Recent Submissions

  • Global Computer Science Education

    Shilton, Greg (Computer Science Teachers Association of the United States of America, 2017-05)
    As a Computing/ICT Head of Department in a large secondary comprehensive school in Birmingham England, crystal ball gazing was an exercise in which I had to be skilled. One of the things that I prided myself upon was my ability to predict new developments before they happened, and better still, begin implementing subtle changes so that when the crunch truly came, we were ready. So, when the then Secretary of State Michael Gove made a speech at the BETT Show in 2012 and said those words that would define and shape our future; that the Department for Education were to consult upon “withdrawing the existing National Curriculum Programme of Study for ICT from September” (, it wasn’t a shock to me. The timescale surprised me, but then again, educational policy adjustment timescales often do.
  • Understanding leadership in higher education from a disability perspective

    Duncan, Neil; Williams-Findlay, Bob; Clifford, Angela; Emira, Mahmoud; Taysum, Alison; Brewster, Stephanie; City and Guilds, London; University of Leicester (British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society, 2015-07-12)
    There is considerable evidence of widespread exclusion of disabled people from the labour market generally (Bebbington 2009); and in the lifelong learning sector Fullick described a situation of "widespread institutional discrimination against disabled staff" (2008:1). Furthermore, there is a lack of disabled people in senior and leadership positions in the sector. This research project explored how disabled staff in one University perceive leadership, the barriers preventing them from taking on leadership roles and how they could be supported to overcome these challenges. Many participants aspired to leadership and reported positive experiences. But many identified barriers such as the nature of their impairments, lack of appropriate support, inadequate training and development and the competitive organisational culture that could impact on their health and work-life balance. Participants felt that investment in supportive opportunities for professional development was needed, along with improved awareness of equality and diversity among managers and colleagues.
  • Can inspectors really improve the quality of teaching in the PCE sector? Classroom observations under the microscope

    O'Leary, Matt (Taylor & Francis, 2006)
    For some years now, teachers in the post compulsory sector have been lambasted in educational circles for what some perceive as the poor quality of teaching and learning in classrooms. Such criticisms have tended to emanate from those responsible for inspecting the sector’s provision. In fact, when Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) and the ALI (Adult Learning Inspectorate) took over responsibility from the FEFC (Further Education Funding Council) for post compulsory inspections, it made it clear that as part of its remit, it would endeavour to bring about an overall improvement in the standards of teaching and learning in classrooms. This ‘improvement’ was to be based significantly on the strengths and weaknesses identified by inspectors in classroom observations. This paper examines the role that classroom observation has to play as a tool for teacher assessment and development in external inspections and similar schemes within the post compulsory sector. It is argued throughout that current models of classroom observation, which typically involve some form of appraisal or assessment of the teacher’s performance, run contrary to the principles of teacher development and as such do little to improve the overall quality of teacher performance. The position postulated in this paper is that such approaches to observation tend to induce a culture of negatively charged emotions and focus on the more trivial features of teaching. Furthermore, instead of providing teachers with the opportunity to develop their own ability to reflect on, and assess, their teaching, they tend to rely too heavily on the subjective judgements of inspectors/observers. In conclusion, this paper contests that if future classroom observation schemes are serious about improving the standards of teaching and learning in the post compulsory sector, then they must move towards a more equitable model in which both teachers and learners themselves are actively involved in the process of assessment.
  • Exploring the role of lesson observation in the English education system: a review of methods, models and meanings

    O'Leary, Matt (Taylor & Francis, 2012)
    Lesson observation has a longstanding tradition in the assessment and development of new and experienced teachers in England. Over the last two decades it has progressively emerged as an important tool for measuring and improving professional practice in schools and colleges. This article reviews literature across the three education sectors (i.e. schools, further education and higher education) in order to compare and contrast the role of observation. In doing so it discusses the key themes and issues surrounding its use in each sector and identifies common and contrasting patterns. It argues that in schools and further education, observation has become increasingly associated with performance management systems; a dominant yet contested model has emerged that relies on a simplified rating scale to grade professional competence and performance, although the recent introduction of ‘lesson study’ in schools appears to offer an alternative to such practice. In higher education, however, there is limited evidence of observation being linked to the summative assessment of staff, with preferred models being peer-directed and less prescribed, allowing lecturers greater autonomy and control over its use and the opportunity to explore its potential as a means of stimulating critical reflection and professional dialogue about practice among peers.
  • Earthquakes, cancer and cultures of fear: qualifying as a Skills for Life teacher in an uncertain economic climate

    O'Leary, Matt; Smith, Rob (Taylor & Francis, 2012)
    The Skills for Life (SfL) initiative followed the Moser Report (1999) and incarnated a Third Way agenda that sought to address England's perceived adult skills deficit. SfL marked a large investment in adult education but also a distinct shift to a more focused, instrumentalist role for Further Education (FE) in England. A new structure of teacher standards and qualifications underpinned this development with its own, newly devised and matriculated knowledge base. Teachers emerged from these new programmes with subject specialisms in Literacy, Numeracy and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). The landscape that these ‘new professionals' have entered is one that suggests the autonomy of colleges within a competitive market, but this disguises a funding methodology that facilitates ongoing centralised policy intervention. In the last two years policy makers have used this funding methodology to shift monies decisively towards 14-19 provision and away from adult education. This article draws on qualitative data from a study into the experiences of pre and in-service SfL teachers in the final stages of qualification. The data explore the impact of these latest movements in the FE market on these student teachers who are qualifying in some of the newest subjects in FE.
  • New Public Management in an age of austerity: knowledge and experience in further education

    Smith, Rob; O'Leary, Matt (Taylor & Francis, 2013)
    This article originates in a piece of educational research into the experiences of further education (FE) student teachers in the West Midlands region of England. This cohort of students experienced significant upheaval in their college workplaces and placements during the 2010/2011 academic year. Pressures on FE funding were exacerbated by a Comprehensive Spending Review by the coalition government in late 2010 – prompted by the on-going global economic crisis. Some of the repercussions of these funding cuts for staff and students in the sector are discussed in this article, as perceived by this cohort of student teachers working in a range of FE providers across the West Midlands. Many of these repercussions can broadly be seen as an extension of existing managerialist practices, as the justification for an increasing squeeze on local resource allocation continues to be a wider appeal to global market ‘realities’. But we theorise that new public management (NPM) plays an important role in a reductive kind of knowledge production for policy-makers which fuels and legitimises on-going policy intervention, and we see this as an important shaping force in the emerging professional identity of these new teachers
  • Surveillance, performativity and normalised practice: the use and impact of graded lesson observations in Further Education colleges

    O'Leary, Matt (Taylor & Francis, 2013)
    In little over a decade, the observation of teaching and learning (OTL) has become the cornerstone of Further Education (FE) colleges’ quality systems for assuring and improving the professional skills and knowledge base of tutors. Yet OTL remains an under-researched area of inquiry with little known about the impact of its use on the professional identity, learning and development of FE tutors. This paper examines the specific practice of graded OTL and in so doing discusses findings from a mixed-methods study conducted in 10 colleges situated across the West Midlands region of England. Data from a questionnaire survey and semi-structured interviews were analysed within a theoretical framework that drew largely on aspects of Foucauldian theory as well as the twin phenomena of new managerialism and performativity. This analysis revealed how OTL has become normalised as a performative tool of managerialist systems designed to assure and improve standards, performance and accountability in teaching and learning. It is argued that FE has now outgrown graded OTL and it is time for a moratorium on its use. Colleges and tutors need to be given greater professional autonomy with regard to OTL and be allowed to develop their own systems that place professional learning and development at the forefront, rather than the requirements of performance management systems.
  • Expansive and restrictive approaches to professionalism in FE colleges: the observation of teaching and learning as a case in point

    O'Leary, Matt (Taylor & Francis, 2013)
    What it means to be a ‘professional’ in further education (FE) in England has been the subject of ongoing debate over the last two decades. In an attempt to codify professionalism, New Labour developed a package of reforms, crystallised by the introduction of professional standards and qualifications and a new inspection framework under Ofsted. These reforms reflected a political desire to improve FE teachers’ professional skills and knowledge and prioritised teaching and learning as the main driver for ‘continuous improvement’. The observation of teaching and learning (OTL) subsequently emerged as a pivotal tool with which to evaluate and measure improvement, whilst also promoting teacher learning and development. Drawing on recent research into the use of OTL, this paper focuses on two case-study colleges in the West Midlands, whose contrasting OTL practices serve to exemplify expansive and restrictive approaches to professionalism in FE.
  • Raising the stakes: classroom observation in the further education sector in England

    O'Leary, Matt; Brooks, Val (Taylor & Francis, 2014)
    Successive governments in England have regarded classroom observation as an essential tool for monitoring and improving teacher performance. Despite its importance in national policy for teacher development, the impact of classroom observation on individual teachers, and on improving quality and standards in teaching and learning, remain under-researched areas. Further education (FE) in general, and FE teachers in particular, have received sparse attention. This paper adopts a theoretical framework grounded in aspects of assessment theory to explore some of the consequences of using observation to assess, monitor and raise standards of classroom performance in the FE workforce. It draws on findings from a mixed-methods study, involving questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, conducted in 10 FE colleges situated across the West Midlands region of England. The paper concludes by situating the findings against the broader backdrop of research into teachers’ continuing professional development and, in so doing, raises questions about the fitness for purpose of prevailing observation assessment regimes in FE and the extent to which these systems are able to achieve their purported goals.