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Teachers’ situated professional judgment in an age of standards and measurement
University of Gävle, Faculty of Education and Business Studies, Department of Culture Studies, Religious Studies and Educational Sciences, Curriculum studies. (STORIES)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1871-4488
2012 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this paper is first, to explore the role of situated judgment in emergent and recurrent situations in the classroom for teacher professionalism, and second, to contribute to the discussion of the applicability of management theories on education. Teachers’ professional judgments in the classroom are made in the face of imperfect, complex if not contradictory, but above all, continuously emergent situations, circumstances that make profound difference for the kinds of judgments that are, and can be, made. How can we further understand and discuss these as part of teacher professionalism, and how can we understand teachers’ possibilities for making professional judgments in relation the consequences of prevailing trends on policy levels in Europe today?

Research on professions commonly use criteria for professions such as that they provide an important public service, involve a theoretically as well as practically grounded expertise and have a distinct ethical dimension which calls for expression in a code of practice (see e.g. Carr, 2000). However, some attempts to be viewed as a profession actually decrease the possibilities for acting professionally. For example, the attempt to standardize and raise status of practice in education through developing competency standards (building on the notion that complex judgments are possible to standardize), has been criticized by Carr and Skinner (2009) as a key problem that erodes or discourages more integrated perspectives on educational practice (see also Ball, 2009). Moreover, the increased relational complexity brought about by the intensification of teachers’ work may decrease the space possible for professional judgment, in several ways. This development is a reality in many Western countries of today, where the educational sector is reformed in order to mirror the private sector, as a consequence of the influence of actors such as the OECD and the World Bank (Ball, 2003). In combination with shrinking public finances this leads to an intensification of teachers’ work (e.g. Apple, 2007; Goodson & Norrie, 2005; Hargreaves, 2000). A market logic and a ‘language of learning’ (see Biesta, 2006) treats as insignificant certain complexities of teachers’ work. The ‘blame and shame’ tactics and high stakes testing produces risk management strategies where teachers may even ask for rules in order to avoid blame (Lindqvist & Nordänger, 2006). All these developments contribute to reducing the space for professional judgment. Ball (2009) even deems professionalism as an ethical-cultural practice as having no future or place in the present regime of performativity and managerialism.

In this context, in order to contribute to the discussion on teachers’ professional judgment, I draw here on theories of complexity (Osberg & Biesta, 2010) and practical knowledge (Beckett, 1996; Beckett & Hager, 2002) in an analysis of examples of teachers’ judgments. More specifically, through a combination of theoretical elements from complexity, and the notion of hot action; action that is performed without time for reflection, I illuminate and draw attention to the significance of the present in teachers’ professional judgment. 

Method

A phenomenological analysis of two examples of teacher judgment illustrates the significance of the corporeal, present moment in teacher judgment. The examples were collected as part of a past qualitative study (Frelin, 2010) where 11 teachers’ experience of teaching was explored in-depth, from 22 one hour interviews. During these interviews the teachers were asked to elaborate on their practical arguments (Fenstermacher & Richardson, 1993). Some of the informants were particularly elaborate about their judgments while teaching. The accounts from two teachers, one pre-school teacher, and one secondary school Mathematics and Science teacher, both male, was re-analyzed using phenomenological methodology. The teachers’ stories about their experiences of teaching were interpreted with special attention to lived space, body, time and human relation (Van Manen, 1990). More specifically the role of the corporeal experience in the present moment, making judgments in relation to a student, was brought to the fore.

Expected Outcomes

The results show that the teachers draw on both their past knowledge and on their embodied presence in the present when making judgments regarding how to act in relation to a student. For example, a distinction emerged between knowing and sensing, where the first regards what is brought to the moment and the second what emerges in the moment, was shown to be of importance. The results empirically underline the situated and complex nature of teacher professionality. They also indicate what professionalism as an ethical-cultural practice (Ball, 2009) may look like. In educational policy today, education has increasingly been conceived as a preset exchange of knowledge for grades. In the discussion I bring up how one consequence of this economical view is that the present becomes bereaved of significance for professional judgment. However, teachers’ professional judgment cannot be reduced to gathering up information and making a calculation – it is about interaction between human subjects where knowing and sensing come together.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012.
Keyword [en]
educational policy, practical knowledge, professional judgment, situated judgment, teacher professionality
National Category
Educational Sciences Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-12373OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-12373DiVA, id: diva2:539582
Conference
ECER, Cadiz, Spain, 18-21 September 2012
Available from: 2012-07-04 Created: 2012-07-04 Last updated: 2018-03-13Bibliographically approved

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