Archive of European Projects

Polycentric inspections of networks of schools
Start date: 01 Sep 2014, End date: 31 Aug 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background and aim of the project Although significant improvements have been made in many European countries over the last five years, many countries still need substantial improvements to meet the 2020 benchmarks from the EU strategic framework for Education and Training. Education outcomes need to be improved according to the 2013 monitoring report, and schools need to continuously improve their provision and quality of teaching to meet these goals. Our previous work shows that Inspectorates of Education have an important role in driving school improvement, particularly in schools performing below inspection targets. Inspectorates of Education are however less well equipped to contribute to innovative and localized problem solving; their centralized top down approach enhances and legitimizes a ‘one size fits all’ strategy for success to national standards, encourage risk averse behavior in schools and window-dressing of successful rituals (see O’Day, 2002). Also inspection feedback is often distant (in time) from the behavior the feedback is related to and therefore does not contribute to the trialing and testing of new solutions. Many countries recognize the need to reshape their inspection systems and redefine the role of Inspectorates of Education to better fit localized decision-making and local structures and networks for improvement. These models are described as polycentric school inspections. Polycentric school inspections evaluate and assess the quality and functioning of networks of schools and/or their stakeholders, with the purpose of validating and supporting school to school improvement and cooperation at the local level. This project aims to develop and test these polycentric models of school inspections and specifically look at the mechanisms and context of their impact. Number and profile of participants A preliminary scoping exercise identified examples of polycentric school inspections in the Netherlands, England and Northern Ireland and examples being developed in Bulgaria. In each of these countries, researchers, Inspectorates of Education and a network of schools they will inspect are included as participants on this project. The extended project summary includes a description of each case and participating partners and how polycentric inspections will be evaluated in each country. Methodology and description of activities In the study we will use a case study approach to collect qualitative social network data in four countries about the knowledge exchange and interactions between schools and inspection organizations before, during and after an inspection visit and to learn about the role of school inspectors and the working methods they use, how these methods impact on improvement of schools and facilitate innovation and dissemination of knowledge. Additionally we will survey Inspectorates of Education across Europe (through the SICI network) to find good examples of polycentric inspections in other countries and use a literature review to evaluate their potential effectiveness for improvement of schools. The project will include the following four phases: • Phase 1: mapping four existing examples of polycentric school inspections • Phase 2: literature review and ex ante evaluation • Phase 3: scoping good examples across Europe (survey and document analysis of SICI profiles) • Phase 4: studying impact of four examples of polycentric inspections Description of the results and impact envisaged The results include scientific papers, written and video narratives on a website, data collection instruments, presentations to SICI and scientific conferences, a MOOC and an international symposium. Target groups for these results are the network of schools, their stakeholders and school inspectors in the four case studies in our project, as well as representatives of primary and secondary schools, teachers and head teachers, school boards, departments of Education in the countries in our project, and the European Association of Inspectorates of Education (SICI). Potential longer term benefits Long term impact is ensured through open access and active dissemination of our results to stakeholders (national Inspectorates of Education, SICI, OECD, researchers), participation of the researchers in a new Special Interest Group on ‘Educational Evaluation, Accountability and School Improvement’ of EARLI, and project partners’ role in editing a new book series on educational accountability.
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