This seminar has been postponed, new date TBC

Presented by Kevin Smith, Cardiff University. This seminar is part of the Cardiff WISERD Lunchtime Seminar series.

In 2014, an ambitious series of educational reforms in Wales began to take shape. These changes include, among other initiatives, new standards for teaching, a strategy for improving Initial Teacher Education and a national curriculum framework. While these reforms are broad in scope, a number of commonly-shared themes organise this work, with subsidiarity arguably being the most important and centrally-located concept.
The principle of subsidiarity maintains decisions should not be made at higher political levels than is necessary. As such, the national curriculum framework is not a prescribed curriculum, but rather a broad framework intended to enable teachers and school leaders in schools across Wales to create their own, school-based curricula. However, subsidiarity alone cannot manage the development of school-based curricula. If teachers are to work as curriculum-makers, they must also recognise and manifest their agency. In this study, teachers across Wales were invited to complete an online survey on teacher agency and its relationship to various dimensions of teaching and curriculum work. The analysis of 131 responses indicate participants highly value the concept of teacher agency overall, but the importance of agency varied drastically when considering the many duties and responsibilities teachers perform. The majority of respondents reported they were satisfied with their current level of agency, but secondary school teachers were much less satisfied than their colleagues in primary schools. Finally, respondents stated they felt external accountability and poor school leadership decreased their teacher agency, while school leaders who invited dialogue and demonstrated trust with their teachers were said to enhance teacher agency. These responses highlight the importance of educational leadership in developing and promoting teacher agency, as well as the potential impact agency has as an empowering element of teachers’ curricular work.

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