School Networks and Knowledge Mobilisation
European Conference on Educational Research
This proposal focuses on the study of knowledge mobilisation in educational organizations, within the framework of the new modes of regulation in educational systems and the use of regulatory instruments in public action. The redistribution of responsibilities at national, regional and local levels changed regulation processes in educational systems. Public action is now characterized by a complex regulation system promoted by different levels and actors, and new kinds of regulation emerge. School networks constitute a form of voluntary regulation of collaborative nature (Justino & Batista, 2014), as it derives from organizations or actors own will. Their joint action guides, conditions or influences the allocation and management of resources and the goals or results of educational action. According to Pons and Van Zanten (2007), changes in regulation processes are associated with the development of knowledge-based regulatory instruments. It is possible to assume that school networks can constitute new spaces for the creation and dissemination of those instruments. Our main theoretical question resides then in the role of knowledge for school organizations improvement, in the context of new modes of regulation in educational systems. More specifically, we are concerned about the mobilisation of knowledge-based instruments produced and disseminated within school networks to inform collective action in school organizations, namely to contextualize changes or make decisions (Choo, 2003). In order to explore these issues, a study is being conducted in a Portuguese school network: ESCXEL Project – School Network for Excellence. This network is based on a partnership between public schools of eight Portuguese municipalities, their local authorities, and CICS.NOVA, an interdisciplinary research centre. The main goal of the project is the continuing endeavour to improve quality and performance of ESCXEL schools. Two main axes of ESCXEL activities identified in a recent presentation (Batista, Gonçalves & Santos, 2014) are directly related to the issues previously discussed: benchmarking and collaborative learning. The benchmark of schools and municipalities results in national exams is the most consolidated network tool, in the form of indicators and reports. Other reports include monitoring students and classes’ progress within a pilot project on strategies of grouping pupils according to their performance profile in main subjects. As for collaborative learning, ESCXEL network organizes “good practices” seminars and professional training courses, events where teachers can discuss common problems and possible solutions or learn how to use research instruments to build and improve their self-assessment strategies. Our collaboration in this Project will allow us to explore two sets of research questions. On the one hand, those related to the characterization of knowledge instruments within the school network. How are they produced and disseminated? What is their nature? In what extend do they constitute regulatory instruments? How are they seen by school actors? Do they respond to school actors needs? On the other hand, questions to assess the use and effects of these instruments in school organizations. As stated by Bennet and Bennet (2007), knowledge mobilisation is a connection between knowledge produced by researches and social value that it can bring to organizations like schools. Knowledge produced and disseminated by researchers is important to stimulate a reflexive approach by teachers upon their educational practices, moreover if the new knowledge produced locally is based in a professional learning community, where it is shared and helps to elaborate collective know-how in order to improve students’ performance (Normand & Derouet, 2011). In this sense, we question: Do schools mobilize knowledge instruments produced by researchers? For what purposes and how do they use them? What are the effects of the mobilisation of knowledge instruments on educational practices and school results? Methods/methodology (400 words) Our participation in ESCXEL network since the beginning of the project, especially in seminars and professional training courses, has given us some empirical evidence that ESCXEL instruments are being differently used in schools. This different mobilisation may even be associated with variations on school performances: benchmarking reports show different progressions throughout the years in external exams. Apparently, there are a) schools where school directors and teachers are motivated to use ESXCEL instruments to improve; b) schools where directors are motivated but not many of the teachers; c) schools where instruments are not being mobilized. We will select three schools with diverse academic and socioeconomic realities, school results and that participate in different projects within ESCXEL network. In each case study data will be collected through organizational documents and semi-directed interviews. Through document analysis of pedagogical boards and department meetings proceedings, and schools educational projects, we will analyse what strategies or projects are being implement in school based on the knowledge created and disseminated by ESCXEL instruments. Interviews will be conducted to school directors to give us a general view, to department coordinators to understand how departments receive and apply school strategies, and to teachers identified in school reports as responsible for specific projects or that lecture in school levels identified as problematic in a school. An analysis of school results progress since the beginning of the partnership (2008) until 2014 will also be a part of each case study. Results from each case study will focus on the following dimensions: actors’ representations of ESCXEL instruments, relationships among professionals while using the projects’ instruments and in the mobilisation of knowledge, planning and content of work around knowledge instruments. All results of each case will be described and then compared to identify similarities and differences (Yin, 2009). We will use a multicase methods technique, which centres all cases around the same research questions (Khan and VanWynsberghe, 2008), and at the same time allows to understand each case study (Stake, 2006), according to its specific context. Expected outcomes/results (300 words) Our main aim is to contribute to the studies about knowledge mobilisation in education, especially about the effects that knowledge produced by researchers may have on schools, an area where more research is needed (Cooper, Levin, Campbell: 2009). The originality of this study resides mainly in the articulation between the area of knowledge mobilisation and the area of school networks, which constitutes a new form of regulation process in educational systems. Through the analysis of ESCXEL projects main activities and publications, we aim to characterize in a rigorous way knowledge-based instruments produced and disseminated within the network. With the point of view of school actors, we will be able to assess in what measure they constitute regulatory instruments, especially those that use benchmarking devices. Through the analysis of interviews and documents we aim to characterize how school actors mobilize knowledge produced within the network, what effects it might have in the dimensions identified above, namely on reflexive action, changes in educational practices and local institutionalisation of know-how to improve students and schools results. We work under the hypothesis that the mobilisation of knowledge will vary according to each school (and department) leadership style and school culture (Torres, 2011) towards change and improvement. Strong leaderships working in a school culture open to changes and committed with network activities will facilitate the mobilisation of ESCXEL knowledge-based instruments to improve educational and organizational practices in schools. At the same time, benchmarking of school results may have effects on school actors’ representations and practices, and contribute to change school and professional cultures in relation to evaluation (Normand & Derouet, 2011). School actors may feel more responsible over school and students’ results and develop reflexive practices from the analysis of ESCXEL knowledge-based instruments.
school network; regulatory performance; school improvement; knowledge-based instruments; collaborative learning