Cut and paste, duck and weave, smoke and mirrors : Teacher responses to mandated change.

Year: 1999

Author: Edwards, Brian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports the preliminary findings of a case study of the teachers in one school grappling with curriculum changes mandated by the Education Department of Victoria. The Department claimed the changes were necessary as they provided teachers from the Preparatory year through to Year 10 for the first time in Victoria's history with a clear statement of student learning outcomes in each subject area. The change is known as the Curriculum and Standards Framework (hereafter CSF).

The case study school is a large, multi-campus Government Secondary College of mixed socio-economic and ethnicity intake. The focus will be on the efforts of the teachers and Key Learning Area Managers as they seek to make sense of the changes wrought by the CSF. It will explore their initial reactions to the changes, plot the development and changes of their reactions and attempt to place their work within the context of the broader research into policy implementation in schools and changes to teachers' work. This is reflected in the growing use of contract and short-term replacement teachers in the Victorian education system.

Associated with such views of the nature of work are views as to the nature of change and the responses of individuals to change. A plethora of texts have explored the elements, processes, dangers and promises of change. Chaos theory now informs management theory and the new entrepreneurial, corporatised organisation/school is advised to operate in an environment of constant change encouraging both flexibility and adaptability in its members.

But the corporate ideology is not without its own hidden dangers whereby as Willmott (1993:536) tellingly argues , 'Instead of producing committed, enthusiastic, self-disciplining subjects, a possible effect of corporate culturist programmes is a reinforcement of instrumentality amongst employees who comply with the demands without internalizing their values'.

The paper will explore the teachers' responses and using Ball's suggested broad categories for typifying school responses (Ball, 1992:137) it will outline a number of other responses teachers make to mandated change and place them within the context of implementation theory (Carter & O'Neill, 1995). What will be shown is that the teachers' roles in implementation is vastly more complex than a one-way highway wherein teachers are obedient technicists who '. . . jump through the hoops'. (Interview, 1997). As Giddens memorably observed 'The docile bodies which Foucault says discipline produces turn out to be not so docile after all. . . but knowledgeable agents who resist, blunt or actively alter the conditions of life which others seek to thrust upon them'. (Giddens, 1985 :172)