International Council of Education Advisers: report 2016-2018

This is the first formal report of the International Council of Education Advisers (ICEA) following the initial two-year period of their appointment.

Cultural Change

90. The ICEA observes that embedded within Scottish education are important educational beliefs and values. The ICEA notes these values and beliefs as special to the culture of Scottish education and it encourages Scottish educational leaders to create a stronger narrative around these goals, which can then permeate the thinking and innovative practices in every classroom across Scotland. Equity and excellence for all, rather than the narrative of closing/reducing the poverty-related attainment gap, should encapsulate the vision, mission, and culture of Scottish education. The ICEA suggests that the narrative about Scottish education should be founded on professional agency, empowerment, improvement, and change, and not premised on the technical terminology of delivery, reform, and implementation. The ICEA notes the importance of high quality teaching and learning to support all students and to realise CfE. National, regional and local networks with, by, and for education professionals are, therefore, vital to develop, to share and to apply improved pedagogy.

91. The ICEA notes that the creation of robust and flexible tools and other supports for changing cultures, like CfE and increased Pupil Equity Funding, provide key resources within the school system. These resources can be used to work towards strengthening the culture in which values, beliefs, and practices are all united around equity and excellence for all, and the prime goal of closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

92. Cultures can be hard and slow to change. The ICEA notes, therefore, that the majority of educational stakeholders need to share the priority of equity and excellence for all (broadly defined) as a moral and educational imperative. They must also be knowledgeable about how to achieve this, as well as be deeply committed to developing the discourses, tools, and practices to bring about change.

93. The ICEA offers some insights and suggestions about generating and promoting productive cultural change to achieve the core aims and broad goals of Scottish education.

i. Creating structures for deep dialogue among and across all stakeholders within Scottish education about the established/historical culture of Scottish education, and aspects of that culture that may need to be enhanced or changed. These exchanges must ultimately move to members’ exploration of present, potential, and necessary shared values, belief systems, and practices that can enhance and transform cultures toward achieving educational goals.

ii. Analysis of the tools and resources available, and needed, to create cultural change. Currently in Scottish education the large investment in PEF can be seen as an indispensable resource to drive educational change. However, cultures do not change simply as a function of one or even several sets of resources and tools.

iii. CfE and the National Improvement Hub can also be understood as a set of powerful resources for developing more robust educational practices and improving student learning outcomes. Yet headteachers, teachers, and others who have those resources at their disposal also need to develop sound ways of curriculum analysis and innovation so that they thoughtfully design the curriculum and instructional tools and practices to best serve their unique student populations.

iv. An open stance toward learning new discourses (ways of thinking, believing, talking, and valuing) and practices. One consideration here for Scottish education, proposed by the ICEA, is whether, in line with Teaching Scotland’s Future recommendations, there needs to be greater emphasis on the preparation of new teachers, and professional development of mid-career and more established teachers by university-based teacher preparation programs (as these are also invested in the generation and application of the most powerful research-based knowledge and practices for teaching) as well as other reliable providers.

94. The ICEA recommends that the Scottish Government should work with Universities and other providers to further develop and implement the educational research strategy published in 2017. This will enhance the system’s capacity for independent research and evaluation, and build a Scottish empirical evidence base.

95. The ICEA proposes that the elements of culture and cultural change detailed above are present in the policy-related changes witnessed in Scottish education over the past two years. The ICEA proposes that by deeply examining new changes already underway, and those being considered, through the insights about cultures presented above, Scottish education can move more deliberatively and confidently toward achieving its goals.

96. The ICEA commends the drive and commitment to achieving equity and excellence for all as evidenced, in part, by the establishment of the RICs across Scottish education. The ICEA met several representatives of the professional associations at the September 2017 meeting in Glasgow, and met four of the new Regional Improvement Leads at the April 2018 meeting in Inverness. At both these meetings, the ICEA heard strong support for a move towards greater collaboration.

97. The Regional Improvement Leads reported on their progress towards building collaborative partnerships through the development of social and human relationships, building trust, listening to each other’s needs and goals for their constituents, and establishing shared goals and plans for improving educational outcomes for all young people.

98. The ICEA noted that some of the RICs, particularly those who had a longer history of working together across local authorities before the formalisation of the RICs, reported that collaboration was occurring both within and across schools. This included collaboration among teachers who were collectively inquiring to develop more effective approaches to advance student learning, and to close the attainment gap between young people coming from different social class backgrounds.

99. These examples of collaboration illustrate the significance of changing cultures through dialogue and collective engagement across communities. The ICEA noted, however, that several of the newly established collaboratives considered that they were still in the initial stages of building relationships and learning how to collaborate, and consequently had not yet achieved the level of school and teacher collaboration required for educational improvement.

100. Examples of collaboration in Scottish education and their impact on moving toward equity and excellence are clearly visible and documented (Chapman et al., 2014, 2016). Through collaborative inquiry, teachers and other educational stakeholders are developing deeper knowledge and stronger educational practices. The available evidence points to a positive impact upon educational outcomes for young people in areas of disadvantage.

101. The ICEA notes that collaboration and trust are strong aspects of strengthening the educational culture of Scotland. The ICEA recommends that the Scottish Government works with Education Scotland and local government to strengthen efforts across all RICs to continue to support professional collaboration and trust in and across schools and classrooms. The ICEA also advocates that there is support for the essential work of generating and supporting professional inquiry in schools, potentially led by a local university in partnership with the RICs.

102. The ICEA can see significant possibilities for RICs to continue working carefully on building collaboration and shared goals and initiatives at their level of the system - recognising the RICs themselves may need additional support for doing so - while simultaneously deploying professional support and resources to schools and teachers for learning how to collaborate effectively. The support and resources provided to schools and teachers around collaboration should serve a shared agenda of strengthening schools’ and teachers’ knowledge and practices of evidence-based approaches to powerful collaborative inquiry, through which they can feel empowered and knowledgeable in generating their own, as well as selecting from, high quality educational approaches to improving educational experiences and outcomes for all young people.

103. Through the ICEA’s engagements with RICs, schools, and teachers there is evidence to suggest that educators and others can benefit greatly in developing highly effective collaborative inquiry in Scotland. The ICEA encourages collaboration in its broadest sense as a central way of transforming the culture of Scottish education and moving it towards a self-improving system.


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