As we engage with policy and academic literature it is important to do so utilising criticality. Questions such as ‘who is the policy written for?’ ‘what does it hope to change?’ and ‘what is the political background in which is written?’ are questions that encourage such criticality and begin to create a ‘critical framework’ through which to analyse policy and literature.
It is very important to identify where assumptions have been made, an example could be that of the recent increased policy endorsement of coaching and mentoring, is it always beneficial or appropriate?
Through the critical reading of policy we are able to form a greater understanding of the possible tensions in practice and broader potential impact of published actions within organisations.
The following texts propose different critical frameworks for the reading of policy and literature. Read the texts and become familiar with the frameworks. In particular, Rizvi and Lingard (Globalizing_Education_Policy_—-_(Pg_67–69)) provide a very useful framework of questions that may support critical reading of policy documents.
Chapter 2: Reading Policy Texts, in:Reading_Educational_Research_and_Policy_—-_(2_Reading_Policy_Texts)
Scott, D (2000), in, Reading Educational Research and policy. London: Routledge
p61: A policy text may be: prescriptive or non-prescriptive, ideologically explicit or opaque, generic or directed, single-authored or multiple-authored, diagrammatic or written, referenced to other texts or free of such references, coherent or fragmented, and have a wide or narrow focus. In order to critically read a policy text, the reader or practitioner needs to understand their reading as constructed by these various devices. They also need to locate their reading within the policy process itself and it is to this that we now turn.
p68: There are broadly three theories about how policy works. These are: a centrally controlled model, a pluralist model and a fragmented multidirectional model. The first two have been shown to be flawed and the last, it is argued, incorporates more of the features of how policy works in the educational arena.
p72: Policy texts seek to persuade their readership of the truthfulness and credibility of the arguments which they are deploying. The principal way they do this is by suggesting that there is only one way of representing the world and this way resonates with common-sense views of representation. The ideological element is thus suppressed.
p94: Readers of policy texts therefore have to ask themselves a series of questions about the text itself, even if it is sometimes difficult to read the text in a different way from what is intended. These questions are: What are the intentions of the writers of the policy text? What devices are being used by the writers of these policy texts to suggest that their version of the truth of the matter is the only one worth considering? How has the evidence base of the policy text been constructed? What are the ideological underpinnings of the text and are these consistently deployed throughout the report? How does the policy text seek to position the reader or practitioner in relation to the policy agenda being argued for? Is the policy agenda being argued for relevant and useful for the practitioner?
Part 1, Chapters 1 & 2, in:
Bell, L. and Stevenson, H. (2006) Education Policy: Process, Themes and Impact. London: Routledge.
p8: Understanding and anticipating policy therefore becomes a key feature of ‘leadership’ (Day et al. 2000) – understanding where policies come from, what they seek to achieve, how they impact on the learning experience and the consequences of implementation are all essential features of educational leadership.
p11: Policy analysis within education must be capable of recognizing the many different levels at which policy development takes place, the myriad range of educational institutions involved and the importance of specific cultural contexts.
p31: Although literature on the state and policy development is dominated by Western sources, it is arguably the economic challenge from the East that accounts for the key shifts in state formation, particularly in Western societies, in recent years and the tendency for common state policies to emerge.
p33: It is clear that the powerful structural forces that are associated with globalization exert a significant influence on state policies in general, and on education policies in particular.
p36:Day et al. (2000) argue that in their study effective leaders were those who were able to ‘mediate’ the external policy agenda so that it aligned with the values and vision of the school.
p36: Effective or ‘outstanding’ school leaders are those who are able to articulate their strongly held personal, moral and educational values which may, at times, not be synonymous or in sympathy with government initiatives or policies. (Gold et al. 2003: 136)
p37: The significance of the state in the development of educational policy cannot be overstated. The influence of the state, and state institutions, in shaping the socio-political environment is profound… Understanding who has power in this process and how this power is exercised, becomes central to understanding the development of state policy and how it emerges in the form of organizational principles and practices.
p38: Value conflicts at the socio-political level will be mirrored at the operational level, with the precise nature of these conflicts reflecting the particular configurations of power, structure and influence in each institution.
A further interesting and very useful book when utilising criticality in the analysis of policy is:
Rizvi, F. and Lingard, B. (2010) Globalizing Education Policy. Abingdon: Routledge.