Schools were included on the basis of availability, what Freebody (2003: 78) terms “expedient selection”, through professional networking with principals thought likely to consent. This pragmatic approach to selection of schools was necessary and justifiable, provided no invalid claims are made to representativeness. A necessary and achievable proviso was that the included schools would come from a number of different demographic areas around metropolitan Melbourne and would also include at least one non-metropolitan (semi-rural) school, so as to be not self-evidently a skewed selection. No school would be included if it was obviously atypical; for example, one of the few single-sex or academically selective government secondary schools, or a school with an

It should be noted that whereas The Blueprint was concerned with the education reform agenda for government schools specifically, Blueprint 2 explicitly foreshadows increasing levels of what it terms accountability across the sectors. The size of the non-government sector relative to government schools grew marginally in the five year period between the two Blueprints. When Blueprint 2 was released in 2008, with 36% of enrolments in primary and secondary education combined non-government sector provision was significantly larger in Victoria than in most comparable jurisdictions beyond Australia.

81 exceptional enrolment profile such as an unusually high proportion of students from recently arrived migrant or refugee backgrounds. Any school where an existing relationship with the researcher could affect participants‟ ability to give free consent or participate as unguardedly as possible, or where it could potentially bias observations and interpretations, was not considered. The researcher is an experienced teacher and head of the secondary campus of a Prep-Year 12 independent school in Melbourne, Victoria. While it follows that in the school settings the researcher can be considered a „somewhat native‟ observer, there is no pre-existing or ongoing professional relationship between the researcher and any participant, and no significant capacity of the researcher to influence, favourably or adversely, the circumstances of any participating teacher, school principal, interviewee or survey respondent. As it transpired, endorsement of the research by a DEECD Regional Director and by a number of other advocates well-placed as external educational consultants to government schools resulted in the ready agreement of six secondary school principals to their schools‟ involvement.11

Of the ten initially approached, in writing using an HREC-approved format, seven principals consented, two ignored the request and one declined on the grounds of the school being already involved in too many innovation and development projects simultaneously, with consequent pressure on teaching staff time and energy. Of the seven consenting schools one was not taken up as it would have constituted a third school (accepted simply in order of their agreement to participate) in one general metropolitan region.

These agreements were reached at the end of 2007, in order to begin the field research in 2008. The six schools, their principals, leadership team members, and participating teachers are identified by pseudonyms. The schools, listed in Table 1, are all coeducational Years 7-12 government secondary schools. Summary characteristics in the table are based on descriptions provided by an authorised leadership team spokesperson.
Table 1: Participating schools Pseudonym Location Ashgrove Inner-eastern metropolitan Summary Characteristics Large, high-morale school noted for academic standard and held in high regard in local community. Elevated property values in school‟s regular enrolment intake zone are partially attributed to this. Relatively high SES index. High student attendance and Year 12 retention rates and very high tertiary destinations profile. Northern 1550 Fairly large school in a growth area. Selfmetropolitan attributed sense of energy and purposefulness. Moderately high SES index. Average student attendance rates in compulsory years. Moderate retention to Year 12 but low tertiary education participation. Northern 1100 Notionally typical Years 7-12 coeducational metropolitan government secondary school. Average SES index. Sound student attendance rate and average retention rate. Most Year 12 students enrol in tertiary courses, but fewer university - more TAFE destinations than Ashgrove or Eucalyptus. Western 1500 Lowest SES index of the six schools. In metropolitan suburban growth corridor. Managed by a „hand-picked‟, high profile, hands-on principal surrounded by an energetic school leadership group. Focusing on building community trust and involvement and relationships with local business networks. Good attendance rate in the compulsory years but low retention rate to Year 12. Moderate tertiary entrance profile for Year 12 leavers. Outer eastern Declining enrolment school in an area with metropolitan 700 an ageing demographic profile. Seeking major building and infrastructure grants from government to overcome self-attributed „tired‟ presentation. Moderately high SES index. High student attendance rate in compulsory years and high tertiary destinations profile. South eastern 750 The only non-metropolitan school in the Size 1950






semi-rural study. Low SES index. Many students travel quite large distances. Struggling for enrolments in competition with other government schools and low-fee independent schools available in the region. Lowest attendance rate of the six schools in the compulsory years and low retention rate to Year 12. Low tertiary entrance profile.

Within each school two mathematics teachers were nominated by a designated school officer (the Principal or other authorised person) for participation, subject to their own individual informed consent. All were put forward as staff members considered highly professionally competent, but not viewed as so extraordinarily accomplished as to be self-evidently atypical of teachers in that school. In reality the Principal tended to delegate to the Maths Coordinator responsibility for recommending two teachers for participation, subject to their own consent. In four of the schools the Head of Maths chose to be included as one of the two participants.12 To avoid ambiguity the schools were initially provided with an operational definition of teachers, as potential participants, as follows. Teacher: In this research the term denotes a fully qualified and registered person authorised under Victorian Government provisions to teach mathematics at secondary school levels in Victorian schools. Teacher participants in this study will be in a full-time or close to full-time teaching position, with more than half of the employed time fraction being devoted to classroom teaching (as distinct from any designated position of responsibility). In the presentation of the outcomes some of the teachers are profiled in greater detail, but as an overview three of the final participants had been teachers for 6 years or fewer, four for 7-18 years, and the remaining six for 19 years or more. Gender of teacher was not a factor under investigation in this
The terms Coordinator and Head of Mathematics are used interchangeably across Victorian schools. At Bluegum Secondary College the title was another variation: Maths Learning Area Manager. The words „Secondary College‟ are used in the pseudonym for all the schools, as in Ashgrove Secondary College, as most government schools in Victoria use this term. While name variations with subtle historically based nuance differences such as „High School‟ or just „College‟ are among the real names of the six participating schools, using these name variations in the report could prejudice the anonymity of these schools.

84 research: no relevance is assumed and it is simply noted that of thirteen final teacher participants seven were male and six were female.13 While the participating schools and teachers are clearly a constructed selection, not random samples, and the small numbers could not possibly support any claim of representativeness, the recruitment procedures used resulted in a selection of schools and teachers which is not self-evidently atypical. There is no claim or assumption that participants are representative of particular types of teachers or that the schools are representative of particular types of schools. The participant numbers, both of teachers and schools, are too small to enable statistical significance testing of any kind, and this is not the intention of the study. Nevertheless, it is important for the research purpose that the spread of schools and teachers participating is sufficient to support cautious inferences about mathematics teachers‟ professional practice more generally, beyond the specific group of observed participants. In this regard, in his work on research methodology Freebody (2003: 75) notes in naturalistic or ethnography-related studies “convergence of observations across the culturally and geographically different sites [is] taken to add to the generalizability of the findings”. Having secured participation of the required mathematics teachers in the six government secondary schools it was intended for each teacher to have two separate randomly chosen lessons, from the Years 7-10 levels, observed. VCElevel (Years 11-12) classes were not included because the tighter prescription of curriculum content and the consequent time pressure could militate against more innovative pedagogical approaches. Additionally, they were outside the scope of the compulsory years of schooling. Each teacher was expected to participate in three semi-structured interviews with a combined duration of around 75 minutes and to complete a brief Likert-scale type questionnaire on their pedagogical practice. The researcher also spent some unstructured social time with the participant teachers in their staff offices, work spaces, common rooms and the school grounds, providing opportunities for further
For a reason noted in Chapter 5, Section 5.3, the final number of teacher participants became thirteen rather than the target of twelve.

85 (subjective) insights into their professional working environments and collegial relationships. These supplementary insights were valuable in helping the researcher to understand and contextualise the broader features of the teachers‟ work settings and frame lines of enquiry for exploration in the interviews. The content of the brief questionnaire is provided in Appendix C. The vulnerability of such instruments to self-rating and self-attribution error was discussed in Chapter 2, particularly in connection with previous studies using teacher self-reports on pedagogical reform alignment in mathematics. The limitations of surveys and other forms of self-report are considered further in Section 4.10 later in this chapter. 4.3 Instruction study: the lesson observations

The field work in the six participating schools was accomplished during five or six separate visits to each site. The constraint of scheduling research visits according to participants‟ availability, and the convenience of the times for lesson observations and interviews within their overall work schedules, produced the positive outcome that the observed lessons were neither randomly selected nor a deliberately constructed selection. This method was used and defended by Stecher et al. (2006: 110) who report their research as involving the selection of “a convenience sample … based primarily on scheduling constraints”. The critical research requirements were that the researcher did not deliberately select the lessons to be observed and that in all the finally observed lessons the teachers had undertaken, as far as possible having regard to the immeasurable effects of researcher presence, to deliver what they considered a normal lesson presented in the normal way. The participating teachers agreed not to be told until their final debrief interview what the actual focus of the research was, so as not to skew their usual approach inadvertently. For example, notwithstanding observance of informed consent protocols, as far as the teachers knew at the time of their lesson delivery the

86 focus of the research might have been classroom behaviour management or gender-related issues. In the presentation of results in the next chapter, Table 4 summarises the year level and curriculum content focus of observed lessons. In a few cases, scheduling lessons according to the availability of the participating teacher resulted in the same group of students being observed in both sessions. This was considered not to matter. What was crucial to avoid was essentially the same lesson being delivered to two parallel class groups, meaning that the same basic lesson design would be „double-counted‟, with the effect of limiting the level of pedagogical variation between that teacher‟s two observed lessons. This concern was eliminated by checking that each teacher‟s second lesson was not essentially a repeat of the first lesson to a parallel class. On each visit specific tasks were listed for completion and the objectives for each occasion were scheduled for participating schools at the outset. A typical school visit schedule is shown in Appendix E. 4.4 The classroom observation rating approach

It is necessary to explain the lesson observation instrument in some detail because the conventional and reform-aligned ratings obtained are fundamental to the findings on the first part of the key research question: to what degree are teachers designing learning experiences for their students which accord with reformist pedagogy expectations? In order to measure the degree of reform correspondence in the learning experiences provided for students by teachers it was necessary to devise an observation schedule which could be used to place the lessons on scales of conventional practice and reform-aligned practice. The aim was to be able to pin-point any particular observed lesson at coordinate points on a simple x-axis and y-axis chart as a summation of the degree to which it enacted conventional or reform-aligned pedagogy. To devise the scales it was necessary to develop clear descriptions of the characteristic features of conventional pedagogy and policy-advocated reform-aligned pedagogy.

87 Even though learning orchestrated for students by teachers was the central research focus, students themselves were not the direct subjects of the research. In explaining this, it is useful to note Kennedy‟s (1999) defence of studying „approximations‟ of student learning when the students‟ learning processes cannot be observed directly. As Kennedy (1999: 362) puts it, “the best first level approximation available to researchers would be a classroom observation focusing on the nature of intellectual work students do in class”. Directly observing the kinds of learning tasks orchestrated for students by teachers can be regarded as the „gold standard‟ for studying pedagogy. Testing learning performance by standardised tests of student achievement does not reveal their learning processes or enable analysis of pedagogical approaches. Kennedy (1999: 346-347) argues that directly observing “the kind of intellectual work that teachers are asking of their students might be a better indicator of the kind of work students are actually learning to do [and] classroom observations to approximate an indicator of complex student learning … document the intellectual complexity of the work students are doing in class”. In the research reported in this thesis the work students are doing in class is inferred from instructions provided by the teacher and from the verbal transactions directly observed and audio-recorded between the teacher and students as individuals or in groups. It is important to note that these instructions extend to learning tasks set for homework or for work continued beyond the classroom lesson itself. The classroom observation scale devised was intended for application in junior to middle secondary mathematics classes. A series of ten trial lesson observations, seven in Victoria and three on a preliminary research visit to the United Kingdom, were used to refine the observation schedule so that the conventional and reform-aligned scales were specified clearly enough for the schedule to be used confidently and reliably. None of these ten trial lessons which took place as part of the research design phase is included in the results reported. It was essential that the rating schedule was clear enough to enable reasonable confidence that independent observers using the instrument could be expected to rate any observed lesson similarly on each of the two scales. Accordingly the research was designed to include an inter-rater reliability

88 measure. The final observation schedule was endorsed by all the mathematics education and research specialists who examined it during the design phase as corresponding with their understanding of conventional and reformist constructions of pedagogy. For the observations to produce a numerical rating for each lesson on the two scales it was necessary to be able to allocate a numerical score for each specified teaching behaviour observed. Conventional teaching approaches involve students doing relatively „closed‟ and self-contained tasks and all the indicated behaviours may therefore potentially be apparent in any one lesson. Consistent with Stecher et al. (2006), it was decided to incorporate as part of the conventional scale a measure of the proportion of lesson time spent on certain types of teaching-learning tasks, and this was all relatively straightforward. By contrast, many student learning behaviours involved in reform-aligned pedagogy are longer-term and more open in terms of inputs and envisaged „audiences‟ for student performance, so that even if these behaviours were regular and embedded not all could possibly be directly displayed in any one lesson. It was therefore necessary to look for more subtle cues to the existence of reformist framing within the lesson‟s overall context and pitch. While a little more difficult this measure turned out to be achievable, with the inter-rater score comparisons justifying confidence in the scale‟s utility, as will be documented in the results. Given the description of reformist and conventionally-oriented pedagogical indicators developed for the study and the numerical scores which were attached to each within the observation schedule, the maximum achievable rating on each scale was 14. Any numerical scoring schedule inevitably has a degree of arbitrariness in the attributed value assigned to any particular indicator. This consideration applies to all quantitative measures of performance characteristics, as in the example of the value attributed to, say, spelling and grammatical accuracy in describing written communication, or the relative weighting attached to different elements in any standardised ratings test. The important requirement is that the scale can be applied consistently in different contexts by different raters and is a replicable

89 procedure. This provides some warrant for its reliability, and that it is coherent and reasonable in construct and balance lends credence to its validity. As will be reported in detail in the results, for a lesson to be rated at the maximum possible score of 14 on the scale of conventional orientation there needed to be, among other criteria, some explicit emphasis on preparing for a forthcoming summative/graded test of procedural correctness and accuracy, and students needed to spend more than 90% of the on-task lesson time either listening to the teacher explain correct processes and solutions to the whole class group or working individually at their allocated work space on routine computational exercises from a set text book or work sheet. Clearly for a lesson to be rated at 14 on this scale it would need to be extremely conventional in the terms described. As will be reported fully in the results, the median rating of the 24 observed lessons on this scale was 11. No claim is made for exactness in the numerical measure. The importance lies in the demonstration of generally where on each of the pedagogical scales the observed lessons appear to be placed. The discussion of the results will indicate that while the median conventional-orientation rating of the 24 observed lessons was 11 out of a possible 14, the median reform-alignment rating was only 1 out of the possible 14. (The mode scores on each scale corresponded with the median scores.) Given that the conventional and reform-aligned pedagogical approaches may be conceived as virtual polar opposites, one design consideration was whether it was necessary to have two separate axes on which to represent the pedagogical ratings for each lesson. Wouldn‟t it be possible and perhaps even clearer to have a net result on a single linear scale, with 0 as the notional indicator of a lesson in which the two pedagogical approaches were „balanced‟ and extremes of –x and +x to indicate highly conventional or reform-aligned lessons respectively? The ten trial lesson observations demonstrated that this was not the case. This is because the two scales are not directly reciprocal even though they are presumably somewhat inversely correlated. For example, a particular lesson in which little task work was accomplished by students was

90 actually rated as low on both scales, and this would have provided a net rating indicating that the lesson was „balanced‟, when it is much clearer visually, and assists the analysis, to see the lesson displayed as low on both scales. Another lesson which was extremely different in pitch and work intensity would have been depicted similarly on a simple linear scale but can readily be seen to be very different if positioned at its coordinate points on the x-axis and y-axis chart finally settled on. Consistent with the decision to use the dual scales in this study, Cohen (2000) showed that it could not be assumed that incorporating reform-aligned teaching strategies entails fewer conventional practices. Adding to confidence in the decision is the Stecher et al. (2006: 104) premise that “reform and traditional instruction should not be thought of as opposite ends of a single dimension but as separate dimensions”. Extending the proposition, Stecher et al. (2006: 104) cite the Klein et al. (2000) finding that the dimensions may actually be orthogonal, and “the use of reform-oriented practices is not associated, either positively or negatively, with the use of traditional practices”. Having committed to the dual scale classification, the lessons were rated on their pedagogical approach unrelated to any summative judgment on lesson „quality‟ or effectiveness, using multiple passes of recorded data. To enable this, all 24 observed lessons were audio-recorded using a high quality digital audio recorder with a lapel microphone fitted to the teacher. There was a back-up recording of each lesson using an audio recorder positioned centrally in the class room, making it sensitive to ambient noise. Because there was no technical malfunction in the number one recorder at any time, these back-up recordings did not need to be utilised. The teacher microphone enabled a clear capture of all instructions by the teacher to students at whole class level, and with individual students or small groups, in terms of learning tasks being set. This also allowed accurate transcription of verbal transactions between the teacher and students, including their conversation at individual and group level as the teacher moved around the classroom (or occasionally an outside space) to provide instructional guidance for the students. The audio data was

91 supported by hand-written field notes made by the researcher during each class, along with sketch diagrams of spatial layout and notes about equipment and pedagogical artefacts used. Digital still photographs were taken of classrooms to capture their layout, but this was done immediately before or after each class so that no visual images of students were captured. This latter point is related to a reason why the research was not intended to include any video-recorded material and this aspect of the research design requires explanation, particularly as much mathematics classroom pedagogical research has made close use of video-recorded data (eg. Hollingsworth et al. 2003; Clarke et al. 2009). Advice on the research approach from authoritatively placed DEECD officers consulted during the planning phase was that obtaining the required school consent would be difficult if video-recording was to be done in classrooms. That was because, even in the absence of separate identifying information about any student, the written informed consent of all students and their parents would need to be obtained. The difficulty of doing so would lower the willingness of principals to agree to their schools‟ participation.14 Because the audio-recording method involves no separate visual images of students being taken at any time, and no full names or other identifying details of any students being captured, it was believed that principals would regard this form of classroom observation as requiring only the normal routine level of student and parent information provided in standard protocols for professional visits in the classroom. This approach was welcomed by all the principals who then readily provided the required informed consent for their schools‟ participation, subject to each teacher‟s separate individual consent. Reinforcing the decision not to video-record the lessons was the consideration that whereas video-recording tends to be intrusive and potentially affects interactions, audio recording using a discreet lapel microphone feeding into
The possibility of it being sufficient to enable parents of students to opt out by lodging a specific refusal of consent was countered by the obligation of principals to ensure that an educationally worthwhile parallel program would be provided for any students withdrawn.

92 an ultra-compact digital voice recorder in the teacher‟s pocket is less likely to significantly affect the lesson itself. While the judgement is inherently subjective, all the participating teachers ultimately considered that the presence of the researcher, and the audio recording as described, had little or no significant effect on the lessons finally observed. This point will be elaborated in the reporting of results. The audio recording of each lesson was independently rated by the co-rater using the observation schedule. The purpose of this was to establish whether the observation scales could be employed consistently by a second observer, using the audio-record of each lesson and supplementary contextualising material. It was considered that it would support confidence in the clarity, coherence and reliability of the observation schedule and uphold its utility, if the independent ratings were reasonably consistent with the researcher‟s own. The co-rater also received a brief outline of the lesson topic provided by the teacher in the pre-lesson interviews, with sketches of the classroom layout and the photograph/s of the setting. No other information was provided to the corater prior to rating the lesson on the conventional and reform-aligned scales. The co-rater had no access to the researcher‟s lesson observation notes or ratings at any time. There was no on-going personal or professional relationship, or any power or authority relationship, between the researcher and the co-rater. The co-rater had no access to names or identifying information about participating schools or teachers.15 While having an active interest in the research the co-rater held no specialist qualifications, except as a graduate with a University of Melbourne B.Sc. (Hons) degree. For this reason only the researcher‟s own lesson ratings were used in the results, rather than the alternative of using a composite aggregated lesson rating. Another reason for not aggregating the two sets of ratings was while the corater applied the same classification criteria, ratings were not conducted under the same conditions. The co-rater had no access to contextual cues

Even so the co-rater was explicitly advised of the confidentiality requirements under which the research was conducted.

93 which may have factored into the researcher‟s own ratings. As stated above, aggregation of the ratings was not the intended purpose. 4.5 Interviews with participating teachers and school policy spokespersons Noting the time and resources constraint on observations, Kennedy (1999: 362) points out that as “observations are extremely labour intensive and, hence, may not be feasible ... the most important consideration for many researchers may be how to develop questions that can be used in interviews or questionnaires”. However, interviews with the participating teachers in this present study were very time-demanding. These quite intensive multiple interviews with participant teachers were open-ended, semi-structured interviews which did not simply move sequentially through pre-determined questions. This was consistent with the generally naturalistic approach taken, but to pursue a useful level of consistency in the nature of the insights which could be obtained from each teacher there was a broad guiding interview schedule for each of the three interviews conducted with each teacher as indicated in Appendix D. The final debrief interview with each participant teacher involved them reflecting on a reform-aligned vignette closely related to the age level and mathematical topic involved in one or both of the observed lessons. The vignettes were selected from a bank of illustrative resource material available as part of the US NCTM-aligned New Jersey Mathematics Standards 2006. A sample vignette from this source is reproduced in Appendix F. The purpose of the vignettes (with the chosen example sent to each participant to consider several days before the debrief interview, but after the class observations) was to seed conversation about their views on reform pedagogy in principle, compared to their claimed use of reform pedagogy in practice. Kennedy (1999: 349 and passim) evaluates research advantages and disadvantages of using vignettes to establish how teachers respond to standardised hypothetical pedagogical situations presented to them. Stecher et al. (2006) also investigate the use of teacher self-ratings compared to approaches involving

94 analysis of detailed vignettes as a potential primary method of assessing pedagogical practices. Vignettes were adapted for use in a more limited way in the present research to enable interviewees to express their response to a reform-aligned pedagogical framing of a lesson related in topic to one they had delivered. This could elicit, for example, that they perceived the reformaligned approach as inherently inappropriate or unconvincing, fine in theory but unrealistic given time pressures, or similar to their own existing practice. To compare the perceptions of participating teachers with designated school leadership team members, a staff member identified by each school as authorised to speak about the school and school system‟s educational change and improvement goals (this could be the Principal directly) was asked to discuss the influence of official policy and explicit change drivers on teachers‟ professional practice within the school. The degree of alignment between this more „official‟ line and the teachers‟ precepts conveyed in interviews was examined using techniques including discourse analysis, to be explained shortly. 4.6 Self-rating survey of teachers’ pedagogical orientations

While the direct observation of teachers‟ instructional practice processed through the classroom observation schedule and rating scales described, and also the interview content produced in the discussion sessions with the participants, yield the kind of grounded data favoured by Kennedy (1999) and others over survey self-reports by teachers on their own pedagogical behaviour, the advantage of surveys is their quickness to administer. Consequently far more respondents can be included with the advantage of yielding data from a much larger respondent group. Accordingly, the short questionnaire devised for this study, shown as Appendix C, was used both to triangulate the lesson observation and interview data for the direct participant teachers, and also to provide an indication of pedagogical practice orientations in the larger cohort of all mathematics teachers on the staff of each participating school.

95 To encourage the high return rate required for any usefulness in this regard, the teacher questionnaire was kept brief and rapid to complete. Surveys conducted by Stecher et al. (2006), for example, had a far greater scope in the responses sought, but the short questionnaire devised here suited the research intention of seeking a broad indication of how much reliance is placed by teachers on learning activities which may be viewed as conventional or reform-aligned. The list provided for response in this survey remains congruent with the list of activities cited by Stecher et al. (2006: 106). It consists of 20 items describing student learning activities orchestrated by the teacher and asks the respondent to indicate on a four-point Likert-scale the degree to which each behaviour is typically relied upon, ranging from “a major aspect of most lessons” through to “seldom or never done”. Trials of the survey established that a teacher could readily complete it in no more than 10 minutes and enabled some wording modifications to strengthen the clarity of each item. While the items were presented in random order, 7 of the items corresponded to student learning tasks indicative of conventional pedagogy, while 10 items were indicative of reform-aligned practice, and 3 items (discussed in the data analysis) were considered neutral or non-indicative on this dimension. Again, with this instrument as with the classroom observation rating schedule, experts consulted in the design phase confirmed that the two sets of items corresponded with their understanding of conventional and reform-aligned pedagogical approaches and were clear and coherent as indicators of these classifications. By asking the Head of Maths in each school to encourage faculty members to complete and return the surveys, and by providing a stamped addressed envelope for their anonymous return, it was hoped to secure a high return rate. This was achieved with an actual return rate of 81%, with minimal variation between schools, representing the views of 86 out of 106 potential respondents. As well as using the questionnaire to establish some basic quantifiable findings about the pedagogical orientations of a larger number of teachers than could practicably be included as direct participants in the detailed

96 observation and interview study, an additional function of the questionnaire was that by comparing the aggregated survey responses of the intended 12 main teacher participants (as noted, this number ended up being 13) with the larger group of additional survey respondents, it was possible to obtain an indication of whether the direct participants were systematically different from their colleagues in their self-reported pedagogical practice, which was very important in interpreting the degree to which the findings from the observations and interviews could be regarded as notionally representative. To enable this comparison, whereas the larger group of non-participant teacher respondents completed the questionnaire anonymously, the direct participant teachers completed the survey privately but then returned it named at the end of their participation in the study, after their two lessons had been observed but before the focus of the research had been revealed in the final debrief interview. There was no intention to claim demonstrated representativeness of the participants, of course, but comparison of survey results between the direct teacher participants and their broader group of colleagues provided an opportunity to test whether the participants were evidently dissimilar to the larger group of mathematics teacher colleagues in their attitudes to reformist pedagogy. In this regard, whether tentative findings about prevailing pedagogical approaches and attitudes among mathematics teachers would hold for teachers in other curriculum areas is not explored in the current study, although some school leaders and reform policy proponents did speculate on this question in some of the interviews conducted. Within the scope of this single-researcher doctoral study it was necessary to narrow the focus to just one key curriculum content area or discipline, to enable detailed examination of the pedagogical dimension. It is intended that the research approach taken here is described in sufficient detail and clarity to enable it to be adapted to other contexts. 4.7 Policy document analysis and policy interviews

97 In parallel with the schools-based research, discourse analysis (Wood and Kroger 2000; Phillips and Hardy 2002) was applied to education reform policy documents and other officially authorised position statements representing reform policy. Policy documents from multiple sources, including cross-jurisdictional material, audio-recorded interviews with policy officers from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and also those with the officially designated school spokespersons, were analysed for their imaging of teachers‟ work and depiction of teachers‟ role. The analysis of education reform policy documents and associated materials was cross-referenced with field observations of teachers‟ lesson design and delivery, to examine degrees of correspondence between policy espousal and teachers‟ actual practice and their own perceptions of it. In the interviews with policy officers of the DEECD it was intended to examine how they viewed reform expectations being placed on teachers‟ pedagogical practice and what degree of policy penetration into practice they believed was being achieved; in other words, at institutional level what traction was the current education reform policy held to be gaining? A pragmatically set target was to interview around ten current or recent policy officers, and policy commentators well-placed to provide insights into government and bureaucratic thinking, concerning the pedagogical implications of education reform. In recruiting respondents it was intended to aim as high in the bureaucracy as realistically possible, as high as Departmental Deputy Secretary level if senior officers would make themselves available, in which case identification of their roles would prevent a guarantee of anonymity even though their views would be reported under pseudonyms.16 As it transpired eight interviews were conducted with current policy officers, the highest placed in formal authority being General Managers reporting directly to the Deputy Secretary level. The experience and seniority level of these officers supports a reasonable reliance on their accounts of Victorian education reform policy being authoritative.

The HREC-approved informed consent states: “the small number of participants in the study prevents a guarantee of anonymity, as contextual details may enable identification of some participants.”

98 Interviews with policy officers were designed to be around 45 minutes duration and the general lines of enquiry explored are conveyed in Appendix D. Again, these interviews were semi-structured rather than a sequential move through the envisaged questions. This is consistent with an interpretive approach intended to explore the policy landscape as constructed in the discourse of policy framers and influencers. Senior policy officers need to ration both their time and the sharing of insider knowledge and perceptions and, overall, to be circumspect even if not extremely guarded in what they explicitly reveal. It was more productive for the researcher to listen receptively, and allow for unanticipated revelations, rather than pushing on with a schedule of pre-determined questions. One consequence was that while the shorter interviews remained close to the envisaged target time some of the interviews involved considerably longer discussion time.


Interviews in different ‘policy communities’

In parallel with the policy officers‟ interviews, the research included interviews with policy commentators and policy specialists in academic positions, including policy sociologists, who were invited to provide interpretive commentary on the functioning of education reform policy in general and in terms of its impact on pedagogical practice. The reason for including policy commentary from a range of experts somewhat removed from direct involvement in the policy formulation and implementation under study was not only to provide another perspective on reform policy penetration but also to contribute a sociological understanding on how policy is played out and performs its discursive work. Given the cross-national nature of contemporary education reform agendas the experts interviewed came not only from Victoria but interviews were also conducted in the United Kingdom. Nine respondents from this policy experts and commentators category were interviewed.

99 Additionally the research involved interviews with mathematics education specialists at university and/or applied research levels. These experts were asked to comment on their perceptions of the alignment between reform policy preferred instructional approaches and prevailing, or (in their own judgment) desirable, mathematics teaching practices. In this membership category also, the ten experts consulted were drawn not only from Victoria but also from the United Kingdom and, because of its important positioning in defining „reform mathematics‟ in the US, the State of New Jersey.17


The in-parallel research design

Through semi-structured interviews the schools-based fieldwork also captures the reflections of the officially designated curriculum and pedagogy spokespersons from the leadership teams of participating schools, concerning their experience and expectations of the Government‟s education reform agenda. The tentative picture emerging from the schools-based work was continually cross-referenced with policy documentation and the perspectives of policy proponents, policy commentators and specialist mathematics education experts interviewed, in order to reflect back and forth between the expressed and implied aspirations of education reform policy and the contextualized realities of teachers‟ work which enable or impede the enactment of reform intentions in practice. Interviews were audio-taped with the informed consent of respondents.18 They were open-ended while anchored in the semi-structured schedules of the general ground to be covered. The focus of the interviews varied somewhat

As with the other respondents, interview participants holding a university post are still referred to by pseudonyms except where, with permission, their exact words transcribed from the interview are quoted and attributed as reflective of their published academic work. The decision to create an actual pseudonym for the participant teachers and other interview respondents rather than simply using a code number identifier was not an arbitrary stylistic choice. It reflects the naturalistic research register. While real names are avoided to protect the parties‟ confidentiality, they are presented as personal rather than disembodied voices. This was provided in all but one case, a DEECD Senior Policy Officer who explicitly expressed as the reason for declining her concern about being directly quoted and subsequently identified by colleagues.

100 according to the phase of the project in which they took place. Interviews with policy framers or influencers which were conducted prior to commencement of schools-based field work tended to focus on explicating aspirations and expectations for reform-aligned pedagogy, whereas interviews conducted in the later phases after completion of the schools-based field work invited interpretive reflections of respondents on the tentative research results. These later interviews also explored the policy discourse of Blueprint 2 initiatives, progressively released by the DEECD around this time. Earlier interviews with mathematics education experts (generally working in universities) focused on discussion of the framing of the research, particularly in terms of the connection between education reform policy more broadly and mathematics teaching specifically, while the later interviews drew out interpretive perspectives on the tentative findings about mathematics teachers‟ pedagogy in practice. All interviews were approached as interactive professional discussion between researcher and respondent. Consequently, although the interviews were anchored in an explicitly stated purpose, each interview inevitably took on a unique tone and flavour. 4.10 Limitations of the study design The major limitation of the study lies in its vulnerability to the attributions of participants in interpreting their and others‟ professional behaviour and experiences. Essentially there is a presumption of sentience and honesty in relying on teachers‟ (and policy proponents or commentators‟) selfattributions when reflecting on their own experiences of practice in an „afterthe-event‟ account of what has been done and why. It is a limitation that the study relies on subjects articulating reflections on their own and others‟ professional practice with a high degree of consciousness, intellectual abstraction and honesty. Acknowledging this, it is reassuring to note O‟Neill‟s (2003) depiction of teachers as professionals who actively decide and construct their work with a high level of self-reflective consciousness. This accords with DarlingHammond and McLaughlin‟s (1995) portrayal of teachers as skilled

101 practitioners who make highly conscious decisions about goals and methods. Coming from a methodological perspective Freebody (2003: 169), in supporting naturalistic/ethnographic research into the ways in which social actors make decisions, depicts subjects as “artful, reasoned and sophisticated cultural practitioners” who act purposely and coherently within a specific situated culture. Neuman (2006: 90) reinforces this view that a coherent and internally consistent element of interpretive social sciences is seeing people as “having volition and being able to make conscious choices”. Consistency and coherence in teachers‟ accounts of their own pedagogical behaviour and judgments were cross-checked against the researcher‟s observations, drawing on field notes and audio records, plus supplementary curriculum document analysis. The researcher also worked with participants and respondents to search out, discuss and interpret areas of uncertainty, ambiguity or apparent contradiction, using as far as possible triangulated data sources to uncover these for examination. Judgments needed to be made by the researcher about how forthright and insightful subjects‟ expressed interpretations appeared to be at various points in the research, drawing on corroborative or contradicting insights from other data sources. However it remains an underlying belief entailed in the methodology that there is validity in an account which strives to uncover teachers‟ reported experiences of the education context in which their work is played out, relying with some confidence on their capacity as at least partially self-conscious actors of their own deliberate agency. In this regard the study is no more vulnerable than other established research relying in part on interviewing subjects. Participants will unavoidably place a construction on the purpose of the study and how it reflects on them, their professional image and even their opportunities. They will unavoidably enter into a relationship with the researcher of like or dislike, trust or distrust, or a shifting combination of these. Their own constructions expressed in interviews and informal discussions are provided in a specific time and place, and need to be seen as somewhat fluid rather than fixed and stable representations of settled viewpoints. The discourse analysis perspective

102 explicitly embraces the awareness of participants‟ discourse as actively constructing meaning and self-identity through the process of the discourse framing itself, rather than reflecting intellectual-symbolic cognition anchored „in the mind‟. Further, even in the absence of any conscious decision to mislead or to espouse views which the participant knows are not enacted in practice (minimised by the researcher‟s building of rapport and trust) respondents may not be able to go outside their taken-for-granted and largely tacit assumptions. In a school education context Lieberman (1995: 595) notes the research requirement for “a safe and nonjudgmental environment” so teachers can bring to the surface in discussions that “what they believed and valued and what they practiced were not always in sync”. However, Argyris and Schön‟s organizational learning work cited earlier establishes that achieving this is not easy. Professional taboos and avoidance behaviours are the norm. It is arguable whether the semi-structured interview format employed, inclining more to the open-ended than to the structured or fixed-response side of the spectrum (Freebody 2003), makes the interview elements of the research more vulnerable to researcher bias in leading or selectively interpreting participants‟ responses. The propensity for interviews, surveys and questionnaires to be framed in such a way that they elicit targeted responses is not as widely acknowledged as it ought to be. The protection from this potential limitation can only be a determination to be on maximum guard against leading questions, selective interpretation or any manipulative research conduct. Hopefully, this has been achieved here. 4.11 Transcription conventions and summation

An important decision in analysing interview data is the transcription method and conventions to be employed. Whereas the lesson observation aspect was designed to have minimal „observer effect‟ and the survey, like all surveys, inevitably sheds light on some nominated elements for focus while other potential elements remain invisible, interview data is particularly problematic

103 because of the danger of the researcher inadvertently leading the interview in particular ways so as to elicit confirmation of pre-existing hypotheses or selectively reporting respondents‟ views so that disconfirming perspectives are ignored or obscured. In what ended up as around 100 hours of audio recorded interview data, of which clearly only a very small proportion can be reported, it was essential to protect as far as possible against unintended researcher bias. As of necessity only a small selection of potential interview material can be represented, inevitably the selection will be affected by what the researcher sees as relevant and productive in terms of the emerging and tentative understandings which begin to form around the research questions. Therefore it was essential to present the voices of respondents as authentically as possible by reporting their exact words in precisely transcribed naturalistic speech, complete with repetitions, pauses, false starts and unfinished sentences, rather than in „cleaned up‟ speech (Freebody 2003: 26). While the latter is often deployed in research reports for clarity and economy, the former can produce an impression of lack of fluency and coherence in respondents‟ thoughts as they are recorded framing and reframing their sometimes only tentative accounts. Here the priority was to avoid the report nudging respondents‟ apparent views in particular directions by imbuing them with a higher level of apparent certainty or intentionality than they actually held. The research approach taken here is philosophically consistent with presenting speech naturalistically and preserving its connotative dimensions rather than simplifying it so it seems to denote an unambiguous meaning, as if the recorded words on paper simply mean just what they explicitly say. This discipline can be taken to purist extremes in ethnographically-oriented research, as demonstrated in much of the work carried out in the Thematic Narrative Analysis Research Methods approach to discourse analysis (eg. Riessman 2008) in which an unfamiliar reader may virtually require a handbook of the specialised transcription conventions, codes and symbols to process the reported speech at all. While discourse analysis approaches to transcription vary from purist to pragmatic, a minimum requirement is that rhythms, intonations and emphases in spoken discourse are adequately

104 captured in transcription. In this current thesis the transcription style is a simplified adaptation of the adequately rigorous but more „reader-friendly‟ conventions favoured by Wood and Kroger (2000).19 A consequence of using a partially ethnographic methodology in which the researcher forms, even to a limited degree, a personal familiarity with research participants and interview respondents is they become „real‟ as individuals and elicit feelings of affinity and connection. In the interview transcripts the „personality‟ of the respondent enacted in the subtleties of speech, such as characteristic rhythms and patterns of emphasis, can be captured only through providing sequences somewhat longer than expected in much mainstream research, where it is anticipated that excerpts will be presented simply to extract an assumed literal meaning from the quoted words. At various points in the reporting of the excerpts in this report it seems productive for an authorial comment to be provided on characteristics of respondents‟ dialogue. Again, a safeguard against bias in interpretation is that accurate presentation of respondents‟ discourse construction enables the reader to stand back critically from meanings and nuances ascribed by the researcher. Where any judgment is offered by the researcher ascribing qualities to a participant‟s or interview respondent‟s viewpoints, particularly if the judgment is critical or questioning of a practice or opinion, it is important to state the respect extended to all parties. The teacher participants granted a stranger entrance into their classrooms, and insight into their pedagogical practice and broader professional lives, for research purposes that they had no reason to support except for their generosity and an authentic professional interest in reflecting on their pedagogical practice to support more effective

To illustrate the simplification made here for greater fluency in reading, with a slight loss of detail in the precise capture of some discourse features, all transcripts presented avoid use of specialised symbols within as well as around words; for example, <tru:s(h)t> to denote in the word „trust‟ an elongated syllable and interjected laugh, uttered in hushed speech. In excerpts presented, laughter is still indicated but simply by the word „laughs‟ in brackets. Underlining is used to indicate words heavily emphasised by the speaker; while pauses and breaks are indicated using these actual words, rather than by specialised symbols such as (1.6) to indicate a measure of the duration of a pause.

105 student learning. What was found in these classrooms is reported in the next chapter.

Chapter 5: Data presentation from the lesson studies and pedagogical surveys 5.1 Introduction and overview of the presentation of results

Presentation of the qualitative data, particularly the data drawn from discourse analysis of interviews and policy documents as described in the previous chapter, does not allow an absolute distinction between the presentation and interpretation of results. The small proportion of all the potential data which can actually be reported inevitably involves active selection of material which seems most relevant and productive for emerging interpretations. As a primarily qualitative study, the research does not begin with a predictive hypothesis designed for tightly controlled empirical testing. In this essentially naturalistic research interpretations and tentative findings emerge from reflective processing of the many different forms of observation, orchestrated in a holistic „to and fro‟ approach. Nevertheless the study has been designed to

106 enable some substantive, objective and to a degree quantifiable research results on which interpretations can be based. Before turning to presentation of the interview data and policy document analysis in the next chapter, this chapter reports, in Part A, on the lesson observations and, in Part B, on the teacher surveys, presenting results which to a degree can be expressed quantitatively and which are amenable to some statistical analysis. Even here, however, it is neither possible nor desirable to quarantine reporting of results from interpretive commentary. Statistical representations are used primarily descriptively rather than inferentially. While inferential statistical processes are not applicable to the kinds of results produced here, several kinds of measurement are used to provide descriptive statistical representations of the degree of pedagogical reform alignment apparent in Victorian secondary mathematics teaching, some five years into the implementation of the Victorian Government‟s education reform policy agenda. Results reported in this chapter suggest some answers to the first part of the key research question: to what extent are teachers shaping their pedagogical practice in ways which are aligned with the expectations of education reform policy, and why? The second part of the question is then examined in an interpretive rather than „measurement‟ approach. With regard to the first part of the question, while no claim is made for any exactness in the numerical measures devised, their usefulness lies in providing a picture of the state of play in terms of current reform policy enactment, as suggested by the observed pedagogical practice of the direct teacher-participants and the selfreported pedagogical alignment of the greater number of teachers who were survey respondents. To foreshadow the basic finding of this first part of the research, on the basis of the lesson observations and surveys conducted, it appears that the mathematics teachers whose pedagogy was studied are not teaching in ways which align strongly with the aspirations and expectations of the reform

107 agenda as expressed in current education reform policies generally and in Victoria specifically. Part A - Results and impressions from the lesson observations 5.2 Reform or conventional alignment rating of observed lessons

As previously outlined, 24 lessons were observed. On the basis of multiple passes of the audio-record of each teacher‟s pedagogical instruction and interactions with the students, supplemented by analysis of handwritten observation notes, sketch diagrams and photos of the lesson‟s physical setting, each lesson was numerically rated on the dual scales of conventional pedagogy orientation and reform-alignment. The maximum score possible on either scale, using the observation schedule shown in Appendix B and discussed in the previous chapter, was 14. The lesson ratings are listed in Table 2. Table 2: Lesson ratings using the classification schedule 20
Lesson A1a A1b A2a A2b B1a B1b B2a B2b C1a C1b C2a C2b D1a D1b D2a D2b E1a E1b E2a E2b F1a F1b

x value (conventional orientation) 13.0 11.0 12.0 13.0 9.0 5.0 11.0 5.5 12.0 13.0 11.0 11.0 13.0 14.0 9.0 11.0 10.0 9.0 12.0 12.0 11.0 14.0

y value (degree of reform alignment) 1.0 1.5 1.5 2.0 2.5 5.0 0.0 1.5 0.5 1.0 2.0 1.0 1.5 0.5 1.5 1.0 1.0 0.5 0.0 0.5 0.5 1.0

The lesson observation and classification schedule is shown in Appendix B.

F2a F3a Mean ( ) SD ( ) Median Mode 9.0 9.0 10.8 2.3 11.0 11.0 1.0 0.5 1.2 1.0 1.0 1.0

Each of the 24 lessons can then be depicted on a chart as the point of intersection of the corresponding x and y coordinates. Its rating can be represented simply by its coordinates as, for example, (11, 1). In fact this is the actual rating represented by the intersection point of the median (and mode) conventional and reform-aligned scores obtained. The distribution chart, Figure 1, illustrates that the lessons were generally clustered in the high conventional–low reform section of the chart.

Figure 1: Distribution of lessons on measures of reform and conventional alignment 21


In the figure, a bold circle indicates that two lessons received this same rating.


The co-rater‟s categorisation of lessons was in close agreement with the researcher‟s own ratings. As previously noted, the co-rating was used to establish confidence in the clarity and utility of the observation schedule rating scales by showing whether the instrument could be used consistently by two different raters. For the reasons previously discussed, the co-rater‟s scores were not intended for aggregation with the researcher‟s own scores. It is only the latter which are depicted in the distribution chart above. For practical reasons of constraints on the co-rater‟s availability, due to other professional commitments, 18 lessons out of the 24 lessons were actually corated. These happened to include the two most outlying lessons, considered the least conventionally-oriented. The comparison of the researcher‟s and the co-rater‟s conventional and reform-aligned scores for each lesson is shown in Table 3. The co-rater‟s assigned scores are not otherwise reported in the thesis, in connection with the description of any particular lesson, except where a specific significance is highlighted in comparing the scores.

110 Table 3: Inter-rater reliability of lesson classification schedule 22
Lesson A1a A1b A2a B1a B1b B2a B2b C1a C2a C2b D1a D2a D2b E1a E1b E2b F2a F3a Mean ( ) Inter-rater Correlation ( ) Researcher (x) 13 11 12 9 5 11 5.5 12 11 11 13 9 11 10 9 12 9 9 10.1 x-alignment: 0.94 Co-rater (x) 13 12 12 10 6 12 5 12 11 11.5 12 9 10 9 10 12 8 9 10.2 Researcher (y) 1 1.5 1.5 2.5 5 0 1.5 0.5 2 1 1.5 1.5 1 1 0.5 0.5 1 0.5 1.3 y-alignment: 0.86 Co-rater (y) 1.5 1.5 2.5 1.5 4 0 1 0 2.5 0.5 1 2 1 0 0 0 1 0.5 1.1

Two separate inter-rater correlation measures were calculated, one for the conventional pedagogy ratings and the other for the reform-aligned pedagogy ratings. There was a high correlation between the two raters‟ sets of scores, as shown in the table: 0.94 for conventional pedagogy orientation and 0.86 for reform-oriented pedagogy.23 These figures provide a basis for confidence in the finding that the observed lessons can be considered generally high in conventional pitch and generally low in reform-alignment and that this judgment can be made with a reasonable level of reliability by different raters using the observation instrument and procedures devised for the research. 5.3

Discussion of the finding of generally low reform orientation

18 of the 24 lessons were co-rated. There was no deliberation in the selection of these lessons. (However all 6 lessons not co-rated were at or above the mean value for conventional alignment.) The notionally possible scores on each alignment ranged from 0-14. Actual score ranges (by researcher in the 18 co-rated lessons): x-alignment 5-13; y-alignment 0-5 Just as a comparison, Lustick and Sykes (2006: 14) consider their own inter-rater correlation of ( )=0.46 as representing a “moderate inter-rater reliability”, as a measure of the agreement between three co-raters assessing teacher interview transcripts for specified indicators of teachers‟ pedagogical learning.


There is no prior assumption that a lesson rated as having high conventional and low reform alignment is a lower quality, less effective lesson than indicated by the inverse pedagogical balance. In the interviews this perspective emerged as a major area of concern for many of the teacher participants and all the mathematics education experts consulted. The latter were unanimous in arguing that the nature of the mathematical thinking, that learning tasks had a high level of cognitive demand to extend students‟ understanding, was more important than the pedagogical orientation. They contended that either reform-aligned or conventionally-oriented methods could be associated with high-yield or low-yield learning outcomes. In this regard one Professor of Mathematics Education argued in an interview24 a reservation about assessing lessons on the scales devised is that the only educationally valid way in which the term „reform‟ should be used is with the aim of raising the prevailing level of cognitive demand in the mathematics curriculum, regardless of pedagogical style adopted, and to achieve this it is appropriate to settle on a judicious mix of pedagogical approaches. Another Professor of Mathematics Education, visualising much the same point from a different angle, suggested that if we imagined a threedimensional rather than two dimensional rating of observed lessons, in which the prevailing cognitive demand level was rated in the third dimension, this would show little or no correlation between the pedagogical reform orientation and level of cognitive demand. This hypothetical perspective is complemented by the research results produced here, where analysis of student learning tasks assigned by teacher instructions to the class and individual or small group coaching by the teacher reveals marked differences in level of cognitive demand between similarly rated lessons using the classification scale. All of the mathematics education specialists consulted in the research contended that generic education reform policy level approaches to pedagogy show little sophistication about the importance of deep learning
As noted, the HREC-approved interview protocol entailed the views of interview respondents including mathematics education specialists being reported anonymously (either with a code or a pseudonym) except where established writers or academic researchers‟ words are cited, with their agreement, as representative of their published body of work.

112 through incorporating high cognitive demand thinking skills. They proposed that generic pedagogical reform is generally presented in the guise of learning approaches which dilute rather than deepen engagement of students in a curriculum involving higher order learning. Strongly contesting perspectives on an appropriate meaning of reform which emerge from analysis of interviews and documents will be explored in the next chapter. In this chapter some lessons are described individually, in the form of brief „Snapshots‟, to identify emerging interpretations to be developed in subsequent chapters. Nine particularly illustrative lessons, including the two lowest on the conventional scale, are represented in these Snapshots. For economy and clarity of labelling, lessons are designated by school, teacher and first or second lesson in that teacher‟s two-lesson sequence. Thus, for example, the second of the lessons observed for the teacher designated Teacher 2 in the first school, Ashgrove Secondary College, was labelled Lesson A2b; the first lesson observed for the teacher designated Teacher 1 in the final school, Ferndale Secondary College, was labelled Lesson F1a; and so on. Teachers presenting the lessons as participants in the project are referred to in some sections of the report by a pseudonym to give a sense of individual person where appropriate and sometimes, more economically but less personally in tone, simply as Teacher A2 or Teacher F1 and so on.25 While at points in the report there is greater economy and clarity in using a code to identify a lesson, teacher or other respondent, and it may seem merely a stylistic redundancy to introduce an actual pseudonym, the participant teachers emerge as distinctive individuals in the research. In each case the researcher spent many hours with the teacher, over several separate school visits, in two observed lessons, three semi-structured interactive interviews and in accompanying the teacher during informal conversations over morning tea or lunch and in staff work areas. While this falls short of the immersion

In School F, Ferndale Secondary College, there were finally three not two participating teachers, only one interviewed in depth, as a consequence of Teacher 2 being unexpectedly assigned to alternative duties and becoming unavailable to participate after the observation of Lesson F2a. A third teacher volunteered to replace Teacher F2 so that the target of 24 lesson observations could be fulfilled. Accordingly, at Ferndale there is a lesson designated Lesson F3a, with only Teacher F1 „Trevor Davidson‟ observed for both lessons and interviewed on more than the one occasion as originally envisaged.

113 involved in true ethnography, the study captures a glimpse of the personal and professional landscapes in which the participants conduct their pedagogical work. The following table provides an overview of the 24 lessons observed. The rating method was explained previously. In the notionally possible 0-14 point scale in each dimension (reform-aligned or conventionally-oriented) there is no claim for exactness of measurement. The usefulness of the figure lies in the indication of approximately where on the spectrum the lessons can be placed. Table 4: Overview of the 24 observed lessons
Lesson A1a A1b A2a A2b B1a B1b B2a B2b C1a C1b C2a C2b D1a D1b D2a D2b E1a E1b E2a E2b F1a F1b F2a F3a Year Level 10 10 10 10 7 7 9 9 10 10 9 10 10 10 7 7 7 7 8 8 9 9 8 7 Class type Adv Adv Std Std Adv Adv Std Std Std Std Ext Fdn Std Std Std Std Std Std Std Std Std Std Std Ext Topic/curriculum content focus Probability Linear equations Probability Linear equations Total surface area Volume Linear equations Circumference Trigonometry/Linear functions Geometry Intercepts Compound interest Surds Surds revision Measurement Subtraction (time difference) Place value Probability Balancing equations Algebra Geometry Algebraic functions Mathletics/various Linear graphs Pedagogical orientation rating (13, 1) (11, 1.5) (12, 1.5) (13, 2) (9, 2.5) (5, 5) (11, 0) (5.5, 1.5) (12, 0.5) (13, 1) (11, 2) (11, 1) (13, 1.5) (14, 0.5) (9, 1.5) (11, 1) (10, 1) (9, 0.5) (12, 0) (12, 0.5) (11, 0.5) (14, 1) (9, 1) (9, 0.5) Prevailing student engagement level Medium-High Medium-High Medium Medium High High Low-Medium Low Low Medium High Low Medium Low-Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium Low Low-Medium Medium Medium Low High Prevailing cognitive demand level Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium Low-Medium Low Medium Medium Medium Low Medium Medium Low Low Low-Medium Medium Low-Medium Medium Medium Medium Low Medium-High - differentiated

There is a non-intentional slight preponderance of Year 10 and Year 7 lessons over Years 8 and 9 lessons. There is no basis with the limited number of lessons for any test of higher or lower reform alignment by year level. On visual inspection there is no apparent difference in conventional orientation across different levels and no basis for attributing any significance to the fact that the most reform-aligned lesson, B1b, was a Year 7 class.26 While no claim
Bluegum Secondary College‟s Head of Maths who delivered this particular lesson remarked that she felt freer to experiment with her pedagogy with this class, partly because the curriculum content didn‟t in her view carry as much time pressure as in higher year levels,

114 to representativeness is made, the lessons are taken to be a not self-evidently atypical selection of Years 7-10 mathematics lessons delivered in government secondary schools. The outcome of the lesson observations shows little penetration of the current education reform agenda‟s expectations into the embedded practice of these mathematics teachers, with a clear preponderance of a conventional pedagogical approach. With the exception of Lesson B1b, rated at (5, 5) none of the lessons observed had a reform-aligned rating of higher than 2.5 on the 14 point scale. As the same teacher‟s other lesson B1a was placed at this „relatively high‟ 2.5 rating on the reform-aligned scale, close consideration of this teacher‟s pedagogical approach is warranted even though the actual rating of Lesson B1a (9, 2.5) doesn‟t in itself indicate it as dramatically different in pedagogical mix from several other teachers‟ lessons. 5.4 Presentation of lesson snapshots

Lesson Snapshot 1: observed lesson B1a
In Lesson B1a elements of reform-aligned pedagogy were not predominant, even though to a limited degree students did work collaboratively, develop conjectures, estimate or predict results, select from alternative ways of calculating answers, apply mathematics to real-life decisions, and were set the homework of thinking about an investigative report. Overall the computational content was simple and primarily concerned with practising how to calculate the total surface area of threedimensional shapes, particularly a rectangular prism, from formulae provided by the teacher after brief exploratory discussion. The students were being prepared for a forthcoming investigation of the mass of actual product contained in commercial packaging of different volumes. The teacher attempted to de-emphasise writing down memorising formulae. When asked twice by a student, “Do we copy this down?” the teacher replied, “Yes, you can write it down if you like.” Student application tasks were still primarily but not entirely confined to the repetition of a defined correct process. The teacher, both with the whole class and in circulating during individual working time, encouraged and responded to students‟ questions, comments and suggestions. In this sense it was an open, inclusive class with an atmosphere, even though not fully enacted, of learning through discussion and practical application. The cognitive demand level was moderate in terms of the students, all of whom were engaged and „on-task‟ for most of the lesson, being mainly involved in thinking through the correct application of the TSA formulae to different shapes which they had to envisage three-dimensionally. While conventional orientation rating is not directly inverse to reform-aligned rating, overall there was a somewhat lower
notably VCE (Years 11 and 12), but also because this particular Year 7 class was an advanced set (because of the streaming which occurs in maths classes at Bluegum) and these students were highly motivated, considered „well behaved‟ and worked rapidly.

dependence than usual of the teacher in this particular lesson on didactic instruction and on students working individually on routine computational exercise. There was no reference to any forthcoming summative/graded test of procedural correctness and accuracy. The teacher generally accepted students‟ questions or alternative suggestions about different ways in which TSA could be measured and estimated. However she was dismissive and inaccurate in dealing with a question about how we know that a particular formula is trustworthy:

[B1a audio file sequence 27:30-28.20 (50 seconds)] B1: The formula is 4 times π times r2. It‟s one that was found, I think it was in the 1700s or something like that, so it‟s something that we just use … That‟s just how it works out … [several students question how do we know]… No, I‟m telling you it‟s right … This one is squared so on your calculators press the x2 button… An indication of limited reform alignment is that teacher talk dominated the lesson. At just over 28 minutes into the 49 minute lesson the teacher remarked that the exploratory wholeclass discussion had gone over its intended time. The teacher‟s voice was heard for a cumulative total of 43 out of 49 minutes; about two-thirds of teacher talk being directed to the whole class (as distinct from her interacting with individuals or groups). 27

Apart from the same teacher‟s other observed lesson, this teacher‟s pedagogy in Lesson B1a was the most reform-aligned and among the least conventionally pitched of all of the 24 lessons studied. Given this, the still limited degree of reform alignment displayed in this lesson suggests a low level of traction being achieved by pedagogical change initiatives in the education reform policy agenda. It is appropriate here to move on to the other „outlying‟ lesson in Figure 1, Lesson B2b, which was rated relatively low on conventional pedagogy as well as being as low as most of the other observed lessons on the scale of reformalignment, again demonstrating that the two approaches are not simply inversely related.

Lesson Snapshot 2: observed lesson B2b
In this lesson the low ratings on both scales reflected little mathematical work being done. Overall there was little on-task application. After a slightly delayed start to the lesson, a Year 9 mainstream class on perimeter and circumference, the teacher

The timing reported includes brief pauses during which the teacher gathers thoughts, waits momentarily for attention or for students to focus on and grasp points of explanation, and brief silences while writing or drawing on the whiteboard (perhaps an IWB, although not in this particular case) as part of the teacher‟s explanation. It excludes periods of time where one or more students are providing public comment or going on with their work without the teacher‟s voice being heard at all.

explained that the students would measure the circumference of various cylindrical objects provided, such as whiteboard markers or glue stick tubes. Without framing a purpose for the activity (other than the lesson topic was circumference) and without eliciting any suggestion at all from students about how the circumference could be measured, the teacher demonstrated that one could wrap a piece of string around the cylinder and carefully mark the place at which the string began to overlap, then unroll the string and measure with a ruler the distance between the start of the string and the marked point. This was the stated to be the circumference. Students were then issued by the teacher with cylindrical objects and pieces of pre-cut string. They busied themselves measuring around six objects each by the demonstrated method, and the teacher then conducted a check to ensure that all students had an approximately correct answer for each object. The teacher explained in a reassuring tone that slight variations in the measurements made by students were caused by imprecision in the way the strings had been held. No discussion was entered into. The teacher then explained that to make the lesson more interesting and relate it to real life the students were going to go outside and measure the perimeter of the netball court and the „circumference‟ of the arcs inside it. He asked whether anyone knew what a trundle wheel was, and many students indicated that they did. The teacher provided a number of reminders about expected behaviour while the class was outside and indicated that to speed up the process they needed to copy from the whiteboard a sketch diagram of a netball court. At 37 minutes into the 50 minute lesson the students went outside. As it was cold and windy there was much mock complaining by students and some of the girls masqueraded screaming at gusts of wind which some of the students found amusing. Several of the boys mimicked the girls‟ initial screaming which resulted in a mild and pleasant humoured admonishment by the teacher. Because there were only two trundle wheels available, two students were asked to measure the specified features of the netball court while another student was allocated the task of recording each measurement as it was called out. The other students watched casually or began talking about matters unrelated to the lesson. There were 20 students in total present at the lesson. When the measuring had been completed the teacher indicated that they had run out of time and would work on the achieved measurements in the next lesson. From this account it can be seen why the lesson was scored quite low on the conservative pedagogy scale as only a relatively short proportion of the lesson was allocated to teacher instruction of the whole class and to students practising routine computational exercises from a textbook or worksheets. Additionally, while the purpose of the student work was not really clarified in mathematical terms, the work cannot be categorised as abstract, students were not confined to a mainly individual work space and there was no reference even by implication to preparation for any standard test of mathematical performance. Nevertheless, the lesson was reformaligned only in the marginal and shallow sense of purporting to apply mathematics to real life objects and involving the students working outside the physical confines of the classroom. The cognitive demand on students was extremely low throughout the different phases of the lesson. The teacher in de-briefing with the researcher indicated satisfaction with the lesson because “the students found it more interesting than just sitting at their desks.” This lesson indicates the way in which a teacher‟s earnest and genuine attempt to engage student interest may become uncoupled from the authentic pedagogical purpose of extending every student‟s existing knowledge and skills to a reasonable degree within each lesson.

Of the 24 lessons studied there was only one other case where students left the classroom for a proportion of the learning time, Lesson D2a. For

117 somewhat similar reasons to the above example this lesson had a slightly depressed rating on the conventional scale, but the teacher presented learning tasks through an essentially conservative pedagogy for the majority of the lesson excepting the period of around 7-8 minutes when students were outside. Proportion of lesson time spent on various types of activity is an important aspect of characterising observed lessons. In assessing and assigning ratings to pedagogical approaches as part of instruction study, Mayer (1999a), in a US mathematics reform context, tests various measures (eg. direct lesson observation or teacher estimation) of the frequency of usage of reform-aligned types of pedagogical tasks. Mayer (1999a: 43) contends “as education policy focuses more and more on instructional practice, this type of data will play an increasingly important role in helping to assess whether the policies are having their intended effect”. Mayer also notes that whatever combination of methods is settled on, measuring the actual time spent on reformist pedagogical tasks, demanding enough in itself, always remains a step removed from capturing the quality of teachers‟ reform practices. While acknowledging the importance of this caveat, the present study still incorporates a measure of time spent on particular types of learning task in the observed lessons (some conventional tasks are more readily amenable to this than are reform-aligned tasks), and this is embodied as part of the observation schedule. In Lesson D2a, because the students did not listen to the teacher explain or work individually on routine exercises from a text book or work sheet while remaining physically in a fixed work place for as high a proportion of the time as characterised the more conventional lessons, the lesson was rated at only 9 on the 14 point conventional orientation scale. However, the short excursion outdoors did not involve significant reform-aligned learning and in this dimension a rating of only 1.5 on the 14 point scale was produced. This reflected a partially or cursorily demonstrated, but not thoroughly enacted or embedded, reference to a real-life situation, involving an attempt to employ estimation techniques and physicalisation for understanding a mathematical problem.

118 Lesson Snapshot 3: observed lesson D2a
This class was a Year 7 mainstream group of 21 students and the mathematical topic was basic spatial measurement. The teacher had clearly spent substantial time preparing the lesson in which students in what she referred to as “teams of four” would take one of six alternative courses and navigate their way through a specified four-step course according to written instructions, using estimation and sketch diagrams to record their path. For example, “Next go 10m towards the pergola nearest the gate.” Preparation effort had been invested by the teacher in ensuring that the instructions for all six alternative courses would result in a charted travel path forming a quadrilateral shape, which could then be mathematically processed back in the classroom to calculate perimeter and area. The reverse of the instruction sheet conveyed detailed requirements such as “working safely and conscientiously”, “working cooperatively” and “diagrams on map in grey lead, accurate”, and these formed assessment criteria from “Very High” to “Not Shown” so that the work could be assessed with a numerical score converted to a letter grade. All of this was made explicit in writing. This 50 minute lesson, including the 7-8 minutes where the students worked in a task-focused and efficient way outside as instructed with minimal off-task behaviour, did not engage them in any active high-cognitive demand mathematical thinking at all. At the beginning the teacher accompanied by the researcher met the students at the classroom door and reminded the students that the two lines in which they had already assembled were required to be “straight and silent”. She cautioned, “If you don‟t … you‟ll be back here doing exercises at lunchtime.” This was stated in a matter-of-fact tone and the students appeared to regard it as unremarkable. The lesson began with an 8-minute explanation of the work to be completed and then, after a 2-minute practice inside the classroom of doing a long step and then measuring the distance with a ruler so strides could be used as the basis of estimation, the class moved outside for several minutes. In planning the paths to be sketched by students, consisting of four lines which when slightly adjusted formed quadrilaterals, the teacher had prepared correctly adjusted diagrams of the six different quadrilaterals produced. Using the whiteboard to demonstrate, she showed the students how they could divide each quadrilateral into two triangles and thereby work out the area. The students then followed the instruction, “Work quietly and individually and see if you can finish [calculating both the perimeter and the area of all six quadrilaterals] by the end of the period.” Four minutes later a student called out, “What do we do if we finish?” The teacher responded wordlessly, holding up a further work sheet requiring similar computations. The students continued working fairly quietly while the teacher entered the attendance on an electronic roll device brought around the school each period by a team of student monitors. She issued one behaviour correction in the [exact] words, “We‟re not discussing it – putting down what you think.” This was 36 minutes into the lesson and by this time the noise level in the classroom was higher but not extreme and many students appeared to have finished the assigned work and were chatting. The teacher warned that she was “looking for people to join me for lunch.” At 45 minutes into the lesson she issued a detention to a female student for audibly singing “Old Macdonald had a farm”. (Given the contemporary Australian setting this may seem almost not credible but it is literally what occurred.) The teacher said that the lesson would finish with an estimation game and she held up a box for students to estimate various dimensions and then to estimate total surface area and volume. Two boys with their hands up were told to put their hands down and “Let other people think.” At that point the teacher suddenly instructed students, “Sshhh! It‟s nearly bell time. We‟ll finish this next lesson.”

119 5.5 Teachers’ self-attributed pedagogical reform orientation

An intriguing perspective on the above description is that in a debrief interview Teacher D2 said she liked to have her classes go outside occasionally for variety and interest and that the students appreciated and didn‟t abuse these opportunities. However the researcher had taken the opportunity to informally ask a group of students while they were stepping out their assigned path directions whether they regularly came outside as part of their maths work. The students stated that they hadn‟t done so at all previously. This particular lesson observation occurred at the end of July, more than half way into the school year. This comment is not made with any pejorative intention. The professional commitment of the teacher to thinking about and carefully planning what she intended to be interesting and engaging learning work for her students was obvious. However what emerges from this disconnect between the teacher‟s selfprojection of her pedagogical approach and students‟ actual experience of learning in this classroom is reflected in a body of research indicating that teachers overestimate and over-report the reform-alignment of their own practice. Citing Argyris and Schön‟s (1996) organizational learning work, Kennedy (1999: 353-354) notes teachers‟ testimonies are “best thought of as revealing teachers‟ espoused principles of practice; they may not reveal much about teachers‟ theories in action”. From a different theoretical framing, discourse analysis complements this point in proposing that social actors use discourse to construct in and through their talk a version of themselves which is acceptable and appealing in the context (see, for example, Phillips and Hardy 2002: 32). There may be little or no deliberate intention to mislead or conscious awareness of discrepancies in each individual‟s varying self-portrayals for different purposes; nor selfacknowledgment observations. 28
It is actually more complex than this: in their discourse analysis research Wood and Kroger (2000), for example, observe that social actors make use of shifting, diffuse and unresolved







120 5.6 Analysis of a moderately reform-aligned lesson

Lesson Snapshot 4: observed lesson B1b
The most reform-aligned lesson observed, Lesson B1b with a Year 7 Advanced class of 20 (present) students, was rated 5 on the conventional scale and 5 on the reformaligned scale suggesting a balance or at least mix of potential pedagogical approaches. The lesson engaged students actively in thinking about and enacting mathematical tasks for much of the time. Teacher talk still dominated, with 31 minutes of the 47 minutes involving the teacher talking. This was divided almost equally between teacher talk with individuals and small groups and talk with the class as a whole. While just on a third of the lesson time was spent on the teacher talking to the whole class, the content was not so much concerned with demonstration of correct processes as with orchestrating and controlling a (still teacher dominated) discussion of the practical and social importance of measuring and estimating the volume of commercial packaging compared to the volume required for the contents. Students were encouraged to contribute their experiences and observations. When not in this whole-class plenary structure, students still remained at their own fixed work place. However they were not working mainly on routine computations from work sheets, but rather were actively measuring and estimating volumes using real-life three-dimensional models in the form of cereal packets and other boxes.

The discourse in this lesson was „participationist‟ (Sfard 2001, and others cited in Chapter 2) in that all student contributions were treated with interest by the teacher and mathematics was approached with enthusiasm and a sense of its value, utility, interest and importance. There was some brief high quality discussion orchestrated by the teacher in response to a student‟s question, speculating on whether the TSA of a box can be measured as easily and accurately if the box has been flattened (not crumpled). Additionally an observation by two students that “our measurements are different” resulted in a discussion of why this could have happened rather than a simple teacher correction. Nevertheless, the overall cognitive demand level remained modest. Much of the work was straightforwardly computational and involved repeating the same calculation on different box sizes. Mathematics was linked to real-life social practices such as marketing strategies in packaging, and the ethics and social effects of these. In the introduction to the concept, substantial time was spent on exchanges about shopping experiences. Sceptics about the value of presenting the fundamental
but tacitly acknowledged contradictions within their discourse to accomplish self-positioning and self-clarification.

121 value of mathematics as instrumental29, may consider that in relating it to the students‟ prior experience too much class time was invested in personal shopping anecdotes (over 10 minutes of introduction time in the under-50 minutes total lesson time). Overall, this most reform-aligned of all observed lessons showed some indications of movement in the reform direction, but did not strongly focus on principled mathematical thinking. It adopted some reform elements to elicit student engagement in lesson activities while still emphasising procedural mathematical operations rather than principled mathematical thinking. 5.7 Student engagement and behaviour management

considerations This lesson also raised the issue of student behaviour management and safety provisions, considered by several teachers in their interviews to be a major constraint on trying more adventurous teaching approaches. Given that the students remained primarily at their own desks for the duration of the lesson and the class was generally well-behaved and well-managed, the following excerpt from the lesson illustrates a potential classroom management challenge for teachers with some aspects of reform-favoured approaches.
[B1b audio file sequence 26:55-27:15 (20 seconds)] B1: Pat, can we start please – doing the calculations. S1: But he threw a box at my eye. B1: Who did? S1: Simon, and it hit me in the eye. S2: When did Simon do that? S3: Someone threw a box at me and…and they B1: Can we not throw the boxes please. Are you OK? S1: And it hurts. B1: Are you OK? Do you want me to send you to sick bay? S1: No. B1: Well, OK, let‟s do the work then. [At 28:15 one minute later] B1 (loudly): Can we not throw the boxes around please. Jordan, did you hear anything I was saying?

As noted, the teacher had stated to the researcher that because this Year 7 class was an advanced set the students were highly motivated and well behaved. Little time was spent on behaviour management, a total of only around 4 minutes, mainly in brief routinised behaviour corrections or reminders. Some of these were pitched as
Along these lines see Lockhart (2002) for an amusingly acidic parody of reform mathematics pedagogy. Lockhart counter-positions mathematics as actually akin to a sacred art form and specialised language.

questions about the work tasks, but clearly directed with a primarily behaviour correction rather than mathematical thinking orientation.

The combination of relatively low classroom behaviour management demand above, arising from complex dynamics in the interaction between these students and their teacher in a particular established classroom cultural context, and yet the exchange concerning student safety in connection with the only modestly physicalised learning activity of measuring actual containers, helps to explain a constraint on reform-aligned teaching approaches introduced by several participant teachers in the interviews to be discussed subsequently. Reform-alignment goes hand in hand with highly collaborative and mutually supportive classroom socio-cultural and behavioural norms which teachers may find elusive to attain in practice. 5.8 Pedagogical reform policy reliance on the transformational potential of ICT In one of the observed lessons ICT, privileged in reform policy as an envisaged pedagogical reform driver, was deployed primarily as a student engagement and behaviour management device, involving what appeared to be extremely low cognitive demand level with very little if any higher order thinking entailed. Lesson Snapshot 5: observed lesson F2a
This was a Year 9 mathematics lesson of 75 minutes duration at Ferndale Secondary College. The teacher stated the students “work better on computers than just listening”. The students worked essentially individually throughout the lesson, each with their own desk top computer in a computer room which the teacher used as often as it was available. They worked with varying degrees of task focus on a Mathletics program. Although students worked at slightly different levels, the tasks were primarily arithmetical and basic. The following exchange illustrates the general prevailing level and the teacher‟s coaching approach to elicit correct answers from students as he moved around the class.
S1: I can‟t work out the fraction. F2: How many minutes in an hour? S1: Sixty. F2: Very good. Now „of‟‟ means? „Of‟ means? (pause) Times. So one tenth times 60 means? Means 60 divided by 10. S1: Oh, so you do 60 divided by the bottom number? F2: Yes, very good. There you go.

The teacher worked hard, speaking throughout the lesson almost without any break, but with the conversation involving mainly individual students at their computers

rather than the whole class. The teacher‟s approach involved a coaching, even coaxing style, to elicit student engagement.
F2: You tell me that, how many hours in a day? S2: Twenty-four. F2. 24 hours. So, to find out how many days in 58 hours, so what are you going to do? (Pause). No, what are you going to do, what are you going to do? (Pause) You‟re going to have to give me an answer…what are you going to do? (Sings softly – literally sings) What are you going to do, what are you going to do? Come on. S2: If it was 48 hours, so that would be two…two… F2: Yes… S2: - days… F2: Yes, that‟s right… S2: …and one eight – eighth of it… F2: Good, 48 hours, but this is 58 so how many hours left? (Pause). 48 hours, you said before, you said it very well before, so how many hours left? S2: 48, so it‟s… F2: Brendan, can you turn the light back on please… [Moves into a brief behaviour management exchange]

It can be seen from this how the teacher works to elicit student engagement and maintain their confidence but does most of the thinking for them, producing dependence and arguably even reinforcing a form of learned helplessness. At one point a student asks for help and the teacher explicitly remarks on the way over, in a warm voice involving no sarcasm at all, “Of course, I love it when you ask me for help. I want to help you.” A final exchange concerning one of the more sophisticated of the Mathletics questions being attempted by any student in this class illustrates the emphasis of the teacher on a supportive classroom environment, in the affective sense, but provided in conjunction with what appears to be very limited cognitive stretching.
F2: What is the number that if you square it you get closer to 13? If you tell me, there are two numbers that if you square them are close to 13. S3: 3 and 4? F2: Excellent. Very good. So it has to be between these two. You estimate, obviously you want the right answer, I can‟t get you the right answer, but you can see…OK three 3s is 9. What‟s left? S3: Um, eh… F2: 9 from 13 is?...4. OK. The square root of 4 is?...2. OK. [The student has not provided either of these answers.] What about if we can say…OK, so it‟s going to be 3.2, what, 3.3, try that. [Student finds square root of 13 on calculator as ≈3.6] See we were close. I know you wanted it perfect. But that‟s how we estimate it.

Leaving aside the mathematical concern about the teacher‟s approach of taking the square root of 4 and then adding .2 to the square root of 9 as a way of estimating the square root of 13 (and thereby being significantly out in the „estimate‟), while this process finally enables the student to enter the correct alternative answer in the program this is achieved with extremely limited active input or student‟s own thought involved in the process. The lesson was rated at (9, 1) because of the low proportion of teacher „lecture‟ time and the reliance on individual students using an ICT program as the primary learning approach. Contextual cues in addition to the teacher‟s own report revealed this to be a regular approach whenever a PC-enabled room was available. Nevertheless there was little if any authentic reform-alignment at all in terms of this being a „participationist‟ approach or having high cognitive level. It was awarded a rating of 1 on the reform-alignment scale because of the ICT use and the apparently embedded encouragement of students to persevere and engage (but with very low conceptual difficulty tasks).

Within the 75-minute lesson, teacher lecture (ie. speaking to the whole class) and behaviour management time were almost exactly balanced at 10:42 and 10:09 minutes respectively. Distractions from the teacher being able to concentrate on conversation with individual students increased towards the end of the lesson as many students became bored. In fact only 23 minutes into the lesson one student had called out, “I‟m bored of this”, but most students remained on task for longer. By 45 minutes into the lesson a number of students had accessed completely off-task programs such as internet search, email and social networking sites. These were minimised whenever the teacher approached, and the teacher appeared to remain oblivious to this. Certainly he conveyed no acknowledgment of it. Several small groups of students chatted and joked loudly, audibly using language generally considered inappropriate in classroom situations. Some students began to throw objects including pens at one another and kept this up for a considerable period. One female student went to the classroom door and ostentatiously spat outside from the doorstep itself. All of these behaviours went either totally or largely unchallenged by the teacher who continued conversing with individual students. Eventually 64 minutes into the lesson the teacher noted the large number of students who had abandoned their computers and said, “Right, everyone, back to your seats – and turn your screens off. Turn your screens off.” Several students continued to talk loudly, interject, call out answers to questions or ignore the direction to turn off computer screens, which culminated in the teacher dispensing several detentions as a disciplinary consequence and overall produced a ragged and inconclusive end to the lesson.

The above lesson shows that the incorporation of ICT is not in itself a „magic bullet‟ in moving mathematics pedagogy in an authentic reform-aligned direction. Other observed lessons in which ICT usage featured prominently provide a complex and ambiguous picture of this element of the reform agenda implementation. Danielle Vance‟s [pseudonym] two observed lessons at Cranbrook Secondary College merit discussion because both occurred in highly ICT enabled classrooms. The two classes varied considerably in cognitive pitch as one was a Year 9 lesson involving an advanced extension group working on intercepts while her older Year 10 class was designated a „foundation‟ class, working on basic mathematics intended to be directly useful for social purposes such as consumer financial awareness. In this instance they were working on compound interest.


Lesson Snapshot 6: observed lesson C2a
This Year 9 lesson took place in a large classroom with central student work desks and a total of 23 desk top PCs on bench tops around the periphery of the room. [A photograph of the space, without students, is shown in Figure 2]. There were 25 students present. The teacher began the lesson by asking students to do „warm-up‟ exercises from worksheets mainly entailing „expanding the brackets‟ and all students engaged in this purposefully and virtually silently. At 14 minutes into the 50-minute lesson a student asked publicly, “Miss, can we go on the computers?” receiving the reply that everyone could when they had finished their current worksheet. By just over 20 minutes into the lesson 22 students were working individually on a Graphmatica program graphing functions to ascertain the value of y for given values of x in different functions. The teacher worked on clarification of misunderstandings with a small group of three students who did not go onto computers at any point. The teacher‟s only direct interaction with the majority of the students who were working on the computers was at 29 minutes into the lesson to tell a student to close an unrelated game he had opened up on the computer. Around 38 minutes into the lesson the teacher called for everyone‟s attention and provided a summation of some key concepts. This was delivered for most of the remainder of the lesson in silent attention from students, except where an individual was asked for a short answer or brief explanation. Just prior to this whole class „lecture‟ segment the teacher told the researcher she valued the variety of work access to computers provided to students and she regretted that not all classrooms in the school were as well equipped as this one.

A comparison with Danielle Vance‟s other potentially ICT-enabled lesson reinforces the position that ICT access doesn‟t in itself provide a pathway to student engagement in mathematics when a sense of its value and relevance is not already in place from other culturally situated factors. Compared to her Year 9 students who moved easily between worksheets, computer programs and teacher explanation in a didactic lecture format, the teacher‟s Year 10 class made almost no use of the large number of desktop computers available. The classroom was a different but essentially identical room to the previous one, both off a central mathematics and science staff room hub.


Figure 2: C2’s ICT-enabled maths classroom with 23 desk-top PCs around periphery Lesson Snapshot 7: observed lesson C2b
The 15 students worked in their workbooks from exercises which the teacher provided on a standard whiteboard, although in an interactive whiteboard (IWB) enabled classroom. These primarily involved showing annual or monthly interest in tables and performing basic arithmetical processes to comparing the compound interest accrued over a period with that of simple interest. Various interactions between the teacher and the class seemed to convey a sense of resignation about the very limited mathematical thinking called into operation:
C2: Next week we might look at the formula. Do you want to do the formula? Not really? OK, C2: Do we need a calculator to do this? Really! [This accompanied an explanation that you could just move the decimal point if you were dealing in percentages.]

The level of mathematical thinking required was low, having more to do with correctly reading a simple table and performing a simple arithmetical process to obtain a correct answer, rather than any higher mathematical operation or understanding. By 35 minutes into the 50 minute lesson there was a significant amount of off-task behaviour and noise which the teacher largely ignored. Although she said, “We better finish so we can get onto the computers,” it wasn‟t clear what the computers would be used for and the students showed no interest in using them. Only one student went over to one of the desktop PCs at one point and opened up an unrelated web program. He then had his mobile phone confiscated wordlessly by the teacher for using its web browser. He logged off after about three minutes on the computer. Most students were off task by this point but not particularly boisterous. Two girls sitting next to one another worked from textbook exercises on compound interest for the entire lesson in total silence but otherwise without any display of

enthusiasm. One student was apparently asleep (literally) with his head on the desk for the final 15 minutes of the lesson.

Teachers‟ reflections on the observed lessons specifically, and the reform policy context of their work more broadly, are examined in the next chapter. However it is appropriate to record here Teacher C2‟s overt expression to the researcher of her feelings of despondency at the perceived difficulty of engaging and holding students‟ interest, while orchestrating appropriate and productive use of ICT possibilities for enhancing their learning. 5.9 Pedagogy as a complex, subtle and situated performance

Throughout this presentation of results of the lesson observations it has been emphasised that the purpose was to classify observed lessons in terms of their degree of conventional or reform alignment, not to evaluate their pedagogical quality. Reflecting this intention, the rating criteria were not designed to incorporate any ostensible measure of lesson effectiveness.30 Nevertheless it is important to present a snapshot of a lesson which appeared to produce high student engagement and also high cognitive demand, with an observable element of individual differentiation for students in the class. To capture a sense of the pedagogical complexity at play here it is necessary to describe this lesson at considerable length. Lesson Snapshot 8: observed lesson F3a
There was an atmosphere of confident purposefulness sustained throughout Hannah Johnson‟s complex and varied Year 7 lesson observed at Ferndale Secondary College. The lesson moved fluidly between diverse learning activities, with obvious indications of student engagement. The classroom‟s networked ICT access was deployed in a fairly marginal way to enhance the variety of material available to students. This was done in a casual and familiar manner suggesting an accustomed usage, routinely drawn upon for enhancement but not substituted for students‟ own mathematical thinking. Students, working on features of the Cartesian Plane, were presented with several sources of material from which to choose exercises geared to their level of understanding. The materials came from a set text, supplementary worksheets and extension work of a more challenging level which the teacher had previously posted on the intranet and called up on the classroom‟s interactive whiteboard. Students seemed to be able to place themselves at an appropriate level and work with concentration for several minutes at a time. From time to time individual students
In the earlier table, Table 4, summative indications of student engagement and cognitive demand level are based on holistic impression not explicit measurement.

would call up new material onto the IWB after checking with others that it was OK to do this. The teacher observed this in a manner which suggested she was calmly and alertly monitoring all activities in the room but saw no need to comment or direct as long as everything was working productively. Meanwhile the teacher consulted in a supportive, clarifying manner with various small groups of students, all working on the Cartesian Plane but from diverse materials at different levels of understanding. At one point the teacher asked a student to go to find another maths teacher to get some related material pitched at Year 8 level to extend a particular point of understanding with one small group. At another point she lightly teased a student for apparently enjoying continuing mathematical exercises he had already mastered and promised to provide some additional extension work for challenge. Periodically the teacher called for silent attention from the class to clarify a mathematical point. This took the form of orchestrated question and answer routine, rather than didactic instruction. Students appeared used to explaining their understanding to one another in this whole class format and in small groups. Analysis of the audio record of the teacher working with groups shows she listened to and participated in their dialogue in a manner which modelled engagement in working through mathematical material as a shared focus of interest and active thinking. This excerpt illustrates this:
[F3a audio file sequence 19:15-21:30] F3: Now how are you guys working? S1; I thought it would have been -1, then -3, but… F3: What are you up to? S1: (reflectively) no, it‟s not… F3: So you‟ve, oh, these are all A, B, C, I see, and then you‟ve joined the points up… S1: Yes. F3: OK… S1: And the direction they‟re going with an arrow as well… F3: Oh, OK, so this shows your starting point and that finishes up there… [break] S1: So, the next point of the pattern – we did that….but I can‟t understand that one because it goes…. F3: So it‟s going [omitted]…so that‟s a pattern isn‟t it? S1: But it‟s skipping [omitted]…isn‟t it? F3: It might not form a linear pattern… S1: It doesn‟t form a pattern? F3: There you go. S1: Because you can‟t go in a straight line – I don‟t think – „cos, there‟s, you‟ve gotta go there… F3: Where‟s the third point? S1: The third point is right there. F3: So it‟s not in a line? So it does not follow a linear pattern? OK. It is a question, OK, it‟s not a statement…

What is most notable is the capacity of this teacher to orchestrate different kinds and levels of student mathematical thinking in the classroom simultaneously and pitch the tone of the work in terms of a shared discourse of enquiry rather than didactic teacher explanation and consolidation of student understanding by standard computational exercises. In the class of 20 students, at most times a variety of work tasks was being completed in different work configurations. Students discussed their work with others, sought input from others around the classroom, including but not confined to the teacher, and were free to change the IWB material displayed in consultation with others as required. From time to time the teacher explicitly asked a student to go and confer with designated others to ask for help or to contribute an

idea. At close to half way into the lesson the teacher differentiated in the following words:

[F3a audio file sequence 27:55-28:25] F3: All right, can I please have, apart from Rhys and Alan, can everyone pop your pens down for a minute, and sorry these four at the front [these six students were working on more advanced work] pop your pens down for a minute and I want to move on to the next task and it‟s looking at linear graphs. OK? Now, it sounds like [makes a pensive sound to herself] it sounds like a completely different thing, but it‟s not. It‟s actually, it‟s related…

The task differentiation for students shown here was an embedded feature of this lesson and the teacher appeared to have a handle on where students were up to for their next challenge. Towards the end of the 65 minute lesson, for the final eight minutes of it, she delegated to a student being the „master‟ of a mathematics quiz modelled on Pac-Man, in that students attempted to eliminate one another by touching an adjacent student after correctly answering a question. While all the other students participated in this the teacher continued to work with a small group of students who had misunderstandings about the core mathematical work designated for the lesson. She jotted down in one student‟s diary a specific clarification exercise to do over the coming weekend. From time to time she called out a compliment to the game master about the question asked or to a student who had correctly answered it. She laughed at the sighs of those eliminated, all the while concentrating primarily on her interaction with the small group of students. This capacity for sustained multiple focus set this teacher‟s work apart from the other pedagogical work observed. The way the teacher orchestrated diverse classroom activity was notable and nothing seemed to escape her notice. The high level of mathematical thinking engagement made any overt behaviour correction unnecessary. The teacher privately observed to an individual that she needed to be much clearer with her physical setting out of material in her workbook so that it wasn‟t confusing. This was done in a crisp manner conveying that expectations were high and needed to be met so that learning outcomes could be achieved. As a firm correction it was unmistakable but lightly handled. Otherwise in the entire lesson virtually no time was spent on behaviour correction. At the end of the lesson the teacher instructed the students to stand quietly behind their chairs, which they did, while she ensured some packing up of books and materials, insisted on tables being straightened and admonished a student for facing his chair incorrectly. This was all done briskly and matter-of-factly, the entire sequence occupying just under 30 seconds. Otherwise there was no overt classroom management time spent in the lesson at all.

The reasons for the rating of this lesson at (9, 0.5) on the pedagogical alignment scales, which entails a low reform-alignment in the terms specified in the criteria, could be discussed at length. However in summary the lesson was among the slightly lower-rated lessons on the conventional scale because of the lower proportion of time spent on teacher instruction to the whole class and because of the range of sources of exercises used. Total teacher talk time to the class as a whole was just on 11 minutes or 17 per cent of the total lesson time, at the lower end of all observed lessons. Nevertheless most students still worked on exercises from their chosen text book or worksheets for most of the lesson, and despite the sense of freedom to move around the classroom most

130 worked primarily individually in one fixed work space. Additionally, the mathematics itself was presented as a closed (while fascinating) system of symbols on paper with no relationship to anything outside its own realm. The lesson was simultaneously low on the reform alignment scale because, apart from the lesson providing a safe environment for students in which to work on a limited conjectural basis, otherwise the students did not display to any significant degree any of the range of reform-aligned learning behaviours distilled from the pedagogical reform definitions utilised. Although the teacher drew in a limited way on IWB technology to access some alternative exercise material, and allowed a small number of students to scroll through the IWB display whenever they were ready for the next section, otherwise the students did not themselves actively use ICT to explore, investigate, demonstrate or explain any more than in the most conventionally-oriented and least reform-aligned lessons. 5.10 Limitations on ‘transferability of practice’ suggested by the Snapshot What separated this lesson from the others observed were subtle nuance dimensions not adequately captured by a scale designed to indicate a location within the reform-aligned compared to conventional matrix. Because this lesson stands apart markedly from most others observed we need to ask whether in a school setting its quality is likely to be captured, transferred and shared with other practitioners. To this end, interviews with the participant teachers were designed to establish the degree to which the context in which their professional practice is enacted provides embedded opportunities for participation in a professional community of pedagogical practice, within or beyond their school. Certainly in the subsequent debrief reflecting on this lesson the teacher represented it as having been nothing special in any way. She saw it as a routine lesson and pretty much “just the way I tend to do it”. There were no identifiable sources of her pedagogical ideas (as distinct from documented syllabus topic content) which she could nominate, and no

131 expectation of discussing with the other mathematics teachers what she saw as just her own characteristic but basically quite unremarkable pedagogy. In fact the tonal qualities would be quite elusive to articulate and transfer as pedagogical practice. The following short excerpt captures the inter-personal dimension of this:
[F3a audio file sequence 50:55-51:10] F3 [working with an individual student]: That‟s it. And then plot the points – up to that final point… S2: Miss Johnson [pseudonym substituted] can I please borrow your white F3: Sure, sure. [Then to another student] Do you want to take a seat here? The only trouble is you‟ll have to read me the coordinates from the board, „cos I can‟t read them from here [laughs].


At first glance there is nothing highly significant about this discourse exchange, until one registers when listening to the audio record a particular casual and seemingly inconsequential warmth in the tone of voice of the affirmation that the student can borrow the white out. This very „old school‟ technology of the liquid paper, which for diverse reasons from educational philosophy to graffiti prevention is actually banned in many school classrooms, forms the momentary subject of an ultra-brief discourse which demonstrates a shared expectation of politeness, courtesy, cooperation and warmth. The teacher then sets herself physically next to the other student with a sense of ease and uncomplicated familiarity, mediated by the (relatively young) teacher‟s subtle self-deprecation of calling on the student‟s better eyesight to compensate for her own, so that these two, student and teacher, symbolically form a cooperative partnership to work through the mathematical problem together. There is no sense of the teacher and students as „equals‟. Their roles are continuously differentiated into collaborative norms where the teacher is clearly an experienced mentor and guide of novices being inducted into mathematical enquiry and its associated processes. No thinking is done by this teacher for the students, but thinking is done with the students who are prompted at each moment to suggest next steps and test them to see why they do or do not work. Yet the teacher herself takes her own complex and subtle pedagogical practice for granted. Her professional pedagogical know-how is

132 tacit and unspoken. By her own report, she does not routinely articulate it to others or to herself, because it seems obvious to her and simply just the way she does it. For her the pedagogy does not seem problematised. Yet, it clearly isn‟t the way most teachers know how to do it. Certainly it was utterly removed from and found no echoes at all in the observed pedagogy of the other two Ferndale Secondary College teachers. Nothing observed at Ferndale, in lessons or interviews, suggested that the pedagogical approach was already or was likely to become shared practice. Its style was as subtle and elusive as an individual personality. 5.11 style Interestingly this complex operational factor, very resistant to duplication and transfer, was almost equally apparent in a very different and overall more conventional lesson (rated 12, 1.5), summing up on the topic of probability and introducing linear equations presented to a Year 10 mainstream class at Ashgrove Secondary College by teacher „Gary Atkins‟. Lesson Snapshot 9: observed lesson A2a
The lesson was largely dominated by teacher explanation to the class as a whole. There was a strong emphasis on the teacher providing clear and precise explanation of terminology and processes, and publicly checking for student understanding before moving on. Teacher talk to the whole class occupied 46 per cent of the total lesson time. Presentation was calm, firm, insistent and methodical. The teacher consciously positioned himself as orchestrator of an essentially didactic process in which student engagement and attention was expected and closely monitored. The following excerpt while the teacher demonstrates correct process on a (standard) whiteboard captures the general pedagogical approach:
[A2a audio file sequence 15:25-16:20] A2: Remember if we do something to one side – we do it to the…? [several] S‟s: Other side. A2; The other side. OK. [break] A2: Who will I get to do this. Hmm, who‟s someone I haven‟t picked on today?

Lessons from a more conventionally-pitched pedagogical

The approach was very conservative in overall pitch. When not listening to the teacher explain, the students primarily worked on computational exercises from the one set text book with no individual variation. The teacher‟s questioning style when circulating the class with individuals is very leading:
A2: What‟s three time zero? What‟s three times zero? S: Zero A2: OK zero. Now what‟s three times s?

At the end of a long sequence of explanations to the whole class the teacher instructed: “You‟re going to do every second problem, so a, c, e and so on. Then we‟re going to go on to our journals.” This latter matter of journals requires elaboration and was the major reason, along with the insistence on student engagement in a discourse which treated mathematics seriously and virtually reverently, for receiving a reform-aligned rating of above zero (1.5). The teacher communicated an expectation of journals being used for reflection, clarification and goal-setting, as shown in this excerpt:
[A2a audio file sequence 33:30-35:35] OK could you come to a stop please. Finish the question you‟re on and close your books and get your journals out please. OK, close your books and get your journals out please. Get your journals open please. Get your journals out please. [This is repeated in a deliberately insistent monotone several times.] [break] So, it‟s very important that you also start something tonight about the new topic – your feelings, and your worries, and your concerns, and your confidence in where you think you know and don‟t know about Chapter 5 lineal relations…but today, right now, I want you working on your review, your finalising of the test, I feel I did well, I think I probably got a grade of something like this, I think that I may not know enough about… [other examples of reflection were then provided to stimulate the students‟ self evaluation]

5.12 Recurring impressions of teachers’ private professional practice Unlike Ferndale‟s „Hannah Johnson‟ who regarded her pedagogical style as unremarkable and of no conceivable interest to her mathematics teacher colleagues, Ashgrove‟s „Gary Atkins‟ was conscious that his experimentation with journals for students‟ self-reflection on their mathematical learning was unusual in his school. However he reported a reluctance to discuss it with colleagues as he believed they would tend to be resistant and sceptical. As far as he knew no other mathematics teacher at Ashgrove Secondary College was using student journals or contemplating doing so. Chapter 6 will report in greater detail on the reflections by the participant teachers on their private or shared professional practice emerging from the semi-structured interviews and informal conversations conducted over the several research visits to each school site. Prior to moving to these, however, Part B of this chapter presents the complementary data on mathematics teachers‟ self-reported pedagogical orientations from the surveys completed by 86 respondents, as explained in Chapter 4. To return to the key research question, these data cast light on the degree to which mathematics teachers‟ pedagogical practice is aligning with reform policy expectations, while the

134 interview and policy analysis data in the next chapter suggest interpretations of the picture which has emerged from the lesson studies and surveys. Part B - Results from the survey of teachers’ pedagogical approaches 5.13 Interpreting the surveys Surveys relying on respondents‟ self-attributions provide data about their selfperceptions rather than „objective‟ reality. The survey of teachers‟ pedagogical approaches was designed to provide complementary data from a larger group of maths teachers than could be studied in depth through lesson observations and interviews. The need to secure a satisfactory return rate compelled a simple and convenient survey format for respondents to submit, needing only a few minutes for completion and requiring only the circling of alternative responses on a Likert scale, without respondents needing to provide any verbal comments, unless they chose to do so. This feature and the convenience of being able to return the survey directly and anonymously in the stamped and addressed envelope supplied, or through the head of the mathematics faculty after sealing the questionnaire envelope, contributed to the achievement of a high return rate of 81% or 86 respondents from the 106 survey forms distributed to all the mathematics teachers across the six participating schools.31 There is no way of knowing whether the 20 potential respondents who did not complete a return differ systematically from the 86 who did do so. However, a reassuring result is that on both mean score per item and item rank order correlation measures, the survey responses of the 13 direct participant teachers show no significant variation from the responses of their larger group of colleagues. This upholds the proposition that there is no apparent reason to


There were actually 87 returns but one of these provided responses to only a minority of the items. While these answers were included, this incomplete return is not counted in the return rate. Of the 86 complete returns, 83 respondents answered all items while 3 omitted just one item, a different item in each case.

135 believe the teachers whose lessons were observed and analysed in detail are unrepresentative of current Victorian mathematics teachers as a whole, or at the least of their colleagues in this selection of schools. The construction and purpose of the survey was detailed in Chapter 4. It was designed to yield supplementary data to help confirm or disconfirm the finergrained data on teachers‟ adoption of reform-aligned pedagogy derived from lesson observations and interviews. The survey, reproduced in Appendix C, presented 20 items in random order asking teachers to indicate for each identified student learning activity which of the following reliance levels it corresponded to within their own pedagogical repertoire: 1. a major aspect of most lessons 2. normally done for some part of each lesson 3. sometimes done but not every lesson 4. seldom or never done As a rapid impressionistic self-reported estimation, these alternatives are not taken to have precise definition and arguably they are vulnerable to some inbuilt ambiguity.32 However it was considered necessary to provide a simple accessible wording which respondents could readily see as conveying an order of reliance within their normal routine pedagogical approaches. In the trial phase with a small group of teachers not in the six participating schools, and whose data was not used, they indicated that the 20 items were clear and the four ratings on the Likert scale captured the relative degrees of dependence and emphasis they placed on the specified learning behaviours. While the items were presented in the survey in randomised order, seven of the items were considered indicative of conventionally-oriented pedagogy, an example being students “complete worksheets or textbook exercises individually”. Conversely, ten items were considered to represent reformaligned pedagogy, for example, students “prepare to present mathematical learning in diverse forms to varied audiences”.
For example, alternative 3 could be taken to indicate that a student learning activity comprised a major aspect of some lessons with reasonable regularity but was not employed in every lesson, whereas alternative 2 could denote an activity done only very cursorily but still built briefly into every lesson.


Three items which used the word “explain” or “explore” to describe the student learning activity were ultimately ascribed a neutral status after it emerged from discussion with some respondents who had already completed the survey that the term was taken differently by various respondents. This had not become apparent during the earlier trial of the survey when it had been reported by the pilot respondents that all of the items were clear in meaning. The ambiguity first emerged in a discussion with a teacher participant who provided as an example of students explaining in detail the reasoning behind mathematical ideas, problems or solutions while discussing in pairs or small groups, the case of a student explaining to a peer why an answer was incorrect because diameter instead of radius had been used in a calculation. The correct answer was known from the set textbook being used at the time for exercises and the students in this class were expected to correct their own answers and help each other to try to work out in the case of an incorrect computation where the error had occurred. Because this very limited notion of what constituted peer collaboration did not fit with the construction of reform-aligned pedagogical practice envisaged by the researcher, it was decided to probe with some other participating teachers how they interpreted the three items which were expressed in terms of students „explaining‟ or „exploring‟ ideas. It became clear that interpretation varied between respondents from a restricted scenario such as the correction of routine computational error through to much higher level thinking such as students outlining alternative means of solving a problem. Due to this ambiguity the three items were belatedly excised as indicators of conventional orientation or reform alignment even though they had been included in the questionnaire. There is no indication that any of the remaining 17 items were processed by respondents with any significant inconsistency in what they took the items to mean. However it is relevant to note that the general vulnerability of survey items to inconsistent interpretations is acknowledged in the research of Spillane and Zeuli (1999: 7) who provide an example from their own study

137 involving the construction placed by their teacher respondents on this same term „explain‟: “without knowing whether respondents understood number concepts [in a survey item on students‟ use of calculators to explore numbers] as being mostly about principled mathematical knowledge or about procedural mathematical knowledge, it is difficult to gauge the extent to which the practice teachers reported approximates the mathematical reforms”. This interpretative caution is recognised here also. 5.14 Discussion of results from the surveys The survey results contribute to triangulated data supporting the indications from the other sources that in their day-to-day teaching practice mathematics teachers in Victoria rely predominantly on highly conventionally-oriented pedagogy, with little traction being gained by more reform-aligned student learning of the type envisaged and promoted in the reform agenda of The Blueprint‟s Flagship Strategy 1: Student Learning. Of the seven student learning activities considered in the research as conventionally-oriented all appear in the eight top-ranked items of pedagogical reliance for the teachers surveyed. The only other item among the top eight, ranked 6th, is students “explain problems, approaches and solutions verbally or in writing to others” which, on further probing as outlined above, was taken by some teachers to entail simply stating their answer and how they arrived at it using the prescribed method, to consolidate understanding of the given process. A numerical ranking was derived by the standard method of assigning arithmetical scores to each of the four Likert scale alternatives. For the ten conventionally-oriented pedagogy items, the average score produced corresponds to a pedagogical reliance indicator of between “a major aspect of most lessons” and “normally done for some part of each lesson”. As shown in Table 5, the five highest items in rank order were the following student learning activities:

138      practise standard maths techniques to consolidate process and accuracy complete worksheets or textbook exercises individually solve problems using a defined correct mathematical method listen to the teacher explain maths concepts, processes and procedures be reminded of the importance of precise and correct computations

Of the ten student learning activities considered reform-aligned indicators, all appear in the twelve lowest-ranked items of pedagogical reliance. (The other two, ranked in the middle range at 12th and 13th places, again involve the inconsistently interpreted terms „explain‟ or „explore‟.) The average numerical score for the ten reform-aligned practices corresponds to a pedagogical reliance indicator of “sometimes done but not every lesson”, while the lowest ranked items are closer to “seldom or never done”. As shown in Table 5 below, the five lowest items in rank order (lowest listed first) were the following student learning activities:      develop a maths portfolio to illustrate personal progress in mathematical thinking prepare to present mathematical learning in diverse forms to varied audiences work on medium to long-term group-based projects experiment with approaches to problems using no pre-given method use or manipulate physical objects to explore mathematical concepts


Table 5: Teacher Survey items in order of frequency of pedagogical reliance
Item Mean Description number score 6 1 11 4 12 13 20 16 10 2 3 7 15 18 17 8 9 5 19 14 2.36 2.34 2.28 2.22 2.07 2.04 1.71 1.62 1.57 1.29 1.28 1.27 1.27 1.22 1.17 0.99 0.71 0.69 0.63 0.50 [R]eform or [C]onventional alignment or excluded item [C]

Practise standard maths techniques to consolidate process and accuracy Complete worksheets or textbook exercises [C] individually Solve problems using a defined correct [C] mathematical method Listen to the teacher explain [C] Be reminded of the importance of precise and [C] correct computations Explain problems, approaches and solutions Ambiguous – abandoned as an verbally or in writing to others alignment indicator Participate in teacher-led Q&A to clarify [C] Prepare for standardised test of correct [C] process Relate mathematics to real life situations [R] Experiment with alternative problem-solving [R] approaches Justify predicted or estimated answers [R] Explore mathematical ideas with other Ambiguous – abandoned as an students alignment indicator in pairs or groups Explain in detail the reasoning behind a Ambiguous - abandoned as an process alignment indicator or solution Actively use ICT to explore and deepen [R] mathematical understanding Relate mathematics to other subject [R] disciplines Use or manipulate physical objects to explore [R] mathematical concepts Experiment with approaches to problems [R] using no pre-given method Work on medium to long term group projects [R] Prepare to present mathematical learning in [R] diverse forms to varied audiences Develop a maths portfolio to illustrate [R] personal progress in mathematical thinking

140 Reassuringly, the results from any two of the six participating schools are similar. For example, the two largest schools with the largest mathematics faculties, Ashgrove and Bluegum Secondary Colleges, which returned 27 and 20 surveys respectively, are highly contrasting schools demographically and in their physical and cultural settings. Nevertheless the item rank order correlation is high: 0.935 (using Spearman‟s Rank Order Correlation Coefficient). Moreover, the degree of correspondence between the aggregated survey responses and the set of 13 participant teachers whose lessons were observed also suggests no significant difference in pedagogy between the core group of participant teachers and their colleagues generally across the six participating schools. The item rank order correlation between the two teacher groups, the direct participants and survey respondents only, was 0.964. Additionally the five highest ranked and the five lowest ranked items correspond for each group. In fact, with the lowest ranked reformaligned items, the rank order is identical between the two groups as far as the sixth item. The seventh lowest item for all teacher respondents was “actively use ICT to explore and deepen mathematical understanding” while this was the eighth lowest item for the group of direct teacher participants in the research. Scoring the response of “seldom or never done” as 0 and “a major aspect of most lessons” as 3 (with 1 and 2 being the numerical weightings assigned to the two intermediate responses), the mean score of all respondents on the five highest ranked (all conventional pedagogy) items is 2.3 which is exactly the same (to one decimal place) as the mean score of the 13 participant teachers on the same five items. The mean score of all respondents on the five lowest ranked (all reformaligned pedagogy) items is 0.70 while 0.74 is the mean score of the participant teachers on these same five items. There is clearly no basis to suggest that the participant teachers were any more or less reform-aligned than the larger cohort of their maths teacher colleagues. This analysis of the survey results provides additional confidence that the participant teachers can be taken to be reasonably similar in their pedagogical approaches and are not any less

141 reform-aligned than the larger group of all mathematics teachers in the participating schools. Detailed results from the individual schools, and also for the group of 13 participant teachers separately, are provided for comparison purposes in Appendix G. Statistical analysis reinforces confidence that there is a general consistency in pedagogical alignment across the six demographically diverse schools and between the participant teachers and their larger group of mathematics teacher colleagues. Applying the Kendall test to the seven sets of results yields a Kendall‟s W (Coefficient of Concordance) value of 0.92833 indicating a high level of agreement across the sets. With a significance level of approximately zero, the null hypothesis that item rankings would be assigned randomly across the groups is rejected in favour of the alternative that there is agreement across the groups. Application of the Mann-Whitney test, also, leads to rejection of the null hypothesis that the seven conventional items and ten reform-aligned items will be distributed evenly across the seven survey groups, rather than clustering together as they do at the higher and lower ends of the scale respectively in all groups. Statistical detail is provided in Appendix G. It can be concluded that the surveys reinforce the impression emerging from both the lesson observations and the participant interviews of a prevailing and strongly embedded conventional pedagogy. The reliance of the survey respondents on a predominantly conventional pedagogy over alternative reform-aligned approaches is illustrated in the following graphical representations. In each of the following figures, position 1 indicates the learning approaches form „a major aspect of most lessons‟ while position 4 corresponds to „seldom or never done‟. Figure 3 indicates the pedagogical reliance profile of survey respondents on an aggregation of the five highest ranked items, identified above, all considered indicative of a conventionally-oriented pedagogy.

Eliminating the three excised neutral items and considering the 17 assigned items then Kendall’s W value is .928 (df = 16). Including all 20 survey items, Kendall’s W is .916 (df = 19).

142 Figure 3: Reported predominance of conventional pedagogy
Emphasis on conventional learning tasks: eg. students complete worksheets or text book exercises individually
100% 80% 60%

40% 20%

0% A major aspect of most lessons Normally for some of each lesson Sometimes done; not every lesson seldom or never done

By comparison, the following figure shows the pedagogical reliance profile of respondents on an aggregation of the five lowest ranked items, identified above, all considered indicative of a reform-oriented pedagogical approach. Figure 4: Low reported use of reform-aligned pedagogical indicators
Little use of reform-aligned learning tasks: for example, students work on complex group-based projects

80% 60%

40% 20%

0% A major aspect of most lessons Normally for some of each lesson Sometimes done; not every lesson seldom or never done

143 Given the ambiguous and unresolved place of ICT in the pedagogy of the observed teachers, discussed in Part A of this chapter, an interesting survey result is the relative position of ICT-enabled pedagogy in the teachers‟ favoured approaches. This is important in the context of the high reliance placed on ICT as a pedagogical change driver in education reform policy documentation and elaborating statements. Survey item 18 required indication of the degree to which students routinely as an assigned learning task “actively use ICT to explore and deepen mathematical understanding”. This item was ranked 14th of the 20 items. Figure 5: Limited reported use of ICT in mathematics pedagogy
Limited or sporadic use of specific reform-aligned learning task: students actively use ICT for mathematical understanding
100% 80%




0% A major aspect of most lessons Normally for some of each lesson Sometimes done; not every lesson seldom or never done

While it was common in the interviews for teachers to say they would like to see most or all classrooms highly ICT-enabled, as previously noted several lesson observations took place in classrooms with sophisticated ICT infrastructure which was minimally utilised or not utilised at all. 34

The term „ICT‟ usage in this context is taken to mean student use of computer-based technology, beyond standard arithmetical or scientific calculators, and not including the teacher‟s own use of an interactive whiteboard for demonstration purposes if not actively used by students.

144 To interpret the reasons for the constrained and sporadic student use of ICT, and the other indicators of limited progress in teachers‟ take-up of reformaligned pedagogical repertoires, bearing in mind that there appears no significant difference in reform alignment between the maths teacher respondents taken as a whole and the group of direct teacher participants, the next chapter considers the pedagogical work construction of the teachers as it emerged from analysis of the teacher interviews, cross-referenced with the observed lessons on which they reflected.

Chapter 6: Data Presentation and Interpretation from the Interviews 6.1 The search for explanation of the limited reform traction


The previous chapter presented evidence that some five years into the implementation of the government‟s Blueprint for education, the secondary mathematics teachers whose pedagogy was studied are not teaching in ways which align strongly with the policy expectations for pedagogical reform. This chapter turns to interpreting the reasons for the apparent failure of reform policy to penetrate into pedagogical practice. The interview results to be presented flesh out a complex picture of the nature and causes of the gap between policy expectations and embedded practice. The interviews reveal that even the meaning of „reform‟ is inconsistently understood between and within identifiable policy constituencies, with a particularly dramatic difference located in the highly discipline-specific framing envisaged by mathematics education specialists, and shared by some mathematics teacher practitioners, compared with the more generic discipline-neutral framing common to most education policy proponents. 6.2 Interview data selection and sequence

In exploring the interview data it is necessary to select and sequence only a small portion of the material which potentially could be included. Selection and sequencing of these results is affected by the researcher‟s emerging interpretations as the research progresses. This is an inherent feature of the research method adopted. Whereas the preceding sections reported on results obtained from a controlled set of observations and surveys conducted within tightly defined parameters, by their nature the open-ended (semi-structured) interviews with diverse respondents create an unpredictable order in the assembling of the data, as patterns of interpretation emerge in a „to and fro‟ process of cross referencing interview material with the theoretical frames of reference, and emerging patterns of interpretation then in turn influence the lines of investigation taken up further. This intervening factor is limited in the participant teacher interviews because they are linked to the direct observations from the lesson studies and surveys,

146 whereas it is less controlled in the widely varying contexts of interviews with other respondents selected for specialist expertise in pedagogical studies or education policy. The time frame of these interviews is also a variable factor, with some of the interviews taking place early in the framing of the research, while later interviews were themselves framed by tentative findings as they emerged and suggested lines for further exploration and enquiry. In cross-referencing the viewpoints of respondents drawn from specified policy and/or pedagogy communities, such as teacher, school leader, policy framer or influencer, mathematics education expert and so on, there was an intention to identify similarities and differences of perspective. However, doing this may obscure or ignore other potential lines which could have emerged.35 It is neither possible nor desirable in selecting interview data for inclusion to attempt to quarantine emerging interpretations of what has been recorded. Nor is it intended to avoid the emergence of threads of patterns in cross-comparisons of respondents‟ views in turn affecting the researcher‟s sense of what interview data should be included next. This entails the rejection of an unworkably rigid separation between reporting and interpreting results, of the kind normally expected in conventional quantitative and particularly experimental studies. For trustworthiness the research seeks to recognise and guard against any distortion of data or logical slippage while reporting and interpreting interactively. Consequently the approach taken here in reporting interview data is to suggest a tentative line of interpretation which is then flagged for subsequent development. In all cases respondents‟ exact words are presented and care is taken to avoid misrepresentation of the intended meanings as a result of the sequence of data presentation. A guide to both relevance and usefulness relied on here is Eisenhart‟s (2002) endorsement of the research value of crossreferencing the discourse of policy proponents with those who are expected to

Freebody (2003: 28) notes “the phenomena, as they are experienced and observed by a researcher, are distilled, that is, reduced and distorted … it necessarily involves the researcher deciding which [data] are most and least important: some features of the phenomenon are given more importance than others; some are either omitted or simply not seen; some phenomena become „findings‟ and not others”.

147 implement the policy. This research extends to comparing discourses from different professional and policy communities not commonly set side by side on one platform. 36 6.3 Interpretive strands from the participant teacher interviews

Interpretive Strand 1: The ambiguity of ICT as a pedagogical reform driver Taking up first the pedagogical reform aspect suggested for investigation at the end of the previous chapter, the thirteen mathematics teachers who directly participated in this study did not enact a high level of ICT use by their students as a learning activity. In their survey responses on „students actively use ICT to explore and deepen mathematical understanding‟ the mode response of the group was at the relatively low reliance level of „sometimes done; not every lesson‟. To exemplify a contrasting conventionally-aligned response, all thirteen respondents indicated that the student learning activity „practise standard maths techniques to consolidate process and accuracy‟ was a major aspect of most lessons or normally done for some part of every lesson.37 Of the 24 lessons observed, only 3 lessons involved active use of ICT by students for part of the time. In 4 other cases the teacher used an IWB to display teacher-prepared material for demonstration and enhance visualisation of concepts, but otherwise the students did not actively use ICT in the reform-aligned sense. This was despite 11 of the 24 classes being held in highly ICT-enabled classrooms, resourced far in excess of the actual ICT usage. A further 4 classes took place in rooms with inbuilt ICT provision including a data-projector in

The transcription principles and conventions used in the interview excerpts were explained in the research method description in Chapter 4. To preserve the authenticity of respondents‟ reflections and minimise any unintentional distortion of their constructions, as far as practicable within the transcription conventions used the participants‟ expressed views are reported not only in their own exact words but with adequate capture of pauses, intonation, emphases and so on. For readers‟ convenience and clarity transcription indicators are kept relatively simple as explained in Appendix H1.

Of course, this learning task doesn‟t inherently preclude the use of ICT to facilitate it.

148 conjunction with an internet-connected computer. Given this limited take-up, how do the participant teachers view ICT in their mathematics pedagogy, as expressed in their interview discussions? „Vicky Fraser‟ the Head of Mathematics at Bluegum Secondary College, where none of the four observed classes was actually held in a highly ICT-enabled classroom, independently introduced “ICT usage” into the conversation with the researcher as an example of a pedagogical reform enabler. She said:
B1: Well, we, we do have every 7 to 10 class, I think all of them are in except for a couple that just couldn‟t be timetabled, timetabled to a computer room once a week, and I‟d say probably 90 per cent of them, of the teachers use them that period to do some mathematical work.

While this work couldn‟t be observed by the researcher in this school without prejudicing the arbitrary basis of lesson selection and moving to a deliberate selection with the intention of observing some particular pedagogical feature, the positive light cast on mathematics teachers‟ ICT-usage whenever it was available was consistent with Vicky Fraser‟s expression of a generally positive and optimistic espoused view of mathematics pedagogy reform. However this existed in tension with concerns uncovered as interviews bored down further, and with a remarkable disconnection from reform policy instruments. Interpretive Strand 2: Teaching as private rather than

collaborative practice What emerged most strongly from the interviews with teachers is their sense of teaching as a predominantly private practice, lacking the structures and embedded culture necessary for consistent professional communication. This constraint on pedagogical sharing and collaborative improvement reveals itself in a lack of knowledge by teachers about how their colleagues teach and why. Citing „time‟ as the key constraint preventing teachers from engaging in regular collaboration on lesson planning and delivery, including visiting one another‟s lessons or team teaching, for example „Vicky Fraser‟ said that while teachers at any one year level did have a working knowledge of the curriculum content they were expected to cover in common, they did not have the opportunity and hadn‟t acquired the capacity to compare their pedagogical

149 practice in any detail or to develop it together. This general position was repeated over and over in the interviews with the participating teachers. Interpretive Strand 3: Principles of Learning and Teaching as failed reform driver Concerning the DEECD‟s policy initiative The Principles of Learning and Teaching (PoLT) Vicky Fraser considered that most teachers at her school were “probably between the lower end and half way” in their level of familiarity with PoLT, “unless they were a Leading Teacher application or a [beginning] teacher application”. Her perception was that there was no particular incentive to use PoLT or have a close working familiarity with it: “I don‟t know what a consequence would be…” [for not using it in pedagogical practice].
R: Does it provide a common language in terms of teachers trying to describe what they‟re doing? B1: Um, I don‟t know if people would use it though. Not necessarily. Like when you‟re talking with your colleagues or people from other schools, you just…(pause) R: You don‟t go into PoLT language? B1: It‟s probably, yeah, um, yeah, no, no, I don‟t think so. I mean this is just my opinion. I‟m not sure what other, um, other people here would say but that‟s what I, I think.

This teacher‟s distanced perspective on such a mainstream pedagogical policy support document and its associated program roll-out is notable in the context of PoLT having been strongly promoted as a common language to support pedagogical re-alignment at Government and officially-approved bureaucratic levels for over five years at the time this interview was conducted.

Vicky Fraser also saw the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) as having little impact on what was taught in mathematics and how, although initially framing this in contradicting terms. After laughingly stating, “We will be doing PoLT...we‟ve got a new curriculum manager at the start of this year” she said:
B1: VELS, we know.

R: Has VELS itself made much difference to the maths education? B1: Only to the reporting…and the thinking component, you know, you can do some open-ended tasks and that sort of stuff. You know, they [teachers] try to get away with not doing it, they will still do it but it‟s just not as much commitment as there probably needs to be for it to get, for you to see that happening.

Interpretive Strand 4: Constraints on teachers’ access to pedagogical ideas All the participants expressed concerns about the accessibility and usefulness of sources of pedagogical ideas for teachers. Vicky Fraser, for example, said it was bewilderingly difficult to assess their value unless investing lots of scarce and precious professional time; and then they were found to be very variable in quality and applicability. She reported in connection with formal professional development presentations:
B1: Sometimes they‟re helpful, sometimes they‟re not. The [MAV subject association] Maths Conference I haven‟t been, I mean, I‟ve got staff that go, I haven‟t been for the last three years….it was a total waste of a day for me.…it didn‟t tell us anything that we didn‟t already know….to me it was just like, it seemed like a total waste of a lot of money to send, you know, um, eight staff.

On other ways of accessing pedagogical ideas and resources, without having to leave the school, Vicky Fraser described what she saw as the ad hoc quality of on-line pedagogical resources posted by the DEECD on sites such as the officially promoted Knowledge Bank resources site. She hadn‟t persevered with attempts to access and use material from these sources. She expressed frustration at the “heaps” of material with, in her view, seemingly no “filtering, checking or quality control” and reported:
B1: I‟ve tried that, when I‟ve even needed it the next day desperately, I‟ve tried that and it doesn‟t work. It‟s just no…don‟t [inaudible] for the next day hoping to find it on the web because it‟s not there. But if you look at it kind of a week ahead or whatever, it might, it‟ll take you a bit longer but….There‟s heaps of stuff out there and there are, we‟ve got some teachers who, that do spend a lot of time doing just that and if they find something useful they‟ll say have a look at this. R: Is there in the school, like is there a kind of „knowledge bank‟ within the school? B1: Well, we do, like, we‟ve got this Click View program set up…. [describes with apparent enthusiasm a resource which was posted]. But again, it‟s find the time to look and go through all those videos, and then we can say, yeah that‟s a really good one, or, no that‟s a really - don‟t use that one, so if people have gone through it, some say this

was really good, but we also haven‟t had time to sit and do that properly.

Again, suggesting only limited professional communication between teacher colleagues on the details of their practice, Vicky Fraser also reported that mathematics teachers varied in their preferred classroom layout but that this was apparent more from the frustration of having to frequently rearrange classroom furniture, or just teach in a non-preferred room configuration, rather than from explicit discussion between colleagues of the advantages of organising students‟ work spaces in particular ways for particular purposes. She said some of her colleagues preferred the horseshoe shape around the periphery of the classroom to enable the teacher to circulate when not addressing the whole class. However she preferred students to sit in straight rows for better behaviour control. This was interesting given that in the observed classes it was Vicky Fraser who delivered the most reform-aligned lesson among the 24 classes observed, and both of her observed lessons produced relatively high student engagement levels.
B1: I like, I‟d rather have them in rows so they don‟t have…these ones can‟t talk to them or vice versa, you have to just talk to the person next to you. Um, I have trialled it the, you know, the two tables, these two together but, um, the ones whose backs‟s not too huge [a problem], it does seem to work sometimes, maybe I just need to try it more often.

In fact in her two observed lessons, because they involved the Year 7 Advanced class which Vicky Fraser saw as quite highly motivated and well-behaved, she did teach these lessons with most of the two-person tables left from a previous class rather scattered but generally spread around the periphery of the room. She noted that this arrangement in her Lesson B1b inadvertently produced a “serious work area” and a “behaviour management area” in which one male student was hit near the eye by a thrown cereal box, earning the behaviour correction from the teacher: “Can we not throw the boxes around please…you should be on your calculators by now.” Identifying key strands from the interviews with Teacher B1

152 Reflecting on the informal mechanisms by which teachers do share their experiences of teaching and their planning and evaluation, Vicky Fraser said her pedagogy evolved out of “pretty much what I‟ve just done, and based on the group too – so what works for one doesn‟t necessarily work for the other.” She agreed that teachers received clear guidelines about topic content to be covered from the diverse (VELS-compliant) curriculum documentation but that these indications of “what to teach” provide little if any indication of “how to teach”:
B1: You just do what you were shown at uni I suppose, pretty much…we work really well as a team here, um, and we try and make sure that those first years [beginning teachers]…um, if I‟m teaching it then I‟ll say, oh, you know, I‟ve done this with my kids and, you know, have a go at it or…(pause).

Overall, however, the systematic sharing of ideas, peer collaboration on pedagogical planning, coaching, mentoring or even just routine visiting of other teachers‟ classrooms were not put forward as part of the professional landscape inhabited by the mathematics teachers at Bluegum Secondary College. The following themes emerged from Vicky Fraser‟s account of her experience of designing her teaching to meet the needs of her students, to the best of her ability within the possibilities and constraints of her own teaching context:  the difficulty of finding sufficient time in a busy teaching schedule for professional reading and preparation, and targeted professional development, given the plethora of sources potentially available  the lack of shared practice between teachers (despite congenial, socially gregarious and generally supportive inter-personal relationships)  concerns about behaviour management and student safety issues in deciding whether to deliver lessons in closed and contained or open and exploratory ways. These themes were all apparent, even when the relative emphases varied, in the interviews with all the other participant teachers. The interviews arguably enabled more conscious reflection on day-to-day practice than was usual

153 within their busy professional routines. Several participants commented that this was so. This is in line with Croll‟s (1994: 342) observation:
teachers are constantly making choices and decisions about the ways in which they carry out their work … The practical reality of teachers‟ work situations is such that these choices and decisions arise inevitably, to an extent that people are probably not aware for most of the time that they are being made … the level and range of activities in which they could engage and the demands they could meet are far beyond the time and resources available to them. Consequently, teachers must ration their time and prioritise their tasks. They also have to establish school and classroom routines, ways of getting the business of the day accomplished.

The constant complexity of their workplace demands underlies the largely pragmatic detachment of teachers from policy expectations of engaging their efforts in particular policy oriented directions. Interpretive Strand 5: Teachers’ disconnection from pedagogical reform policy While no claim for exactness is made for this indicator, each participant teacher was asked towards the end of their final debrief interview to indicate, just by pointing a finger, where on the reform-aligned / conventionallyoriented chart they visualised their own practice. Allowing for O‟Neill‟s (2003) and Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin‟s (1995) findings of sentience and honest intention in teachers‟ discussions of their own practice, but also for the Mayer (1999a) and the Stecher et al. (2006) findings that teacher self-reports generally over-estimate their use of a pedagogical approach which they think is positively regarded, it was interesting to note that Vicky Fraser placed herself around the (10, 5) mark, describing herself as “trying to build in less conventional teaching approaches from time to time, not every day because it‟s a sequential subject…so I ration it a bit.” Comparing her own survey return with this self-rating it seems consistent that her ratio of aggregate conventional pedagogy score over reform-aligned pedagogy score (from the survey) is 1.53, indicating that Vicky Fraser views herself as using more of a mix of pedagogical approaches than either the overall group of survey respondents (where the equivalent ratio was 2.07 as a

154 mean) or the group of direct participant teachers (where the equivalent ratio was 1.86 as a mean). This ratio is offered as broadly indicative only. There is no statistical validity in exploring any further this pedagogical orientation survey score beyond its worth as a general pointer to how the teachers rated their own pedagogical orientation. Vicky Fraser‟s moderately reform-open pedagogical approach contrasted with that of Teacher A2 „Gary Atkins‟ who depicted himself, in his own words, as “seriously conventional”. His conservative pedagogical views reflected the cultural context of the school environment and its embedded constraints on enacting change in established pedagogical approaches. Gary Atkins‟ two observed lessons were analysed and rated, as previously described, at (12, 1.5) and (13, 2) respectively. Given that the point of intersection of the median scores on the pedagogical orientation scales for all participants was (11, 1) it wasn‟t really possible to have either a much lower than average reform-aligned score or a much higher than average conventional score. In so far as there was any indication of reform-alignment in Gary Atkins‟ two observed lessons this was in two respects: firstly, the teachers‟ frequent references to students‟ use of journals and, secondly, a reflective and interactive teaching manner, entirely mathematical content focused, which elicited some limited conjectural thinking, predicting and estimating by students in approaching what remained basically standard Year 10 level mathematical problems. In both lessons students still spent more than 90% of the on-task lesson time listening to the teacher explain or working individually at their allocated seat on routine exercises from the set text book or an alternative work sheet. As a subjective self-report, Gary viewed the two observed classes as “pretty representative” of his lessons and believed there been no significant “observer effect” caused by the presence of the researcher. He emerged, in the researcher‟s perception, as one of the most reflective and analytical of the participant teachers in terms of familiarity of knowledge and deep consideration of pedagogical alternatives. His self-rating on the pedagogical scale included verbally describing himself in the debrief interview as “very conventional in teaching methodology”, placing his finger

155 around the (13, 2) point on the chart, and completing a survey response producing a high conservative over reform-aligned indicative ratio (as described above) of 2.63. This suggests a deliberately conventional but somewhat independent-minded pedagogy of a kind not aligned overall with or sympathetic to the pedagogical expectations of the education reform policy agenda. In an interview this picture was confirmed by a spirited attack on what Gary termed the “fuzzy mathematics” of the US NCTM curriculum, with which he showed a close familiarity, compared to his own mathematics pedagogy position which he described as based on “a very strong connection to traditional mathematics skills which I believe form the basis of the ability to become inventive in mathematics.” However, Gary Atkins was unusual in experimenting with having students produce portfolios of their work, at least in the embryonic form of maintaining a log book or journal in which they were expected to record their areas of misunderstanding or difficulty, set themselves means of mastering problem areas by independent exercise work and reflect on their own progress, while also recording evidence of progress in their own mathematical thinking. He said that although he was “making headway”, students still tended to confine their notion of evidence of progress in mathematical thinking to improvement in standardised assessment tests. He was trying to scaffold the task of selfreflection for students by providing assessment rubrics which defined the mathematical thinking focus of assessed items so that students could articulate their own areas for concentration and improvement in mathematical terms, rather than just expressing a wish to improve their test grades which was their current tendency. This effort to implement portfolios is noteworthy given that this teacher was at the higher conventional end of the spectrum, yet the strongly reform-aligned item which was the lowest ranked item overall in the teacher surveys was the one he alone was attempting: having students develop portfolios to illustrate their own progress in mathematical thinking.

156 This suggests a much greater complexity in the pedagogical choices teachers make than is acknowledged in centralised reform efforts to nudge them away from, or wean them off, conventionally-framed pedagogy towards reformaligned approaches. Importantly Gary Atkins said that as far as he knew no other colleagues in the large faculty of over 30 mathematics teachers was using the portfolio approach. Generally his colleagues did not know about his efforts to try to get the portfolios up and running with students, but a few did “informally”. Echoing Vicky Fraser‟s depiction of teacher‟s pedagogical work as a largely private practice, he considered the maths faculty and the school staff as a whole was “very collegial on a social basis” but in terms of teaching practice there was only limited one-on-one ad hoc communication with no structures for routinely sharing pedagogical ideas. In years of teaching experience Gary Atkins was in the mid-range of the participants. He considered this factor had little bearing on whether a teacher read widely in the available professional literature and resources: “some do – most don‟t.” For his own part he reported that he spent a lot of time on this out of school hours at home with virtually no available time for professional preparation during the normal school day. In this he concurred with all of the participating teachers, without exception. The same point was put by Gary‟s head of faculty in a separate interview:
A1: Well, the average teacher in a government school works five periods a day and if you get an extra that‟s six, like today…(pause) R: Like today. A1: - like today, and if a colleague‟s away, well, I mean I‟m…I don‟t have to take his class but the way I see it I‟m responsible for all the kids doing maths here so the fact that I happen to be free this period and I‟m concurrently taking Maths Methods it makes sense to me that I go in, which I did yesterday, which I go in and sort of keep those kids going – is important to me.… R: And then you‟ve got some intruder like me who… A1: Oh, no, that‟s fair enough, but as I said this just having a chat, that is interesting, you know…if you were coming to watch another lesson then I wouldn‟t say I‟m nervous about it because, because we don‟t have a culture of people in our classes so you know it just puts you, not nervous, but it just puts you, oh you know, just trying to put a reasonable foot forward I suppose you‟d say.

157 From this head of mathematics in a large and highly regarded government secondary college, we see the recurring emphasis on time pressures eroding the capacity for professional collaboration and even basic knowledge of colleagues‟ work practice. Perhaps more significant is an acknowledgement of the prevailing professional culture embedding private practice as the norm, with visits to the classroom by others regarded as unusual and potentially anxiety producing. It is important to note that these were the perceptions of a particularly open and enthusiastic research participant who had readily volunteered for involvement in the project and throughout the research exhibited a highly positive attitude to examining pedagogical practice. His colleague Gary Atkins reflected on the goal of trying to carve out steady achievement for students and, in his case, slow incremental improvement in pedagogy by trying to individually create the time and space, at home, for finding and reviewing sources of pedagogical ideas and even research literature in the area of mathematics teaching. He stated that there was no systematic system of incentives for teachers to do this and no systematic enabling of access to “credible” pedagogical ideas.
A2: If a teacher is passionate and committed to their subject discipline and also, this is a separate point, interested in thinking about how to teach it better, then individually they might make the time. That doesn‟t usually happen.

Interpretive Strand 6: Disengaged attitudes to policy expectations and initiatives The sources of Gary Atkins‟ pedagogical ideas did not include any current Victorian Government or DEECD material and he was very firm in his view of the reasons for this.

A2: I can never really say where the influence has come from really, it‟s like hmmm...interesting ideas….I read a lot of home schooling maths blogs from the US….I‟m running a blog this year for my students. I‟m putting things up there all the time, encouraging them to interact and use the multi-media capabilities and to comment and things like that. It‟s not quite kicking on as well as I‟d like yet but I‟m hoping it‟ll get better….I‟m working on...purposely on trying and get them to use journals as a method of finding what they do know and what they don‟t know. [break] R: Would other maths teachers here at Ashgrove know that you‟re using blog material and journals? A2: I doubt it very much. I try as much as I can to send…to share it with people…but most don‟t share the interest I have in this regard. I think they‟ve found other ways to achieve the aims I‟m attempting to achieve…. R: Is there any routinely shared source of ideas? A2: No. If you‟re speaking about a formal method absolutely not. Informal, as you know, particularly close professional relationship with a colleague, you‟ll share things much more…(pause) R: Do you mean one-on-one, voluntary, ad hoc? A2: Very much so. R: How helpful is VELS and PoLT material? A2: VELS tends to be very much an attitude of compliance….I feel a system such as PEEL achieves this [pedagogical dialogue] much better than PoLT. R: Remind me, PEEL is…? A2: Project for Enhancing Effective Learning. It‟s a teacher crosslinked network…the most incredibly rich source of ideas for doing things differently…and that aspect of difference can be really powerful when it‟s self-induced…when it comes from the outside, Thou Shalt, it‟s much, much less…PEEL, because it‟s teacher-driven…the fact that the ideas come directly from classroom teachers just seems to, to invigorate and give potential and ideas for handling things just so fantastically.

Compared with this positive attitude towards the credibility of pedagogical ideas developed collaboratively and shared among teacher practitioners, notwithstanding time constraints, in a separate interview Gary Atkins spoke of his negative view and experience of the officially sanctioned, and what he characterised as “sloganising” and “generalised”, DEECD curriculum and pedagogy materials.
A2: I‟ve had some very negative experiences around PoLT….I‟ve worked very hard on PoLT. I‟ve implemented it in a lot of my classes. I think it has some strengths but I think it‟s overly politicised…and doesn‟t spend enough of the effort looking at…at the content of education as well...Give it two to five years and it‟ll just be the latest fad that went away. I mean PoLT has a strong attachment where? Victoria…all of Australia, maybe. Let‟s take Indonesia, that‟s more than a hundred million people…they haven‟t heard about it. Singapore…they don‟t care about it.

R: There are parallel documents. Isn‟t it almost identical to the Blair Government, now Brown Government…English A2: Are they actually someone we want to mimic, you know, really, in mathematics achievement?

There were strong echoes of many of these thoughts in the perspectives put by most of the mathematics education specialists interviewed in this research, to be reported subsequently. By contrast, in terms of the introduction of the PoLT initiative to teachers in schools specifically, there was a notable discrepancy between the attitudes of teacher participants and accounts provided by school leaders, and policy officers with an official position of policy authority. For example, Gary Atkins‟ head of faculty „Mike Abbott‟ who, as noted, was very enthusiastic about his school‟s involvement in the research and who described himself as “not a cynic”, gave this account of the experience of PoLT training for teachers at Ashgrove Secondary College:
A1: My experience of PoLT is that we‟ve had three modules last year and staff had to go to I think for about a 1½ hour seminar run by leading teachers at this school. Now as a leading teacher my number wasn‟t called last year but I‟m expecting to hear from them fairly soon (laughs) so the way that‟ll be done is that three Principles that haven‟t been addressed which I‟ve had no training in I‟ll be expected to run a seminar for the other staff in that. And I have a feeling that they‟ve said there‟s not much preparation which means…that there‟s probably some generic ministry sort of PD plan…

The interview was conducted in the fifth year of the PoLT roll-out to schools. It resonated with the account provided by much younger „Danielle Vance‟, six years into her teaching experience, at Cranbrook Secondary College:
R: Has there been any training? C2: Yes, there‟s been a little bit. Yep, yep…a couple of years ago there might have been. (pause) R: What, but it hasn‟t penetrated below the surface, is that…? C2: Nuh, we feel like we‟re doing that. This is just putting a formal name to what we‟re already doing…it‟s just categorising things. I think that‟s the general feeling. R: So no-one would use PoLT language to describe what… C2: The PD Coordinator might…(laughs)…the Curriculum and, uh, PD Coordinator might, the Deputy Principal might…oh, and student teachers, they might.

Illustrated in teacher discourse is what emerged as a characteristic disconnection between teachers‟ and designated school leaders‟ accounts of education reform policy penetration into the thought and language of teachers and their enacted pedagogical behaviour. There was a conscious

160 acknowledgment by teachers that they remained largely detached from the language of designated school leaders, who were depicted in teachers‟ accounts as aspiring to connect with the pitch of policy level language. 6.4 Interpretive strands from the school policy representatives’

interviews In terms of Danielle Vance‟s highlighting of disconnection, noted above, it is enlightening to compare a parallel account of PoLT implementation provided by Danielle Vance‟s assistant principal, Cranbrook‟s official school policy spokesperson „Cathy Jamieson‟ who had been designated by the principal as the leadership team member responsible for overseeing curriculum and pedagogy. All the participating schools‟ designated curriculum and pedagogy spokespersons conveyed a positive impression of the state of the PoLT roll-out within their own schools, even if sometimes expressing a sense of frustration at policy overload, as exemplified in this account.
SPR-C: We have worked on PoLT. They‟ve asked, you know, their, in their learning teams they‟ve been asked to look at PoLT in terms of what sort of work we‟ve been doing, so…what I‟m trying to say is, is that from the top down we have put in place all the mechanisms for people to embrace it, um, and of course when we get in our learning team plans and so forth, you know, of course they‟ll say this relates to PoLT. Now they‟ve had their PoLT PD days and so they‟ve looked at it and…(pause) R: Have they been externally facilitated or have they been…internal…like, train the trainer…? SPR-C: Melbourne Uni…I can‟t remember who….So what I‟m saying is that there‟s, um, the input has been there but the take-up might have been slow and indefinite….There is a resistance to some degree in this college of, to the fads…and I don‟t think we‟d be any different to a lot of other colleges, the fads that go through educational cycles…(pause) R: So is there a sort of policy fatigue…? SPR-C: Yes.

The tension in these accounts concerning the degree of traction gained by the Principles of Learning and Teaching reform policy initiative, both internal in any one person‟s account and between the differing accounts provided, suggests a disconnection between the official version of the centrality of the policy and the effectiveness of its roll out, and the actual experienced impact of the policy in the school setting. The general congruence of PoLT-positive accounts provided by the schools‟ leadership team members, with further

161 examples given below, contrasts markedly with the virtually unanimous lack of connection with or commitment to PoLT among the teacher participants. This raises the question of where the disconnect is located: at the interface of the system and the school, or at the interfaces of the system, school leadership and the teaching workforce, or all of these. The location, extent and nature of the gap needs further probing. Teachers‟ depictions simply don‟t align with school leadership teams‟ constructions. The following discourse comparisons help to explore this disconnection further. Bluegum Secondary College‟s Senior School Principal „Tanya King‟, who concisely described Bluegum as “big school, busy school, good school”, was very positive in her depiction of the role of PoLT in transforming the teaching and learning approach in the school. Citing the school‟s commitment to the „Performance and Development Culture‟ fostered by the DEECD and embraced by the school‟s leadership team, Tanya reported:
SPR-B: Whereas we were one of the first schools accredited in the Performance and Development Culture I still don‟t think we were doing PoLT in a very deep or meaningful way…so now we‟re focusing on student outcomes as a smart goal for teachers to focus their appraisal on, naturally to work through to and start to develop ways of finding ways of, um, producing improvement within their own classroom and the frameworks for doing that is where we‟re trying to get them to head to….We‟re actually building accountability into our processes now. [break] We believe that we need to be more explicit about PoLT…giving teachers the language to be able to have the conversation, to make it a bit more tangible. Also in terms of when they want to go somewhere else they‟re going to need to have that language to, you know, articulate what they‟re doing in interviews and that kind of thing. So we are being more explicit with it now. We‟re not mandating it but we‟re using it as a, one of the tools to, that can be available to collect data…that is in, you know, the PoLT surveys are part of your appraisal.

It‟s revealing to remember that the same school‟s maths faculty head presented a very different assessment in her perception of low levels of relevance and traction in the PoLT policy implementation. Additionally, in none of the three formal interviews nor in any informal discussion did the second Bluegum participant teacher „Geoff Pearson‟ make any mention at all of PoLT as a source of pedagogical ideas. He expressed enthusiasm for ICT as “changing the delivery of content” (not actually apparent in either of his

162 observed lessons) but presented this as entirely a matter for individual teacher initiative at his school. For another example of the discourse about PoLT as part of the broader education reform Blueprint, delivered by school leadership team spokespersons, here is part of the perspective offered by Ashgrove‟s assistant principal „Helen Drewe‟. (To avoid excessive length here, see Appendix H2 for a fuller transcript.)
SPR-A: Now we‟ve got a common model that‟s understood and The Blueprint I think just highlighted it for staff. Obviously their performance plan, the Performance and Development Culture, is all about this also….What‟s happened in the past is that where teaching has fallen down and where curriculum models and design has fallen down is that it‟s been on the „what‟ not the „how‟ of learning….but we‟re still trying to get staff to embrace the Principles of Learning and Teaching…because I think that teachers have a confidence in their own ability…whereas PoLT for some people is quite confronting….they would see that as the cloning of, you know, that one model fits all. What we‟re trying to do really is actually establish some principles and some, some strategies I suppose, rather than a particular model….You can‟t have no direction and purely just individual self-reference. The school‟s agenda will be about what is effective teaching and learning practice and discussion about this will dominate the school, it‟s the will of the leadership team, and of course the staff.…If this e5 model really gets off the ground I think that schools‟ agenda will be about what is effective practice and, um, I just think that learning and teaching will, will…the views of what is effective practice will actually dominate discussions at schools among the leadership teams and obviously the staff.

Of particular interest in this discourse is the intertwining of pedagogical reform initiatives with consolidation of the authority of the school‟s designated principal class leadership team. The privileging of this group‟s position as instigators and conduits for the new pedagogical directions is characteristic of the contemporary government and bureaucratic discourse, disconnecting it markedly from the pedagogical discourse of the teacher practitioners who participated in this research.

Interpretive Strand 7: Disconnection of teachers’ and school leaders’ discourses

163 The references to „the Performance and Development Culture‟ were a recurring feature of the discourse in discussion with principal class school leaders, in common with most of the DEECD policy officers and managers, and reflect the language and constructs of the Government reform policy discourse in direct policy documents and DEECD support materials. They have a mantra-like quality about them. By contrast, teachers‟ talk either bypassed the approved policy language altogether, negatively depicted it as “sloganising” (the actual word used independently by several individual respondents from both the teacher and mathematics education expert categories), or mocked it in parody or caricature. Often incorporated was a cynical dismissal of what is perceived as globalised contemporary policy influences. For example:
A1: Often there seems to be a bit of a hidden agenda that the way maths teachers are teaching is not appropriate and we‟ll force them to change in some, some roundabout way….I think maths teachers like that if a change is going to be put upon them, maths teachers really value a discussion of the philosophical reasons, they like to know why we‟re changing rather than to say, “Look, we‟re going at a different 180 degree, to make a 180 degree change because someone wrote a paper in England and I‟ve been to the conference there and I want you all to stop what you‟ve been doing and do this.” They want to know what, what the reason is for it, have it explained rather than a directive given: just change, do this.

This resonated with the account of one of the mathematics education specialists interviewed, a reader in mathematics education at a major United Kingdom university but closely familiar with the Victorian education reform landscape, who lambasted what he explicitly labelled the “sloganising” language in curriculum material elaborating The Blueprint, particularly singling out for ridicule the PoLT-associated words “What does powerful learning and teaching look like in Mathematics?” To register the angst here it is necessary to attend closely to the discourse in which it found expression.38 (A longer excerpt capturing this more fully is provided as Appendix H3.)
MEK1: Everything has become politicised – and in education that‟s a curse, because politicians and bureaucrats don‟t actually understand what makes a classroom tick//So this sloganising, it even meant that
As previously noted, under the HREC research ethics approval granted for the study, throughout the reporting of the research even interview respondents holding a university post are still referred to by a code or pseudonym except where, with their explicit permission, their transcribed words are quoted as representative of views expressed in their body of published academic work.

those who were the holders of the public conscience I think became tainted, uh, the educationists later became tainted by taking the government shilling to deliver on projects. All of these things are short term, the muddle [of how students learn] is long-term….And that doesn‟t fit a politician‟s time scale….But the reality is hard, it‟s a muddle inside a muddle inside a muddle. So [quoting directly from a part of the DEECD policy documentation] “What is it essential and powerful to learn in Mathematics?”, you can‟t…it‟s a silly question…You shouldn‟t ask it. The language is wrong….Once you centralise things in a sloganising age…you get language like this. This is the opposite of education. Education is a long slow grind….a lot of it is mundane. And they don‟t want, they don‟t like mundane language, they don‟t like mundane outcomes, they don‟t like long time scales. And that in education is an absolute curse….I mean it‟s childish, it‟s infantile. [break] The problem is that the people who actually work in schools don‟t have the time or the inclination or the expertise to reflect in depth, but they feel it in their bones….a good school faced with the latest educational power document feels sceptical on the whole, very sceptical, but it can‟t necessarily formulate what‟s wrong//The problem is that with teachers it‟s mostly inchoate, it‟s poorly expressed, what they‟re actually saying is in their resistance, their resistance says it//And the teachers‟ reaction, instead of being interpreted as recalcitrant stupidity….good teachers are bound to value those things which they found worked reasonably well last year//So perhaps before you start shouting and trying mega methods to convert people, you really ought to understand first how did one get to a sloganising, a polemic, a rhetoric of reform, which is so unaligned.

In the context of the contrast drawn here between what is seen as a blindly didactic thrust of centralised policy authority, rhetorical rather than realistic and missing the mark because it fails to grapple with the complex contextualised “muddle” of practitioners experientially finding out what works in one particular pedagogical situation and what doesn‟t, it is interesting to compare principal class Helen Drewe‟s positive depiction of policy implementation, reported earlier, with that of teacher „Dave Crowe‟:
C1: You teach them what you‟re supposed to teach the best way you can… You do what works best…It‟s different every day, every class… You don‟t know which way to go sometimes….If every lesson was like that one [one of the two observed lessons] I couldn‟t get up and come to work in the morning…but sometimes you‟re on fire and then it feels great…and you know why you‟re a teacher…. R: So is PoLT discussed a lot here? C1: Nuh. [break] For some reason someone‟s made up this wonderful idea that everything has to be interactive, you know, integrated and ICT and all that kind of stuff, and I don‟t know that‟s such a good idea, the kids aren‟t enjoying it that much anymore.

R: When you say someone, who is it? C1: I don‟t know. Government….politicians maybe. [break] R: Does it surprise you that these ideas aren‟t, as you see it, taking off? C1: Not at all. Not at all. R: Is it disappointing? C1: Personally I don‟t think so, no. I think it might be disappointing for the politicians…who want to get it the other way, but as teachers, you can tell that we just…there‟s much that we might like to do but we just don‟t have the time, and the effort that you put into it….If you try these creative lessons and the network‟s down or there‟s too much mayhem…But with the, whatever you want to call it, conventional, you know it‟s going to work…

The striking incongruence between these accounts in their depictions of education reform policy and its degree of traction at the teaching and student learning level produces a recurring impression of slippage across the different domains and strata of education. The contrasting language registers characteristically used by teachers and officers at various levels of policy authority, and by mathematics education specialists generally situated in university contexts, suggest a pattern of policy level reform which is not „on the same page‟ as the pragmatic, situated pedagogical practice of teachers or, equally, the detached academic standards priority of mathematics education experts anchored in a discipline-specific framing. This is illustrated in a few short transcripts to follow, the first of which shows a frequently recurring, characteristically good-humoured, caricature of the „other‟ which was often delivered by the mathematics teacher participants when describing school leaders, policy framers or even non-mathematics teachers.
A1: Humanities teachers are really good at delivering these because they have the ability to talk at length on topics and make it sound really interesting whereas the maths science teachers…that‟s how they earn their living…whereas the maths science teachers want to see…well what do you want…what do you want me to do, well OK I‟ll do it – so they like to say, well this Principle means this and this and this and we‟ve finished. But they don‟t want that, what they want is someone that can give a long narrative building up to it, which is the stock in trade…of humanities teachers.

The recurring use of the word “they” as a distancing device makes clear that the speaker doesn‟t identify with the perceived agenda of the caricatured humanities teachers who at this point in the discourse are presented as more

166 in tune with policy rhetoric, by virtue of being less grounded in the real as distinct from the spell of evocative but largely empty language. At other times in Mike Abbott‟s construction, however, the key distinction was between those who taught in school settings and those whom he portrayed as misguidedly promoting faddish educational ideas from outside:
A1: Well, with multiple intelligences and learning styles where all of a sudden someone said, for example like in maths, “No, in a maths class you shouldn‟t be solving equations….if a kid has a different learning style”. And I attended a lecture by Professor John Geake from, who‟s now at I think Oxford, and he said for example learning styles are a waste of time. So there‟s, you know, conflicting evidences and I don‟t like the…that they don‟t acknowledge that.

Despite the actual words “I don‟t like”, the tone in which this was conveyed carried an air of slightly amused resignation. However, reserve about the attempted imposition, as it was perceived, of education reform instruments such as PoLT was not always so genially expressed. Sometimes there was overt hostility, as in the following example, which was displayed only after several conversations had established a level of rapport between the researcher and the participant, and a level of confidence in the confidentiality of the views shared. In an earlier discussion teacher Gary Atkins had said, “Don‟t ask me about my experience of PoLT…I can‟t…I won‟t talk about it…not unless I have to.” Subsequently he showed himself highly knowledgeable about PoLT conceptual content, other non-official peer-based pedagogical improvement programs which he saw as better for disseminating pedagogical ideas, and mathematics curriculum and pedagogy developments overseas as well as in Australia. However, it wasn‟t until the final debrief interview that he elaborated:
A2: Somehow the education policy group has been sold a bill of goods and have just gone “Hey, that sounds cool…”//PoLT is now linked to…the, uh, the incremental procedure…if you can‟t demonstrate that you have, uh, used PoLT, regardless of if you can demonstrate that you‟ve done what PoLT basically asks…if you can‟t specifically point to, use the PoLT language, an increment can be withheld….I‟ve got some very negative opinions of PoLT and that‟s because of my anger over a friend who was very much, you know, who was very poorly treated in such a fashion… (long pause). OK?

Whether this negative depiction of PoLT implementation is viewed as justified would depend on where and how one is situated. No other participant teacher

167 expressed direct opposition to PoLT, and broader elements of the education reform agenda of which its implementation is a part, as palpably as this. Yet whether it was amiably caricatured or casually dismissed as so peripheral to the actual experience of pedagogical practice as to be easily ignored or sidestepped, the teachers participating in this study generally shared a disengaged view of the reform policy initiatives such as PoLT, entailing a low level of „buyin‟ or professional commitment to them. In other words there was a low level of policy traction evident in the limited penetration into their observed pedagogical practice and in their discourse, when they felt trusting enough to be unguarded in expressing their views. 6.5 Interpretive strands from policy proponents’ discourse

A few weeks after the discussion recorded in the transcript immediately above, the DEECD held the „Principals Big Day Out‟, at which the Education Minister and senior policy officers from the DEECD released further information to school principals about the forthcoming e5 instructional model for teachers. In comparing and contrasting the discourses of different constituencies it is useful to note the framing of the pedagogical reform discourse in the official DEECD publication Education Times, in terms of the disconnection between teachers‟ discourse and this text from the lead article:
Minister for Education Bronwyn Pike, who was in attendance at the event for its duration, said the focus of the day was on investing collective effort into areas that will make the greatest difference to student learning outcomes. An update on the draft E5 instructional model also drew praise from the assembled principals, who demonstrated their overwhelming support for the model through the handheld electronic voting devices that were used on the day to provide mass, instant feedback. “The most important thing for me was to see the Department following through and putting in place the E5 model for teachers to plan their lessons,” said Gail Ciotti, acting principal of Footscray North Primary School. “E5 will be good for teachers to sit down and think about what they actually do. Most lessons are made up of those five components anyway, but teachers aren‟t always aware of what they actually do in a lesson. It will help teachers to think about what they‟re doing, and it‟s good to know that it‟s part of the whole plan for improving education across the state.” (DEECD, Education Times, 16(13), 14 August 2008)

It is not the central intention here to highlight the unmistakeable PR „spin‟ register of this discourse as it goes about performing its essentially political

168 positioning rhetorical work at multiple levels with a highly concentrated framing. What is particularly relevant is the portrayal of teachers as unreflective on their own pedagogical practice, and not as knowledgeable about good practice as the policy developers and school leaders whose role it is to take the approved instructional model back to their schools for dissemination. This depiction is unlikely to resonate with any of the teachers who participated in the research. It is important to note the envisaged role in policy framing of the school leaders as transmitters and interpreters of the approved pedagogical model. Interpretive Strand 8: Teachers’ marginalisation in prevailing policy discourse Recalling that Blueprint 2 promised “In the next twelve months we will … disseminate an instructional model for teachers” (DEECD 2008: 35), it becomes clear that the disseminators themselves are envisaged to include the principal class school leaders, who are expected to be part of the transmission linkage between the policy engine and the wheels on the ground. This was reinforced in the interview with a DEECD Manager (who designated her position a senior one, with higher authority than a Senior Policy Officer) in that the initial dissemination process did not involve direct communication with teachers. At the time of the interview, four weeks after the Education Minister‟s official release of the e5 model to an invited audience and media representatives, she confirmed that the model was not yet accessible to teachers on the DEECD website, but all principals had been provided with a glossy brochure-style e5 package to enable dissemination back in their schools. The prevailing policy community discourse and its underlying values and assumptions is vividly represented in this interview. (A longer excerpt capturing this more fully is given as Appendix H4.)
POL1: It [Blueprint 2] is a continuation….Jurisdictions nationally or even internationally are often interrupted by changes of government, or changes of ministers, and I think the strength in Victoria of recent years is that even with a few changes of minister that the…Blueprint agenda has been sustained and maintained, and evolved….Our

challenge with schools is to get them to see that it‟s not something else. [break] Building leadership capacity to bring about the change and the Performance and Development Culture initiative was about looking at establishing preconditions to improve teacher effectiveness. [break] The implementation of the e5 instructional model is that it‟s the resource to support a change in teacher effectiveness and improving teaching quality….the label e5 has been around for a while and I think it, there was always a reasonable strategy around that. One, it was, I guess it was identifying the need for a model, for some sort of framework or model. People had already had the experience of the developmental learning framework for school leaders and had been implementing that and what occurred, what ignited the meaning if you like, was at, working with Richard Elmore….the Department had employed him to, looking at teacher effectiveness, and it was at one of the Big Day Outs, working with principals, and that was back in 2006….where Richard Elmore presented a video clip of practice, primary school teachers giving a maths lesson. [break] The concept of a model was, you know, instigated at that session. We needed something where principals, school leaders, could use as a basis of a common language and from that common language could have conversations with their staff, and support their staff to develop in a, a very focused way. [break] It was just a construct that was selected. One, because of its ease, five easy catchy terms, but also it‟s been linked to the leadership, the leadership which was based on a similar five, construct of five, Sergiovanni‟s leadership domains….Part of the project team‟s work was to reference every aspect of PoLT against the model….It doesn‟t replace PoLT, I mean PoLT has been an exceptionally well respected and well used set of, of principles.

It is important to note that although the excerpt shows exact words spoken, there was a lengthy explanation not recorded here of the substantial work that went into researching, selecting and extensively adapting the e5 model from the existing BSCS 5Es instructional model after considering several other internationally recognised pedagogical frameworks. The respondent emphasised that some leading teachers and “aspirant leaders” were involved in working parties during the development phases. In selecting for focus here the recurring connections made between the chosen instructional model and accountability, plus the transmission role of formal school leadership, there is no intention to question the thoroughness or quality of the developmental work involved in the model itself.

R: Are principals and their school leadership teams on the same page as the Department on pedagogical reform, and do you have the impression that teachers in the schools are on the same page as their principals? POL1: Look, I would hope. I think that…the culture has been established in the, across the State that, you know, Victoria has high expectations, about evidence-based, uh, leadership performance, you know, improvement and accountability….So generally I think it‟s very positive from principals…. they will need to work collectively with their school leadership teams, or their colleagues at a network level, to look at how, for strategies to start engaging their staff, because there is a bit of a barrier there. [break] POL1: I don‟t know how long it will take to get out but there will be a teacher document so that every teacher will end up with a copy, not the full document, but a copy…of e5, so that, so that they‟ll end up with a resource document that is more targeted to their needs… R: Why not give all teachers their own copy of the full document, is it just a cost thing, or…? POL1: Well, one it is. You know it was an astronomical cost...and when you look at 50,000 teachers across the system virtually. Secondly, there are things in there that would perhaps not be so relevant to teachers, you know it needs to be far more practical, to be about tools to support their observation or reflection on their own practice as opposed to, um, a leadership role in implementing it in schools… R: Is the full documentation available on the web? [this interview took place four weeks after the initial launch] POL1: No…I‟m just in the process of hunting down whether there‟s a web link and it‟s, it doesn‟t go anywhere, so I‟m just trying to hunt out what‟s happened to that and where that‟s gone and the model itself, not the publication, the resource, but the model itself will be available. It‟ll be available on the Performance and Development Culture website, um, and, um, uh we‟ll just try and get it in, next week I‟m presenting to some aspirant leaders from the network and they‟ll all receive a copy of the publication…

What is of particular interest here is the privileging of the position of designated school leaders, by controlling the release of material which has as its explicitly stated core purpose (DEECD 2008: 35) to provide “an instructional model for teachers to support effective teaching practices in classrooms”. What emerges from this policy insider‟s account is how, in prevailing policy discourse designated school leaders, by virtue of their privileged access to a centrally regulated knowledge flow, have their authority and organisational power reinforced, while teachers as the pedagogical operatives in the core technology of schools can access the pedagogical tools only indirectly through the agency of their leaders.

171 Interpretive Strand 9: Learned helplessness - orchestration of teacher dependency That the privileging of an essentially bureaucratic rather than collaborative practice model of pedagogical reform transmission is a thoughtful and deliberate strategic intention, albeit one with potential unintended consequences, is apparent from the interview with another highly placed DEECD policy officer to be presented shortly. However to frame this, a comparison with teacher and student power relations in the control of access to instruments or artefacts of learning, taken here from Lesson C1b with a Year 10 mainstream mathematics class, is instructive.
C1: So, what I want you to do…is, you‟ve all got a circle here, it‟s a perfectly round circle, that‟s why I gave it to you „cause I don‟t trust you to draw one yourself. Now what I want you to do is, I want you to draw a quadrilateral inside that. What does a quadrilateral mean? Does it have to be a perfect square?...No, all I want is four lines in there that goes from the outside of the circle…it could be that… [demonstrates on IWB using Geometer‟s Sketchpad projected from laptop via ceiling mounted data projector] or it could be that… All you have to make sure is… [continues explanation while students start drawing and then continue to work individually.] [7 minutes into this] Student: Sir [exact word], why can‟t we use it on the computers? C1: Because I don‟t trust you on Geometer‟s Sketch Pad (laughs)… Have you ever used it before? Student: [sarcastically] Only in primary school.

The negotiation of power relations captured here is vivid. While it may be possible to provide an educational reason for having students spend a significant proportion of lesson time on hand drawing rather than using the ICT-enabled drawing employed by the teacher, the consolidation of power and authority achieved through artefactual control is tacitly acknowledged, albeit in the guise of humour, by the teacher here. This provides an intriguing parallel to the control of teacher access to the DEECD e5 instructional model, as finally designed and launched in April 2009, involving the deliberate withholding of direct teacher access to what was ostensibly a key teaching tool. A policy-preferred reliance on the privileged intermediary agency of principals as pedagogical leaders is evident in the following interview with a senior policy official working directly with the Deputy Secretary of the Office for

172 Government School Education. (A longer excerpt capturing this more fully is provided as Appendix H5.)
POL2: We had the big launch with the Minister….and so invited stakeholders in for a big launch with, with the Minister [repetition in original dialogue]… um, we have a very strategic approach to implementation of the, of these frameworks, the same thing we did with the leadership framework… and that was, that if something is that important, number one the manner in which we present it, in terms of the artefact, has to be… has to be state of the art, that says to leaders we value you, we believe that the presentation of this, and the amount of effort that goes into not only the content but the presentation – and it need to be distinguishable, when you go into principals‟ offices I want to be able to see the white album there [sic – however the physical artefact is actually in a dramatically stylised black LP vinyl record album cover format].…have you got a copy? R: It‟s as scarce as hen‟s teeth. POL2: I guess the thing is, that is part of our strategy.…the Deputy Secretary‟s expectation is that every regional network leader will hand deliver two copies of this framework to every principal in their network, and then start the conversation at the network level….In that respect all of the principals across the state have got it but teachers haven‟t….And so the scarcity is a deliberate strategy.

The respondent went on to use the term „scaffolding‟ to describe how the instructional model for teachers promised in Blueprint 2 was in its actual delivery inextricably linked with the bolstering of principals‟ authority. This was contextualised in terms of the Government‟s and DEECD‟s core belief in the transformational agency of principals‟ pedagogical leadership. In this paradigm only the principal and senior leadership team could connect the education reform intention for student learning with teachers‟ changed pedagogical practice. This account is internally consistent with the belief explicitly conveyed at several points in Blueprint 2, for example: “Leadership will be a major focus, as we know it is a major driver of improved performance

(DEECD 2008: 17).


The interlocking of policy-level levering of

pedagogical reform with the agency of principals‟ bolstered formal leadership authority is conveyed in the respondent‟s construction below.

The reference superscript 3 indicates a 2007 publication co-written by Michael Barber, globally influential head of Tony Blair‟s Prime Minister‟s Delivery Unit in the UK, 2001-2005, the single academic reference cited, apart from some material drawn from OECD or COAG reports.

R: What‟s your response to some teachers‟ view that if the Department‟s serious about teacher professional communities of practice and their pedagogical learning that what you‟d do is make sure that every teacher had a copy…that the Department wouldn‟t produce an expensive glossy and say, well, you know, eventually we‟ll let you know what‟s in it? Are you surprised…? POL2: No, I‟m not surprised. But my response is, my response to that is that every school is led by a principal.…obviously there is an intention to provide a publication for teachers, but the principal is the conduit.

The respondent also observed about the principals‟ pedagogical reform role, “if you‟re doing walk-throughs [of teachers‟ classrooms] you need to know what are you actually looking at?” The construction of leadership as the key reform agency has a virtually hegemonic hold on the prevailing discourse about education, and more broadly in the dominant accounts of organisational improvement strategies, and consequently it can seem such obvious “common sense” that pedagogical improvement can happen only through leadership that it can be difficult to even see that there‟s a question to be asked about this. In the nailing of the leadership colours to the mast there is in current Victorian policy, in line with many other jurisdictions which provide crossinfluences, a heavy reliance on the transformational power of principal-class leadership in stand-alone largely self-managing schools (with increasing emphasis on regional and system-wide networks, however). The more senior policy manager mentioned above (POL2) explained the development of the e5 instructional model under the guidance of Harvard University‟s Richard Elmore not in terms of pedagogical guidelines intended for direct teacher access, but as a response to the DEECD awareness that principals lack adequate pedagogical content knowledge to lead pedagogical „conversations‟ in their schools. Thus, the purpose of the model was presented as inextricably linked to skilling up the pedagogical leadership of principals, a nexus not acknowledged in the overt policy discourse presented in Blueprint 2. However, underlying premises concerning pedagogical reform are apparent in the discourse employed in policy promotion forums. For example, at a presentation to members of various education constituencies at The

174 University of Melbourne on 3 June 2009, the Victorian Minister for Education declared the Government‟s belief not only in the moral imperative of its “aspirational goals for transformation” [exact words] within its continuing education reform agenda but also the achievability of the goals. The aspirations were proclaimed to be, in fact, expectations. The Minister emphasised the policy‟s reliance on research-informed principles, quoting Richard Elmore‟s observations on teaching as “privatised practice”. Teachers‟ traditional autonomy of pedagogical judgment was presented as incompatible with a new notion of professionalism entailing a validated shared practice based on research about what is demonstrated to work most effectively for improving learning outcomes, requiring a common language for communicating explicitly the agreed pedagogical principles to be employed. Two days later, on 5 June 2009, a „Signposts‟ research forum, attended by many of the same people, was hosted in Melbourne by the DEECD‟s Office for Policy, Research and Innovation. It is important to consider the research discourse attendant on policy displayed here. In the introduction to the all-day forum the Deputy Secretary of that Office and the Group Manager of the Policy Branch stated that this was to be a data-based research forum reporting on empirical work and involving no prior assumptions. This was explicitly clarified as, “We want to see what will work”. By way of orientation to the „Signposts‟ forum, attendees within these first few minutes were invited to read and discuss in small table groups a printed list contained in the Forum Program which consisted of 20 labelled signposts termed “strategies for aligning schools efforts with the reform agenda of the Government”. However before the proposed small group discussion actually commenced, the Group Manager overtly proclaimed that within the randomised list of strategies it was obviously Leadership that everyone knew was „Number 1‟. Then as if any potential debate about this was settled by the mere mention of his name, international education reform proponent Michael Fullan was cited as having shown this in his research.40
The researcher was an attendee at the forum. No permission had been sought for the use of an audio-recorder and no audio-recording was made. The observations here are presented as a true record of the researcher‟s eye (and „ear‟) witness account, based on written notes made in situ.


Certainly Fullan et al. (2006: 88) propose that “Leadership is the turnkey to system transformation”. The book entitled Breakthrough features a Preface by Richard Elmore and an introductory set of testaments by a long list of wellknown members of this influential education reform policy research community, including Brent Davies, David Hopkins and Thomas Sergiovanni, all of whom are commonly cited as providing the empirical foundations for Victorian education reform strategies. Distinctive communities form allegiances to particular „ways of seeing‟. As the „Signposts‟ research forum unfolded through the day, it was clear in the presentations from seven exemplar schools where improvements were reported, that the perceived and promoted priorities were influenced by research selected from within and normalised by the dominant reform policy discourse. For example, a report from one school about making learning more engaging by adopting an integrated studies model was explicitly linked to an overtly acknowledged influence of Caldwell‟s work (eg. Caldwell 2004, with the Foreword by Michael Barber, at that time Head of the UK Prime Minister‟s Delivery Unit). There was an implicit expectation of the forum participants sharing a familiarity with the cited literature. Judging from observed audience reactions, this expectation was met. This observation is not put forward in order to oppose the dominant discourse, but rather to note from a sociological perspective the existence of a „taken-for-granted‟ policy paradigm which presents a particular research orientation uncritically (and selectively) as if it were gospel, uncontested, and not operating at the same time as other conceptually opposing research-based paradigms which have credibility and traction in different discourse communities.

176 6.6 Insider accounts of policy as globalised socio-political activity

In the course of the research several specialist policy sociologists were interviewed to provide an interpretive frame around the role and norms of policy itself, not confined to education reform policy specifically. They presented it as a social phenomenon involving its own policy communities, rivalries, tensions and ideological contests. „Simon Neville‟ [pseudonym], a policy sociologist at a research centre affiliated with The University of London, characterised his own account of the operations of what he termed “the policy industry” as “cautionary but not cynical”. He proposed that there is a dangerous naivety in approaching policy as if it was an essentially rationaltechnical process in which a direct causal relationship could be expected between the intentions verbally expressed in policy and the enacted outcomes at the end of a linear, or even complex networked, pathway. (A longer excerpt capturing this more fully is provided as Appendix H6.)
PUK6: Policies don‟t actually…aren‟t implemented, developed, to work, in that sense to make any change in the classroom whatsoever… so you talk to the policy makers, or other people who are regarded as key stakeholders in the policy community…and in fact there‟ll be a policy community who are interested in this, so there‟ll be maths teacher groups, there‟ll be employers, there‟ll be parent groups, there‟ll be businesses, who‟ll be like text book producers, there‟ll be the policy makers, the civil servants themselves, politicians, then there‟ll be the kind of school headteachers…and they‟ll all have different agendas for different policies….they just want to be seen to be doing something, it‟s a very visible way of saying, yes, we are addressing this….“spin” is the wrong word but it‟s the symbolic nature of the policy….the policy exists just to be seen… [break] Policy is text, it‟s written in one domain and it‟s read and interpreted in another domain, and its interpretation goes round and round, and there are recursive links as well, interpretations come back and leave the words unchanged but the policy in practice different as well… [break] The policy network is really interesting, it doesn‟t start with civil servants….In the UK…the prime ministerial office drove the DfES...and bypassed everything that you‟d imagine… R: Is that where someone like Michael Barber comes in? 41 PUK6: Yes. Absolutely….There are all these people who are not political with a big P but where they come from is really interesting
Michael Barber, as noted the only applied researcher explicitly cited in the Victorian 2008 Blueprint 2, played a pivotal role in UK Labour's education policy agenda prior to the 1997 election and then its implementation as head of the Standards and Effectiveness Unit of the DfES, and later head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit.

and they align themselves…in terms of getting ideas through they have a disproportionate amount of power in shaping the policy…and then it gets filtered through the, you know, the usual civil service machine….and that puts another take on what the teachers do at the end….There‟s a lot of policy borrowing – and there‟s people borrowing… R: Like Tom Bentley….? 42 PUK6: Oh, he‟s there, in Victoria, is he?....That‟s fascinating.…there‟s a global field of policy construction….these policy gurus are global themselves….Tom Bentley‟s a fascinating character, because he was big currency during the 90s when the UK agenda came up, because he was with Demos which Gordon Brown thought….With these global travelling shows of ideas….you‟ve got a philosophy to hang your policy on, an ideas infrastructure that you can borrow. [break] I love policy….Most teachers I‟ve spoken to couldn‟t care less about policy. It makes no difference to them at all. They care what their head or the principal says to them, they care about…are the kids disciplined, are they on task, does the headteacher think they‟re doing a good job, are they going to get good exam results – and that, that‟s…as long as you can tick all those boxes who cares what the Victorian state government is saying? [break] I think it‟s actually quite an anti-school agenda, or an anti-teacher agenda, a lot of this….they have this kind of constructivist view of learning and there‟s a political or ideological thing going on there rather than thinking, yes, this will work, because a lot of these policy innovations, or these products, aren‟t going to work in the classrooms that exist today…and there‟s an ideological or political dimension to that too. [break] PUK6: …they identified this cadre of super teachers who were somehow better than other teachers and the Standards and Effectiveness Unit I think it was videoed them and you downloaded videos of these super teachers and watched a super teacher teach a super lesson – a great way of explaining what a reformist classroom should look like….It died a death….even these vignettes tap into the policy buzz words for, um, drivers for education policy.

The fact is that policy, like other forms of work including teaching, is an enacted social activity. It is to be expected that policy yields observations, like the one above, of a discrepancy between espoused theory compared to theoryin-action, to use Argyris and Schön‟s (1996) phrases. This perspective on policy as a social activity with an underlying personal-political rather than rational-technical construction corresponds with observations on the operation of policy proposed in a body of academic research. It has not been

With the London „think tank‟ Demos until September 2006 when appointed Executive Director for policy and cabinet for the Victorian Premier, effectively the then Premier‟s key education reform adviser.

178 within the scope of this thesis to review substantially the sociological literature on policy as a social activity. However, within existing writing, the following critiques are noted. Shulock (1999: 229) contends that at the legislative level, policy generally pays scant regard to evidence, in both the formulation and impact evaluation phases. Her analysis presents policy as a “symbol of rational decisionmaking”, rather than an enactment of it. Nicoll and Edwards (2004: 45) analyse policy in terms of the mobilizing of political support through “acts of persuasion” in which the creation of narratives, designed to appeal to politically important constituencies, plays a central role. Characteristically “crisis narratives”, such as the need to respond to globalised economic challenges, are employed to generate support for what is then rhetorically positioned as decisive government action. Nicoll and Edwards (1999: 48) argue it is an inherent characteristic of policy enactment that rhetorical work is invested in reifying abstract propositions with a view to „naturalizing‟ them, thereby rendering opposition more difficult. In line with Phillips and Hardy‟s (2002) proposition that discourse is used to construct positive self-portrayal, the rhetorical image construction used to serve policy objectives and personal-political goals remain largely opaque to the social actors. This perspective complements Jacobs and Sobieraj‟s (2007: 1-3) proposition that politicians “are drawn to policy narratives in which they themselves occupy the central and heroic character position, and where they are able to protect the scope of their jurisdictional authority”. The need for some measure of “temporal narrative consistency” represents little practical constraint on governments‟ adoption and subsequent amendment or abandonment of particular policies, as long as the general narrative direction “connects with the larger set of policy narratives that together define their political affiliation”. In the context of education reform policy specifically, this perspective coheres with the identification by Furlong (2005: 123) of the centrality of government crisis narratives around the theme of globalization, used to construct an irresistible imperative for transformational change.

179 Alvesson and Karreman (2000) suggest that policy like other social discourse acts on the audience to naturalize the social world into particular „ways of seeing‟, so that alternative standpoints become more difficult to envisage. Given Jacobs and Sobieraj‟s (2007: 5) observation that policy discourse uses the self-validating rhetoric of “privilege[ing] the ideal of rational deliberation”, a consequently concealed perspective is the restricted level of objectivity actually operating in policy enactment itself. A related impression uncovered from Simon Neville‟s [pseudonym as explained] interview above is of a policy community, or multiple subcommunities, which Neville depicted at one level as, in his own word, “cosy”, but one that also entails generally concealed rivalries and power or territorial contests. In his analysis, policy is seen as less involved with an essentially objective technical science in the pursuit of overtly expressed intentions, and more to do with asserting powerful ideological positions which give expression to the views of the dominant key influencers‟ discourse while ignoring or marginalising other potential discourses. There was a reflection of some of the territorial rivalry elements in policy as an enacted social activity in the account provided by one of the DEECD senior policy managers, with the respondent in this instance constructing her account as an illustration of the dysfunctional operation of policy when design and implementation is divided across competing in-parallel policy offices.
POL2: PoLT was delivered through another division, so PoLT wasn‟t under my domain…but it wasn‟t mandatory, um, and it was an external provider, and it was developed externally, and then they started to roll it out and it got a huge backlash//It reflects a lot about government policy, and about bureaucracies and structures, because VELS came out of the statutory authority [VCAA]….when Minister Kosky announced that Blueprint in 2003….there was an office for teaching and learning and an office for government school education, so we were doing, we were introducing frameworks around [names initiatives]….then we had another office that was looking after learning and teaching, and, you know, structures create barriers.

180 Interpretive Strand 10: The ‘lack of science’ in policy design and implementation That the operation of policy design and implementation in practice is far removed from the rational-technical process it is generally assumed to be is also captured in the observations of another policy framer who has worked on education policy, both inside and at other times as an external consultant to both the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments, and who was directly involved in writing The Blueprint. In this excerpt he is direct on the lack of coordinated purpose in The Blueprint policy development. (A longer excerpt capturing this more fully is provided as Appendix H7.)
POL4: There were two policy discourses going on. One was the prevailing one, of school teacher practice, the work that suggests that school teaching effectiveness is the major variant in educational outcomes. The other one was the one located in the intersection of social geography and the characteristics of the school system….Both were reflected in The Blueprint. The latter one was reflected in a somewhat dishevelled manner//[PoLT] came from a combination of a sort of corporate world view of staff development….and also, I think, you got for the first time, a sort of saying practice is important and if you can improve practice…//It came from, uh, Elmore, and Sergiovanni, he was the big one, and Leithwood and so on….and you know Elmore‟s dictum of teaching being a profession without a practice, it loomed pretty large in the rhetoric…. R: Is it hard to work back and reconstruct the influences on a particular policy? POL4: Yeah, very much so, and one shouldn‟t read too much science into it either. The process of building The Blueprint was a shambles.

These insider accounts reveal policy design and implementation as a more complex, ambiguous and less linear technical-rational process than generally imagined. Multiple and conflicting influences are filtered but, even then, those finally incorporated into adopted policies may not be aligned. A senior manager in an education statutory authority independent of the DEECD also emphasised the potential for disconnection of competing policy elements. (A longer excerpt capturing this more fully is provided as Appendix H8.)
POL7: There is an extent to which systems import and adapt ideas from other systems//You would think that a key issue for any system is…congruence between curriculum, assessment and pedagogy….There must be an alignment….Now the problem for most practising teachers is, what framework do they employ to reflect on those things?....It‟s the pedagogical consideration process whereby people continue to do what they know works well…

181 The connections and distinctions made here help to emphasise the complexity both functionally and politically of the curriculum-pedagogy relationship in which teachers and school leaders operate. While this respondent did not claim detailed knowledge of the DEECD student learning or pedagogical advice materials, he argued that as a government department it was subject to political agendas that adversely affected the clarity and transparency of its communication processes with constituents or key stakeholders such as teachers. 6.7 Policy stand-off with the ‘excluded’ mathematics education

community Rivalry for influence over policy was reflected from a different vantage point in the interview with „Stephanie Kremer‟ [pseudonym] who depicted university mathematics educators as largely sidelined from both curriculum and pedagogy policy development for schools. She was “incensed” by the recent awarding of a Commonwealth Government contract for the development of school mathematics curriculum materials to a university Mathematics Department rather than to mathematics education specialists within an Education Faculty. Stephanie Kremer is a Professor at a high-profile university and an acknowledged contributor to mathematics education within her own policy community. The beginning of the transcript excerpt here captures the respondent articulating, and periodically apologising for, her expressed anger at her perception of the damaging impact of the current Victorian Government education reform agenda on maths teaching with the imposition of generic reformist pedagogical principles codified into integrated cross-disciplinary curriculum, longer learning session times, and so forth, to the detriment of mathematics achievement standards. (A longer excerpt capturing this more fully is given as Appendix H9.) The rhythms and tone of the discourse here are particularly important.
MEA3: It‟s disastrous, just terrible….I‟m very much against these integrated programs….It wasn‟t ever really clear that they wanted subjects integrated in that sort of, trivial way…so that…you don‟t integrate maths by combining the time that you have with…to teach maths and science, both at the same time. R: So…

MEA3: The integration thing, I just close my eyes to it, because we haven‟t seen one good example. R: On the other hand leadership teams… MEA3: And why it would engage students – what was all that about? R: Presumably because… MEA3: It doesn‟t have to be combined with, you don‟t have to, to bring applications into mathematics you don‟t have to, to teach it at the same time as you‟re teaching another subject. R: Some principals of schools have… MEA3: Sorry, don‟t want to get too, too, sorry, I… R: That‟s OK…. [break] MEA3: If you wanted a country that can survive, then you have to have reasonable mathematical skills, and maybe those principals don‟t….If they think that their students know about quadratics after these…Sorry about this…but you know some of the programs they‟ve got the kids have got no hope of learning….I‟d sort of forgotten about this side of this Student Learning [policy] thing. The other thing is these hundred minute lessons….the other thing that‟s probably, somehow came out of this [policy] too, and that‟s just off. R: And do you think… MEA3: Because there‟s no expectation that actually you‟re going to work all of the time in a hundred minute lesson…Sorry about this… R: If you have to teach a lesson for a hundred minutes…. MEA3: Absolutely. Because…we‟ve done some lesson study….if you have a fifty minute lesson you got almost as much done as you got in a hundred minute lesson//Government policy doesn‟t change the principles of how to teach mathematics well. [break] MEA3: This university, down on the other side of the road, the [names a specialist mathematics project unit within the Department of Mathematics under the Science Faculty] a federal government initiative, where the money for, to write, money which was subsequently used to write a mathematics text book, was given by the Commonwealth Government to the…to a group controlled by [names a particular organisation]…. [break] We tried to take PoLT, which in many respects is very good, and say what does this really mean for a maths teacher?....It glosses over what are really very difficult problems….But teachers do have good ways of deflecting any change….They have a VELS language but they don‟t actually reconsider what they‟re doing in terms of VELS.

The transcript captures the respondent‟s construction of educational, philosophical, political and personal grounds on which there is non-alignment across different policy communities‟ intentions, expectations and aspirations for pedagogical reform. The use of the word “they” to label and dismiss positions depicted as contrary to a respondent‟s own policy community was a recurring feature of much of the recorded discourse, as was a tendency to parody or caricature different policy communities‟ positions. By contrast

183 within identifiable policy communities the educational priorities and discourses through which they are formulated and communicated are largely congruent. „Leah Goodwin‟ [pseudonym] is a mathematics education specialist who has held professorial positions at two Australian universities (neither of them Stephanie Kremer‟s institution). Prof Goodwin was equally animated in condemnation of integrated studies, with the associated longer learning session times, and the erosion of dedicated mathematics classroom time. She depicted these as imposed on mathematics teachers by reform policy imperatives implemented by school leaders who possessed inadequate pedagogical content knowledge of specialist curriculum areas, as distinct from holding a generic notion of how classrooms ostensibly need to be changed. As with all other mathematics education specialists consulted, this respondent confirmed the distinction as defined in the current research between conventionally-oriented and reform-aligned pedagogical approaches. (A longer excerpt is provided as Appendix H10.)
R: So the ones coded in blue, there, in the study I have seen as indicative of a conventional mathematics classroom… MEA2: Yes… R: You‟d agree with…? MEA2: Yes. R: The ones coded in red are the ones that I would see as indicative of, extracting from all kinds of sources, as indicative of a reform aligned… MEA2: Yes. I think that‟s reasonable//One circuit breaker would be go back and have more mathematics lessons in the curriculum…. there‟s less mathematics being taught….The top three red ones [items ranked lowest in survey results] really depress me… [break] The idea of an integrated curriculum horrifies me….to work from a mathematics perspective you need to have people who understand mathematics really well, and I don‟t think we have sufficient qualified people….I don‟t see how that can be achieved without a loss of mathematical content….By and large it‟s not successful….You need to spend time on more sophisticated and more, core, information, so that I don‟t see how it can work. As far as ICT goes, it depends who‟s driving it… [break] R: Are you saying that only teachers who‟ve got an excellent mathematical background can make [reform-aligned] adaptation and keep a high cognitive demand on their students…? MEA2: Being a good mathematician is being able to generalise, it‟s being able to abstract, it‟s being able to accept being uncomfortable for

a while, because you‟re struggling with something…so if you‟re already uncertain about mathematics you don‟t want to put yourself in the position, um, where this would happen. So, yes, yes… [break] When I‟ve looked at the very broad guidelines, of the new curriculums, I‟ve…I‟ll use the word appalled.

When education reform policy framers and influencers interviewed in this research spoke of the need for principals to have improved pedagogical content knowledge to enable them to „start the conversations‟ on student learning in their schools, it seems they had a mental model of a more generic kind of pedagogical content knowledge than envisaged by the community of mathematics educators, and mathematics teachers in schools. The experience of these latter groups calls forth a different conception of highly disciplinecentred specialised content knowledge as the necessary underpinning of any pedagogical improvement process. Related to this is an awareness that arose from comparing these discourses: diverse communities of practice use the term „reform‟ with different meanings and connotations, making „conversations‟ between the various education constituencies fraught with the potential for misunderstanding, confusion and miscommunication. This is captured in a momentarily tense exchange between the researcher and previously mentioned mathematics education specialist Stephanie Kremer. (Longer excerpt in Appendix H11.)
MEA3: You have to be careful with this „conventional‟ and „reform‟, it‟s not as if conventional is bad and reform is good either, and I think that‟s, that plagues the maths education research literature even… R: So some reform-aligned stuff can be in a sense very superficial…? MEA3: Absolutely, so for example people would say, are they working in groups or not? Whereas what, what you‟re after is, um, are you discussing concepts so that all people get a deeper understanding of them.//It‟s deteriorated for most, for the top half of kids, and for the other half it hasn‟t changed probably. If you had a really conventional maths teacher come along and see it, they wouldn‟t see Australian classrooms high on conventional, they wouldn‟t see that, they‟d see little work, it‟s not conventional….The lack of complexity. When you look at a project it might have no content, it‟s just nice busy work that takes a long time….So there are key features of conventional that aren‟t there [referring to lesson classification schedule]….you‟ve renamed that „repetitious computational drills‟?! R: Misleading? MEA3: Yeah. What, can you imagine the class…I mean, no, who wants repetitious computational drills? Drill? Well computational drill,

there‟s nothing wrong with computation, or drill, repetitious computational drill, there‟s nothing wrong with computation….but the repetitious computational drill as the shorthand for that [exercises within conventional pedagogy to consolidate standard maths techniques, process and accuracy]….that‟s the problem with this, isn‟t it, it‟s very hard not to accidentally condemn conventional teaching. I think actually this is part of the problem of mathematics teaching is that a lot of…good maths teachers would feel alienated by the reform, some of the reform thing here….Some of your best maths teachers in the state are going to be very alienated by certain parts of that language. R: You know what‟s happening. I‟m using the term „reform‟ in a different way from you, and that probably means I‟m using it in a different way from most maths teachers… MEA3: I‟m using the reform agenda meaning the promotion of mathematical reasoning and mathematical problem solving, understanding mathematics and its applications. R: You‟re using „reform‟ within a rich mathematical context, I‟m using „reform‟ in terms of a political agenda…a social agenda, I don‟t mean party political… MEA3: And that‟s what happens….you can find those good maths teachers who would hate this government thought of reform and that‟s because they don‟t value the good things that they do.

Interpretive Strand 11: Policy discourse worlds as disconnected parallel universes

186 What emerges here is the slipperiness of the reform discourse, or rather discourses, which are constructed on such different understandings, principles and underpinning language in the policy, curriculum and pedagogy communities and sub-communities. For mathematics educators, and those teachers admitted to their discipline-based discourse world, what‟s relevant in any reform idea is to be negotiated in the fine-grained details of a highcognitive demand, subject based, mathematics curriculum and specialised pedagogy. The important questions operate essentially on a micro-scale. The macro-scale, mega-reform agenda belongs to an alien domain, and its basic assumptions and objectives are experienced as either muddled or antagonistic.43 6.8 Interpretive frames from policy insider ‘straight shooters’

A useful interpretive perspective captured in these interviews came from a respondent who straddles a number of different communities in belonging to one of the Government‟s and DEECD‟s envisaged key education reform policy conduits in the role of regional director. As there are not many of these officers in the DEECD, while a coded pseudonym is used here the respondent knew that anonymity could not be assured. Nevertheless, the person has a widely established reputation as a „straight shooter‟ and, in contrast to some other policy officers approached for interview, seemed relaxed and untroubled in being, at least apparently, transparent and unguarded. (A longer excerpt is provided in Appendix H12.)
POL9: I think the thing that‟s changing the most now is the focus on classroom practice…it sounds bizarre, given what our work is, but the emphasis on improving classroom practice seems to be coming from everywhere. I‟m going to Scotland next week, and I‟m meeting with their teaching and learning people….and they‟ve got a diagram that‟s very similar [to one shown by the researcher from DEECD policy material]…they‟ve got the same issues//…everyone talks about „personalisation‟ [UK DfES term adopted in Victorian Government DEECD discourse] without really knowing what it means…but I think that‟s where we‟re heading, and that‟s a vastly different set-up to what we‟ve had in schools up to now.
There are other „policy communities‟ in the mix also. It isn‟t in the scope of this research to consider the discourse positioning of diverse satellite policy communities such as text book producers and ICT program developers who have educational or commercial interests in policy outcomes and time frames.

R: What are the main blockers? POL9: Politics. Really very conservative agendas by our politicians who don‟t know what needs to be done….cloak it in this „tipping point‟ stuff [reference to influential UK Gladwell/Hargreaves policy rhetoric]…. There is a backlash….I‟m not convinced that a lot of them can implement it….I actually think that it‟s having teachers work together in teams. I quite like Richard Elmore‟s notions about internal accountabilities, and common problems solved in common. But my take on this is that we‟ve got dozens of schools [in the Region] that have done PoLT – and it‟s made no difference at all to outcomes and if that‟s the case it‟s in the implementation because if you actually implement upon what was there then it would have an impact. You can go into schools and talk to kids after they‟ve [teachers] have had PoLT training and ask them what‟s changed, the kids can‟t tell you. I just think if we‟re going to change anything teachers have to change the way they work – and if kids can‟t notice there‟s a change in the way teachers are working, perhaps there‟s no change taking place at all….The other thing is that over the years there‟s been this program approach, and here‟s one more program, and here‟s another program, and here‟s another one…looks good, but there‟ll be another one next year, so you get a sort of…(pause) R: Policy fatigue? POL9: Fatigue, yep...//All the peripheral things we‟ve done in the past don‟t actually matter unless we get into the classrooms…. There‟s progress being made, but it‟s incremental. [break] I think the notion of teaching as private practice, which it is, just isn‟t tenable….

The discourse here is characterised by pragmatism rather than rhetoric. The prevailing rhetoric is presented in this regional director‟s account as something which improvement efforts are „cloaked‟ in. Removed from the environment of policy rhetoric the envisaged improvement is actually incremental rather than transformational. This accords more closely with the nature of viable change suggested by the grounded theoretical literature, as distinct from the prevailing policy-aligned transformational literature. It also accords with the detached analytical pitch of another senior policy respondent „Wilbur Crawford‟, at the time of the interview a policy adviser within the DEECD in the area of the current national curriculum development, after an appointment for a period of six years at Education Department Deputy Secretary level in a major Asian jurisdiction. The emphatic rhythms of expression captured here (longer excerpt provided in Appendix H13) reflect a confidence of judgment grounded in experience rather than any kind of policy hyperbole or rhetorical positioning.

POL6: I don‟t think anybody argues that schools don‟t have to do a better job….everybody understands that, and we, what we‟ve been able to show in the last twenty years is that we‟ve marginally improved… [break] R: In the Blair Government schools, from which I think Victoria‟s… (pause) POL6: borrowed a lot….There‟s far more commonality around education reform these days, from all the directions we‟ve just talked about, there‟s a language, there‟s a twenty-first century language…and the commonality is striking… R: Including the US? POL6: Including some states of the US….they‟ve still got the same drivers running through them….It‟s hard to get any „intellectual property‟ on reform (laughs). [break] We better get, we need to get better at the research and more understanding of what we can and can‟t do. R: David Hopkins argues that there was dramatic improvement in educational outcomes in the UK over, you know, a five year period… POL6: Yeah….but that‟s been shown in other systems as well….I‟d expect a bit of a jump with NAPLAN. There‟s a couple of reasons why that jump might occur….there‟s an automatic effect involved just in saying NAPLAN is…[inaudible]…so I‟d expect a jump for a couple of years but that doesn‟t sustain anything unless you really change… [break] I actually think we use the term „accountability‟ very loosely, if you talk of accountability to the good ordinary teacher in the school they automatically think of accountability upwards….[but] accountability is very simple, every kid should have a good teacher…it‟s accountability to the student, it‟s horizontal accountability….That‟s the hardest form of accountability, for a school and all its teachers to take full responsibility for their kids. If that happens you don‟t have to worry about the reform discussion, the reform discussion‟s over.

These somewhat dissenting policy insiders see developing teachers‟ capacity for collaborative professionalism not only as a key requirement for education reform but as actually constituting the necessary pedagogical reform. However a key impediment is that the education reform policy agenda gives insufficient attention to the priority of achieving this, and the question of how to achieve it, not just in the official policy discourse but in policy focus and balance, and particularly in the fine-grained enactment of policy implementation. 6.9 Connecting the strands

The results from the field study working with the constructed selection of teachers, from the policy discourse analysis of documents and dialogue with

189 policy officers, and from the diverse and contrasting perspectives represented across the range of interviews, have suggested interpretive strands identified in the discussion. Taken together they reveal a complex picture of the difficulties of achieving meaningful pedagogical reform. In light of the results showing what appears to be minimal penetration of education reform policy expectations into teachers‟ enacted pedagogical practice, by examining the identified interpretive strands through the lenses provided in the key theoretical frames, the final chapter will draw conclusions about the policy-practice gap which has been demonstrated.

Chapter 7: Closing the Policy-Practice Gap 7.1 The finding of limited reform policy penetration into

pedagogical practice

190 A decade on and in a different educational landscape, the results of the research reported in this thesis are essentially in line with Spillane and Zeuli‟s (1999) finding of limited policy penetration. The investigation of the pedagogical practice of 13 secondary mathematics teachers in Victoria finds even less indication than Spillane and Zeuli reported of discernible movement in the direction of reformed practice, but their participant teachers were selected on the basis of espoused familiarity with and support for reform principles, which was not the case with the participants in this current study. Teachers in the current research were not selected on the basis of any preexpression of knowledge or support for reform principles. Survey participants included the majority of mathematics teachers in six government secondary colleges, with 81% of these teachers participating in the survey of pedagogical practice. The 13 mathematics teachers whose pedagogy was studied in detail were nominated by their schools as competent teachers considered not unrepresentative of the larger group of mathematics teachers in those schools.44 Five years into the implementation of the Victorian government‟s Blueprint for education reform, these mathematics teachers appear not to be teaching in ways which align strongly or consistently with policy expectations for pedagogical reform. When Spillane and Zeuli (1999) investigated the extent to which their 25 participants taught in ways that resonated with national and (Michigan) state mathematics reform aspirations they found little authentic reform alignment in the teachers‟ observed pedagogy. While they found in 4 of the 25 cases some indications of “traveling in the direction pressed by reformers” towards an approximation of „conceptually grounded‟ or „principled mathematical knowledge‟ rather than procedurally governed mathematics, they uncovered evidence of prevailing patterns of resistance or deflection in much of the enacted pedagogy, at odds with the selected teachers‟ own explicit espousal of reform alignment. While Spillane and Zeuli‟s interpretation of their findings on the progress of reform policy „in practice’ identified three distinctive
It will be recalled from Chapter 5, Section 5.3, that for reasons outside the researcher‟s control thirteen teachers were finally included for lesson observation rather than the target number of twelve.

191 patterns of teachers‟ enactment of reform pedagogy (not investigated in the present study), the predominant characteristic was superficial or peripheral change, with the „behavioral regularities’ of conventional mathematics instruction continuing at the core. Moreover their fine-grained lesson study revealed that teachers‟ modifications to observable behavioural regularities of instruction on the surface masked lack of deeper level change in the „epistemological regularities’ of instruction; in other words, the way in which what it means to know and do mathematics is constructed in and by the classroom pedagogy. This coheres strongly with the present finding of shallow penetration of reform-aligned principles, whether framed in generic reform policy or in the specialised mathematics reform discourse. 7.2 Accounting for the key finding

In light of all the previous research and on the theoretical grounds presented in this thesis, the limited policy traction found once again in the current investigation is unsurprising. The education reform policy intention to bring about large scale change in teachers‟ pedagogical practice is an aspiration of daunting proportions. Given that teaching is regarded as the core technology of schooling, it is to be expected that policy efforts are increasingly focused on improvement in the activity of teaching itself as much as on the macro organizational levels of education reform. However as Spillane and Zeuli (1999: 19-20) note, “the sorts of changes envisioned by reformers are difficult to implement in practice ... instruction is resistant to fundamental reform”. The authors qualify the observed limitation of education reform policy in driving pedagogical change with the caveat that the findings should not be taken as “evidence of the impossibility of fundamentally reforming classroom instruction through public policy”. Rather they point to the need for policy to take into account the complexity of pedagogical work and to understand how and why teachers adapt policy level change demands in ways which dilute, distort or undermine the core reform purposes. The current investigation of how teachers understand, experience and respond to reform expectations is consistent with the body of previous

192 research showing the complexity of reform implementation in practice. That achieving reform is enormously difficult accords with Argyris and Schön‟s (1996) organizational learning proposition that throughout their research and consultancy work they did not find a single case of change in organizational knowledge at the highest or deutero-learning level, while even the double-loop learning level which feeds back into formative organizational norms and core competencies was more often than not elusive. In this light even a modification to relatively simple technical procedures, not significantly altering the embedded norms of organizational members‟ behaviour beyond the enactment of the technical task itself, can be difficult and requires far more change implementation complexity than just a linear rational-technical process of articulating what change is desired and instructing how it is to be achieved. Student learning models have progressed beyond learning by transmission to constructivist conceptions of learning, and beyond basic constructivism to social-participationist notions of learning. It is paradoxical, then, that in the area of teachers‟ own professional learning about pedagogy, as established particularly in Chapters 1 and 6, reform policy lacks an adequate theory of learning and promulgates professional learning by a transmission model in the form of prescription of ostensibly transferrable best practice principles. On compelling theoretical and empirical grounds this approach can be predicted to fail. This critical disconnection between reform aspiration and reform mechanism is crucial in explaining the observed failure to achieve the desired effect. In this final chapter it is concluded that the recurring failure of education reform policy implementation to gain the desired traction is bound up with its failure to take account of key theoretical frames which explain why the shortfall in achievement is inevitable, and suggest more realistic ways in which incremental, rather than transformational, pedagogical improvement could be achieved. 7.3 Why transmission of ‘best practice’ professional learning

cannot work


To understand the construction of teaching practice it is necessary to draw out the implications of the theories explored in Chapter 3, in parallel with the finding of teachers‟ professional isolation and private practice in the present study, to interpret the picture of pedagogical practice which emerges and its disconnection from „technical-rationalist‟ (Furlong, 2005) education reform policy premises. As was shown by Cook and Yanow‟s (1996) case study of artisan craftsmanship performance in a high-end specialist flute factory, even limited change in a complex technical practice can be achieved only through a painstaking process keenly attentive to the implicit, rather than explicit and cognitively transmissible, culturally embedded knowledge of the practitioners. While teaching is not manufacturing, neither is it a disembodied science or a mystical art. For all its complexity, teaching like all other work is constructed within the parameters of tacit organizational learning, mediated primarily through the physical (and architectural) layout of the workplace, the artefactual expressions and discourse exchanges of a specific organizational culture, and its multiple sub-cultures, embedded in routinised daily work interactions. These are reflective and preservative of the context-specific constitution of the enacted work itself. Therefore established practices are highly resistant to change. Transformational change, on which education reform policy aspirations are largely predicated, is unlikely to take root. Internally driven and directed incremental improvement in teachers‟ pedagogical practice, based on the cultivation and resourcing of disciplinebased collaborative structures, is a more convincing pathway. A theoretically and empirically grounded understanding of organizational learning entails that an activity as complex as the work of teachers will be resistant to externally driven reform, even in the absence of any conscious opposition to explicitly expressed change objectives. Much of the activity energy expended in teachers‟ work in schools, as with work in other settings, is directed at a tacit level towards cultural maintenance interactions which preserve the prevailing culture in which teachers‟ work is embedded. In trying

194 to engineer inertia-busting mega-change implemented from the macro policy level down to fine-grained enactment within the existing culture or multicultures of teachers‟ pedagogical work sites, policy framers and bureaucratic proponents take on a complex challenge: one which generally is not only underestimated but conceptually mistaken and therefore destined to fail. 7.4 Discourse communities forming disparate policy and

practice universes The specific instance of education reform policy investigated in this research is a complex and ambitious policy with multiple layers and inter-connecting strategies. The investment not only of economic resources but also human talent is considerable and the energy, commitment, enthusiasm and belief of key proponents is palpable. However, as shown in the previous chapter, a complexity of the attempt to gain policy penetration is that policy constituency sub-cultures within education have their own incongruent frames of reference with a purported empirical research base and a shared language. There is also the complexity that within a policy paradigm, selective filtering may operate to remove impressions of ambiguities, inconsistencies or uncertainties, thereby shoring up emphases on particular elements, such as the pre-eminence of leadership for example. Recall the privileging of the position of designated principal class school leaders in the actual release of the e5 “instructional model for teachers to support effective teaching practices in classrooms” (DEECD, 2008: 35), reported in Chapter 6. Policy proponents at government and bureaucratic levels form discourse communities which view education reform through conceptual lenses not shared by and incongruent with the culturally constructed enactment of pedagogical work, and the tacitly shared intersubjective interpretations of its meaning, within teachers‟ own work places and their own discourse communities. This implicit rather than explicitly articulated understanding of pedagogy entails that in practice there is much more likely to be an adaptation of imposed pedagogical reform models which

195 evade, dilute, distort or deflect their intent, rather than any marked overt resistance. Consistent with this prediction, Handal and Herrington (2003: 61) argue that when the experience of teachers causes them to hold incongruent beliefs in enacting the curriculum, then “low take up, dilution and corruption of the reform will likely follow”. However this corruption of the reform intention in practice is unlikely to be based on any deliberate, overtly expressed opposition to the purposes of the reform. Nor is it likely to involve conscious hypocrisy in masquerading as supporting the reform while secretly undermining it with an explicitly held hostility. Rhetorical work performed by the officially authorised versions of reform expectation, and claimed indications of successful movement towards actual reform achievement, is powerful in serving a purpose of unifying the community sharing this discourse. Inducements of recognition and reward (including acknowledgment of membership in the discourse community) are attached to adherence to the approved discourse. Special invitational events such as policy and program launches, like those described in Chapter 6, underpin the virtually hegemonic mystique of the dominant discourse, as suggested by Yukl‟s (1999: 296) depiction of the use of staged events to build enthusiasm while at the same time limiting subordinates‟ access to vital information about operations and performance and restricting communication of criticism or dissent, rendering opposition almost literally „unthinkable‟. Simultaneously, effective enactment of the espoused principles remains unattainable, because it is the enduring physical and cultural contexts of enactment that shape performance in practice, even while open acknowledgment of the discrepancy between espoused and enacted practice remains disguised. Argyris and Schön‟s (1996) organizational learning work uncovered the crucial role of defensive routines and avoidance behaviours in enabling deflection of „taboo‟ expressions of overt conflict over organizational values and norms. These mechanisms allow organizational members to remain largely oblivious to the contradiction of holding to officially sanctioned espoused theories-of-action, while enacting logically incompatible theories-

196 in-use. In education, reform rhetoric sweeps away inconvenient reminders of the enduring regularities of schooling in practice. Yet it is the latter which shape the enactment of teachers‟ pragmatic daily pedagogical work.45 In line with previous studies, it emerges from the present research that teachers may espouse agreement in principle with reform-aligned teaching while perpetuating routinised essentially conventionally oriented pedagogical practice at the core, adapting to some reform influenced elements only at the periphery. As shown, they may at times adopt a standpoint of mildly sardonic humour subtly to differentiate their own position from that of the policy oriented school leadership discourse. Overt expressions of hostility to policy expectations appear rare. Meanwhile reform policy is formulated and its rhetorical work performed in a separate discourse realm removed from the physical and cultural realities of the schools in which teachers‟ work is constructed. As Handal and Herrington (2003: 63) note, policy-driven curriculum reform is characterised by calls for large-scale innovative change which is poorly defined in applied operational terms. They point to schools‟ working structures as incompatible with aspirations of reform drives; and to policy ambiguities which reinforce a tendency for teachers to espouse an explicit belief in reform principles which remains at odds with their enacted implicit beliefs, partly because of generally unexpressed confusion about what the pedagogical reform would entail if enacted in practice. The work with the teacher participants reported in this research casts light on how these teachers experience and interpret the attempted imposition of current education reform policy in Victoria. The findings are consistent with Handal and Herrington‟s (2003: 59) observation that “when they come to enact the curriculum in their classes, [teachers] rely more on their own beliefs

Explaining the essential conservatism of schools and their resistance to imposed reform, as distinct from incremental inner change, as noted in Chapter 3 Hannay (2003) shows teachers‟ work as pragmatic, largely unarticulated and grounded in tacit knowledge known to work within its cultural setting, while Ogawa (2003: 35) puts the complementary point that while teachers work pragmatically and therefore primarily conservatively they generally don‟t express overt opposition or hostility to policy direction and “conceal and obscure inconsistencies between policies and their classroom lives”.

197 than on current trends in pedagogy”. Not surprisingly teachers‟ beliefs were found to be conservative and to reproduce constructions of mathematics, and of what it means to teach and learn mathematics, embedded in the background influences of teachers‟ own experiences of schooling. This is entirely consistent with what the teachers participating in the present study reported as the primary influences on their own current pedagogy. As Handal and Herrington (2003) argue, these influences have their own compelling rationality in reflecting the pragmatic daily demands of teachers‟ work within the enduring regularities of schools as social institutions. It is therefore misguided to target pedagogy for reform as if it were a stand alone, primarily technical activity amenable to externally governed adjustment. 7.5 A legitimate locus of reform: overcoming pedagogy as private

practice The single most striking conclusion to emanate from the study of the pedagogical work of the mathematics teachers in this research is how starkly private is the enactment of teachers‟ professional practice. Given what has been noted about the importance of group level interactivity in socially situated cognition, communities-of-practice and organizational learning, this makes for stony ground on which to cast any seed of change. This key finding of a prevailing professional solitude in teachers‟ enacted work remains in line with Hargreaves‟ (1994) characterisation of teaching as dominated by individualism, isolation and privatism. The teachers in the current research study point to identifiable practical factors in their work arrangements which underpin teaching as private practice: the self-contained classroom basis of prevailing school architecture; the allocation of each individual teacher to an understood number of fixed self-contained classes as the fundamental basis of the structure of employment; severe restrictions on either mandated or discretionary time available for professional consultation with direct colleagues; and domination of limited formal meeting times by agenda prescribed by policy-responsive school leadership teams. In this latter regard, potential discipline-based collaborative planning times, already

198 dominated by narrow curriculum administration concerns rather than pedagogical discussion, are perceived as vulnerable to being commandeered for „whole-school-integrated‟ policy dissemination. It is arguable that in the secondary school context, only a sustained reverse-thrust strengthening of secondary teachers‟ natural work units, based on their shared subject disciplines, could make some incremental progress towards building collaborative pedagogical practice „from the ground up‟ with reasonable prospect of success. In the absence of any indication of policy movement in this direction, Hargreaves‟ (1994) observation stands: the reproduction of teaching as an individualised private practice, highly resistant to externally levered change, is culturally embedded. Policy drives for pedagogical collaboration pushed in school leadership implementation around integrated models of curriculum, are unlikely to overcome this pattern beyond superficial levels.46 If we return to Cook and Yanow‟s (1996) community-of-practice case study of modest incremental (not dramatic or large-scale) organizational learning, the contrast of work cultures with teaching is revealing. In the flute factory, too, there was a lack of explicitly articulated knowledge about practice. However, understanding how to perform the job effectively and, in this shared practice setting, collaboratively came from working physically alongside other craftsmen and women, continually examining colleagues‟ work by eye and touch, providing on-going but barely-verbal feedback on any element of production that didn‟t „feel‟ right, and by subtle and complex tacit interactions within the close working community. This cultural factor underpinned an implicit shared sense of the characteristics of the desired exemplary team performance, even in the absence of any explicit specifications. Because of the nature of their work organization, both physically and culturally, the
It is outside the scope of this research to consider separately the function of school architecture planning in policy intentions to shape practice. However, within the terms of the key theoretical frames used in this study, physical space is a key influencing factor in how practice is constructed and enacted. There is an overtly proclaimed leadership-level intention in many schools to use new architecture, when available, to drive cross-disciplinary teaching in teams; or, with more modest intention in some schools, to allocate staff rooms or large purpose-built staff centres to cross-disciplinary rather than faculty-based groups. Several of the mathematics teachers in this study expressed concern about what they saw as a further erosion in this development of their capacity to collaborate effectively in subject-discipline based professional work units.

199 individual artisans combined to produce a community with a complex fully shared practice. By contrast, teaching as enacted within its characteristic physical and cultural setting, with the consequent continual reproduction of a culture of privatism, produces a profession lacking an understood shared practice. As Dewey framed it (1929: 196), “Knowing is not the act of an outside spectator but of a participator”. While few occupations routinely involve as many complex daily social interactions as teaching, and the expectations of teachers generally include sociability and gregariousness, teachers‟ professional knowing is formed largely within the classroom experience in which they directly participate, which overwhelmingly is in their own individual and essentially self-contained classrooms. This is why many of the teachers participating in the current research draw their notions of good mathematics teaching from the residue of the style of teaching approach they experienced as classroom participants in their own days as secondary school students. Considering this a stronger influence on their pedagogical approaches than their (post-graduate) Diploma of Education preparation, subsequent professional development, official curriculum policy (other than just direct content specification) and independent professional reading was just as apparent in older as in the younger participants. Reform policy identifies teachers‟ professional isolation as a major obstacle to schools‟ pedagogical performance (eg. DfEE 1998; DET 2003; DEECD 2008). However, policy formulations are characteristically inadequate in their analyses and misguided in their proposed responses to the problem. Lacking an adequate understanding, or sufficiently sophisticated theoretical explanations of, the situated factors which underlie teachers‟ isolation, policy is ambivalent and vacillating in its position on cultivating collaborative teacher professionalism. As frequently noted (eg. Fullan 1993; Cohen 1995; Cochran-Smith 2005), policy discourse variously presents teacher practice as simultaneously both the problem and the solution.

200 It is impatience with teaching as private practice, and as a profession without a shared explicit specification of good practice, that drives the education reform policy intent to deliver approved pedagogical models such as, in the present context, PoLT and the e5 instructional model „for teachers‟. The objective is both understandable and in intent laudable. The problem is the lack of traction achieved in practice, an outcome that is predictable. This predictability is evident within the conceptions of practice and of professional learning within organizations that flow from the key inter-related theories of knowledge and learning which have informed the present study.47 The education reform policy analysed in this study, in its reliance on top-down generic exemplary-practice pedagogical models, does not incorporate a sufficient awareness of the complexity of changing situated pedagogical practice. Teachers‟ cognition is culturally situated and only very partially amenable to change by explicit instruction, particularly where this instruction is imposed from the outside by policy agencies (even if shored up by a body of expert advice forming a hegemonic orthodoxy of prevailing ideas). Policy is based on knowing from the outside as spectator rather than cultural participant and, as Dewey‟s earlier words remind us, this is a contradiction destined to end in a cul de sac. Centrally developed and disseminated instructional models for teachers to use in their professional work with students, no matter how thorough they may be in their own internal frames of reference, characteristically depend on a transfer of best practice model of professional learning which defies what we know about how learning occurs within and by organizations such as schools. The unit of analysis for understanding professional learning needs to be at the small group or team level. To expect professional learning to occur effectively on a whole-school basis, across faculties and other existing sub-team identities, is already a stretch, and across multi-school mega-systems even more so. It is ironic that the models produced to improve student learning through the agency of teachers‟ work lack a sufficiently sophisticated learning
Young (2008), arguing from a sociological perspective, uses the understandings of the social nature of cognition flowing from the work of Durkheim and Vygotsky (not explicitly drawn on in this thesis), to develop an argument for strengthening, rather than undermining, the discipline-specific knowledge base of teachers as pedagogical practitioners.

201 model with respect to teachers‟ own learning. An effective professional learning model needs to take adequate account of the physical and cultural settings in which teachers‟ work and their own pedagogical learning is situated, as informed by the conceptions of practice outlined here. Acknowledgment of the need to work through appropriate units of organization leads the policy bureaucracy to place great reliance on designated leadership teams in whole school units.48 However both the policy design and the push to implement through the agency of school leadership (inconsistently enacted from school to school as either „soft-touch‟ or sporadically heavily imposed) neglect the necessary knowledge of the cultural units in which teachers‟ pedagogical work actually takes place and within which any change or learning would need to emerge. As Hiebert (1996: 19) puts the point, “The culture of classrooms will need to change, and this kind of change begins with teachers”. 7.6 Refocusing reform on authentic community-of-practice

building Overcoming privatism in teaching practice cannot be achieved by policy prescription, or by dissemination of generic instructional principles and teaching models. Resources need to be directed to identifying and scaffolding the appropriate locus of organizational learning in which culturally situated professional communities-of-practice already exist, albeit currently in insufficiently recognised and ineffectively functioning states. These are certain to be small scale teams, or potential teams, with an existing collective culture, tacit shared understandings and a unified even if largely implicit rather than explicit discourse. Viable units of organization include faculty groups which have an existing culturally supported understanding of practice. With appropriate reinforcement and adequate time and resources support, these

For reasons unconnected with and potentially undermining of effective pedagogical learning by teachers within schools, there is a simultaneous push, rational within its own internal frames of reference, for what is termed „implementation at scale‟ envisaged as being achieved through „networking schools‟ and pursuing multiple-site initiatives. [See for example Barber, M., et al. (2009).]

202 potential communities-of-practice units will have the capacity to generate incremental pedagogical improvement, but not of course the dramatic transformation favoured in current reform policy aspirations. Technically the pervasive but not particularly helpful term „reform‟ means improvement through the removal of system faults or errors. The concept is not inherently transformational in pitch. However in prevailing policy usage it carries connotations of radical demolition and rebuilding, rather than scaffolding for an on-going process of reflective revision and renewal. The current Australian Government‟s adoption of the umbrella policy phrasing „Building the Education Revolution‟ attests to the popular appeal of transformational change policy rhetoric. However this is a vapour formed inside one discourse universe, which slips and slides its way past the enclosed world of teachers‟ enacted practice without leaving much imprint of the places where these colliding worlds momentarily touched and bumped together. „Education Revolution‟ doesn‟t stick. In Victoria teachers find the policy white noise has largely moved on from PoLT, which while still notionally current is practically assigned to „the circular file‟. Efforts to embed a teacher-centred professional discourse in Victoria around the e5 instructional principles are faltering as teachers, initially in the core subject disciplines of Mathematics, Science, English and History, now gear up for the first wave of the new Australian National Curriculum to be progressively implemented from 2011. Additionally, as current UK developments show us, the political sine curve produces successive currents which splash wave-like against the enduring rocks of embedded practices within the regularities of schooling as an enduring social institution. At the time of writing, the UK Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency National Curriculum website carries the disclaimer: “A new UK Government took office on 11 May. As a result the content on this site may not reflect current Government policy” ( accessed 8 July 2010).49

Perhaps ironically, given the longevity of the Victorian Government‟s Blueprint for Education policy examined in this current research, during the final editing just prior to thesis submission, at the election on 27 November 2010 the Government was replaced, and the


It is not the successive waves of policy articulations, like PoLT, which are themselves the problem. It is the process of formulation and implementation and the notions of teacher professional learning which underlie their design and delivery. The teachers participating in this study were largely indifferent to PoLT, generally dismissing it from the sceptical perspective in the words of one participant that “it‟s just an obvious statement of what teachers do anyway”. As reported, while one teacher expressed overt antipathy to perceived negative professional effects of the „politicised‟ implementation of PoLT in schools and another drew an amiably satirical picture of school implementation, overall the teachers depicted PoLT as an inconsequential policy innovation, so generalised and abstract as to be removed from the practical realities of their pedagogical work, which was considered far more complex than PoLT was seen as incorporating and articulating. This was echoed in the depiction of PoLT by one of the senior education bureaucrats interviewed as “confidentially, just a motherhood statement” with no practical value beyond the positioning of policy aspirations with a congenial and unobjectionable nuance. Most of the principal class school leaders interviewed spoke positively of PoLT as an important guide for teachers, which their schools were claimed to be at various stages of implementing through professional development activity, as part of the „Performance and Development Culture‟ approach expected of schools under The Blueprint policy. Mathematics specialists who were interviewed were generally less familiar with the finer details of PoLT but took the view that the Principles needed to be articulated in discipline-specific terms to have any practical applicability and usefulness. However some pointed out that this would then just become another in an unhelpfully diffuse and bewilderingly incoherent set of guidelines to which teachers were already subject.50

DEECD website notes there will be changes to be advised, as required to reflect the new Government‟s policies ( accessed 16 December 2010). One of the mathematics education specialists interviewed, a UK-based mathematician consulted while visiting Victoria, was even more scathingly dismissive of PoLT when examined in the form articulated by the DEECD in the mathematics discipline domain specifically, describing it as “just vacuous twaddle”.


Notwithstanding the standard bureaucratic claim of DEECD policy officers, frequently repeated in the interviews, that teacher practitioners are always directly represented in any curriculum policy design process, the teachers participating in this study all saw education reform policy as something imposed on them from outside, involving additional demands and distraction from the practical priorities of their pedagogical work in their own school with their own students. It was not that they didn‟t wish to, or see any need to, review and revise their practice through collaborative discussion with direct colleagues who shared their work place and had a shared insight into their educational goals and the specifically situated enabling and impeding factors for learning, both their students‟ learning and their own. Rather they craved the available time and the necessary in-school structures for meaningful professional collaboration to flourish. They registered that any significant defining features of their own pedagogical practice, such as experimentation with the reform-aligned use of student portfolios, just as one example, remained largely invisible to immediate colleagues because of limitations on time and the lack of both structured and informal opportunities for meaningful professional discourse. The key point is that any improvement-enabling discourse needs to take root in the fertile ground of an existing or at least potential professional community-of-practice. In the secondary schools studied in this research, the participating teachers overwhelmingly would see the applicable unit of organization as the mathematics faculty level. By contrast most of the principal class school leaders consulted were explicitly antagonistic to the primacy of faculty-based discourse on educational improvement. They saw integration across the curriculum as the key immediate goal of pedagogical reform at school level and most portrayed mathematics teachers as an inherently conservative impediment to curriculum and pedagogy reform. Unsurprisingly the mathematics teachers were aware of and rejected this depiction.51 The majority defended the conservatism of conventional
At „Cranbrook Secondary College‟ [pseudonym used in this study] the mathematics teachers shared a faculty-based staffroom (with some self-contained social amenities in the space).

205 approaches to maths teaching which „worked‟, while some energetically argued that reform-aligned pedagogy was actually far more clearly defined, even if contested, and far more rigorously tested in maths teaching internationally than was acknowledged by school leaders and bureaucratic policy officers. Policy officers generally reinforce the taken-for-granted leadership role of principals to do the policy transmission and filtering and to be the approved idea gatekeepers and resource allocators (of time and opportunity) in schools. Teachers, too, generally see this as a taken-for-granted feature of their professional work landscape. At the level of espoused theory they are neither rejecting nor resentful. In confidential conversation with the researcher, given an adequate level of rapport and trust, they tended to express a need for collaboration grounded in the cultural interactions of the smaller work unit of a shared subject discipline, with direct mathematics teacher colleagues, informed by discipline-specific research with the time to consider and process it. Generally this was ruefully envisaged as an impossible yearning unsupported by policy level initiatives as interpreted by school leadership, rather than presented as an objection or articulated as hostile resistance to designated school leaders‟ transmission of reform policy intentions. 7.7 Drawing it together

From the outset it has not been the purpose of this study to make recommendations for improved mathematics teaching specifically or, for that matter, on how best to deploy the positional authority of school principals. Returning to van de Snepscheut‟s familiar adage that in theory, theory and practice are the same, while in practice they‟re not, this study has argued that the restricted penetration into pedagogical practice actually achieved by education reform policy reflects limitations in the theoretical base on which education reform aspirations are founded, neglecting adequate understanding
Both of the participating teachers explicitly identified this factor as positively supporting at least some limited ad hoc pedagogical discussion, even if triggered by “post-class frustration”, in the words of one of them. However they both perceived the school leadership as somewhat hostile to the „closed culture‟ of the mathematics staffroom.

206 and acknowledgment of the complex socially-situated, largely tacit learning which teachers‟ own pedagogical practice enacts with students. Reform policy characteristically remains oblivious, aloof or resistant to the implications of contextually and socially-based conceptions of practice which would enable better understanding of how teachers‟ pedagogical work is actually constructed and reproduced. This entails that developments in pedagogical practice need to be embedded in the physical and social reality of teachers‟ largely implicit and essentially pragmatic pedagogical work, as it is actually constituted in daily practice. Only in this way can initial penetration as well as sustainable traction be achieved. Policy agencies need to take account of this. While they cling to a taken-for-granted technical-rationalist paradigm of levering change through the dissemination of top-down generic prescription, the prognosis isn‟t positive. Spillane and Zeuli (1999) called for their own research findings not to be interpreted as yet another bleakly pessimistic conclusion that pedagogical reform cannot be achieved at all. This thesis concludes similarly. Teachers‟ pedagogical practice operates within an embedded physical and social construction of the work which supports the pragmatic adoption of incremental change which they believe in, when they believe it can actually be implemented. Practitioners‟ own knowledge needs to be cultivated and brought to bear in shared professional discourse. This is where resources of time and cultural investment need most to be directed. The „small aggregate‟ potential communities-of-practice setting in which teachers‟ enacted as distinct from espoused pedagogical work is produced needs to be the key locus of professional learning. This is not to accord direct teacher collaboration within small organic work units an overblown status, or to place laissez-faire over-reliance on teachers‟ pedagogical practice being refined in a vacuum, or in some hermetically sealed mathematics faculty staff room. It is a matter of altering the pedagogical change focus to resource teachers directly, by cultivating collaborative work practices which have roots in existing structures and which

207 will support the informed pedagogical know-how of teachers in their enacted work as they produce it day by day. This approach is consistent with restoring to university-based specialist research a more direct central role in informing teachers‟ pedagogy. In mathematics as in other learning areas there will be competing recommendations for practice. For example, the interviews conducted in this current research project reveal entrenched on-going conflict, both theoretical and political, between university mathematics faculties and the specialist mathematics education units of education faculties. However senior, highly experienced academic staff interviewed within both of these settings noted that universities were largely marginalised from curriculum and pedagogy directions in secondary schools, except where faculties or other university units were invited to tender for the provision of professional development „roll-out‟ of policy-based programs such as PoLT.52 These tensions and contests will not readily be resolved. However teachers‟ pragmatism incorporates making use of theoretically and empirically based ideas which they can envisage working for them in their own pedagogical contexts. Realistic pedagogical advancement rests on providing teachers with access to the necessary time and resources to consolidate their own small collaborative aggregates, and treating these as a major locus for the generation of pedagogical improvement. Incremental change can then be based on teachers as reflective professional practitioners, drawing on and informed by diverse outside ideas, particularly in collaboration with university-based disciplinecentred curriculum experts, but appropriately adapting and assimilating these as they are enacted within a directly shared collaborative professional community-of-practice culture.53
This is consistent with Furlong‟s (2005: 122) proposition that university faculties of education in the UK have been “vilified” and sidelined by the discourse rhetoric and deliberate practical effects of government education reform policy. 53 Given the need for secondary teachers‟ pedagogical communities of practice to be based on existing discipline foundations (Young 2008), in this proposal for a more defensible conceptualisation of teachers‟ professional knowledge, subject associations (currently sidelined along with university-based expertise) would take a central rather than peripheral role. Organisations specialising in the development of culturally situated pedagogical practice (eg. Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia and PEEL), would be pivotal.


Clearly this would require a different brand of theoretically and empirically grounded conceptions of practice, and a higher level of patience with incremental modification, than transformational reform policy currently admits. Hammersley (1999) and O‟Neill (2003) both make use of a helpful figure-ground analogy to clarify the failure of education reform policy to recognize the potential of teachers‟ own direct professional collaboration, unless tightly constrained and directed by externally imposed and approved reform parameters. In the prevailing policy paradigm teachers‟ existing practice is seen at worst as the main obstacle to be overcome and at best as just the blurry peripheral background in which reform policy intention takes the high relief. However policy actually needs to be the ground against which the high relief is figured in the form of teachers‟ socially situated collaboration within strengthened professional communities of practice. These must become enabled by capacity building processes which will support practical and principled professional learning. The illusory expectations of rapid imposed transformational reform must be put aside. Otherwise, a cacophony of external reform calls will just echo away as disembodied policy noise, merely heralding the next in an endless succession of waves of temporarily and shallowly penetrating impressions. The contention of this thesis supports neither naïve optimism nor bleak pessimism concerning the prospects for significant and sustained pedagogical improvement in schools. However it does call into question the currently prevailing assumptions on which education reform policy expectations are assembled. It is ironic that these policy expectations lack an adequate grounding in sufficiently sophisticated theories of teachers‟ knowledge and learning, applied to understanding how teachers‟ implicit pedagogical knowhow is actually constructed and enacted in the physical and cultural settings

The professionalism of teachers would be developed within their own agencies of pedagogical practice, rather than surrendered to the advocacy of teacher registration bodies like the Victorian Institute of Teaching, which arguably are preoccupied with compliance, accountability and disciplinary processes.

209 in which their daily work is situated. This is the location of the gap between policy and practice that needs to be minded. 7.8 Developing pedagogical practice without resorting to recipe

Drawing on the finding in this study of little penetration of policy into practice, in line with previous research in different decades and jurisdictions, and also on the theoretical explanations which make sense of this recurring pattern and indicate its inevitability, the proposal for pedagogical improvement here rejects top-down prescription. Instead of the prevailing policy paradigm of transformation via recipe, improvement must be based on building teachers‟ collaborative professional capacity to define and develop pedagogical practices that work in context. Of course, there will be cost and resource implications in this process of identifying and nurturing the most promising potential bases on which to build teachers‟ discipline-based pedagogical knowledge within a community of practice to which they are admitted as full professional members.54 Consistent with the pedagogical reconceptualisation proposed here, Crowther (2010) contends that pedagogy is “a term that belongs to teachers”. In a properly functioning system teachers would regulate their own profession, while pedagogy would constitute teachers‟ professional agreement on appropriate practice and define their body of specialist professional expertise. It is not proposed that teachers should have an undue influence over the direction of society‟s educational enterprise any more than medical practitioners should have total control over deciding the shape of the health system (Morris 2006), but resourcing the teaching profession as a selfregulating agency of expert pedagogical practice is a prerequisite for viable education reform that sticks. It is therefore a cause for concern that Young

Costs involved in time provision, while substantial, would be less than recent investments in reducing class sizes, which reproduce the taken-for-granted construct of self-contained classrooms with little positive effect on student learning outcomes (Hattie 2008; Jensen 2010). Positive effects of the massive investments in reform through ICT are uncertain (Levin 2010). In the absence of building opportunity and capacity for direct teacher engagement in developing shared professional approaches, within viable communities of practice, any change adoption can be predicted to remain shallow and peripheral, as shown.

210 (2008) warns the subject discipline foundations on which teachers‟ pedagogical content knowledge needs to be built are actually being eroded rather than strengthened by the reform genericism of the prevailing technicalinstrumentalism dominating education policy cross-nationally. At the time of writing this conclusion, the Grattan Institute Report [Jensen, 2010] had just been released. The well-resourced and influential Grattan Institute describes itself “an independent think-tank focussed on Australian public policy” (Jensen, 2010: 2). Reiterating the „value-added‟ weight of effective individual teachers‟ work as the most important influence on student learning outcomes in formal schooling, the Report argues on primarily economic grounds for improving teacher effectiveness as the highest education policy priority. On the basis of a cost analysis, the Report argues against lowering class sizes as an expensive and ineffective policy option, compared with increasing teachers‟ pedagogical effectiveness directly.55 However the Report remains consistent with prevailing policy approaches to levering teacher effectiveness without attending to the intricate contextual features of teachers‟ work construction or considering the building of teachers‟ pedagogical capability by directly involving them as active agents of professional collaboration. The Report is remarkable for its reproduction of the taken-for-granted conceptualisation of teachers‟ work as enacting individually based competence or incompetence. The “main mechanisms to improve teacher effectiveness” suggested in the Report do not include any proposal to build teaching as a collaborative reflective practice. All the proposed measures are individually focused: recruiting better people; evaluating individual teachers more systematically; rewarding teachers identified as effective; and „moving on‟ the identified less effective teachers so that average teacher quality is notionally raised. Given the reinforcement of this kind of policy-oriented research, it seems likely that policy drives to impact on perceived teacher performance, without adequate consideration of the complex contextualised factors which construct pedagogy as a cultural activity, will continue.
Hattie (2008) found that lowering class sizes had minimal effect on student learning, but proposes this remains the case because teachers have not developed the capacity to alter their pedagogical approaches even if group sizes are reduced.


Despite repeatedly demonstrated failure to achieve stated goals, policy as a social activity remains powerful in commanding respect and resources. Unfortunately its rhetorically sealed and self-referring discourse universe is unlikely to admit into its consideration the complexity entailed in some of the inconvenient conflicting conceptions raised in this study. Policy and practice are inherently disconnected because they are constructed and enacted in separate discourse universes which barely intersect. Education reform as policy aspiration is noisily and visibly driving forward on its own self-made track. Education reform as an enacted and accomplished reality remains a possibility hidden over the horizon – but as shown by the theoretical frames developed in this thesis, it is situated in an entirely different direction.

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