Masters Dissertation

693 views

Published on

Dissertation submitted for the MA Education (Management in Education) entitled *A Critical Analysis of the Challenges in establishing and Maintaining Peer Observation of Teaching Schemes From the Perspectives of Managers in Higher Education*

0 Comments
1 Like
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Views
Total views
693
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
10
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
23
Comments
0
Likes
1
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Masters Dissertation

  1. 1. Student Name: Darren GashStudent ID: 07058076Programme of Study: MA Education (Management in Education)Module Code: EDPP39NModule Name: The MA Education DissertationDate of Submission: 18th January 2010A Critical Analysis of the Challenges in Establishing andMaintaining Peer Observation of Teaching Schemes From thePerspectives of Managers in Higher EducationWord count: 16,439This dissertation is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for thedegree of Master of Arts in the subject of Education (Management inEducation) at London Metropolitan University.
  2. 2. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentAbstractDarren Gash: A Critical Analysis of the Challenges in Establishing andMaintaining Peer Observation of Teaching Schemes From the Perspectives ofManagers in Higher EducationThis dissertation analyses and reflects on the management and leadershipchallenges in establishing and maintaining Peer Observation of Teaching(POT) schemes from the perspectives of managers in higher educationresponsible for their implementation. With reference to the literature itidentifies and discusses the potential management and leadership problemsmanagers may need to consider with respect to POT. Interviews with fivemanagers were conducted in order to identify and gain insight into the issuesthey encountered in running POT schemes and how they went aboutmanaging these issues within their particular context. The managers werealso invited to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of POT as a basis forteachers to develop their practice. The research found that a commonproblem for managers was teacher resistance and reluctance to take part inPOT. Reasons for this included lack of self-confidence, suspicion ofmanagers’ intentions behind POT schemes, anxiety about the outcomes ofobservation being linked to tenure and negative conceptions of observation asa tool for management to exercise power over teachers. The researchconcludes that teachers are more likely to engage positively in POT schemesthat are developmental and based in a culture of openness and trust. Theimportance of communicating aims and principles in a clear and unambiguousway and the need to ensure teachers are adequately trained for participationis also highlighted. The need for strong leadership and continual advocacy forPOT is emphasised, particularly when the day-to-day management ofschemes is devolved to teachers. Finally, the assimilation of POT intoteaching practice is recommended as a way of gaining teacher acceptanceand ensuring its benefits as a model for continuing professional developmentare obtained. 2
  3. 3. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentTable of ContentsIntroduction.................................................................................................... 5 Context and Rationale.................................................................................. 5 Structure of the Dissertation......................................................................... 8Literature Review........................................................................................... 9 Defining POT ............................................................................................... 9 Perceived Benefits of POT........................................................................... 9 Models of POT ........................................................................................... 11 Compliance vs. Commitment to Peer Observation .................................... 12 Trust as a Prerequisite for Successful Peer Observation........................... 14 Resistance to POT as a Consequence of Mistrust..................................... 15 Resistance to the Notion of Observation.................................................... 16 Managing and Leading Staff within Academic Cultures ............................. 17 Defining Academic Management and Leadership...................................... 19 Evaluating the Success of a POT Scheme ................................................ 20 Concluding the Literature Review .............................................................. 21Methodology ................................................................................................ 22 Introduction: How Methodology Changed According to Circumstances..... 22 The Rationale for Interviews ...................................................................... 23 Choosing the Participants .......................................................................... 25 Gaining Consent ........................................................................................ 25 Scheduling the Interviews .......................................................................... 26 Conducting the Interviews.......................................................................... 26 Transcribing the Interviews ........................................................................ 27 Analysing the Interviews ............................................................................ 29 3
  4. 4. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentAnalysis........................................................................................................ 31 Introducing the Characters......................................................................... 31 On Teacher Resistance and Reluctance to Participate in POT.................. 34 On the Need for Trust ................................................................................ 35 On the Need for Advocacy ......................................................................... 36 On the Need for Training............................................................................ 39 On the Relationship Between Observer and Observee.............................. 40 On the Need to Provide Time and Space for POT ..................................... 40 On the Need to Embed POT into Teaching Practice.................................. 43 On the Notion of Observation..................................................................... 44 On Managing Peer Observation................................................................. 46Conclusion ................................................................................................... 49 Summary of the Analysis ........................................................................... 49 Limitations of the Research........................................................................ 50 Areas for Further Research........................................................................ 51 Additional Reflections................................................................................. 53 Final Thoughts ........................................................................................... 55Appendices .................................................................................................. 57 Appendix One: Email Template Used To Request Interviews.................... 57 Appendix Two: Screenshot of Mind Mapping Application Used to Create the Interview Schedule..................................................................................... 59 Appendix Three: Screenshot of Mind Mapping Application Used for the Interview Analysis ...................................................................................... 60Bibliography................................................................................................. 61 4
  5. 5. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentIntroduction “Perhaps the key to establishing an ethos in which staff can talk about teaching is leadership” (Gosling, 2005, p.49). “[Peer Observation of Teaching] will happen only if leaders expect it, invite it, and provide hospitable space for the conversation to occur" (Palmer, 1998, as cited in Gosling, 2005, p.49).This dissertation aims to identify and discuss the management and leadershipchallenges faced by managers in Higher Education who are responsible forestablishing and maintaining Peer Observation of Teaching (POT) schemes,as well as examining the concept of POT from the perspectives of managers.Primary data is gathered from semi-structured Interviews with academicmanagers with responsibility for POT as well as my own brief experience ofestablishing a POT scheme. Secondary data for the project is drawn mainlyfrom the literature relating to POT with some reference to theories onacademic management and leadership.Context and RationaleMy original intention for this dissertation was to carry out an action researchproject focussing on the management and leadership challenges I wouldpersonally encounter in setting up a POT scheme at the educational institutionwhere I worked. I completed the initial problem identification andreconnaissance phase of the action research, in which a need for professionaldevelopment opportunities for staff was identified and a POT scheme wasproposed as a means of addressing this issue. Having gained a positiveresponse from my team of lecturers about the scheme I submitted a proposalto my manager, who approved a budget for a pilot scheme.In advance of implementing the scheme I interviewed an academic managerwith experience of managing POT in order to gain insight into the potential 5
  6. 6. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentmanagement and leadership issues I would face in running the scheme. I thenarranged a meeting with my lecturers with the aims of establishing themethodology and ground rules of the scheme, determining the logistics ofcarrying out the observations and planning the observation schedule. Beforethe meeting took place however, I resigned my position and the POT schemewas subsequently aborted. I am now working at another educationalinstitution with a remit to manage and develop their learning technologyprovision. Following consultations with my supervisor I decided to retain theoriginal focus on the management and leadership challenges of POT andcomplete the research via a change of methodology. Rather than investigatingmy own practice through action research I would complete the dissertation byinvestigating the practice of other managers with responsibility for andexperience of POT by conducting interviews with them.Although there is a wealth of literature about POT, empirical data is mainlydrawn from the experiences of teachers participating in the scheme ratherthan those managing them. At the same time, there is much in the literaturethat has implications for how schemes are managed, as is emphasised by thequotations from Gosling (2005) at the beginning of this dissertation. Gosling’smore recent publication (2009) further highlights specific areas that managerswith responsibility for POT need to consider. This dissertation therefore aimsto contribute to the debate by focusing on POT from the perspectives of thosewho manage them. The lines of enquiry I wish to pursue in relation to thistopic are organised below into themes:The role of the academic manager • What is the role of the academic manager in establishing a POT scheme? • How do managers themselves define this role? • Is there a correlation between management style and model of POT scheme established?Facilitating lecturer participation • How is participation facilitated? 6
  7. 7. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignment • What is the manager’s function in this? • How do managers deal with the concerns of staff who, for example, may be suspicious of the motivations behind the scheme?Managing the scheme • What management and leadership challenges can arise during the course of the scheme? • How can they be addressed? • How could such issues be avoided in future? • How are conflicts between participants arising from peer observation managed?Maintaining the scheme • How do managers build on the success of a scheme and ensure its continued development? What is the manager’s role in embedding the scheme in the institution? • How does the manager’s role change over time?Managing the aims and outcomes of the scheme • How is the success of such schemes defined and assessed? • Is there a correlation between the way in which schemes are managed and their perceived success? • How do managers ensure best practice is highlighted and disseminated, taking into account the need to maintain confidentiality of proceedings? • How is quality assured?Despite the change in my professional responsibilities, the topic of researchremains relevant for me personally as a manager in education. Although I wasunable to see the original research through to completion I have gainedsubstantial knowledge and insight into POT, and although I do not currentlyhave any direct responsibility for or engagement with POT in my position ashead of learning technology, I am planning to investigate how POT can beused in the context of online virtual classrooms. As such I hope to transfer the 7
  8. 8. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentknowledge and understanding gained from this project to what is a relativelynew and emerging area of research.I also believe that wider lessons can be learned about academic managementand leadership via the case studies I will be investigating with a view totransferring these lessons to my current context, in particular with regards tomanaging the continuing professional development of my staff. In this respect,I hope that I can still apply the knowledge and understanding gained from thisresearch to improving my own practice, in keeping with the original actionresearch aim.Structure of the DissertationThe remainder of the dissertation is divided into four sections; the literaturereview, methodology, analysis and conclusion. • The literature review draws from literature related to peer observation, to which I have linked a number of management and leadership issues relevant to this research. It uses as its basis the literature review submitted for the dissertation proposal (Gash, 2009), extending as well as modifying my original arguments in the light of further research I undertook since submitting the proposal in February 2009. • The section on methodology describes and evaluates my approaches to planning, conducting, transcribing and analysing the five interviews I conducted with managers of POT schemes. Ethical considerations are addressed throughout the section according to context, rather than listed in a separate section. • The analysis section interweaves the conversations held with the five interviewees around common themes that were discussed, focusing on the problems they faced, their approaches to resolving these problems, and their views on POT as a concept. • The conclusion summarises the knowledge and understanding gained through conducting this research, discusses its limitations, identifies potential avenues for further research and offers a personal reflection of what I have learned from undertaking this project. 8
  9. 9. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentLiterature ReviewDefining POTPeer observation of teaching can be defined as “the formal process by whichthe good practice of staff and faculty members engaged in learning andteaching activities is identified, disseminated, and developed” (Donnelly,2007, p.117) and is seen as a means to "enhance teaching quality throughreflective practice, thereby aiding professional development" (Shortland,2004, p.220).Simply put, POT involves teachers observing each other’s classroom practice,with a view to reflecting on and learning from observations made. Possiblesolutions to problems and instances of best practice based on observationsand subsequent discussions can then be documented and shared for thebenefit of other teaching staff within the institution as well the wider scholarlycommunity. Thus the validity of POT derives from its combination ofcollaborative consultation with feedback (Hendry & Dean, 2002, p.76).Perceived Benefits of POTThere are numerous perceived benefits of POT schemes documented. Martinand Double (1998), for example, highlight the positive effects on confidenceand collegiality between peers. Bell (2001) concurs with Martin and Double,adding the improvements in teaching noted by those who took part. Gosling(2005) documents five case studies that show positive results, including acase study at the University of Salford which records 86% of participantsrating their experience as observers between ‘valuable’ and ‘extremelyvaluable’. There is also evidence that such schemes are beneficial for thosedelivering education via virtual e-learning environments (Bennett, 2008).On one level, POT can result in the sharing of techniques for improvedcurriculum delivery in the classroom. At its most effective it can lead to deepercritical reflection of one’s practice whereby participants “create meaningthrough exposing their own values” (Lygo-Baker, 2007, p.104). A case in point 9
  10. 10. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentis the scheme established at Liverpool University where participants werereported to have embraced the scheme and used it to openly explorepersonal theories of teaching (Smith, 2004).For staff involved in teaching, POT schemes are a tried and tested method forlecturers to assist each other in their development and are a key feature ofHigher Education Institutes (Bennett, 2008; Shortland, no date). They areconsidered useful devices for self-assessment and improvement of teachingskills (Donnelly, 2007, p.119). Gosling (2005, p.5) reminds us that the ultimatebeneficiaries are the students, whilst at the same time serving to refresh theteacher’s interest in teaching (which itself can be seen as beneficial tostudent’s motivation and readiness to learn).It is, however, worth noting that not all participants will necessarily reap thebenefits. Bell (2001), for example, cites improvements to teaching practice,developing confidence and collegiality as potential benefits of a teacherdevelopment scheme, although some participants criticised it as timeconsuming, expensive, and of little benefit. As will be discussed later, therecognition of such benefits cannot always be taken for granted and may evenbe obscured by teacher negativity towards the implementation of suchschemes.Furthermore, despite the benefits of POT as a method of continualprofessional development, there is some criticism of it as a concept. To beginwith, there is the fact that the focus on observing teachers in the classroom istoo narrow in scope. As Cohen states, (2003, no page number) “The very ideathat 50 minutes in the classroom represents the full spectrum of teachingexcellence is out of sync with current understanding of the ways in whichpeople learn”, a view reinforced by Cosh, who argues that “by focusing onwhat is observable, POT tends to divert attention from all the other activitiesinvolved in teaching and learning which are not about the lecturer’sperformance” (1998, as cited in Gosling, 2009, p.7). Gosling (2009) 10
  11. 11. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentemphasises the need to break out of the limitations of the standard approachto peer observation of teaching without abandoning it altogether.Models of POTPOT involves people of equal standing (in this case teachers) observing eachother’s practice. In essence the observer does nothing more than make notesof what they observe and communicates these observations back to theobservee for them to reflect on, as opposed to making judgementsthemselves about what they observe. However, as is evident from the varyingmodels and implementations of peer observation, the use of the terms ‘peer’and ‘observation’ are often misnomers since those doing the observing arenot necessarily peers and may well have a remit beyond simple observation.Broadly speaking, POT schemes are either judgmental or developmental inconception (Hopkins, 1993, as cited in Peel, 2005, p.492). Gosling (2005)suggests three models, one of which is judgmental (Evaluation model) withthe other two developmental in nature (Developmental and Collaborativemodel). The Evaluation model aims to elicit summative judgments on teachingquality for managerial purposes such as performance related pay evaluationor external Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) auditing. The Developmentalmodel involves the mentoring of one teacher by one who is more experiencedand is used, for example, on teacher training programmes.The Collaborative model shares the formative approach of the Developmentalmodel, however it is concerned with “creating and sustaining conversationsabout teaching … which open problems in teaching to public debate anddiscussion" (Gosling, 2005, p.13) as opposed to improving the capabilities ofthe individual teacher. Here, POT is less concerned with improving techniqueand more concerned with the personal values and philosophies that underpinteaching practice. The model is based on Wenger’s notion of a community ofpractice (1999), in which groups of peers with shared aims and values co-construct knowledge and understanding of what they do; an idea that isconceptually related to Luckmann and Berger’s notion of reality as a socialconstruct (1991). 11
  12. 12. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentIt is worth noting that although schemes may be designed with one particularmodel in mind, in reality the implementation of schemes can end up a hybridof models, as shall be explored in the analysis section of this paper.Power relationships and locus of control are also important dimensions ofpeer observation that provide an alternative or complementary theoreticalframework. McMahon (2007) proposes a simple dichotomy of ‘Type A’ –control by observee, and ‘Type B’ - control by others. Sako’s Four Campmodel (1998, as cited in Shortland, no date, p.31) conceptualises the variousPOT schemes according to the extent to which the participants themselvesare consulted in the process of establishing and defining them (directconsultation; consultation via unions; a combination of direct and unionmediated consultation; no consultation). As will be seen, issues of power havea significant impact on staff engagement with such schemes.Compliance vs. Commitment to Peer Observation "Real change in attitude and teaching behaviour is likely to occur not when imposed from outside, but when academics are actively involved in systematically reviewing their own practice" (Zuber- Skerritt, 1992, p.78).The level of teacher involvement in both the design and implementation of aPOT scheme can have an effect on their willingness to participate in and reapthe benefits of participation. According to Ramsden (1998, p.209) schemesimposed from above and devised by those not directly involved in the schemerely on teacher compliance, whereas schemes devised by the people who willimplement and experience it rely on teacher commitment. With the former,staff will only participate if they have to, whereas with the latter staff willparticipate because they want to. Schutz and Latif (2006) show the benefits ofincluding faculty in the design of the scheme that led to buy-in andacceptance by the faculty in the creation, implementation, and process of peerreview. 12
  13. 13. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentLack of ownership may result in teachers being suspicious of the motivesbehind the scheme - a possible illustration of this is the fact that some staffinterpreted a scheme implemented at Cardiff University “in ways … quitecontrary to the intentions of the scheme’s designers” (Gosling, 2009, p.13),implying that staff may not have had sufficient involvement in the scheme’sdesign, although the issue may have been one of communication. As Trujillo,et al state, the success of a peer-assessment process depends on faculty‘‘buy-in’’ (2009).Evidence shows that for POT schemes to be successful in their aim ofimproving the practice of those who take part, the participants themselvesmust be committed to the scheme, want to take part, be ready to learn, andhave ownership of and trust in both the process and those observing them.Adults are not inclined to engage in learning of which they cannot see themeaning (Illeris, 2007, p.208). In contrast with children, they are more self-directed in their learning, intrinsically motivated and learn what they want tolearn when they want (Knowles et al, 2005). Wade and Hammik (1999, ascited in Shortland, 2004, p.221) emphasise that "a self-diagnosed need forlearning provides greater motivation to learn than an externally diagnosedrequirement".With this in mind, POT schemes based on models such as Gosling’sEvaluation Model and McMahon’s Type-B, which imply the external impositionof both the observer and agenda for observation, are problematic. Suchschemes may be regarded as coercive and lead to staff alienation, resistanceand suspicion of ulterior motives. As a consequence, staff may becomedefensive in a way not conducive to the discussions that forms the basis forlearning and improvement (Allen 2002, as cited in Gosling, 2005, p.15).Compliance rather than commitment can result in staff taking part for the sakeof taking part. Schemes that seek to measure competence for summativepurposes, for example, can lead to playing the game or performing in a waythat allows the teacher to obtain recognition for competence (Peel, 2005, 13
  14. 14. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentp.493). Mento and Giampetro-Meyer (2000) make the point that performanceappraisals can also result in demotivation, citing Bower (1991) who assertsthat, “when people are judged and evaluated on their performance, they oftenhave a very human tendency to ’shut down’, and they may develop a rigidcloak of defensiveness” (2000, p.1). In this respect the outcome of peerobservation is the inverse of its intended aim of providing a framework forteachers to reflect on their practice, to learn and to develop themselvesprofessionally.Conversely, schemes such as the one reported by Donnelly (2007) appearsuccessful because those involved are willing participants. Having said that,their willingness to participate does not necessarily result in depth of learning.For some participants, a deeper approach may be seen as alien, as reportedby Cooper (2004, p.63) whereby discussions were perceived as "too drawnout, open-ended or touchy feely, when what they prefer is to be givendefinitive facts and knowledge about teaching to take away and apply in asshort a time frame as possible".Trust as a Prerequisite for Successful Peer ObservationFor staff to ‘open up’ rather than ‘shut down’, a culture of openness based ontrust is a prerequisite. Without trust, teachers are less likely to be open aboutperceived deficiencies where ’having a problem‘ is at the heart of theinvestigative process … “asking a colleague about a problem in his or herresearch is an invitation; asking about a problem in one’s teaching wouldprobably seem like an accusation” (Gosling, 2009, p.18). As Frowe states; "Just as the development of creativity and self-expression in children requires an atmosphere of trust and security, so is the same true for teachers. Central to this is the possession of a degree of personal autonomy that allows the teacher, like the pupil, to achieve a level of ownership of their work that is essential for any sense of satisfaction and growth. This, in a large part, comes through being trusted as a professional to use their own judgement in the exercise of discretionary powers" (2005, p.52). 14
  15. 15. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentThus the requirement for staff to make their own judgements, rather than forothers to pass judgement on them, is also emphasised.According to Munsen (1998) the avoidance of judgmental statements on thepart of the observer results in the building of trust between the two teachers.Resistance to peer observation can however still emerge even within such atrusting relationship. Mento and Giampetro-Meyer (2000) noted that in spite ofthe established trust between observer and observee anxiety about takingpart could still manifest itself, in this case due to the infrequency of POTsessions taking place, the implication being that POT sessions should bemore frequent for staff to get used to the process.Either way, opening up to deep reflection requires teachers to take risks, andthey are more likely to take risks if they have trust in the motives of those theyare opening up to. As Gidden states, “Risk and trust intertwine, trust normallyserving to reduce or minimise the dangers to which particular types of activityare subject” (1991, p.35). In this respect, trust can be seen as the bedrock forthe supportive environment, psychological safety and openness to new ideasthat are the key elements of developing effective learning organisations(Garvin et al, 2008).Resistance to POT as a Consequence of MistrustClearly, without trust, teachers will not show willingness and commitment toPOT. They may distrust the motivations behind the scheme despite the goodintentions of those whose job it is to manage and implement them. Gosling(2009) provides a number of examples of this; staff at Cumbria Universitywere not against POT per se but associated it with “bureaucracy andmanagerialism” (p.34). Staff perceptions of POT at Worcester andGloucestershire University were strongly influenced by its association with theQAA subject review and institutional audit (p.53). This problem is highlightedby Adshead’s observation that peer observation was designed to meet thetwin aims of teacher development and quality assurance, and that the viewsof participants on a scheme designed for General Practitioner teacherssuggest these two aims may conflict (2006, p.68). Gosling also refers to 15
  16. 16. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentresistance to schemes that allegedly seek to formalise what staff claim theyalready do on an informal basis, i.e. reflect on their practice; “why do we needa scheme and the bureaucracy that comes with it?” they are reported to ask(p.5).Teacher resistance to what they perceive as a culture of managerialism -management as an end in itself rather than a means (Evans & Gold, 1998,p.24) - is a reaction against the threat to their autonomy and an encroachmenton the sanctity of their classroom. Bush (2003) states that “teachers still holdpower (of implementation) in the classroom, a situation that can result intension between teachers and their managers, since the latter’s’ "dominanceof hierarchy is compromised by expertises possessed by professional staff"(p.58). Hence POT schemes that are considered as being imposed ratherthan negotiated and involve those outside the teachers’ community of practice- such as ‘bureaucrats’ - judging their performance can be seen asthreatening the teachers’ power domain.Adshead (2006, p.68) suggests that resistance may in fact be due to “afundamental fear of scrutiny and criticism”. This is clearly an important issueto address since for POT to be truly developmental participants need to beself-critical and open to change (Lygo-Baker and Hatzipanagos, 2007). AsHammersley-Fletcher and Orsmond state, “beliefs and assumptions need tobe questioned in order to drive learning forward" (2005, p.214).Resistance to the Notion of ObservationFear of scrutiny, the association of POT schemes with managerialism andgovernment agencies such as the QAA are indications that the term‘observation’ itself may be problematic. As was discussed previously, thedesignated ‘peer observer’ may be a peer and observer in the true sense ofthe word, or they may be in a position of seniority or from an outside agencypassing judgement on what they observe. As has been seen, despite the bestefforts of universities to implement schemes that are purely ‘peer observation’some teachers have still been reluctant to recognise their legitimacy. 16
  17. 17. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentOne solution to this problem is the recent trend towards naming the schemesin a way that emphasises the collaborative, supportive and developmentalethos of peer observation, such as peer coaching, peer mentoring and peerexchange (Gosling, 2009). More controversially perhaps, some universitieshave opted for the term ‘peer review’, implying that the observer rather thanobservee is responsible for the judging of performance. Although Goslingdoesn’t define the term he does infer that its use may be controversial andthat those responsible for devising and implementing schemes shouldcarefully consider its adoption, posing the question; “is it right to use the word‘review’ which might be thought to carry connotations of judgement?” (p.8).Managing and Leading Staff within Academic CulturesMcCaffery (2004, p.32) defines culture as "a combination of values, structureand power which has implications for every aspect of an organisationsoperation, its external relationships and, ultimately, the realisation of itsinstitutional mission", making the point that the organisation is the culturerather than an entity that has a culture, and that cultures are dynamic ratherthan static in nature.Teaching staff in higher education have traditionally organised themselvesaccording to a collegiate culture. The essence of a collegiate culture is the flathierarchical structure and lack of imposition in decision-making. Collegiatecultures: "Assume that organisations determine policy and make decisions through a process of discussion leading to consensus. Power is shared amongst some or all members of the organisation who are thought to have a shared understanding about the aims of the institution" (Bush, 2003, p.64).Collegiate ways of organising teachers are not without their problemshowever, and can lead to lack of action and change; “if staff are hostile andapathetic, rather than enthusiastic and engaged, collegiate approach does notwork” (p.81). 17
  18. 18. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentEngagement follows motivation. Motivation can be either extrinsic or intrinsicand as Mullins asserts, managers have more influence on the latter ratherthan the former. His argument is that extrinsic motivation is related to “tangiblerewards such as salary and fringe benefits, security promotion, contract ofservice, the work environment and conditions of service” - rewards that aredetermined by the organisation rather than the individual managers -whereas intrinsic motivation is related to “psychological rewards such as theopportunity to use ones ability, a sense of challenge and achievement,receiving appreciation, positive recognition and being treated in a caring andconsiderate manner” . These are “psychological rewards” which can beinfluenced by the actions and behaviours of individual managers (Mullins,2007, p.251).Leadership, therefore, has a significant impact on teacher engagement inPOT. Managers, by their words and actions, can advocate the benefits ofPOT and have an influence on the motivation of teachers to participate.Palmer (1998, as Cited in Gosling, 2005, p.49) emphasises the importance ofleadership in fostering and maintaining POT schemes; “perhaps the key toestablishing an ethos in which staff can talk about teaching is leadership …[POT] will happen only if leaders expect it, invite it, and provide hospitablespace for the conversation to occur". With this in mind, the responsibilities ofmanagers include ensuring the process of POT is completed thoroughly andprofessionally (Gosling, 2005, p.27) as well as implementing “a clear structurewith agreed purposes, procedures, and outcomes involving suitablepreparation, follow through, and rules of confidentiality" (Donnelly, 2007,p.127). As my own research demonstrates later on in this dissertation,tensions can arise between the various stakeholders in the scheme such assenior management and teachers on the ground when there is lack of clarityin a schemes aims and principles.Evidence of the importance of leadership is further exemplified by the successof a scheme initiated at Ulster University: “greater engagement has occurredin areas where there has been either enthusiastic senior leadership for the 18
  19. 19. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentinitiative or a group of staff who have worked together to undertake a review”(Gosling, 2009, p.52). Having said that, Garvin et al (2008) remind us thatleadership alone is insufficient and that, in order to create a wider culture oflearning, more explicit and targeted interventions may be required.Defining Academic Management and LeadershipAlthough there is overlap between the two concepts in so far as leader andmanager are often the same person, leadership can be seen as defining anddeclaring the vision that initiates the change (the transformation), whereasmanagement is charged with the process of implementing the change (thetransaction). Thus the manager’s role can be seen as solving the problem thatthe leader creates (Gash, 2008).Forms of management and leadership in academic environments tend to beprimarily people, rather than task, focused. Pedlar (2006, p.23) emphasisesthe importance of a manager’s continuing sensitivity to events being not onlyopen to hard’ information such as facts and figures, but also soft informationsuch as the feelings of other people, the latter being of particular concern forsome teachers wary of participating in POT as was touched upon earlier.Sergiovanni (2001, p.4) emphasises the importance of symbolic and culturalleadership within an academic setting. Symbolic leadership can be seen asleading by example, an attribute also highlighted by Thompson (2004), whichcan serve to embed the desired attitude in the academic culture. AsMcCaffery (2004, p.39) puts it, “our actions demonstrate to others what wereally value”.Thus, in order to successfully manage a POT scheme it can be argued that allfour attributes of academic leadership as identified by Ramsden (1998, p.134)are required, namely the ability to enable, inspire, motivate and direct. Withreference to the latter attribute, whether one should adopt a more hands-on orhands-off approach to managing POT may depend on the type of schemebeing implemented. For example, those focused on evaluating the teacher’sperformance may require a more hands-on approach than those focussing on 19
  20. 20. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentcollaborative reflection, where the aim is for teachers to manage their ownparticipation.Evaluating the Success of a POT SchemeA key problem for the continued development of POT schemes is how toquantify success (assuming quantification is either possible or desirable). Forschemes to continue after their initial pilot period, senior management mayexpect to see tangible benefits if they are to continue to provide funding andsupport. Participants themselves may also wish to see measurable outcomesbefore they continue putting additional time and energy into participating inthe scheme. This is highlighted in a comment made by a teacher on a schemedescribed by Lygo-Baker; “I will never know if the implementation of thesesuggestions will result in an improvement in my teaching" (2007, p100).The confidentiality of POT schemes may hide information that warrants asevidence of success, and can also restrict the sharing of knowledgethroughout the peer group. Shortland, for example, reports that good practicewas not shared formally outside the observation triads that formed the basisof the scheme at the University in question (2004, p.227). The continuedsupport of such schemes can, however, depend on the intrinsic value held bythe organisations that underwrite it and the staff who participate in it, ratherthan being linked to any tangible outcomes. Here, success is a function of thenumber of people taking part, as in the case of the scheme described byMcMahon (2007, p.506) where there was a simple requirement fordocumentation confirming that observations had taken place.Other schemes, such as the one described by Martin and Double (1998),require written comments as well as formal notification of the session takingplace to be passed onto the person responsible for monitoring the scheme,however these are kept brief. Whilst this approach can ease the concerns ofteachers who are wary about their weakness becoming public, ideally POTshould benefit not only individual participants but also develop a knowledgebase from which lessons about the group’s practice can be learned andpublicised for the benefit of the wider community. As Pring states in his 20
  21. 21. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentcritique of Elliot’s definition of action research (1991), “it is not enough ... toclaim that practice has improved. It is necessary for there to be knowledge ofwhy it improved " (2004, p.139). A resulting question for managers is how toleverage knowledge and insight gained through POT whilst maintaining theneed for confidentiality.Concluding the Literature ReviewThis literature review has examined the theory and practice of POT,highlighting a number of problems managers of POT schemes may berequired to deal with. In order to explore these further I derived primary datafrom interviews with five academic managers responsible for POT schemes.The following chapter describes and evaluates the methodology employed inacquiring and analysing this data. 21
  22. 22. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentMethodologyIntroduction: How Methodology Changed According to CircumstancesAs discussed in the introduction, my original intention was to conduct anaction research project focussing on the challenges I would face inestablishing and maintaining a POT scheme at the institute where I worked, aproject that was shelved following my resignation. Consequently I was facedwith the decision of either starting another project or building on the research Ihad done to date. Ideally I would have chosen another action research projectrelevant to my new workplace as it was important for me that the researchwould investigate a problem related to my own practice, however forpragmatic reasons – essentially issues of time and the need for ‘closure’ withrespect to my MA studies - I decided on the latter option.The stepping-stone between the original research and what followed was thefirst interview with the academic manager I had arranged as a way of gainingfirst hand insight into the realities of managing POT from someone withexperience. The interview proved to be enlightening and served as a usefulillustration of the problems of managing peer observation. The idea of usingthis as a basis for more interviews followed by a critical analysis of the datagathered was a logical alternative to the initial action research project. In thisrespect, the aim of conducting further interviews was to broaden and deepenmy current understanding of peer observation, weighted as it was towardstheoretical knowledge and secondary data. This imbalance would beredressed by the actions and experiences of others rather than my own, aswas originally planned.Despite the changes in methodology, a constant throughout this research hasbeen its positioning within the qualitative research paradigm and the notionthat knowledge is both socially constructed and situated. In this respectknowledge is interpreted and context dependant – it is relative and subjectiveto those constructing it and a particular time and place, rather than absoluteand universal. Although knowledge can be generalised in the sense that 22
  23. 23. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentthings (be they objects, people, concepts) can be quantified, their meaning islocalised and individual to the person(s) perceiving it.The Rationale for InterviewsIf we accept the preceding argument, the relationship between perceiver andperceived in terms of the influences people can have on each other’sperceptions is dynamic and never a one-way street. Influence can be seen asa function of distance and in the context of interviews the distance betweenthe researcher and the ‘subject of research’ is minimal; . as As such there isstrong potential for either party to influence proceedings and so theresearcher has to be conscious of this and their effect on the knowledge beingproduced. To this end, I would concur with Alvesson and Skoldberg’sassertion that the “positivistic conception of research, according to which theobject is uninfluenced by the researcher [and vice versa] is untenable" (1999,p. 40) and empathise with Kvale’s description of the research interview as "aninterpersonal situation, a conversation between two partners about a theme ofmutual interest (where) knowledge is created "inter" the points of view of theinterviewer and the interviewee" (2009, p.123). As Rubin and Rubin state,interviewees are "treated as partners rather than objects of research" (1995,p.10).Although interviews may enable the "objects of research" to speak forthemselves (Pring, 2004, p.39), the extent to which their voice is truly hearddepends on the format of interview. At their extremes, interviews are eitherclosed or open according to what the interviewee is allowed to say. Withinthese two extremes is the semi-structured interview that theoretically balancesthe interviewer’s freedom to direct proceedings and the interviewee’s freedomto take the interview beyond the pre-defined framework defined by theinterviewer.When deciding on a suitable approach for this research I did not considerusing closed interviews since a) it is a positivist method that aims to quantifyopinion and is thus - as has already been argued - limited in terms ofproducing the type of knowledge I was pursuing; b) it is based on the false 23
  24. 24. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentpremise that the same question will mean the same thing to differentrespondents (Pring, 2004; Hollway, 2000) and c) because – as discussedearlier – it sees the construction of knowledge as a one-way street. As Rubinand Rubin explain; "because the researcher prewords the questionnaire, theinterview is intellectually dominated by the perceptions of the researcher,rather than the understanding of the interviewees" (1995, p.34).Open interviews allow the interviewee to speak freely, thus the data thatemerges can be seen as less biased since they have chosen what to sayuninfluenced by the researcher. Having said that, they are perhaps moresuited to longitudinal research such as ethnographic studies where theresearcher has the time to assimilate the culture being researched andconduct sufficient interviews for patterns and nuances of that culture toemerge. The semi-structured approach to interviewing I adopted is suitable forwhat is a relatively small-scale research project. Although interviews werestructured around a schedule derived from themes discussed in the literaturereview and my own, albeit limited, experience of peer observation, I did notstick rigidly to the same set of questions during interview. Rather, I let thedirection of the interviews proceed according to the interviewees’ responsesas well as picking up on insight gained from each interview to re-shape theline of questioning at subsequent interviews. In this way, I gained some of theadvantages of open interviews.Although the notion of semi-structured implies a happy medium betweenclosed and open, my experience is that the locus of control changesdynamically between the two extremes as influence over the direction of theensuing dialogue swaps between the two parties, often as a result of makingsnap decisions as to whether I should stay within the remit of the schedule(for the sake of consistency between interviews) or go with the flow. As Kvalestates, interviews are “an art (involving) intuition, creativity, improvisation andbreaking the rules” (2009, p86); as with anything else, the ability to get themost out of them comes with practice and experience. 24
  25. 25. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentChoosing the ParticipantsAccording to Rubin and Rubin there are three criteria of interviewee credibility:1) knowledge of the cultural arena or situation or experience being studied, 2)willingness to talk and 3) representative of a range of points of view (1995,p.66). Although the first two criteria can easily be confirmed prior to interviewstaking place the third is problematic as this can and should only be verifiedafterwards. Attempting to do this in advance would rely on assumptions aboutan interviewee that is the antithesis of keeping an open mind.My goal was to conduct four more interviews, giving me a total of fiveincluding the one already completed. I initially contacted three managers Iknew in some professional capacity, who all agreed to take part. In addition, Icontacted six academics who had published articles about peer observation,three of whom I had met at a conference and two of whom had been referredto me by one of the three managers. Three of the academics repliedindicating that they would have been happy to assist but did not have therequisite management responsibility. One of the three referred me to amanager in the same institute where they worked who subsequently agreed totake part, giving me the four participants I was looking for. As it turned out theinterviews did produce an interesting range of views and perspectives, so inthis respect it met Rubin and Rubin’s third criteria.Gaining ConsentFormal consent should be given by all those taking part in research, based onthe principle that participants have a right to freedom and self-determination(Cohen, et al, 2007, p.53) and should not feel obliged, or coerced, into takingpart against his or her will (Robson, 1993, p.33, as cited in Cohen et al, 2007,p.63). With this in mind, and to ensure a record of their consent was kept inwriting I emailed all potential participants and asked them to respond byemail. I was also careful to explain the aims and rationale for the research inthe email including its original plan as an action research project, bearing inmind that interviewees should fully understand what they are consenting to.As Drever states, an interview is “a formal encounter, with a specific purpose, 25
  26. 26. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentand both parties are aware of this” (2003, p.4, my emphasis). A copy of theemail template can be found in appendix one.Scheduling the InterviewsOn receipt of email confirmation I arranged to interview the managers at theirown offices. All interviews were one hour in length and took place during themonths of October and November 2009. I asked all participants in advance ifthey would give me consent to record the conversations for the purposes oftranscription. All parties agreed to this and the ensuing interviews wererecorded using an iPodtm with an ExtremeMac Micromemotm microphoneadaptor. Bearing in mind that any recordings should not only be made withconsent but also kept confidential, I have ensured that all recordings andassociated transcripts are securely stored at my home.Conducting the InterviewsI set the agenda for each interview by explaining the purpose of the researchand the interviews. I then passed control over to the interviewee by invitingthem to talk about their particular POT scheme, asking them to “tell me aboutthe scheme you run, its aims, values, history, etc.”, thus giving them theopportunity to focus on areas they considered of particular importance. Myaim was, as Rubin and Rubin put it, to ask questions that "tap theinterviewees experience" (1995, p.10), by allowing stories of personalsignificance to the interviewees to freely emerge. In this respect I took anarrative approach to interviewing, where the researcher acts as the goodlistener (Hollway, 2000, p.31) and the interviewee is a storyteller rather than arespondent, thereby opening up the agenda to development and change.Such an approach to initiating the interview is also concurrent with the adviceto open with unthreatening questions in the interest of developing rapport(Hollway, 2000, p. 30).I then picked out details of each individual story, the themes, issues, concernsand so on that emerged from the narrative, and elicited further details byusing probing questions based on questions and themes from within my 26
  27. 27. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentschedule. On occasions when the narrative dried up, I would refer to theschedule and ask a question that would prompt exploration of another theme.With reference to Rubin and Rubin’s statement that, "as you learn how theinterviewees understand their world, you may want to modify what it is you arestudying or rethink the pattern of questioning” 1995, p.44), the stories andthemes that emerged during each interview influenced my line of questioningin subsequent ones. Thus the knowledge being constructed and theunderstanding and insight I acquired was the result of an asynchronousinteraction of several minds with myself acting as a conduit between them. Or,as Berger and Luckmann put it, “an ongoing correspondence between mymeanings and their meanings in this world” (1991, p.37)At the end of each interview I thanked the participants for their time. I wasalso careful to stick to the agreed time limit of one hour, consideringJohnson’s statement that “the interviewer who, once in, stays in until he isthrown out, is working in the style of investigative journalism rather than socialresearch” (1984, as cited in Bell, 2004, p.141).The interview schedule was constructed using a mind mapping applicationcalled Freemindtm. A copy is available in appendix two for reference.Transcribing the InterviewsRather than making notes and writing down any thoughts immediately aftereach interview, I decided to do this a few days later when I began the processof transcription. Although it can be useful to record one’s reflectionsimmediately I believed that the gap in time would allow me to clear my mindand distance myself sufficiently for the purpose of analysing the interviews, aprocess I began as I transcribed them. I consider myself to have a ‘hearingmind’, that is to say I remember sounds more vividly than visuals. I also findthat sounds are not only able to trigger the recall of events in depth and detailbut also the feelings I had at the time. Through the process of transcribing Iwas therefore able to re-live the interview. Throughout the process oftranscription I could therefore relive the interview and pick up on new themes, 27
  28. 28. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentinterpretations and misunderstandings that were overlooked during thesession. There were also the inevitable moments of frustration as I picked upon such elements retrospectively and wished I had asked a question I hadn’tthought of at the time.Kvale states that "transcripts are impoverished, decontextualised renderingsof live interview conversations" (2009, p.178). The removal from context istaken another step further via the necessary selection of quotes used tosupport the researcher’s argument. This maybe so, however this can be saidof any knowledge that is - with reference to Wenger’s terminology - areification of what emerged through participation (1999) and presented for thebenefit of those not at the original scene. Such is the nature of knowledgetransfer, fine as long as the reader is aware of the filtering process andacknowledges that the author’s interpretation is only one of many. From apersonal perspective, my main issue with transcribing is that it is an extremelyslow, laborious and painstaking process (a teacher of mine told me to allowfour hours for each hour of interview – the reality for me was at the very leastdouble this ratio), albeit a worthwhile one, for reasons just discussed.Although I transcribed the conversations word for word some of the quotationsused in the analysis/discussion have been edited, bearing in mind Rubin andRubin’s advice that, "to improve the grammar, complete the thought, oreliminate dialect can make the text far more readable. But doing so mightdistort what the person said and impute to him or her too much of your owninterpretation" (Rubin and Rubin, 1995, p.272). Thus I have been careful tomake either minor modifications so as to retain the style of the speaker or toparaphrase. Either way, there is an ethical obligation to ensure the transcribedtext is loyal to the interviewees original oral statements (Kvale, 2009, p.63)Unfortunately, my recording device malfunctioned during one of the interviewsand no recording was made. Although I managed to recall some of the keythemes and points made during the interview (the one instance where throughnecessity I did make notes as soon as possible after the interview), the 28
  29. 29. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentrichness, intricacy and nuances of the conversation were lost for good. Forthis reason I have focused mainly on the other four interviews that weresuccessfully recorded and transcribed for the analysis and discussion sectionof this dissertation.Analysing the InterviewsIdeally, as Hollway states, "researchers, not being therapists, will be carefulnot to interpret at the time of the information being provided by interviewees.Their interpretive work comes later, is separate from the participant and has adifferent audience” (2000, p.78). Although this makes sense with respect tothe interviewer keeping a critical distance and an open mind during theinterview and not influencing the direction of the discussion, such a stance isdifficult to maintain in practice and may be counter-productive to picking up onand exploring potential areas of interest. Hollway acknowledges this, addingthat although "interpretation is ... an activity associated with data analysis asopposed to data production … this distinction breaks down in the necessaryexchanges of understanding taking place in the interview". Thus the processof analysis and the need for reflexivity is a continuous one, starting from themoment the interviewee’s initial response and continuing on through thetranscription, analysis of the transcription and writing the argument.Broadly speaking, my approach to analysing the transcripts wasethnomethodological, which involves “the interpretation of meaning, functions,and consequences of human actions and institutional practices, and howthese are implicated in local, and perhaps also wider, contexts."(Hammersley, 2007, p.3). In order to achieve this goal I went through severalstages. The first stage was during the actual transcription, where Icommented on and highlighted specific words and phrases that grabbed myattention and which I would then use as the basis for a more systematicanalysis after completing the transcriptions.In retrospect, stage two’s method was similar to Grbich’s thematic analysisapproach to phenomenological research (2007, p.89), which itself involvestwo stages. Stage 1 is the “ideographic mode” (the gathering of closely 29
  30. 30. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentconnected ideas, words and concepts) that involves amongst other thingscreating a “research key” of categories and subcategories that provide thehooks to which the themes and experiences noted in the transcripts can beattached. Stage 2 is the “nomothetic mode” (the search for abstractprinciples), whereby subnarratives and interpretive themes are drawntogether, using concept maps to place the themes into related fields“indicating interconnections around the phenomenon being researched”. Inthis respect, I was not only looking to categorise the data within the theoreticalframework already established through the literature review and the interviewschedule (i.e. a deductive mode), but also to juxtapose individual snippets ofdata so that other theories would emerge (i.e. an inductive mode). I usedFreemindtm to facilitate the analysis and a screenshot is included in appendixthree for reference.On the whole, my method of analysis could be described as “bricolage”(Kvale, 2009, p.233), in that "many analyses of interviews are conducted without following any specific analytical technique ... (some) rest on a general reading of the interview texts with theoretically informed interpretations … the bricolage interpreter adapts mixed technical discourses, moving freely between different analytic techniques and concepts". 30
  31. 31. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentAnalysisThe following chapter offers a critical analysis of the interviews. For the sakeof anonymity pseudonyms are used when referring to interviewees, althoughthe names reflect their true gender. Institutions where participants work willalso remain anonymous. Participants will also have the right to view andchallenge the accuracy and fairness of data and interpretations of data drawnfrom the interviews. Assuming these conditions are met, I will retain the rightto publish the research (Pring, 2005, p.151; Hopkins, 1985, as cited in Cohenet al, 2007, p.70).Introducing the CharactersThe participants are presented in the order in which they were interviewed.Martin, the first one, is the academic manager I interviewed during the time Iwas initiating the POT scheme.MartinAt the time of the interview Martin was principle lecturer and course leader ata London based university. His main challenge that emerged during theinterview was the reluctance of staff to participate in the POT scheme he wasimplementing, with some teachers suspicious that participation was to beenforced by management and linked to performance. The actual scheme asdescribed by Martin is comparable to Gosling’s collaborative model (2005) asdescribed in the literature review. Although the published aims and principleswere explicit in highlighting the collegiate ethos of the scheme, i.e. it would notbe linked to performance, all discussions would remain confidential andteachers would have control over the agenda for observation, participation inthe scheme remained limited. As Martin puts it, the scheme “fell by thewayside … not because of lack of commitment and principles, but insufficienttime to carry it out - it was not recognised on people’s timetables”. Martin’sstory thus emphasises the challenges faced by managers in not only dealingwith teachers’ suspicion of motives of the scheme but also in providing thetime and space for POT to take place. 31
  32. 32. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentJoanneJoanne is Dean of Learning and Teaching at a London based university. Shehas overall responsibility for the university’s peer observation scheme and hasa team of staff who organise its implementation on the ground. Her mainchallenge that emerged from the interview was managing tensions betweenunions and senior management as a consequence of conflicting views aboutthe intended aims of the scheme and how it should be implemented. As sheherself describes the situation: “I realised was that after I started, what university management had thought had been agreed and what the unions had thought had been agreed was different, and that was part of the problem, that my boss was asking me to implement a scheme which was actually different to the one the union believed to have been agreed”.Although she wishes to make improvements to the scheme, negotiatingagreement between both parties is problematic. Her strategy is to “bide hertime” until the situation is more conducive to negotiation. Joanne’s storyemphasises the limits within which managers can operate and influencechange.SusanSusan is an academic and programme leader at the same university asMartin. When she joined the university she took on the job of redesigning theexisting POT scheme with the aim of increasing participation, embedding aculture of collaboration and sharing of best practice. Her main challenge thatemerged during the interview was how to engage staff unwilling to commit tothe scheme. Some experienced teachers did not consider it necessary totake part, since they considered that there was “nothing wrong with theirteaching”; others gave the scheme low priority, as they were more interestedin their research activities. Participation did increase, and Susan cited thewidening of the scheme beyond observation of teaching in the classroom toinclude the review of online learning and teaching as a factor in this success. 32
  33. 33. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentCraigCraig is head of learning and teaching at a London based college offeringprofessional qualifications as well as undergraduate and postgraduatedegrees. His main challenge that emerged during the interview was thedevelopment and implementation of a POT scheme with a view to “developthe collegiate” and “improve consistency across programmes”. Craig wasgiven comparably free reign to design the scheme as he saw fit, taking intoaccount the projected growth of students and subsequent increase staffnumbers during the next year as well as the need to individual staffdevelopment into the schemes design. To this end his key strategy has beento implement a scheme comparable to Gosling’s collaborative model (2005)that focuses on team building and acclimatising teachers to peer observation,with a view of modifying the scheme later to focus on developing individualteacher performance.PhilipPhilip is the head of learning and teaching at a college affiliated to the onewhere Craig is based. The college offers professional qualifications, withsome students sponsored by commercial organisations. He has a dedicatedteam of staff who carry out all observations and review the teacher’sperformance using coaching methods. In this respect the POT model iscomparable to Gosling’s developmental model (2005).As a private sector organisation there is pressure to compete effectively withother institutions offering similar programmes. The performance of teachers inthe classroom is considered a key factor in maintaining their reputation andcompetitive edge, to the extent that existing and prospective clients areallowed into the classroom to observe teachers. From this perspective themodel is more akin to Gosling’s evaluative model (2005).Although teachers have industry experience relevant to the subject matterbeing taught the majority do not have previous teaching experience. To thisend the main challenge that emerged during the interview was the need toensure staff received adequate teacher training in a relatively short space of 33
  34. 34. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmenttime and to prepare them for observation by clients. The use of classroomobservation was seen as an important element in this regard, and since theexisting scheme was considered to be inadequate Philip was given a remit byhis manager to make changes to the scheme as he saw fit.On Teacher Resistance and Reluctance to Participate in POTAs was discussed in the literature review, resistance or reluctance to take partin peer observation can surface for a variety of reasons. Even whenparticipation in a scheme is compulsory, without the necessary buy-inteachers may still manifest other forms of non-participation, for example bypushing it lower down in their priority and arguing that they do not have timeto take part. Alternatively they may comply without engaging in the spirit of thescheme and thus gain no real benefit. I was therefore interested in exploringthe particular challenges faced by the interviewees in their capacity asmanagers and their approach to dealing with problems they had encounteredin relation to teacher resistance and reluctance.The main issue facing Martin is one echoed across the literature, namelyteacher suspicion about the motives of the scheme and its imposition bymanagement. Resistance to the scheme was reinforced by what Martinreferred to as “powerful members of staff”, a turn of phrase that echoedJoanne’s reference to the “unusually powerful” union branch she had to dealwith who had “a capacity to block management decisions”. Susan facedresistance from staff who were either more interested in their research or feltthey had nothing to gain from taking part, since they considered themselvesas highly experienced.Susan’s inclusion of online learning and teaching into the scheme wasdesigned to engage staff concerned about being observed in the classroomas well as widening the scope beyond the narrow remit of classroom teaching.Despite her good intentions some teachers who considered themselves“technophobes” were fearful about exposing their inadequacies in a virtuallearning environment and putting their jobs at risk. Newer members of staff 34
  35. 35. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentwere more keen to take part, a phenomena also reported by Craig whoadditionally noted that staff could be as concerned about observing as beingobserved as they were not comfortable about being in a position of judgementover their peers. Philip had to deal with the lack of self-confidence staff had asa result of problems with the scheme he had inherited; “I felt that having thesetutors having that in the back of their minds was preventing them fromdeveloping”.On the Need for TrustAs has been argued, if POT is to be successful in its aim of enabling teachersto reflect on, learn from and develop their practice, a culture of trust andopenness is necessary before teachers are willing to expose their perceivedweaknesses without fear of reprisal. As Joanne states, such an environmentis important for student as well as staff learning: “I really believe that you haveto feel fairly safe to learn. Because you don’t take risks, you act defensively,and that kind of shuts down learning. For all of us, students and teachers …they have to believe the institution cares about them and their students”.Aims and principles need to be clearly defined and communicated forteachers to have confidence and trust in a scheme’s intentions. Any confusionor disagreements between parties can cause mistrust and suspicion, resultingin resistance to participation. Craig commented that peer observation was: “Not a particularly easy thing to manage … because they’re so … muddied, and they’re used for so many different things … but once you get it clear, most staff will opt in. If the person leading it doesn’t necessarily have a clear idea about why we’re doing it or why it’s structured the way it is, I think you get a lot of resistance that’s simply just about, ‘I want to know what it’s being used for’”.A prime illustration of this confusion is Joanne’s description of the conflictingviews between unions and senior management about the scheme she wasresponsible for: 35
  36. 36. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignment ”The university management believed we were implementing a managerial teaching observation scheme that was driven by a concern about performance and an ability to intervene if teaching was not adequate ... and the unions thought we had a developmental, anonymous peer observation teaching scheme that could only be turned into performance monitoring if performance issues had already been formally made about a member of staff”.Whether this discrepancy was a result of lack of clarity in the officialdocumentation is a moot point, however Joanne’s comment that thedocumentation served as “an example of how not to do a scheme” could beindicative of either a problem of clarity or the guidelines being too open tointerpretation. However, as Martin’s experience shows, making a clear andunambiguous statement that the scheme was essentially collegiate in designand would not be used as a management tool is not by itself sufficient to gainthe commitment of staff. Philip also had the challenge of persuading histeachers that the performance based system he inherited had changed to amore developmental one: “what we continually work hard on is to create thefeeling that we’re there to help them”.On the Need for AdvocacyAlthough teachers may want to participate, participation may be low down intheir priorities; therefore managers need to consider additional ways ofgaining and maintaining staff interest. The resistance to Martin’s scheme forexample was exacerbated by competing problems affecting the university atthe time: “you’ve got to contextualise this - there has been a lot going on herelately. Something like peer observation is not really big on the agenda”.Teachers will not pro-actively seek out the documentation themselves andread about the benefits of peer observation. As the quotes I cited in myintroduction section imply, leadership is required to promote the benefits andraise the profile of the scheme above competing priorities. 36
  37. 37. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentManagers need to continually be vocal about the benefits of POT in order todemonstrate its importance and maintain the commitment of teachers - it isnot enough to simply initiate the scheme and expect it to happen, as Craigstates: “what I do think [POT] needs is constant advocacy. And that advocacyrole of leadership is very important”. Constant advocacy is also an imperativefor gaining the support of senior management as well as teachers, as wasrecognised by Martin who made certain that POT was a standing item on thelearning and teaching committee, “which was useful in driving it through”. ForCraig, advocacy for the scheme was also about advocating the students’interests, the indirect beneficiaries of peer observation: “Within a lot of competing priorities, people will prioritise things which have more impact on them, than necessarily impact on students, certainly the way I view my role about peer observation is very much as advocating it, because the student doesn’t have a voice in order to make it happen”.Joanne’s view further emphasises the need for the improvement of studentlearning to be the focus and therefore the overriding concern of POT: “I think the culture we have had in higher education, in that ‘everything in my teaching is private and nobody has a right to look at it’ is not helpful, I think it’s wrong. I think it should all be up for looking at. I think our responsibility to the student is much greater than our responsibility to a professional’s work not to be scrutinised.”One way of demonstrating advocacy and thus communicating the value of thescheme is to lead by example. Martin cited the low number of staff from theeducation and teaching subject department taking part in the scheme as areason for others not getting involved. It was important for this particularfaculty to be seen to be participating since it was assumed they would, byimplication of their subject expertise, be comfortable with the idea of POT; 37
  38. 38. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentnon-participation thus sent a message to others that POT was perhaps not soimportant. Philip’s strategy was to ensure all teachers at all levels wereobserved, in particular the team of staff responsible for conducting theobservations: “What I’ve tried to do is to establish a culture that everybody is observed at whatever level. So we will try and observe programme leaders who are teaching; we will observe all tutors at all levels, including the training team.”To genuinely advocate something one has to have belief in it. Belief insomething occurs when ones values are reflected in what is being advocated,which creates a sense of ownership. Ownership of the scheme is therefore asimportant for the manager as for the teachers participating in it. To achievethese ends, one needs the freedom to embed ones values in the design of anew scheme or the modification of an existing one. Philip’s managerrecognised the problems with the scheme he inherited and gave him thefreedom to change it as he saw fit: “In that sense it gave me the independence to reflect my [view that] a highly geared and structured coaching system will have a better chance of producing optimum performance in something like this, where performance is so important, than any other sort of helping structure in that sense. I’m a strong advocate of the benefits of coaching”.Such freedom is not always available however. Joanna’s experience led herto adopt a different strategy: “Although I would like to work on a scheme that was better and gave people more, at the minute it wouldn’t be worth my energy introducing that because there are so many blocks to the system. I could put all this energy in and it wouldn’t result in a better scheme. 38
  39. 39. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignment So I’m just going to bide my time until the time is right, and then I’ll put the energy in – at the minute I’ll just keep it ticking over.”On the Need for TrainingAs well as a commitment to participate, teachers need to be prepared toparticipate effectively. As is evident from the literature and the experience ofthe interviewees, problems can be avoided through adequate training as wellas effective communication making this an important issue for managers toaddress. Training however requires time and resources that may not alwaysbe available. The reality is that training can be limited to a single workshop orreduced to a set of written guidelines for staff to follow.The value of training was emphasised by Craig; “we were very careful to havea long-term training programme about observation”. His approach was toencourage teachers to “simply talk about what they observe, rather than whatthey think that means”, thus ensuring observers did not stray into evaluationterritory. Training was also a key element for Philip’s scheme, who has adedicated team of staff trained as coaches to carry out the observations.An interesting problem emerged in Philip’s case in relation to training. On theone hand he stressed the need for highly skilled observers to ensureconsistency of observation and quality of outcome: “I think it’s incrediblyimportant that people who do observe are skilled and trained in the process”.On the other hand he had to manage the fact that potential clients, who maynot have any formal training or experience in peer observation, could comeinto the classroom and make judgements about the quality of teaching andlearning based on what they saw. The issue here is that they may focuspurely on the teacher’s performance rather than focus on the student learninggoing on in the classroom, an issue with POT schemes based on Gosling’sevaluative model (2005) as was discussed in the literature review. Philipconceded that: “It is a dilemma, but it’s one we’ve worked very hard at. We’ve tried to give the observers a clear remit of what they’re looking for – and 39
  40. 40. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignment make the staff aware of what we’re looking for as well from day one of their training. And that is a proper student centred exercise that’s not like a virtuoso performance”, adding that in his experience, “the visits were very good in that sense because they were always concentrating particularly on the learning aspects of it”.On the Relationship Between Observer and ObserveeThere are arguments in the literature for and against the observer sharing theobservee’s subject knowledge. Two of the interviewees thought that peerobservation functioned more effectively when this was not the case. Joannevoiced a “very strong opinion” that having both parties from the samediscipline would be “a great disadvantage”, arguing that the benefit comes byhaving: “Someone outside, who looks at the teaching process from the point of view of the way the students are responding to the teacher, rather than the way the subject is being presented (by the teacher), or the understanding of the tutor of the subject. Without that you look really differently at the anthropological situation of the classroom”.Craig also highlighted the tendency for the observation to become overtlyteacher rather than student centred: “If (they are) in the same discipline, often it gets skewed into subject expertise … and teaching that sort of discipline, which is very useful but it does place more onus on having a certain type of experience”.On the Need to Provide Time and Space for POTThe goal of encouraging teachers to reflect on their own practice in a way thatwill lead to improved teaching and student learning is a long term one. To thisend teachers need the time and space to develop their practice, be it through 40
  41. 41. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentPOT or any other scholarly activity. Allocating time and space, for example byensuring POT is embedded into the teaching schedule, is also a way formanagers to demonstrate their support for the scheme by raising its priority.At the same time, if managers take on responsibility for making space in thetimetable, rather than teachers being left to organising the sessionsthemselves, it can be argued that there is then an expectation that teachersmust take part. For Martin, this presented a dilemma in light of the ethos ofthe scheme he was implementing: “I think that it will help if people are given hours for it in their timetable. This could be slightly dangerous as then management can say, ‘hey – you have to do this as it is on your timetable’. Maybe that’s getting away from what we agreed i.e. it wasn’t mandatory, however you can’t have it both ways, i.e. if its on your timetable you’ve been given the space to do it”.Craig highlighted his concern that the provision of extra time in the timetablespecifically for POT brought undue attention to itself, thereby amplifying itsproblems. Consequently, POT was divorced rather than integrated into thepractice of teaching; “I think extra time sometimes exacerbates the problems, because it’s seen as a bigger deal since you’re getting extra time to do this process. Where time is a factor, so they (teachers) are saying, ‘I’m not doing it because I don’t have enough time’, that is often not the key reason why they’re not doing it, because most people who want to do it will fit it in to the calendar. I feel I have made a mistake previously in managing these schemes in giving people time to do it. I think it blows it out of proportion and creates more problems than it solves most of the time.” 41
  42. 42. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentAlthough teachers who want to participate may well be more motivated to findthe time there is often an additional cost factor to consider, in particular forteachers who are paid by the hour, as was the case at my previousworkplace. For this reason I procured a budget from senior management tocover payments for two observation cycles per year, including time allocatedfor pre and post observation discussions. Such a budget is not alwaysforthcoming, particularly when there are much larger numbers of staff involved(my scheme was relatively small scale, involving only eight teachers). Parttime, hourly paid teachers often have other professional commitments relatedto the subject they teach. This can make it harder for them to schedule POTsessions, not only due to incongruity between the timetables of their separatepractices, but also the timetables of other teachers who they wish to observeor who may wish to observe them.Interestingly, at Joanne’s university the fact that a substantial number ofteachers were part-time and paid by the hour had an adverse impact onoverall staff participation. To begin with, many of these were employed belowthe minimum number of hours above which teachers were required toparticipate in POT; secondly, the incentive of paid hours to take part was notavailable to them. Hence the pool of teachers available to act as observerswas limited mainly to salaried staff, who were required to carry out other extracurricular duties hourly paid staff were not expected, or paid, to do. As sheexplains: “We’ve had a lot of people on casual contracts ... freelancing paid hourly … and it’s been very difficult to implement logistically because relative to the number of students we teach, there are very few staff on salaries, so people don’t really have the flexibility to do teaching observation. Those staff are very busy because they have to run all the meetings, do all the exam boards, see all the students, you know, it’s a very small core and ... logistically it’s actually pretty hard for them to free up enough time to go and see someone else’s teaching and give them feedback.” 42
  43. 43. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentOn the Need to Embed POT into Teaching PracticeIf POT is to be embedded into teaching practice it must be carried out withsufficient frequency for teachers to get accustomed to it as part of what theydo, rather than as an added extra. In Philip’s case, for example, althoughthere is only a requirement that a teacher is observed at least once per year,new staff are observed twice during the first three months of their teaching,which is also designed to prepare them for the additional observations ofexternal clients. As he explains: “A lot of people think it’s actually very positive to be observed by one of us because they get used to the process. And it’s less daunting when they get a third party … a majority of teachers will say ‘I’m not really aware that you’re there’ after a while, and that’s great.”Craig ensures his staff take part in POT at least three times per year: “mypersonal feeling is that once they get used to it’s usefulness, it’s easier tobring them on that journey so I think that starting off with the team building is astrategy for getting there.”If POT is to be embedded into everyday teaching practice, it must mergeseamlessly with other elements of what teachers do, bearing in mind thatteaching practice extends beyond formal practices such as classroomteaching (and POT) and includes informal practices such as the conversationsteachers have about what they do.An issue relevant to this argument that surfaced during the interviews was thetrend in recent years to remove staffrooms from institutional premises. Theinterviewees commented on the importance of staffrooms as an informalspace where teachers could discuss and debate educational issues thataffected them, share ideas and support each other. From Joanne’s 43
  44. 44. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N Assignmentperspective, the “facilitated reflection” that was one of the aims of POT was“what I find most useful, but that is the staffroom conversation”, noting that: “I think it’s really short sighted to take staffrooms away. You need staffrooms. You need to be in a community of practice; it’s one of the things I’d completely priorities in terms of space. I don’t think it’s a luxury, I don’t think it’s about you socialising or your comfort, I think it’s absolutely prerequisite for people acting as professionals.”Craig concurred in his statement that: “I do absolutely agree that the loss ofstaff social spaces has had a huge impact on the usefulness of peerobservation of teaching … providing other reflective opportunities is veryimportant to the success of a peer observation scheme.”As has been noted in the literature review, a key element of POT is thereflection that takes place on a community level, in particular within thecollaborative model of POT favoured by teachers in universities. If it isaccepted that in some cases knowledge and insight gained from POT is notformally documented for wider dissemination, then the importance ofstaffrooms as an environment to share knowledge can be seen.On the Notion of ObservationThe university where Martin and Susan work reflects the trend away frompeer observation of teaching towards a wider remit of peer review of teachingand learning, as exemplified by the case studies described by Gosling (2009).Both of their departments now operate a peer review scheme where staff can,for example, review online learning materials as well as traditional classroomactivities. Martin and Susan concurred that staff seemed more willing toparticipate in a scheme that did not focus purely on classroom activities.Joanne argued that: “I actually think the student experience is something much bigger, much more complex, much less tangible than being in the classroom and seeing what the teacher does.” 44
  45. 45. Darren Gash. Student ID: 07058076. MA Education: EDPP39N AssignmentCraig made the point that: “We’re far too focused on the teaching. Peer observation of teaching is exactly that - it’s not peer observation of the classroom, the learning, or anything else. I think that that is its great failing, in that we haven’t made it student centred in the slightest.”Interestingly, there were conflicting views about the appropriateness of either‘observation’ or ‘review’ as a basis for such schemes, supporting Gosling’sinference that careful consideration of the terminology and its implications isrequired. Martin acknowledged that a factor in teacher resistance toparticipating in his scheme was their association of ‘observation’ with previousexperiences at the sharp end of an INSET (In Service Education and Training)inspection.Joanne’s negative reaction is similarly indicative of the term’s connotationswith being looked down upon by inspectors walking uninvited into theclassroom to pass summative judgement on teacher performance. Withreference to the “bloke in a suit and clipboard”, she described observation as“a horrible word!”, thus alluding to the disparity of power between observerand observed as opposed to the observee being in control of proceedings.Martin saw the advantage of review as opposed to observation in terms of itsusefulness: “review is a much more active word than observation". In thisrespect, the decision to adopt a review as opposed to an observation schemecan be seen as a positive one, rather than simply a reaction to observation’snegative connotations.Craig took the opposite view in his assertion that: “For me (review) sounds a lot harder and slightly less useful, because what we ultimately want from a teacher is good reflective 45

×