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On the Same Side: reimagining educational evaluation and improvement for a more equitable world

Gregson, Margaret and Gregson, Daniel (2023) On the Same Side: reimagining educational evaluation and improvement for a more equitable world. Comparative International Education Society Conference 2023.

Item Type: Article


Responding to UNESCO’s (2022) rallying call to make good the unfulfilled promise of ensuring the right to high quality education for every child, young person and adult will require us to restart education policy from a different set of organizing principles which protect, respect and share a concern for education as the pursuit of the common good. In the context of state education in England, rethinking education policy will also need to be accompanied by a staged but unequivocal shift away from the current policy architecture, values and norms which support the long-standing technocratic approaches to educational evaluation and improvement which have dominated the landscape for over 30 years.

Uncoupling educational evaluation and improvement from the distortion and damage done to the values, commitment and professionalism of teachers by technocratic policy regimes in which quality is reduced to blunt measures of performance outputs will not be easy. Policy professionals, education leaders and teachers in England have become so caught in the grip of a policy picture that makes it difficult to see how the education system could operate in any way other than it currently does. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that existing political, economic and social arrangements have done little to help education to break the link between inequality and poverty. Rethinking and reconnecting the processes of education for the 21st Century to the lives, hopes and aspirations of all children, young people and adults is therefore unlikely to be brought about through choice and competition. Reimagining and rethinking educational futures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (UNESCO, 2021) must of course begin with the question of where do we start?

Coffield and Wiliamson (2017) suggest that a first step in this process would be to draw upon what we already know about how students, educators, inspectors and whole systems learn best, namely, in collaboration and cooperation. They point to the paradoxical expectation that a system of educational evaluation and improvement that creates and relies upon a climate of fear and then assumes that teachers and educational leaders will be inspired to improve what they do in the face of the prospect/threat of public humiliation will somehow “work” in practice. The main point to note here, is that if the English education system was ever going to “work” in securing equity in education it would have “worked” by now. The same authors offer a new model for educational evaluation and improvement which aims to respect and protect the moral purpose of education alongside a shared concern for education for the common good.

This paper attempts to synthesize and connect key ideas and concepts in the above published works with data generated by the national Practitioner Research Programme (PRP) funded in England by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and taught by the University of Sunderland.

It extends an invitation to a conversation about how we might go about preparing teachers to contribute to and participate in the development of a new social contract for education by reimaging how educational evaluation and improvement might be done differently in England

It offers five guiding principles which may be useful starting points.These include,
inspiring and supporting the desire for continued productive growth; replacing existing relays of power and fear of inspection with trust in teachers and education leaders; matching challenge with support; engaging in dialogue which goes beyond comfortable chats and allows for disagreement: giving pride of place to forms of inquiry that give life and vitality to a system when it is most alive and at it exceptional best by building on strengths while seeking to admit and address weaknesses.

The paper then introduces a framework of components and features that could characterize what an alternative model of education and evaluation in England might look like. In this framework, the number one priority in education is the meaningful integration of teaching, learning and assessment, based upon the teacher’s’ conceptual and theoretical grasp of what education is for and the development of good pedagogic practice in ways which encourage learners to access and produce knowledge as well as the capacity to critique and apply it.

Secondly, the paper foregrounds how the professional learning of teachers needs to be the main engine of improvement, based upon teacher collaboration, cooperation and mutual endeavor in the pursuit of good and continually improving educational practice in situations where teachers are recognized as producers of research and knowledge and key figures in educational and social transformation.

The importance of inclusive and democratic decision-making at all levels in the system is then discussed. In the next component of the framework, the focus is upon the role of curriculum content and design that emphasize ecological, intercultural, disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning as well as the coherent integration of theory and practice in terms of both curriculum design and pedagogy. Moving away from education institutions as exam factories towards learning communities in which the creativity of every learner is released is the next focus of attention. The importance of an inspection regime that takes the institution’s resources into account and an improvement regime that takes context seriously are the next points of note. The framework concludes with a discussion of how an overarching concern for continuous improvement, brings these components together with the objective of creating a mature self-improving system which welcomes and encourages engagement in open public debate about teachers’ and education leaders’ experiences of what is actually happening to education policy in practice, including its unintended consequences and how these might be mitigated or minimized .

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Depositing User: Daniel Gregson


Item ID: 16204

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Margaret Gregson: ORCID iD
ORCID for Daniel Gregson: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2023 16:45
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2023 16:45


Author: Margaret Gregson ORCID iD
Author: Daniel Gregson ORCID iD

University Divisions

Faculty of Education and Society > School of Education


Education > Educational Research
Education > Further Education
Education > Higher Education

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