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An opportunity missed? : trajectories of one education policy in the Tasmania Government school system

Gardner, Christine Margaret 2006 , 'An opportunity missed? : trajectories of one education policy in the Tasmania Government school system', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This study examined one instance of the implementation of an initiative announced by
the Tasmanian Minister for Education during its trajectories in the Tasmanian Education
Department and in a sample of schools. This thesis was undertaken to present a report
that would provide rich data, particularly from Tasmanian education policy
implementers' perspectives. Accordingly the researcher aimed to add substantial
detailed material to the literature that was located prior to and during the completion of
this study. This literature was typically broad but revealed few Australian studies,
particularly Tasmanian studies, none of which provided the depth of description
presented in this thesis. The major focus of this thesis is on policy trajectory during
implementation at Department level, subsequent implementation with teachers via the
implementation of a Key Teacher Program, initially in the form of a series of
professional development sessions, and eventual accounts of implementation in a sample
of six schools.
The major focus on school-based policy actor interviews and questionnaires concurred
with the placement of school-based policy implementers' reports at the heart of this
study. The data were gathered from the teachers at three different occasions
approximately one year apart. Some participants took part in a retrospective phase that
enabled their retrospective contributions questions about this instance of the entire
policy process.
The Minister for Education and a senior officer of the Education Department were
interviewed to achieve enhanced understanding of factors that influenced
implementation. In order to give due recognition to the context, the policy's initial path
was tracked using a historical approach to examine a variety of print media reports and
The use of multiple sources through sourcing of data from a range of policy actors, in
addition to the print media, Hansard and Education Department and Program documents
assisted in establishing verification of policy actors' perceptions. Despite allocation of markedly insufficient resources to support the work of the
Department and schools, varying amounts of change were reported by participants,
ranging from no change to positive progressions in implementation. Tension
characterised the policy process and emerged in several guises: the contest between
agendas, particularly between the political and educational rationales; the mismatch
between the acknowledged problem and identified strategy; the eventual dissatisfaction
with insufficient opportunities to learn, the inability both to network with colleagues and
to implement the Program in schools; issues of time and timing, related to
communication and support for implementation; and the inadequacy of the selected
model of professional learning, dependent on a "key teacher", compared with the
expressed preferences for a team approach or, indeed, a whole-school-capacity model.
In this instance of policy, however, it appeared that internal school factors, for example,
leadership, decision-making processes, setting priorities, and the imaginative use of
resources provided externally played an important role in successful implementation.
Furthermore this success appeared to be to a great extent linked to internal school
factors rather than to the support and resources provided to schools. Additionally, shared
and devolved leadership practices within a school appeared to contribute more to
reported achievements than the position the teacher held in the school. Addressing the gaps that develop between political and educational agendas is crucial.
Improved understanding of what motivates policy actor groups may enhance the ways in
which these groups view each others' work and potential to contribute to the policy
process. Schools need time to prepare for the implementation of change in ways that
enable identification of the links between school priorities and policy goals. An
overloaded policy context can reach the point of making it difficult for schools to know
which policies they can in fact implement satisfactorily. It is apparent, however, that
these tensions will not readily be alleviated. Therefore, school-based policy actors might
find support by adopting a stance that enables them to realise their agency in achieving
their school goals while making the most of opportunities and resources to use external
provision. The role of internal school factors deserves increased consideration, both in
terms of future research and of current practice.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Gardner, Christine Margaret
Keywords: Tasmania. Education Dept, Educational change, School management and organization, Teachers
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2006 the Author – The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (EdD)--University of Tasmania, 2006. Includes bibliographical references

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