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School cheating on the conditions of audit society
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of pedagogy.
2015 (English)In: ECER 2015, Education and Transtition. Contributions from Educational Research. Network: 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders and Organisations., 2015Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

General desciption

Trends in modern society put demands on how educational activities can be organized. Institutionalized education system needs continuous legitimation (Schiro, 2008).

Meritocratic principles have long been an integral pillar of justice and social trust in liberal democracies. Life opportunities should be allocated on individual performance. Fair and clear procedures for how knowledge is assessed and graded thereby becomes a central element of a legitimate education and a central aspect of teachers' work. Duplaga and Astani (2010) has shown how proceduriell justice is a key in students' perceptions of fairness in educational contexts.

Contemporary society can be understood as an audit society where public enterprises are constantly exposed to a strong focus on comparing results and to a comprehensive audit (Power, 1999). Performance and accountability have become dominant value concepts in education (Solbrekke & Englund, 2011). In the audit society legitimate educational organizations are expected to produce both good results and to follow quality assured routines in doing this (Ahlbäck Öberg & Wockelberg, 2012).

The performative turn implies a strong focus on measurable outcome (Ball, 2000), which in the world of education may consist of grades documenting pupils knowledge. Evaluation of school quality based on student performance is a strongly growing global trend (Figlio & Loeb, 2011). This is done both at the international level through eg PISA surveys and at the local level through the rankings of schools' grade results. The average points of final grades from the Swedish compulsory and upper secondary schools has greatly increased between the years 1994-2011 (Vlachos, 2012) while the PISA surveys show a deterioration of Swedish student achievement in comparison with students in other countries (Ministry of Education, 2013).

Sweden's education system was deregulated by political decisions in the early 1990’s and Sweden is today considered as one of the most education-liberalized countries in the world (Levin, 2013). Students grade results have become an important factor in the competition between schools in attracting new students. The performative culture of competition also includes a strong emphasis on individual accountability (Apple, 2007) which affect the possible roles of pupils and teachers.

In the audit society simultaneous demands are put on organizations and individual employees to act according to formalized procedures for grading  while creating good grading results. The parallel responsibility is not without problems. Within the framework of new institutionell theory Meyer and Rowan (1977) argues that formalized procedures for quality assurance can make it difficult for organizations to produce good results in an effective way. School-cheating is a phenomenon that can be understood as problematic for teachers' work in relation to both the expectations of complying correct procedures for assessment and for opportunities to exhibit good grade results.

Strong expectations for good measurable resultats and for comprehensive audit routines conditions how organizations prioritize and evaluate its practical activity (Ahlbäck Öberg & Wockelberg, 2012). Pupils and parents demand for good grades are clearly an element of the dilemmas that arise when teachers' professional ethics meet market logics (Fredriksson, 2010) The Swedish teachers' unions expresses concern that teachers are increasingly subject to pressure in terms of setting high scores (Lärarnas Riksförbund, 2011).

Teachers evaluating student knowledge are faced with a goal- and norm conflict where expectations to act as rule complying bureaucrats are likely to be in conflict with the expectation of acting flexibly and customer-friendly towards pupils and their parents. The research question for this study is: How do teachers, based on the phenomenon of students 'school cheating, argue for appropriate courses of action?

Methods / Methodology

Data has been collected by letting 12 swedish teacher at a college preparatory high school debate in two focus group sessions. The starting point for the discussions where the result of previous studies in which pupils norms (at the same school) on school cheating were identified. The pupil norms shows i.a. that students socially tolerate schoolcheating from schoolmates in difficulties of coping with tests at school as long as the cheating only extends to the minimum pass grade level. Tolerance for schoolcheating also goes for pupils in temporary difficulty to perform at a normal level. These are tolerated to cheat up to the grade level they usually achieve. Clever students as well as lazy students are not tolerated to cheat at all.

From the data generated in the teachers' discussions norms were identified that teachers perceive as regulations on how they should act in relation to school cheating. Social norm theory assumes that people who share a community need to negotiate the social norms for how to act in situations of common interest (Hydén, 2002). These social norms can be observed by leaving "an extensive trail of communication among actors that we can study " (Finnemore & Sikkink, 1998, s.892). The method for analyzing data has been meaning-concentration according to Lindseth & Norberg (2004).

The methodology has roots in critical hermeneutical approaches (Gadamer, 1989) and are handled in a two step process. First, norms that teachers perceive to be conditionality for their actions in grading practices are identified and secondly the identified norms are understood in the social context of audit society of education.

In critical hermeneutics focus is layed on critical examination of the interpretations people do in their lived experiences. In a methology based on critical hermeneutics an interpreting aproach with its focus on understanding the local on an actor level meets a critical approach with an interest in structural explanatory models.

The critical approach also links to critical realism which, i.a. includes a point of departure where social structures are seen as preceding participants' actions. In critical realism structures are understood to be hierarchically ordered based on their power to resist transformation by the actions of individuals. Physically material structures are difficult for people to transform whereas social trends are easier to modify. Economically affiliated norms are understood as connected to physically material structures and thereby also strong conditionality for individual actions.

Expected outcomes

The empirical data shows that the teachers perceive that they are held personally accountable for their students' grade results. A low proportion of failing grades are perceived to be the school management clearest indicator of both a highly competent teacher and a competitive school unit.

Teachers perceive that high effectiveness, i.e. that all pupils at least achive passing grades, is impossible if formal procedures for grading shall be fully obeyed.

The teachers are faced with a conflict where they need to negotiate how the priorities of the normconflict are best solved. Strictly following rules makes it difficult to meet the expectations of  good student grades.

The negotiations shows that teachers perceive the expectations of pupils, pupils parents and school management to perform well in terms of good pupil’s grades as stronger than expectations to strictly comply with both national regulations regarding grading and local rules for how school cheating should be prevented and managed.

 The teachers see it as desirable not to follow upp on suspicions of cheating at school because it could be regarded as customer-unfriendly to discredit pupils. The teachers regret that expectations to act customer-friendly makes it difficult for them to work with social norms that they find important.

The teachers perceive it as desirable that they help to cover the organizational goal- and normconflict by not pretend about it. By ostensibly hiding the norm-conflict, school may outwardly be able to show both a strong legal framework to combat school cheating and high achievement in the form of good grades. The apparent solution of the goal- and norm-conflict can be understood by Meyer and Rowan (1977) concept of decoupling. Two conflicting systems are tolerated to operate in parallel without the conflict between them being exposed.

References

Ahlbäck Öberg, Shirin & Wockelberg, Helena (2012). The politics of public administration policy. Statsvetenskaplig tidsskrift, 114(2), s. 273-281.

Apple, Michael (2007). Ideological success, educational failure? Journal of Teacher Education, 58(2), pp.108-116.

Ball, Stephen J. (2000). Performativities and fabrications in the education economy: towards the performative society. Australian educational researcher, 27(2), pp.1-23. 

Duplaga, Edward A. & Astani, Marzie (2010). An exploratory study of student perceptions of which classroom policies are fairest. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 8(1), pp. 9-33.

Figlio, David & Loeb, Susanna (2011). School accountability. In: Eric A. Hanushek; Stephen Machin & Ludger Woessmann (Eds.). Handbook of the economics of education Vol. 3. Amsterdam: North-Holland. 

Finnemore, Martha & Sikkink, Kathryn (1998). International norm dynamics and political change. International Organization, 52(4), pp. 887-917.

Fredriksson, Anders (2010). Marknaden och lärarna: hur organiseringen av skolan påverkar lärares offentliga tjänstemannaskap. Göteborg: Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Göteborgs universitet.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg (1989). Truth and method. (2., revised edition). London: Sheed and Ward. 

Hydén, Håkan (2002). Normvetenskap. Lund: Sociologiska institutionen, Lunds universitet.

Levin, Henry (2013). Vouchers in Sweden: Scores fall, inequality grows. http://dianeravitch.net/2013/03/26/the-swedish-voucher-system-anappraisal/

Lindseth, Anders & Norberg, Astrid (2004). A phenomenological hermeneutical method for researching lived experience. Scandinavian Journal for Caring Sciences, 18(2), pp.145-153.

Lärarnas Riksförbund (2011). Betygssättning under påverkan. Rapport.

Meyer, John, W. & Rowan, Brian (1977). Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as Myth and ceremony. American journal of sociology, 83(2), pp. 340-363.

Ministry of Education (Skolverket), (2013). Kraftig försämring i Pisa. Pressmeddelande.

http://www.skolverket.se/press/pressmeddelanden/2013/kraftigforsamring-i-pisa-1.211208

Power, Michael (1999). The audit society: rituals of verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schiro, Michael (2008). Curriculum theory – conflicting visions and enduring concerns. Los Angelses: Sage.

Vlachos, Jonas (2012). Är vinst och konkurrens en bra modell för skolan? Ekonomisk debatt, 40(4), s. 16-30.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
Keywords [en]
School cheating, audit society, teacher, norm
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-46214OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-46214DiVA, id: diva2:853029
Conference
European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2015, Budapest, September 7-11, 2015
Available from: 2015-09-11 Created: 2015-09-11 Last updated: 2015-10-20Bibliographically approved

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