School Quality and Teacher Education (SQTE)
Oxford-Salzburg Project funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
An empirical study in England to inform quality development in schools and curriculum development for teacher education based at the Paris Lodron University of Salzburg and conducted partly during a Visiting Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford
Funded by the Austrian Science Fund with a research grant of € 317.000, the project School Quality and Teacher Education (SQTE) is led by Dr. Roland Bernhard (whose second doctoral thesis is embedded in this project) in close cooperation with Assoc.-Prof. Katharine Burn and Prof. Pam Sammons from the University of Oxford, Department of Education – and selected Austrian and international co-operators. Main project partners in Austria are Priv.-Doz. DDr. Ulrike Greiner and Univ.-Prof. Dr. Burkhard Gniewosz. The project is based at the School of Education at the Paris Lodron University of Salzburg, and it is partly being conducted within a Visiting Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford.
See a poster about the project that was presented at the University of Oxford on the 8th of Oct. 2018.
Main research interest – increasing outcomes and curriculum development
The project will examine how head teachers and teachers in highly effective and improving schools in England understand and develop school quality and how their experiences and knowledge can be made useful for quality development in schools and curriculum development for initial teacher education and continuous professional development in Austria and England (find more details about the research questions here).
In this context, special attention will be given to schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged students and with pupils who don´t speak English as a first language in the city of London (“London effect”) and in the so called “cold spots” or opportunity areas in England.
Find a case study of a highly effective school in London with more than 65 % disadvantaged students and with more than 80 % students who don´t speak English as a first language here. This school improved from a failing school to an outstanding school within the last 10 years through inspiring leadership.
Theoretical Framework – School Effectiveness and Improvement Research and Teacher Education Research
There are innumerable models and frameworks for schools, advocating many different ways of improving quality often based on limited empirical evidence. Practitioners and policy makers sometimes find it hard to work out those approaches that ‘really work’ from the range of the numerous different suggestions; that is, those which have the highest possible impact on students’ learning. The simple principle in medicine and industry, i.e. the ‘use what works’, is not strongly developed within school culture. Within the frameworks of School Effectiveness and Improvement Research and Teacher Education Research the SQTE project will focus on what “really works” and what works best in developing school quality in terms of achieving high impact on students’ learning, especially – but not only – for disadvantaged pupils (find more information about the theoretical framework here).
Research Design and project description – Mixed Methods
To answer the research-questions, a sequential mixed-methods research design is being employed (qual+quan) (find an illustration of the research design here). The project proposal was reviewed and approved by the Central University Research Ethics Committee(CUREC) at the University of Oxford. After a literature review, a qual+quan exploratory study was started. In the first part of the exploratory study the qualitative research instrument (interview guide) has been developed and it was determined in exploratory interviews in Austria how the project can provide the most useful contributions for the practice of school headteachers, school inspectors, as well as other people responsible for quality in the school system. In addition to that, a sample of highly effective and improving schools was identified, using Oftsted inspection reports as well as attainment and value-added measures such as the progress 8 score (find more information about the exploratory phase and the sample here). During that phase an international conference with the title International Perspectives on School Quality and Teacher Educationat the Paris Lodron University of Salzburg was organised as part of the project (see the conference leaflet here).
The main study consists of a qualitative strand that involves expert interviews with at least 40 head-teachers and teachers from highly effective schools in London and in other parts of England (a transcribed interview that was conducted in a school in London here). Interview participants are being recruited via an email sent to principals (see the official information leaflet which is sent to schools here). They are informed about the project and decide whether they want to stay fully anonymous or agree to be identifiable in publication about the research (see consent form here). The interview findings will provide the foundation for a series of hypotheses to be tested through a subsequent quantitative survey with teachers and head teachers. The combination of the qualitative and quantitative strand will make it possible to examine if the dimensions of quality that we found in the interviews can be mirrored in a quantitative sample.
In the next step of the project it will be asked – based on the empirical results – what teachers and head teachers need to learn to contribute to the best way possible to school quality respectively how can curricula of initial teacher education and continuous professional development be established in ways that support this process.
Anticipated far reaching effects
The project aims at achieving a comprehensive, forward-looking and practice-relevant understanding of “school quality” and determining ways of improving schools in the practice. The perspectives of teachers and head teachers, as central protagonists in schools in England, will not only enrich the academic discourse and help to understand school quality better, but shall also contribute practically-relevant stimuli for initial teacher education/continuous professional development and for evidence-based decision-making regarding school quality. Head teachers, school authorities and other responsible people within the school system shall be provided with opportunities to reflect and find inspiration in their work of developing schools and teacher education.
Part of the results of the project will inform the RTE project which is actually being planned, inter alia, by Katharine Burn at the University of Oxford. This project draws both on the pioneering research-based approach that underpinned the original Oxford Internship Scheme and on the more recent work of the Oxford Education Deanery which currently facilitates the continuing professional development of teachers at all career stages in local schools through supporting their engagement in and with research.