Judyth Sachs’ book on the activist teaching profession neatly outlined the contradictions of autonomy at the heart of much education reform. Decentralisation and devolution are the totems of new reforms. But for teachers the accountability and measurement systems entailed in these reforms put them at the bottom of a food chain that reaches only up, towards various offices of principals, schools boards, local or national ministers and inspectors.
So, in addition to the narrowness of its vision for learning, the logic of the current reform model has a persistent flaw — it is at heart doubtful of the value of teacher professionalism, seeing it as a mask for producer capture by vested professional interests. Instead, it has created a form of ‘managerial professionalism’, driven by heavy scrutiny linked to comparable performance measures.
Policy tries to change behaviour through top-down accountability measures, pay-related incentives and high-stakes testing and appraisal. This is creating a teacher identity which risks reducing the teacher’s role to that of compliant technician, whose job is largely to implement protocols and carry out instructions.
The ever-increasing downwards pressure means that too many teachers leave after just a few years, and too many of those who do stay fail to keep improving and rarely improve together as a cohesive community of practice, whether through within-school or within-subject communities.
Increased centralisation, combined with incentives for schools to compete, has reduced opportunities for the development of ‘professional capital’ — in particular, for teachers to work across schools to improve each other’s practices. The teaching system therefore becomes the proble
The solution is to foster collaboration and an approach which enables teachers not just to be innovative within their own classroom, but to be influential on a wider stage, creating a new cadre of ‘teacherpreneurs’.
This word, referenced by the RSA in their report “Creative Public Leadership: How School System Leaders Can Create the Conditions for System-wide Innovation”, was coined by Berry et al. who described a new type of teacher leaders who combine classroom teaching with the development of connections and ideas which have influence beyond their institution: in essence a new, deliberately created cohort of ‘teacher innovators’ who have their feet firmly planted in the classroom but who are skilled enough to take deliberate risks, often in partnership with external service providers.
The key here is that the teacherpreneurs are a deliberately created cohort of teacher innovators. While experimentation and good practice will take place in any system, moving from pockets of innovation to wide adoption requires purposeful intervention to create the structures and conditions that allow innovation to thrive and be scaled.
GLUU will address this by identifying leading practitioners and putting them at the centre of the innovation and dissemination processes; ensuring that they are invested in as innovators. These teacher innovators will learn how to design rigorous assessment and evaluation processes that allow them to understand and explain their journey as well as measure the impact of their work. They will also, through the Edtech Learning Hubs, be working as part of a larger community including learners, parents, employers, and other local stakeholders.
GLUU will facilitate the creation of these communities for innovation by bring policymakers and other system leaders into shared-goal partnerships of schools and teachers and, as part of this process, creating incentives for teachers and others stakeholders to innovate in collaboration with others.
As ‘communities for innovation’, the Edtech Learning Hubs will return teachers to the front and centre of the process of improving classroom practice, giving them the opportunity to create new approaches, and to evaluate and refine their practice through articulating and sharing their practice with others.