Tuesday, June 28, 2005

small world?

Just discovered (!) a new researcher doing some interesting things - christinA Davidson works in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ballarat, and keeps a blog about her developing research career!

Turns out one of her PhD examiners was our 'man about world' Colin Lankshear (I wonder who the other was?) Also turns out that her original supervisor was Carolyn Baker (sadly departed) and that she's a Pete Freebody 'fan'.

Looks good on paper!

She's also been nice enough to point to some interesting conversation analysis stuff.

Thanks, christinA!

Friday, June 24, 2005

research theory and practice ...

I've been reading Peter Freebody - (2003) Qualitative research in education: Interaction and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage - all week. It's quite an interesting read and I've been writing heaps. I've quite enjoyed getting head long into, and high on, epistemology, methology etc

Here is some stuff from Freebody (some is intercut with my own commentary):
Research is a systematic attempt to re-see the everyday, partly by stripping away from our observations the typifications made available by our culture, and, in turn, by treating those typifications as crucial aspects of everyday experience itself - available for analysis. (p. 42)

Freebody believes educational researchers need to be committed to 'documenting observations that are at the one time conceptually informative, professionally useful and ideologically productive.' (p. ix) Not a bad goal that.

What is central to productive research is an organic and explicitly understood relationship between conceptual interests, analytic methods and methological design. Each of itself cannot secure the productivity of a research project; it is rather their interplay in practice that can generate refined theory and analysis, and more professionally fulfilling practice. (p. x)

For researchers, methods need to be generative of significant reflection, not just equipment for producing conclusions. (p. x)

... everyday interaction weaves and re-weaves the social order. Dimentions of that order, including the 'big' sociological categorizations we commonly use to describe socal and cultural experience - socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, race, religion and so on - are built by people's everyday concerted activities; they do not provide us with determinants or ready-made explanations of those activities. (p. x)

Do researchers aims to re-present a particular event in terms of its particularities, in ways that may make it difficult to draw out its comparabilities with other events? Or do researchers attempt to re-present only those features that can be placed against those of other events, on the premise that the essential, predetermined features of these events are directly comparable? That is, we can foreground the particularities of an event, its resolute 'localness', as a way of enhancing the internal validity of the work. But in doing this we make the addition of interpretations from this event to other apparently, supposedly, or potentially comparable events more tenous. (p. 29)

He suggests that the provision of high levels of detail in descriptions of scenery, action and the researchers' roles in the event, are all necessary. But more important is the 'self-consciousness of the recording and analytic processes, and the explication for the reader of this self-consciousness of the matter of how relevance will be determined - this time, in this project, for these particular purposes.' (p. 31) (sounds like a healthy dose of REFLEXIVITY!)

... whatever a particular research approach may technically denote by way of content, its force is to connote a way of knowing. In that sense the significance of qualitative research is that it points to a paradigm - a coherent collection of propositions about the world, their relative importance, and particular ways of finding out and knowing about them - rather than just to a collection of techniques (p. 38)

Participants' understandings of their actions are fundamental to the characterization of those actions as 'educational' (p. 40)

On one hand, social life is viewed as instancing primarily social-organisational features such as gender, class, ethnicity, or more locally, as instancing such institutional orders such as 'classroom life', families and so on. On the other hand, social life is viewed as instancing primarily its own orderliness, that is, the organisational features of social practice built through the actions of people as they function in a variety of settings. (p. 48)

... it needs to be pointed out that the distinction between quantitative and qualitative research activity is not of itself a distinction about the structure or purpose of inquiry. It is rather, in its technical, minimal sense, a distinction based on a way of conceiving the object of study and on analytic method (p. 51).

... nothing new can emerge from the juxtaposing of thoroughly differing constructions and interpretations of a domain of educational practice, when the various languages the various sciences use to name and demarcate that practice differ in kind. What they may 'discover' is a variety of readers who can be informed, aligned and influenced by quantitative and qualitative language or by the focussed combination of these languages. ... such a mixture may bring off a broader consensus than would any single approach. (p. 52)

The belief that differing approaches will, should or can generally converge itself reflects a belief in a final cultural reality, viewed only imperfectly through different but merely differently-distorted lenses - that is, a presumption of an aggregated-order approach. (p. 53)

No I haven't transcribed the whole book - yet ...

But as you can tell there is plenty of food for thought in these little gems.

Sorry to those who are bored by this, because I certainly AM NOT! Bring on the theory! (and plenty of practice too!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

some problems with education in victoria?

I thought I'd post my list of problems written for the VIT ideas session mentioned in the post below. This was just a quick attempt and there are obviously many holes - why not add to it if you can? You will note that not all are phrased as problems, some are statements and the like - the point was to get down some issues for discussion.
  • A pervasive climate of managerialism and outcomes ideology!
  • Conditions of work for teachers that do not help create environments where people can innovate or are encouraged to do their best, work smarter, pursue further education or higher degrees etc
  • The age old problem of academic succes, social power, privilege and disadvantage (read Richard Teese for an Australian perspective)
  • Professional Development tied to School and Regional outcomes or goals rather than to specific teacher needs and interests
  • School Funding models that privilege schools with younger staff and seem to disadvantage those with older staff
  • The development of large scale state curriculum with minimal consultation of teachers and with short implementation timelines
  • Pressure on Principals to be business managers/CEOs rather than educators thus working to alienate them from their students and staff
  • The tensions in calls for more state/standardised assessment of student learning (AIM tests etc.) alongside of the call for more responsive, innovative, and 'deep' learning/teaching (e.g. VELS, 'innovation and excellence' rhetoric, 'thinking curriculum')
  • The Government Schools 'Workplace agreement' (re: problems in teaching alotments, extra duties, school based consultation etc.)
  • The current weaknesses and lack of support for teacher ed and University-school partnerships
  • Tensions in new VELS curriculum and the subject discipline requirements of VCE and Uni entrance
  • The increased push for National Curriculum and National Examinations ie centralised education bureaucracy, assessment and curriculum development
  • Dwindling government support for government schools
  • The role of subject associations in policy and curriculum development
  • Simplistic and reductive assumptions/connections between teacher professional development/learning and student achievement
  • Professional accreditation for beginning teachers or hurdle jumping?
  • How to attract and retain young/new teachers to the profession?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Can you give it to me in six words or less?

I feel that I need to write about this ... even though it may hurt.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Lynne Haultain of CPR Communications and Public Relations and regular radio personality about town (married to Francis Leach of JJJ fame). She invited me to a 'group ideas session' being organised for the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT).

Umm ... hello? I wasn't quite sure what she was asking.

After some further enquires, Lynne was happy to explain that the consultancy CPR, who do a lot of work for Victorian government agencies, has been contracted by the VIT (a Victorian 'Independent' government agency) to develop what Lynne called a 'communications strategy' for the next 5 or so years. It seems that CPR produced an initial report that recommended the VIT look at widening the scope of its activities beyond regulation and accreditation (into what, I can't say - and can only fear!) or risk being seen as ineffectual or out-of-step with the profession (did the VIT ever have credibility with the profession?) In response to this recommendation the VIT asked CPR to get together some 'movers and shakers' (my words!) and start generating some ideas for what the VIT could or should be doing for the profession over the next few years.

So if you are not bored yet (or perhaps intrigued) then you will be ...

I hesitantly said that I would go along ... if I could bring some friends!

The irony of course, is that last year (2004) I was fortunate to be involved with (along with some other researchers and some young, brilliant teachers) a significant University backed research project (with some VIT money) into the regulation and accreditation aspects of the VIT's work with graduate teachers. We gathered lots and lots of rich and generative data on the problems and issues (and some successes) of the process for full registration (too long to go into here - check VIT website if you're interested!) We thought that the VIT would be keen to get their teeth into it. We thought they'd be keen to publicise their efforts and ours (and the graduates who undertook the process). And we hoped they might be keen to open a genuine dialogue about how the process of professional accreditation for teachers might work and be used as a quality professional learning opportunity.

I'm not sure that we've hoped in vain, but it's hard to know whether the experiences of these teachers we interviewed have had much impact.

There has been little contact since we sent them some interview data.

Anyway, as I've tried to suggest, it came as some surprise to be asked to come along and talk about the challenges the profession faces over the next few years and to suggest the kinds of things the VIT might consider doing.

Before the 'ideas session', Jim Camm (director of The Australian Research Group a company connected to CPR of course) asked each of us to take a couple of minutes and jot down a list of problems of challenges confronting education. He encouraged us not to 'hold back', but strangely enough, not to spend a long time thinking too hard about what we suggested. These were then collated for the meeting and given out as 'those issues you have identified as important'.

The 'ideas generating session' turned out to be a complete insult.

Jim was reduced to what is undoubtedly his business mantra, 'Can you give that to me in six words or less?' as us leftie, commie, socialist teacher types tried to explain what it's like to teach to some corporate type who, it was more than obvious, had nothing but disdain (or perhaps 'frustration' is nicer) for us and our 'problems'.

So (and I'm over this now - ie writing about it that is) I must admit that I was expecting a little more - perhaps naively. I thought that perhaps there might be some glimmer, however small, of recognition and of understanding and of a desire to LISTEN to what we had to say.

But no.

Well, I must be fair to Jim, he was willing to listen ... if we had it in six words or less.

So I am left wondering about the efficacy of caring; of the surety that those in positions of political and legislative power do NOT understand the common struggles of teachers - generally because they do not want to or because understanding doesn't fit the proforma or on the page or on the glossy brochure.

I would be the first to admit that I do not understand the plights of legislators and of government bureaucrats trying to please and placate everyone (or at least those who I was able to hear) - a no win situation. But I'd like to think that I'd try.

So I was kind of depressed for about 5min. Then I realised that nothing had changed and that there are a billion and one people worse of that me and then I was happy again. I'll keep trying to do something, and something has got to be better than ... well it's more than six words anyway.

Create Your Own Podcasts

Some tips on creating your own podcasts ... get busy


Friday, June 17, 2005

Suspension of intelligence?

Looks like Jim Schembri is on fire today. A couple of corker articles:

One on the 'monumental piece of crap' that is Mr & Mrs Smith. Includes a great line from "Canadian satirist Stephen Butler Leacock, who stated: "Advertising may be described as the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it.""

The other article is a musing on racism as a popular pasttime! Racism made easy.

Taken with Jim's rant the other day (below) one might assume that this poor fellow is not having a good month. Perhaps he's just had enough of the rubbish that is contemporary consumer permissive capatalist society?

On the radio (RRR) this morning (I had a longer drive to work that usual due to an accident or something blocking the road) a book rep was talking about 'affluenza' which of course ties in nicely with Schembri's stuff (well in some ways anyway).

Enough - I need to go and buy something ...


Friday, June 10, 2005

Don't ask, or I'll tell

This classic piece is about all those irritating, innane, insincere, irksome and idiotic comments we each get from the other cogs in the service-machine that is modern capitalist society.

'So, how's your day been?'
'So, how's it going?'
'How's your day been so far?'
'So, everything going OK?

Jim Schembri has some great suggested responses ...

How's my day? You really want to know about my day, do you, honey? I'm going through a messy divorce. My business is collapsing. A close friend nearly died in surgery. My child is gravely ill. Sweetheart, do you have any idea what you're toying with when you casually ask that question?


So, how's my day so far? Well, as soon as I'm done here I'm going to throttle an executive ... I'm making a porn film and you're invited to the casting ... I've just purchased five grams of heroin in Flinders Lane. Want some?

or my favourite,

Sparky, listen up. Sociologists call what we're engaged in here a micro-friendship. It only lasts a few seconds and is designed to help us both get through this transaction without pain or undue suffering.

Now, in the few precious seconds we have together, it's your job to make sure our micro-friendship - remember that term - is not sent off the rails by you asking me personal questions, the answers to which you're not in the slightest bit interested.

You see, sweet thing, we all have a hard enough time as it is dealing with dolts who don't care about our lives, so the last thing any of us really need is to be reminded of that fact each time we step into some stupid coffee franchise for a double-shot espresso. You with me?

Just think it through. The main reason people need coffee is because they're having a crap day. Why do you think caffeine was invented, for Pete's sake?

I just need a coffee, a smile and correct change, not a biographer. So, do us all a favour and don't talk to people like you know them, yeah? You may think you're being friendly, but your phoney air has all the charm of a perfumed fart.

Now, you think you can handle that? Or do you really want the skinny about my drug score?


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Fun and computer games make for smarter children

More of the same at the SMH. Steve Johnson's book Everything Bad is Good for You is bound to generate plenty of comment from all corners.