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Article

Diane Mayer, Wayne Cotton, and Alyson Simpson

The past decade has seen increasing federal intervention in teacher education in Australia, and like many other countries, more attention on teacher education as a policy problem. The current policy context calls for graduates from initial teacher education programs to be classroom ready and for teacher education programs to provide evidence of their effectiveness and their impact on student learning. It is suggested that teacher educators currently lack sufficient evidence and response to criticisms of effectiveness and impact. However, examination of the relevant literature and analysis of the discourses informing current policy demonstrate that it is the issue of how effectiveness is understood and framed, and what constitutes evidence of effectiveness, that needs closer examination by both teacher educators and policymakers before evidence of impact can be usefully claimed—or not.

Article

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a buzzword in contemporary professional debates, for example, in education, medicine, psychiatry, and social policy. It is known as the “what works” agenda, and its focus is on the use of the best available evidence to bring about desirable results or prevent undesirable ones. We immediately see here that EBP is practical in nature, that evidence is thought to play a central role, and also that EBP is deeply causal: we intervene into an already existing practice in order to produce an output or to improve the output. If our intervention brings the results we want, we say that it “works.” How should we understand the causal nature of EBP? Causality is a highly contentious issue in education, and many writers want to banish it altogether. But causation denotes a dynamic relation between factors and is indispensable if one wants to be able to plan the attainment of goals and results. A nuanced and reasonable understanding of causality is therefore necessary to EBP, and this we find in the INUS-condition approach. The nature and function of evidence is much discussed. The evidence in question is supplied by research, as a response to both political and practical demands that educational research should contribute to practice. In general, evidence speaks to the truth value of claims. In the case of EBP, the evidence emanates from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and presumably speaks to the truth value of claims such as “if we do X, it will lead to result Y.” But what does research evidence really tell us? It is argued here that a positive RCT result will tell you that X worked where the RCT was conducted and that an RCT does not yield general results. Causality and evidence come together in the practitioner perspective. Here we shift from finding causes to using them to bring about desirable results. This puts contextual matters at center stage: will X work in this particular context? It is argued that much heterogeneous contextual evidence is required to make X relevant for new contexts. If EBP is to be a success, research evidence and contextual evidence must be brought together.

Article

The effective operation of a school unit relies on various factors, the most critical of which is leadership, as it this which shapes the working environment through which the school succeeds or fails. Indeed, an effective leader can inspire vision and promote educational policy in the interests of the school and other stakeholders. This leadership role in schools is undertaken by head teachers, who are called to act as supervisors of the school’s human resources in parallel with their purely administrative work. In order for school leaders to achieve these outcomes, however, they must be adequately trained so as to be competent in undertaking the arduous task of leading a school unit. Consequently, in order for school leaders to carry out their daunting tasks successfully—in other words, achieve the best possible results with the fewest sacrifices and least effort—they must possess certain knowledge and aptitudes. For this reason, the staffing of the school units in any country (and hence in Greece) with capable school leaders should be the top priority of the State, while measures should be taken to ensure that the processes for selecting school leaders and for their professional development remain objective and systematic, if the country intends to implement an educational policy efficiently and effectively. Taking into account that the school leader is not born but becomes, and that school leaders are central to the administration of a country’s educational system, it is vital that a system of selection and development of schools’ head teachers be institutionalized.