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Teachers’ perspectives on how collaborative engagement with pedagogic principles to challenge fixed-ability grouping allowed them to re-consider and reframe their practice in English primary schools

Wright, Phliip (2023) Teachers’ perspectives on how collaborative engagement with pedagogic principles to challenge fixed-ability grouping allowed them to re-consider and reframe their practice in English primary schools. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

This small-scale qualitative study presents a thematic analysis of 15 initial surveys, focus group transcripts and 15 interviews with English primary school teachers who participated in a six-month long community of practice that allowed them to engage with the key ideas related to ‘Pedagogy for Transformability’ (PfT) (Hart et al., 2004) – an approach to teaching and learning which challenges notions of fixed abilities and the practices which emanate from them.

The research was conducted following the publication of the Conservative Government’s White Paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere (Department for Education (DfE), 2016). The Paper promised autonomy for schools who successfully improved academic outcomes for the children in their care, and in particular the outcomes for ‘disadvantaged’ children. Within this remit, the discourses of autonomy and raising academic standards for all, arguably creates a fault line of friction within the neo-liberal mechanisms of accountability, and an opportunity to explore approaches which reportedly meet the needs of all children.

The participants, all from the same multi-academy trust (MAT), engaged with two sessions of continuing professional development related to the core principles of PfT – Trust, Everybody and Co-agency (Hart et al., 2004) - before exploring how these principles might be enacted in their own classrooms, in the teaching of mathematics, where typically fixed ability thinking and practices are most prevalent (Boaler et al., 2000; Solomon, 2009). Through three cycles of exploration and focus group discussions, practice and understanding were shared and participant perspectives were recorded. Through semi-structured interviews at the conclusion of the project, their summative reflections were also gathered. Thematic analysis was used to interpret their perspectives.

The findings highlighted themes of control, competence and confidence which captured the perceived barriers and benefits of the implementation of PfT for both teachers and learners. Teachers’ sense of personal mathematical competence, professional identity and implicit theories related to ‘ability’, were inhibitors to them relinquishing elements of control of the learning process to the children. However, having reflected on how they might help the children make competent choices about the work they engaged with, and observed the children becoming more competent in their learning and confident in their learner identities, teachers’ confidence appeared to grow in rationalising and enacting their own pedagogic choices towards the implementation of PfT, and in their sense of professional competence, as they reported improvements in children’s learning capacity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Life Sciences and Education > Education
Depositing User: Library STORE team
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2023 08:45
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2023 08:49

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