Cultural shifts in teaching: new workforce, new professionalism?
Curriculum Journal, 18(3) pp. 253–270.
The last two decades have been witness to the introduction of a series of interlocking government-led initiatives ostensibly designed to establish and raise performance standards in teaching and learning. These include target-setting, assessments, appraisals, performance management systems, and performance thresholds. Such measures have often been characterised as part of the ‘modernization’ of the profession. This plethora of initiatives has been met with a severe critique from many educationalists. Much education research literature has lamented the erosion of creativity and professionalism in favour of a regime of ‘managerialism’ and ‘performativity’. However, a number of recent changes to the composition and nature of the workforce, with attendant shifts in their expectations and experiences, may now be presenting a challenge to that critique. Growing numbers of mid-career new entrants to the teacher workforce with prior experience of targets, objectives and routine assessment may trigger and result in a greater receptivity to the modernising apparatus. Together with workforce remodelling, there may now be signs of some significant shifts in the teacher workforce and their receptivity to changes of this kind. This paper draws on a study of a sample of this new workforce and assesses their meaning systems and expectations. It finds evidence of their willingness to engage both with the language and the methods of performance and an ease with the characteristic features of the 'new professionalism'. The influence and example of this segment of the new workforce may result in the standard critique appearing less relevant to the concerns of practising teachers than it once was.
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