Accountability and oversight

An increasing part of the ITE landscape is the prevalence of accountability and oversight. Every site I visited was responding to changes in accountability either at a university or teacher education level, and sometimes both. This is not to suggest that all accountability measures are the same. Often introduced as part of a rhetoric of driving up standards (Ingvarson, 2019; Ingvarson et al., 2014), accreditation and validation requirements are a policy technology (Ball, 2003) that may seem benign but that can affect a change to practices. The Foucauldian concepts of performativity and subjectivity are important here, as accreditation often requires the laying out of certain practices for judgement: teacher educators described ensuring the visibility of certain aspects of their programme as a process of performativity, inviting judgement against a set of indicators, particularly when preparing documentation for scrutiny for programme accreditation or validation. Whether accountability comes from professional bodies or government agencies, the requirement to fulfil certain obligations necessitates a narrative of compliance. This narrative foregrounds those practices which are deemed desirable and renders others invisible. As such, the technologies of accountability and oversight affect what and how teacher education is enacted: they limit and constrain practices.

As part of the Education Complex, teacher education is also part of a landscape of accountability practices, including those pertaining to universities and to schools. This makes up what Ling (2017) has called a landscape of supercomplexity with multiple stakeholders, beholden to different accountability regimes. The role of accountability within the practice architecture is significant: the influence is predominantly in the social-political arrangements as accountability regimes hold the power of accreditation, validation and, in the case of inspections, can award prestige in the field. Within universities, accountability can also affect the material-economic arrangements as funds are made available or withheld for certain developments. But more pervasively, accountability regimes may also affect the cultural-discursive arrangements through dominating the professional language that dominates teacher education and that holds and retains power within the “elite” (see, for example, the term “authentic partnerships” outlined in Chapter 6 and the discussion in Chapter 4). When accountability is introduced, there is an assumption that it then becomes the benchmark: it becomes what teacher education is seeking to achieve and so closes down discussion, innovation, debate and alternative viewpoints. As Sleeter (2019) argues, it sustains the status quo of who holds power and who is able to define quality.

In this sense, accountability has the effect of instrumentalising practice: to parse it down so that it can be rebuilt in the novice incrementally and ticked off once it has been achieved. This is not the language or practice of transformation. But it is the reality of teacher education today in many countries. It is not the case that accountability takes away criticality, but reduces the opportunity for it to occur productively, and so could have the effect of reducing teacher education to replication rather than transformation.

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