• Empowerers, inspirers, knowledge providers # living the dream: FE teachers' professional identity in challenging times

      Thompson, Carol; Wolstencroft, Peter (Universite Rennes 2/ESREA, 2019-03-01)
      The dynamic nature of English Further Education (FE) has caused a crisis of identity for many tutors in the sector.  The reduction in funding (Tickle, 2014) and the focus on the product, rather than the process of learning, has changed the role of the educator and also their ability to articulate their professional status.  Recent research (Thompson and Wolstencroft, 2017) found that there has been a significant shift in role perception for FE practitioners.  Previously, teachers in the sector identified themselves within an educational paradigm underpinned by notions of social justice which prioritised student achievement from a developmental perspective.  Through progressive cultural shifts towards a more data driven focus this perspective now acknowledges a different definition of 'achievement' which in turn has had an impact on teachers' agency and professional identity. In the first stage of this research, a case study approach was taken to compare two diverse organisations within the FE sector in England.  Purposive sampling was used to select a cross section of participants for semi-structured interviews.  This was followed up by focus groups to explore the initial findings.  The final stage of the research extended beyond the initial case study organisations and used a questionnaire to explore respondents' definitions of their professional roles.  The initial findings depicted a group of professionals constrained by rigorously monitored working environments, who, after completing teacher education had limited involvement in wider professional communities.  Similarly, participants in the second phase of the research depicted professional identities which were clearly set in context.  The research also revealed practitioners’ aspirations in relation to the purpose of their professional roles alongside a pragmatic acceptance of the constraints which detracted from achieving this purpose.
    • The magic of mentoring: a democratic approach to mentoring trainee teachers in post-compulsory education

      Thompson, Carol; University of Bedfordshire (Taylor and Francis, 2016-08-05)
      This paper explores the impact of subject-specific mentoring within post-compulsory education. Using questionnaires and semistructured interviews, it considers those factors considered ‘most useful’ to teachers in training. The findings suggest that, contrary to the views espoused by bodies such as the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, mentors have a limited impact on the effectiveness of teacher education. Reasons for this are examined, including the context in which most trainees and mentors work as well as the restrictions created by initial teacher education frameworks. A more productive approach to supporting postcompulsory education trainees is explored through the development of a collaborative and democratic model of mentoring.
    • No more superheroes … only avatars? survival role play in English post compulsory education

      Thompson, Carol; Wolstencroft, Peter (Brill/Sense, 2018-09-11)
      Developments such as the incorporation of colleges in England and Wales in 1993 had a fundamental influence on the post-compulsory education (PCE) sector by creating a dramatic transformation in culture, ethos and style of management. Prior to this, both managers and tutors had a high degree of autonomy and were given significant freedom in the way they organised their working lives. However, the introduction of data driven efficiency measures and the increased surveillance of professional activity triggered a significant change in both professional role and professional identity and has been referred to as the terrors of performativity (Ball, 2003).Within the whirlwind of change, many organisations were in a state of flux. They had to contend with new funding mechanisms and subsequent cuts to their budget, as well as prepare for influential judgements on their performance by organisations such as the government’s inspectorate of education, commonly known as Ofsted. This presented a range of new challenges which were ‘supported’ by a plethora of new guidelines, systems and processes and the result was described by Coffield as:A sector where the government had to establish a Bureaucracy Reduction Group to deal with the effects of its own hyperactivity in spawning so many new policies, initiatives, qualifications, institutions, partnerships, targets, priorities, ambitions and aspirations that those trying to enact their proposals became overwhelmed with the paperwork. (Coffield, 2008, p. 43)For a new tutor entering the profession, this presented a somewhat muddled picture of the professional role and identity; on the one hand, there were clear guidelines relating to processes and the ‘technical’ aspects of the role on the other, somewhat conflicting information from experienced colleagues who contested the imposed changes.For teachers, one significant outcome of the changes was the value placed on the skill or craft of teaching above other aspects of the role. This focus created a much narrower professional identity and neglected the wider aspects of the role, potentially leading to a more defined perception of the types of professional development which were considered relevant.According to the European Commission (2013), a teacher’s role should include both teaching and teacher competencies. The former being those things associated with the craft of teaching and the latter encompassing the need to reflect, evaluate and work collaboratively in the wider professional community, recognising this as a body of knowledge which exists beyond the place of work. This view acknowledged teaching as a multifaceted career and provided a systemic view of teacher professionalism which could be likened to the notion of democratic professionalism (Sachs, 2001).Despite the most significant of these changes having taken place over 20 years ago, there still remains some confusion around the purpose and extent of the PCE tutor’s role and this is mirrored in the roles undertaken by middle managers (Thompson & Wolstencroft, 2013). Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that such confusion has led to a sense of conflict between initial perceptions of a particular role and actual practice and has resulted in both tutors and managers leaving the sector or even the profession itself (Chambers & Roper, 2000; Thompson & Wolstencroft, 2013). This illuminates what has been described as the ‘disjuncture between official rhetoric of lifelong learning and the experiences of those working and studying in English Further Education’ (Avis & Bathmaker, 2005, p. 61).Although a number of the problems associated with entering the PCE teaching profession and undertaking management roles within it have been documented (Thompson & Wolstencroft, 2012, 2013; Spenceley, 1997; Avis & Bathmaker, 2007), this is not the complete picture. There are many new tutors and managers who had not only survived the process of change but enjoyed the challenge and found specific strategies to overcome the difficulties they were presented with (Thompson & Wolstencroft, 2012, 2013).Within this chapter, we will explore the challenges and professional identities of new tutors and managers within PCE as well as the strategies they employ to cope with the individual demands of their jobs.
    • Put teachers back in control of the classroom'

      Thompson, Carol (2019-10-24)
      A culture of trust is essential if teachers are to feel comfortable taking risks in the classroom
    • Trust into mistrust: the uncertain marriage between public and private sector practice for middle managers in education

      Thompson, Carol; Wolstencroft, Peter; University of Bedfordshire (Routledge, 2018-05-08)
      The role of the middle manager has proved to be a difficult one to define due to the fluid nature of the tasks performed and the heterogeneity of understanding that exists for the term. This is further complicated by the differences associated with the context in which individual manager’s work. This research, which explores the drive towards neo-liberalism and the subsequent adoption of leadership and management practice from the private sector, makes a comparison between the roles of managers in English education with those in other settings. Using a questionnaire with 252 responses and interviews with 6 managers in the private and public sector, the role of middle managers was compared to identify the similarities and differences between organisations driven by social policy as opposed to profit. Participants surveyed were based in primary, secondary and further education and the interview respondents were employed in non-education contexts. The findings suggest that the initial reforms, which required higher levels of accountability through the introduction of key performance indicators, appear to be fully embedded within the education manager’s role and there is a high degree of convergence in relation to the expectation of managers at this level in all the settings. The findings also highlighted a fundamental difference in relation to how middle managers were expected to carry out their duties, the autonomy they had to do so and the authority that was bestowed upon them.