EDUCATIONAL ECOSYSTEM: THE VALUE OF NEW EVALUATION SYSTEM
University of Salento, Italy
When the School is supported by an interdependent and diversified education system, in its educational actions of citizenship growth, sustainability representation, coherent expression of equity, the factors of dispersion and poverty seem to be more contained. The integrative education system – moreover, never intentionally implemented by national policies - could be represented by the emerging educational ecosystem metaphor. This perspective presumes some interrelated aspects. Firstly: the School is an ecosystem itself, just as every single school represents its own and different one. This means that the learning and education outcomes are the consequence of the choices operated within a specific ecosystem. Its roots are nourished by a territory with its meso-specificities, by a culture of the School, by the research that comes close to the daily practices of teachers. Secondly: the ecosystem climate is what its inhabitants “breathe”, generated by the quality of relationships, by the capacity to modify any practice through the evolution of contextualized and connected learning communities, by becoming a “pedagogical place”. Thirdly: the ecosystem is a communicative network that feeds - and feeds on - knowledge and cultures, training and continuos learning, research and development. The ecosystem co-evolves, co-generates and co-operates for its development: it is necessary to and for the life of its living beings. Keeping it in fair equilibrium is a common good and a good in itself. Therefore, autopoiesis and structural- coupling are fundamental processes for ecosystem maintenance and evolution. Enhancing ecosystem sustainability is giving shape to bio-diversities and their possibility of survival. Considering the School as an ecosystem has consequences: - it is necessary to look at the conditions in which it grows, as a common good. Taking care of it means creating autopoietic micro-climates, autonomous in the definition of constraints and resources, in order to carry out the task of educating intelligent and intellectual people. Recognizing bio-diversities, and enhancing them is an act of justice towards the incessant work of women and men who generate capital daily; - in addition to the heterodirect competences - never finished index, remodeled at every transformation, mirror of a system unable to recognize the specific aims to the different school levels and the Constitution declarations - it is necessary to achieve the recognition of the foundamental conditions necessary to keep in good health those who generate daily capital: first of all the continuous learning meant as co-research and based on co-assessment of needs, which co-builds learning experiences; - the territory must be interpreted as an extended, original educational system of the communities, therefore an ecological place for participation and experience, in a didactic continuum that recognizes and creates proximity, inter-cultural-generational-professional, which becomes a place of humanity and service through learning. School meant as an ecosystem needs policies that are able to recognize it as a place of research, growth of intelligence, equity and difference; where the evaluation returns the value generated and discriminates what is necessary for improvement, and at the same time “educates” at the innovation as a self-directed, social and democratic mindset.
EMPOWERING THE SCHOOL. A RESEARCH-INTERVENTION APPROACH TO VALUE SCHOOL PRACTICES FOR INNOVATION
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Italy
The frame of the panel gives the opportunity to reflect about some research-intervention experiences in the light of the three topics that structure the frame: the social and civil mission of school, the deep knowledge of the schools, the meaning of evaluation. In particular, this communication focuses on some fundamental methodological choices at the basis of many research-intervention projects with schools, conducted by CeRiForm – Researc Center on Educational Policies - of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.
The approach proposed to schools aims to the empowerment of the institute and its actors. Beyond the specific thematic content of the requests from schools, the intervention unfolds supporting the development of skills like: to objectify the school practices and dynamics; reflective self-analysis; critical analysis of the context, the perspectives, the strengths and weaknesses ; research as a structural operating style of the school in its various activities (planning, teaching, organization, etc.); valuing internal and external resources; developing partnerships and intra- and extra-school synergies; monitoring and evaluation of activities, projects, etc. In summary, the work agreed with schools limits the transmission of knowledge / skills by experts to a minimum; it rather helps schools to know and value their own resources e to strengthen and develop them through strategic projects and partnerships.
This approach – each time agreed in its implementation details with every single institute / network of institutes – relates to the three plans described by the panel. The school, working to objectivate and to analyse itself and its practices and to focus on achievable goals, is pushed to deal with its social and civil mission and to pursue it by making its activities and plans consistent with that.
Such work allows schools to get a deeper knowledge of themselves and to drive implicit dynamics and practices to become explicit and reflected knowledge. In fact, for the experts team too that is an excellent opportunity to know the everyday school: teachers and principals acts a huge amount of professional “knowledge in action” - acted rather than declared; every day they have to find solutions to old and new problems, to adapt their routines to changing students, contexts, colleagues, requests, etc. There is an underknown web of innovation in practices, deeply rooted into the contexts, that makes schools working and that should be valued also in a policymaking perspective.
Evaluation is at the center of this approach both because it is often the specific topic on which schools require support and because, whatever the issue from which the request originates (evaluation of learning, self-evaluation of the institute, impact evaluation of the school projects, evaluation of the training courses for teachers, etc.) the path followed leads to the awareness that these evaluation fields must all be strategically linked to each other and that evaluation is first of all a lever at the service of the institute as a whole and of each actor in it.
ASSESSMENT, POWER, SUBJECTIVATION PROCESSES. BIOPOLITICAL-TRANSDISCIPLINARY HYPOTHESES
Università telematica Pegaso, Italia
This essay aims to investigate the relation between learning assessment and biopolitical dispositifs as follows:
- Postulate: dispositif is «literally anything that has in some way the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings» (Agamben, 2009, 14).
- Corollary: a dispositif «must always imply a process of subjectification, that is to say, they must produce their subject» (Agamben, 2009, 11).
- First hypothesis. Learning assessment, both within micro- and macrosystem, is a dispositif of disciplinary power (cfr., e.g., Foucault, 1975, 137-173 and 186-196).
- Second hypothesis. Assessment dispositifs enable processes of subjectivation (cfr., e.g., Bloom, 1979, 178-194).
- Third hypothesis: Processes of subjectivation, as enabled by assessment dispositifs, are ambivalent (cfr., e.g., Bazzicalupo, 2013).
- Recognition. Since the late1980s onwards, the production of dispositifs to assess and develop the students’ inner disposition has been increasing.
- Fourth hypothesis. Assessment and development dispositifs represent a proposal to formalize moral education.
- Fifth hypothesis. Assessment dispositifs represent a technique of non-religious and often structured confessional, deeply effective in holding over students.
- Sixth hypothesis. Assessment dispositifs have a biopolitical nature (Agamben, 1995; Foucault, 2004).
The aforementioned hypotheses do not apply immediately. But they are, at least partly, conceivable, thus it would be appropriate to involve them in a research program à la Foucault, that is, a transdisciplinary research program – with all due respect for the disciplinary-scientific classification. Such a program should investigate the mutual legitimation between power and knowledge and, more specifically, between power and docimological knowledge. Research findings are unpredictable. They would clearly deal with assessment and, more generally, paideia, as a whole of political deeds and works. In this respect, it will be essential to define the meaning of “biopolitics”, as it could challenge the relation between Education and Democracy.
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SUPPORTING INNOVATION IN DAILY SCHOOL LIFE: LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE FIELD
Catholic University "Sacred Heart", Italy
School systems require innovation to adapt to a constantly changing society; the success of learners in fact is highly dependent on the capacity of the school system to manage different needs and to keep pace with rapid societal and economic changes. As a consequence, both at national and international level, schools are pushed to adopt innovative approaches (OECD, 2013). However, changing without reflecting on processes, meanings and implications can have negative effects: change is not in itself positive (Biondi, 2020). Innovating, in fact, is more than changing: it is bringing real benefit to subjects and contexts involved (Checchi, Chiosso, 2019; OECD, 2019). In this way promoting real innovation in daily school is necessary: being aware of school functioning at micro level; adopting a bottom-up approach (OECD, 2013); involving a wide range of internal and external stakeholders; enhancing the resources of the local context (Anderson, Herr, 1999).
In any event, schools can’t manage this challenge alone. Universities can support them by offering methodological training, which is a critical driver for putting innovation into school practices (Pirard, Barbier, 2012). Specific support training will be described from the point of view of the researcher (Montalbetti, 2017). Therefore, the researcher is required to recognize teachers as holders of a “knowledge in action” (Anderson, Herr, 1999; Barbier, 1996) and to mediate between different cultures and languages (Desgagné, Bednarz, 2005) by adopting a participatory, dynamic and flexible approach (Biasin, 2010). Supporting schools also gives the researcher the opportunity to learn about innovation from the inside in its daily and concrete development (Paul, 2016).
In this paper, moving from the presentation of some different cases (in terms of: duration, number and type of subjects involved, specific work object), some practical implications for researchers and for schools are highlighted; in these experiences teachers and schools have been guided in defining innovative educational practices and in structuring evaluation tool design.
Supporting innovation at micro level by adopting this methodological approach needs sharing of purposes by all those involved. It is a complex, challenging and “time consuming” process that allows the university to place itself at the service of school improvement.
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EDUCATIONAL INNOVATION: MAKING SENSE OF PRACTICES, CHANGING MEANING PERSPECTIVES
Università della Valle d'Aosta, Italia
The contribution aims to discuss, from a pedagogical point of view, the issue of positive change in educational contexts. Drawing inspiration from a case study concerning a project of innovation of practices in the evaluation area at school, the topic will be treated with reference to the promotion of pathways to earn transformations of meaning perspectives (Mezirow, 2000), capabilities (Nussbaum, 2011) and emancipating processes (Freire, 1967).
Starting from a demand for training by a high school having a long educational tradition, formulated in a phase of significant organizational changes that led to reconsider the cultural identity of the school, an action- research was conducted to support an educational innovation about evaluation practices. It was an opportunity to set in motion and govern processes of co-construction of knowledge, of reworking of "knowledge of action" (Barbier, 1996) according to a critical-transformative approach (Orefice, 1997, Dirkx 1998), in a context of experiential learning and reflective practices inspired by the epistemology of the practice developed by Schön (1983), namely its transpositions in the educational field (Leitch, Day, 2000) as well as in teacher training (Mortari, 2004; Guillaumin, Pesce, Denoyel, 2009). We questioned in depth the professionalism of teachers in relation to their practices, investing in the construction of meanings and on the ability to pose problems with clarity and relevance. For a whole school year, 12 teachers were involved voluntarily in the action-research group, and all of the 73 teachers in the institution participated in the data collection, the wider debate and the follow-up. The outcomes were progressively discussed with respect to (1) the internal coherence of the identity dimensions that emerged, (2) the relationship between evaluation practices and the conception of the school’s mission, (3) the positive changes to be promoted, their validity, practicability and sustainability.
Beyond the specific results and developments of this action-research, the case study offers insights to illustrate and deepen in the "school innovation" construct (1) some pedagogical dimensions, such as intentionality; (2) some processes, such as persistence, resistance and marchandage; (3) some assumptions, such as frames of reference; (4) some strategies, such as active development methodologies.
This analysis enhances the interest of a pedagogical approach to the genesis and implementation of innovation, which (1) is configured and developed through a critical-creative expansion of the meanings, (2) leads to new perspectives of meaning for the reading of a given educational theme or problem, (3) welcome them critically in view of a conscious choice of a change, considered positive in the adopted system of reference. In fact, the evaluation of the improvement of change is not given a priori but depends on the interpretative keys available: positive change is located, in a genuine and necessary way, in a horizon of sense continuously de-built, co-built and re-built. The pedagogical commitment is then deployed in the shared research of conceptually founded meanings, ethically oriented, able to feed and interrogate recursively teaching practices, thus increasing the opportunities of agency in order to improve the educational offer.