Gleeson suggests, to analyse the potential for change we should understand the conditions of change (Gleeson et al., 2002, p. 2). The essay begins by explaining the difference between top down reform and bottom up change, followed by, an analysis of the prevailing culture. Thus follows an analysis for the potential for 'deep change'. Evidence from case studies and the intentions of the NCCA are considered in determining this. The contested meaning of curriculum and the values to be included is then examined, followed by, curriculum policy in Ireland. Finally the essay explains partnership and outlines the benefits of consultation/partnership in curriculum design by drawing on personal experience. This essay suggests a new phase in Irish education beckons offering the potential for change, with consultation and partnership showing elements of success in curriculum design
Reform and change
Top down reforms are usually politically driven, focus on reorganising and 'have little to say about educating' (Goodlad cited in Fullan 1994 p.3). It tends to be 'bureaucratic rather democratic'(McDonald cited in Sugrue 2004 p.195) An example of reform in the Irish education system is the Junior Cert (Daly 200) but it has ended up being a dry run for the Leaving cert (Press release 2012). A bottom up change is initiated [on site] by teachers, pupils and students which results in more 'buy in' from those involved in implementing it. Transferring decision making from centralised [top down] control to site based control [bottom up] does not necessarily change 'the teaching-learning core of schools' (Fullan 1991, p.201). However both models applied individually demonstrate problems, what is needed is a blend of both (Fullan 1994). Gleeson suggest a systematic approach that supports the change process in a way that takes account of 'idiosyncrasies of individual schools' (Gleeson p.22) and this is reinforced by Fullan (1992) even though this lacks evidence. It should be driven by a bottom up approach and critically involve the 'key agents of change ' schools, teachers and students' (NCCA 2010a p3).
Fullan (1992) says the key reason change does not begin or is not followed through is that the structure is 'weak, unhelpful, or working at cross purposes' (Fullan 2007 p18). In order to have real reform, assessment practices, need to change as 'assessment is the tail that wags the curriculum dog' (Bredekamp and Rosegrant, 1992:29). Deep and lasting reform requires 'changes in beliefs and understanding' (Fullan 2007 p 37). Deep and lasting change will only be attained through 'the experience of learners, the work of teachers and the life of schools' (NCCA 2010b p.15) with the critical components of deep change being the focus on 'school and teachers' (Sugrue 2004, p.121)
Ireland's education system is characterised by a technical paradigm (Gleeson 2009, Sugrue 2004) which has a negative impact on school culture as we fail to debate on real meaningful change or philosophy of education (Hennessey 2014b).
Goodson identified 3 phases in educational change; Internal, external and personal change (Goodson 2001). Ireland's history of a top down model, resulting in external implementations has not been successful so far - the current junior certificate. External mandating of change and failure to recognise the role of the school, teacher and student does not suggest a promising adoption of Goodson's third phase; a personal change (Gleeson 2002) which is necessary for deep and lasting change as noted. There is a lack of personal and professional commitment which is necessary (Sugrue 2004)
Ireland's education has a tradition of theocratic ideology (O'Callaghan 2014) with classical humanist ideals and a technical paradigm (Gleeson 2009). It is now adopting a neoliberalism mentality but a technical paradigm still exists. The neoliberalism ideals seem to have set in unnoticed in society (Hennessey and McNamara 2013). Teacher 'conformity '(Ryan and Weinstein 2009, p.229) and ideals of accountability and performativity - OECD objectives for education by 2020 (Murphy 2014) and the neoliberalism ideals (Lynch 2014) will not help movement to a more practical/critical emancipatory paradigm [concerned with meaning, relationships and questioning the taken for granted] and ultimately a more systemic approach. The proposed framework is attempting a systematic approach and implement Goodson's 3rd phase. It is now in the 4th stage of curriculum reform and change; implementation (Hennessey 2014c). A new approach for the junior cycle beckons and when it begins, change and reform will be 'going in both directions both in and out from school' (Goodson 2001 p 57).
The potential for deep change
The new junior cycle framework (JCF) suggests evidence of a systematic approach. Schools plan their own programmes (NCCA 2011b p14, p21) and can develop courses (NCCA 2011b p.16, 17). They along with teachers have more autonomy and teachers will assess short courses internally (NCCA 2011b p29). This evidence suggests a systematic approach and the potential for change. School culture 'understood as a unique and cohesive cultural entity characterised by a commonly shared vision and set of values' (Schein 1985; Smey-Richman 1991 cited in Daly, 2008 p.5) is the single most important factor in determining the successful implementation of reform (Hennessey 2014c).
Using Dalins Typology of schools and Framework Gleeson et als' (2002) study of the LCA offers evidence that not all schools are the same. The typologies of half the schools in the study were fragmented, while the other half, were project touching on organic (Hennessey 2014c). The teacher subculture and framework of the fragmented schools were individualistic and had variable relationships with a lack of cooperation, whereas project/organic ones were more collaborative with positive and supportive relationships. Jeffers (2010) study of the TY programme indicates that it offers schools more freedom and autonomy. This along with collaboration and cooperation and beliefs all contributed to positive relationships between teachers and students. This is important as 'local implementation by everyday teachers, principals, parents and students is the only way change happens' (Fullan 1992 p.752). Similarities appear between the TY programme and the project/organic schools in Gleeson's LCA study. The success in both cases rested in part due autonomy, collaboration and cooperation. This suggests a potential for change in the project/organic type schools.
A systematic approach to change with the JCF appears evident and was considered 'we should try to combine bottom-up with top down development' (NCCA 2010a p3). But 'Irelands prevailing high level of fragmentation' (Gleeson 2002) will make it difficult to sustain deep change; the DES and NCCA have different areas of responsibility. The culture is varied; the current technicist mentality in schools and deepening of neoliberal ideals is a real challenge. Not all schools will have a successful change immediately but 'change is slow' (Fullan 1992 p.745)
Curriculum and values
Curriculum is particularly 'hard to define' (Gillies, 22 p. 25). Trant defines it as 'the story we tell our children about the good life (Trant 1998 p.8) while the Education Acts (1998) [Section 30] definition is in line with a technical paradigm - subjects offered, amount of instruction time'. (Hennessey 2014b). This definition has wider implications as there is emphasis on performance and value appears to replace values (Ball 2003). Our values in the past were heavily influenced by the Catholic Church (Trant 1998). Gleeson notes Ireland's curriculum ideologies, as 'classical humanism with a vocational/technical overlay' (Gleeson 2009 p.101). A proposal is the idea of a rationale curriculum for the purpose of 'economic ends, individual needs and goals and developing citizens (O'Reilly 2014) focusing on students reasoning, a broader purpose for schooling and professional role of the teacher. Contested meaning of curriculum is a healthy sign of education. O'Reilly (2014 lecture 7) says 'curriculum is socially and historically constructed, a cultural artefact and value-laden'. Values will always be included when shaping curriculum (Gillies 2000 p.26). The values that will be inherent factor on the 'experiences and ideologies of those involved in the selection (Helu Thaman 1993, p.249 cited in Hennessey 2014a). Values and 'personal development must be subjected to group decisions' (Gillies 2000) thereby giving a better balance of values appropriate to needs they represent and less likely to 'fail produce to produce intended results' (Levin 2007 p.22) There needs to be an explicit rationale for coherence and unity and if disagreement arises it is then possible to draw on the explicit values (Gillies 2002 p.34). Curriculum needs to be open to appraisal and alteration and transparent (Gillies 2000). There are positives to be taken from the LCA and TY programmes but, 'individual programmes about values are not complete' the answer' encompasses the entire curriculum' (Trant 1998 p.8).
The centralist model of curriculum policy (Trant 1998) [top down] is reflected in curriculum 'seen in terms of syllabus content' rules, procedures' 'delivery system' (Gleeson, 2009, p.2, Hennessey 2014b). Traditional education was suitable for times before democratic order but in education today we need to depoliticise the role of curriculum (Carr 1998) in order to meet the needs of society today. DeVelera did not like curriculum autonomy so a top down approach was dominant in Ireland (Gleeson 2010 cited in Hennessy 2014a). Changes to curriculum have only been made with regards to documents, with the teacher there to implement them (Gleeson 2010, p.23). Cornbleth (1990) notes the separation of curriculum construction from policy making and implementation; means failed efforts to change should be expected. The problems due to the policy making and fragmentation increase the problems of a technical paradigm (Hennessey 2014b).
Partnership and consultation.
Ireland has a representational model of partnership (Sugrue 2004). Which is admired because of the participation on curriculum reform by important stakeholders, but is also challenging as 'vested interests often leads decision making' (Hennessey 2014d, Gleeson 2009) and as noted by Levin (2007 p.22) the people in power influence decisions which often fails to produce intended results. There needs to more debate and less of a 'cosy consensus' (Sugrue 2004, Hennessy 2014d). Other perspectives could be incorporated by the 'inclusion of independent nominees' (Hennessey 2014d). Curriculum needs ownership and this can only be done in 'partnership', which recognises the, 'teachers, students' parents 'local community, DES, employers'' (Trant 1998 p.7)
Consultation is evident in the new framework 'schools, teachers, and very importantly students and their parents will be involved in generating, reviewing and improving this framework' (NCCA 2010a). There was an attempt of consultation with relevant bodies but this dissemination needed alot more promotion. The online questionnaire resulted in only 445 responses (NCCA 2011a). A suggestion to improve the process to this would be to require a minimum response say 20%. Had there been more direct consultation at this phase then there may be more 'cooperation rather than confrontation' than there is at present. The evidence suggests the successes of LCA and TY programmes came from collaboration, cooperation, and consultation.
Benefits of consultation/partnership
The benefits of consultation and partnership in curriculum design are clear from personal experience. Skilbeck's 'partnership' model of curriculum design is used for the course Technology Ethics and Society (TES) as it is 'defined in partnership by both central and local bodies' (Trant 1998 p.7). Relevant bodies' were consulted to establish their values. The teacher, parent, teaching council and student were involved in design and each member of the team 'played' a role. The consultation with each body gave a better chance for a balance of values. A separation of views appeared evident at times. The student 'voice' voice in our group is consistent with other student voices today. They want their input to be valued (Burke and Grosvenor 2005). This is apparent in value 5 of TES. The parent expressed value in prepare students for future jobs (Griesemer 2013). Technology in the postmodern world will be analysed in depth and students will learn key skills vital for future jobs ' value 2, 4. The teacher also concerned about jobs also wanted more cooperation with students ' value 2, 4. The teaching council core values will permeate throughout this course. It echoed many of the and also wanted more group where students learned from each ' value 3. This was one of the main bones of contention with assessment also figuring. A balance of pair and group is evident. I believe we obtained alignment of values underpinning curriculum, structure and assessment as a result of consultation and partnership. The respect and change of ideas and opinions that resulted in the outcome reflects the idea 'Where change is negotiated, change is owned' (Dempsey 2003).
The approach taken to curriculum reform and whether it leads to deep change cannot as yet be supported with evidence and could be deemed as contested as the definition of curriculum. The prevailing technicist mentality in Irish schools, the replacement of theocratic ideals with increasingly neoliberal ones will make any deep change increasingly difficult. But nothing is set in stone, the approach taken for the new JCF suggest efforts of a systematic approach combining top down reform with bottom up change which beckoning a new phase for Irish Education. The success of individual programmes, LCA and TY, in organic/project type schools suggests a potential for change in project/organic type schools As highlighted change is slow. Over time, with more newly qualified teachers, optimistic, with internalised beliefs I believe there is potential for deep change. Curriculum is not easily defined. What is important is in shaping curriculum is that it needs to be subjected to difference of opinions and include the values of the relevant bodies. These values need to be explicit with a clear rationale provided which can then be referred to in times of difficult. And curriculum needs to be open appraisal and alteration. Irelands Partnership model is admired but has its limitations. Efforts, albeit minor, were made to include the relevant bodies in the formation of the new JCF, offering evidence of a systematic approach. The importance of consultation and partnership is clear from personal experience as values from relevant bodies led to the successful design of a short course values underpinning curriculum, structure and assessment. This essay suggests a new phase in Irish education beckons offering the potential for change, with consultation and partnership showing elements of success in curriculum design
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