Published papers

Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity

 
Kevin Mc Dermott
Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Kevin Mc Dermott - Monday, 18 October 2010, 4:08 PM
 
I invite reviewers to send their comments on my paper Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity. I look forward to reading your replies.

Tim Cain
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Tim Cain - Sunday, 21 November 2010, 11:37 AM
 

This is a powerful and engaging article. It made me think about the way my personal life intersects with my teaching, and how important and emotionally draining events can help to re-focus me and challenge my priorities. (Although they can also have the damaging and negative effect of making me want to escape into my “cave”!)

However, I had to read it twice in order to make sense of it. The article states that it will approach the question “how have two key personal life events affected and enhance my commitment and resilience as a teacher?” and on first reading I felt that this question was not answered. On second reading I understood that the process of writing the essay had in itself answered the question, but this was not immediately obvious to me and I think the case might be made more powerfully if it were. On page 4, the paragraph which begins “at a time when there is a policy focus” appears somewhat disconnected from what has come before; it might be helpful to link this section more clearly with the two life events and the reflections which have flowed from them.

Personally I would prefer more structure to the essay, generally. A recurring theme is the tension between measurement, performativity and teacher effectiveness on the one hand and quality of educational experience on the other but I’m not sure we really get the case for the defence or the prosecution exactly, it’s more that there’s a series of issues that are deeply felt, although they don’t quite tie together. Also, the essay does not convince me that the two (measurement and quality) are entirely incompatible. One reason for this is that I do not get a flavour of how your life is affected by higher-level policy making. I understand that you feel marginalised but I do not know how your teaching is affected. What sort of information are you expected to impart? Why is such information absurd and empty? I also have a bit of a problem with the examples from your childhood. Although you feel that it was unimportant whether or not your father bought sufficient roles of wallpaper this is the sort of thing I would not like to get wrong! Perhaps measurement has some place, but its importance is being overstated?

The meaning of the statements, “We teach who we are” and “teaching emerges from our inwardness” is not clear to me that it might be helpful to expand on them. I think I understand, but these quotes brought to mind the main character in Graham Swift’s Waterland: a history teacher who has stopped teaching history and instead, tells his pupils stories from his own life – it is not a healthy way to be. (I’m sure you’re not arguing that it would be healthy but it might be better to sketch out the boundary between giving of yourself as a teacher, and giving of yourself as an adult friend.) Also, the paragraph on top of Page 5 which begins “Ebmeier and Nicklaus …” appears to be a second quote; is this right? If so, would it be helpful to link these two quotes?

In general this is a rich and inspiring essay which deserves to be published to a wide audience. Before it is, it might be helpful to structure the argument a little more clearly for people like me.

Kevin Mc Dermott
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Kevin Mc Dermott - Tuesday, 23 November 2010, 9:57 PM
 

Dear Jean and Tim,

Thank you for your comments on my paper. I think the fact that both of you found the paper difficult to navigate, on first reading, is instructive and I will re-read it with a view to seeing if I can make my intentions a little clearer, so that other readers might appreciate it at the level of ‘cognitive appreciation’, to borrow a phrase from Jean. 

In general, I think the paper would benefit from a more conscious attempt to make clearer connections between the different issues. I think I understand what these connections are – the challenge is to express them in a clear way that is consistent with the style I have tried to employ in writing the paper, in the first place.

Thank you, Jean, for raising the question of the suitability of the paper for the journal. I have always felt that ‘thinking’ is ‘doing’ and that it can and, possibly, should constitute the ‘action’ of action research, as much, if not more than, external actions or practices. This belief is linked to the statement on teaching emerging form our inwardness. I agree with you, Tim, that this statement needs to be elaborated and refined.

The text is personal and while I tried to avoid sentimentality, I don’t think I have got the balance right in the references to childhood memories. In particular, I think the issue of measurement needs to be thought out more subtly and in a more nuanced way and I will consider the questions that you, Tim, raise on that section of the paper.   That said, I am pleased that you, Jean, highlighted the sentence about the flour and associated with an open and potentiating attitude to life.

I am heartened that both of you think the essay raises some interesting questions. I will turn over your comments and return to the essay (and to you) when I have absorbed them fully and hope you will be kind enough to read the next draft.

Best Regards,

Kevin

Kevin Mc Dermott
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Kevin Mc Dermott - Wednesday, 2 March 2011, 12:59 AM
 
Hi Tim,

I have revisited the paper with your comments in mind and now post a revised version. I am not sure if I have succeeded in addressing all your concerns. However, I do think the changes I have made make some things clearer. I would welcome your comments on the revised paper.

Best Regards,

Kevin
Picture of Jean McNiff
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Jean McNiff - Sunday, 21 November 2010, 11:36 AM
 

Dear Kevin,

Many thanks for inviting me to read your paper. I have enjoyed it enormously, and learnt a great deal. The paper reminds me of when we have worked together, you with your thoughtful, reflective stance as we discussed ideas and spoke about how we were hoping to influence ideas for the future.

Coincidentally I am reading Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture, part of my own wish to deepen my knowledge of Irish literature. I will go on to A Long Long Way, which I understand is also a wonderful piece of writing. When I read Barry, I am reminded of you; and when I read you, I am reminded of Barry: you both choose your words with care, testing and tasting them before placing them carefully on the page, while communicating the deepest of feelings through the writing.

I got this from your present text. My first reaction, on reading it for the first time, was that I could not find my way within and through it with ease. I felt I was balancing on one flat tectonic plate after another, knowing that the plates fitted together, yet not sure what I should do to shift them nearer together and make them fit to form a whole. I knew the connections were there, but I felt them rather than read them. During this first reading time, and from my usual stance of pragmatic reader who likes to know exactly where she is in a text and wants the author to tell her this, I felt somewhat lost and out of kilter. So I left the text for a while, and worked with the ideas at some deep level of myself. I think this is what people like Norris and Polanyi tell us we ought to do: I imagine you have done the same with your authors – Derrida, Barthes, Benjamin – don’t they all need time to be lived with, while we listen to find out what they want us to hear. And when I returned, I immediately saw the connections clearly, and the plates moved together of their own volition; beautiful synthesis that works for me at the level of kinaesthetic more than cognitive appreciation.

I agree when you comment that yours is a sometimes confessional text, and I wondered initially whether it should go into a journal that professes to be about living educational theories; but yes, of course it does. The creation of a living theory of educational practice is generated through systematic action enquiry, regardless of what form the action or the enquiry takes. Your action, as recounted in this paper, is more about thinking and reflecting than about ‘active’ action in the world; and perhaps this is the most important action of all, the action of being still and open to life.

It is the openness to life that comes through; the lovely sentence: ‘What matters is that I stood on a chair with my mother and helped her bake and I got flour on my nose and she laughed.’ You do speak about death, and you have experienced the death of your loved one, yet you speak for life, and for your students and colleagues; you work, not to be stifled by the oppression of bureaucratic missives and technicist forms of instruction but to let the people in our lives speak to us through their own narratives.

At a mundane level I am returning your draft with three small observations, to do with some small aspects, but these are trivia within the rich tapestry of your text. You always teach me much, Kevin, and I know, through the publication of the work, that others will share the delight of learning from you too.

Kevin Mc Dermott
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Kevin Mc Dermott - Tuesday, 23 November 2010, 9:55 PM
 

Dear Jean and Tim,

Thank you for your comments on my paper. I think the fact that both of you found the paper difficult to navigate, on first reading, is instructive and I will re-read it with a view to seeing if I can make my intentions a little clearer, so that other readers might appreciate it at the level of ‘cognitive appreciation’, to borrow a phrase from Jean. 

In general, I think the paper would benefit from a more conscious attempt to make clearer connections between the different issues. I think I understand what these connections are – the challenge is to express them in a clear way that is consistent with the style I have tried to employ in writing the paper, in the first place.

Thank you, Jean, for raising the question of the suitability of the paper for the journal. I have always felt that ‘thinking’ is ‘doing’ and that it can and, possibly, should constitute the ‘action’ of action research, as much, if not more than, external actions or practices. This belief is linked to the statement on teaching emerging from our inwardness. I agree with you, Tim, that this statement needs to be elaborated and refined.

The text is personal and while I tried to avoid sentimentality, I don’t think I have got the balance right in the references to childhood memories. In particular, I think the issue of measurement needs to be thought out more subtly and in a more nuanced way and I will consider the questions that you, Tim, raise on that section of the paper. That said, I am pleased that you, Jean, highlighted the sentence about the flour and associated with an open and potentiating attitude to life.

I am heartened that both of you think the essay raises some interesting questions. I will turn over your comments and return to the essay (and to you) when I have absorbed them fully and hope you will be kind enough to read the next draft.

Best Regards,

Kevin

Picture of Jean McNiff
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Jean McNiff - Sunday, 28 November 2010, 7:17 PM
 
Good to hear you, Kevin, and I am looking forward to the next draft of your essay. I do think you should, and I know you will, make the connections clearer without losing the lovely style. I did not get any sense of sentimentality: on the contrary, I found your writing lucid and coherent, not at all self-conscious, and of a kind that speaks to the emotions of the reader as much as to their cognitions (I am not sure what I mean by that and I hope you do, so I will let it stand).

All good wishes,

Jean
Tim Cain
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Tim Cain - Monday, 14 March 2011, 2:46 PM
 
Hi Kevin,
Thank you for the opportunity to read your revised article. I found it a more satisfying experience the second time around. I think this is because it's better structured now. It also packs more of a punch, paradoxically because it's slightly more nuanced and perhaps less polemical in places.

I came across a quote recently, which you might like:

... the essence of human being is not so much that we are rational, symbol users , etc. ... but that we are mortal, meaning by this that we live in an awareness of the fact that we ourselves will die, though we usually try to cover this awareness over. And the real problem for each of us then, the problem that provides the contexts for all our choices and understanding, is not what is the meaning of life where we look outside ourselves (e.g. where we look to religion or science) for the answer; it is: what meaning will I give to my life? (Bonnett, M. (1994) Children's thinking: promoting understanding in the Primary School.)

Best wishes,

Tim
Kevin Mc Dermott
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Kevin Mc Dermott - Tuesday, 15 March 2011, 3:47 PM
 
Dear Tim,
Thank you for reading the amened version of the paper. I did try to counter my own tendency to create opposites and then tilt at the less favoured one. I'm pleased you thought it made a difference. I think the themes of teacher commitment and identity, during a time when, I suspect, many teachers are experiencing feelings of contradiction and marginalisation, are important. If I have managed to make a small contribution to the scholarly discussion of teacher commitment and identity, I will be well pleased. Thank you for the quotation from Bonnett - I must read more.

Best Regards,

Kevin
Kevin Mc Dermott
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Kevin Mc Dermott - Wednesday, 2 March 2011, 1:03 AM
 
Hi Jean,

I have made a number of minor changes to the paper which I hope make it somewhat clearer. I'd welcome your view of the paper, second time round.

Best Regards,

Kevin
Kevin Mc Dermott
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Kevin Mc Dermott - Friday, 6 April 2012, 4:42 PM
 
I have uploaded a version of the paper in the EJOLTS template.
Kevin
Margaret Farren
Re: Reflections from the Margins on Education and the Culture of Audit and Performativity
by Margaret Farren - Saturday, 7 April 2012, 6:43 PM
 
Hi Kevin,
Thanks for a thought provoking paper.
Regards,
Margaret