The choreography of accountability

  • Webb P
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Abstract

Identifies how teachers generate performances of their work to satisfy accountability demands. Identifies sources of teachers' knowledge that produce choreographed performances. How teachers manage perceptions to garner favourable evaluations. Impression management: teachers' fabrications political: attempt to (re)control or (re)claim discourse of what a 'good' teacher does / is. But, teachers' fabrications occur as individual / unco-ordinated responses to surveillance > analysis maps how political organization of schools maintains teachers in subjugated roles. Teachers believe their fabrications held greater micropolitical capital than what actually occurs. Highly relevant for LNS reworking. Teachers act differently behind classroom doors. Cites Ball 2001: 'tactics of transparency [of surveillance system] that produce a resistance of opacity'. Uses Butler's (1990) ideas about performativity as point of departure: performative engatments of a fabricated identity. Uses term 'surveiling' because it conveys idea of 'watching with coercion' - taken from Fraser 1989. The article examines teachers' performances that were seen to comply to accountability expectations. Identifies sources of teachers' knowledge that produce choreographed performances; explains how teachers managed perceptions to garner favourable evaluations. These fabrications are a political form of impression management, trying to (re) control or (re) claim what a 'good' teacher does / is. Suggests teachers should be trained in appropriating the positivistic discourse of policymakers, and using it in ways to complement their own professional commitments. Enabling them to co-opt performance discourse by talking about fabrications which are more / less effective in terms of the goals of teacher / school, rather than whether they meet goals of 'expected outcomes'. This analysis demonstrates how teachers' identities are the site of contestation within accountability frameworks designed to usurp professional control. But, since response is uncoordinated, teachers are maintained in subjugated roles, and teachers believe their fabrications held greater micropolitical capital than what actually occurred. The political organization of schools co-opted teachers' fabrications as occupational resources in accumulation of accountabiltiy production. method: selected case studies to aid development of fabrication as micropolitical resource for educators. data used to establish existence of attitudes, strategies, and frameworks. selected 2 'low-performing' schools. focus groups and individual interviews. identified themes, developed codes, distilled statements using disconfirming cases. addressed validity and reliability thru triangulation. member checks with key participants. teachers pressured to improve test scores. schools eligible for sanctions. (in USA). fabrications used as impression mgt, eg portfolios that 'looked right', bulletin boards. or as micropolitical strategies (??) - interpreted differently in different registers of meaning. concerned about authenticity - subjecting students to, demoralizing teachers schools co-opted teachers' fabrications to increase accountability performance. peers surveiled one another. some fabrications appropriated, amplifying their effect in school. eg 'students walking quietly in hallways' comes to mean 'good teacher, in control' - when it doesn't, necessarily. fab.s become currency within school. qs around pedagog authenticity. Pedagogical simulations maintain school's cultural norms and mask processes that define these norms. Teachers become coerced to advocate for and implement fabrications they do not benefit from, amplifying accountability production. Cites Foucault: power and surveillance produce new truths. Surveillance regulates practice even when mechanisms not physically present.

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Authors

  • P. Taylor Webb

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