The methodology of the P2P-i strand consists of setting up two ‘triangles’: the first triangle includes France, The Netherlands and Scotland, the second Ireland, England and Sweden, each of the countries visiting two others. The visits usually lasted three days and contained a general introduction to the school system, ICT policy and the position and instruments of inspectorates. The second day, there were ‘shadow visits’: in teams participants visited schools to observe colleagues and to experience inspection visits as they are carried out in the respective countries. On the third day, there was a feedback session, covering questions such as “what struck you most?”, “how effective was what you saw?” and “what do you take back from this visit?”. For both the host country and the guests, the experience was useful, providing both new insights and recognition.
On the first day of the meeting, these peer visits were discussed in depth. Day two of the meeting featured a workshop on setting up a shared framework which could be used in the countries represented in the P2P-i project.
Learning form the peer reviews
During the first day each country was asked to share the visiting countries’ views on the host countries.
Ian Lowson, from HM Inspectorate in Scotland reported on the Scottish and French visit in The Netherlands and mentioned the similarity of the Dutch and the Scottish model: “…it was something we felt very comfortable with”. The similarities included a framework of evaluation with quality indicators, a template for the observation of lessons and a questionnaire for schools to complete in advance. In Scotland, schools are encouraged to self-assess the way ICT is embedded in teaching and learning , using the ‘How Good is our School’ self evaluation guides .
The Dutch ICT in education inspection framework is in a pilot phase. It uses six categories to evaluate the use and quality control of ICT in schools. Although it is foreseen that the use of this framework can only take up half to a full day, the visitors felt that more time would be needed to implement such an in-depth evaluation within their own country. They realised however, that elongating the time used for evaluating ICT in this way “could distort the normal process of inspection,”. However, it was acknowledged that much of the Dutch framework to evaluate ICT in education could be used in the Scotch and the French model
Mireille Golaszewski, a national general inspector (IGEN) for the French ministry of education, presented the visit to Scotland from a French and Dutch perspective. She pointed out that there is a considerable difference in the tasks of inspectors between the countries: “In France, we actually evaluate and grade the teacher in the classroom, and teachers are less involved in the assessment process,” she said. In Scotland, there is a whole-school approach which differs considerably from the French context where the school administration evaluation is carried out by another group of inspectors. What particularly struck the French inspector is that in the Scottish context, “ICT is integrated in the practices, there is a team spirit in Scotland,” she said. Another difference is the publication of the inspection reports in Scotland, a concept which is foreign to the French context where inspections are not public. In The Netherlands, all school reports are public as well. The French were impressed by the How Good is our School guides and actually translated the ICT guide to assess its usefulness in the French situation.
Ken Dyson, a former HM Inspector in England and now independent Education consultant reported on the English and Irish visit to Sweden. “In Sweden, teachers are very relaxed towards inspection.” he said, which in his view contrasted with the anticipation with which inspectors sometimes are received in other countries. Much of this ease has to do with the relative open character of the inspection process in Sweden and the fact that there is no grading system, the absence of which seems to take away stress. The Swedish and the English context have similarities and differences; a common point was that, like their English colleagues, Swedish inspectors see it as their role to stimulate school improvement and therefore have an important role as regard to the implementation of ICT. Also, the sources of evidence used are similar and include results, statistics, observation and discussion with the teachers. A difference is that in Sweden, the inspection also looks at the local authorities when inspecting a school.
Peter Ekborg, Director of education at Skolverket, the Swedish Agency for Education reported on the visit to Ireland. Responding to Ken Dyson, Mr Ekborg stressed that if in Sweden the inspection was not a stressful event for teachers it was because Swedish Inspectors “never criticise the teachers. We look at the whole school and we do not assess teachers individually,” he said. In the Irish model, Peter Ekborg said, “inspections are a lot more formal”. In Ireland, inspectors study the teachers' methodology. Moreover, Irish inspectors have to provide evidence to support findings, while in Sweden the evidence gathering is more loosely organised. “It is not possible to appeal against a report in Sweden,” added Mr Ekborg, stressing the fact that schools are more free in the acceptance of the inspection report. The Swedish inspection is primarily based on professional discussion, not judgement, inspectors cannot tell teachers what to do, but can show them best practices elsewhere.
Padraig Macphlannchadha, a primary inspector from Ireland, described the English model of inspections. Since July, a new inspection scheme is being used in England. It is a scaled-down inspection model with smaller teams. Also the new scheme favours the self evaluation of schools. This is very different from what is currently done in Ireland. Mr Macphlannchadha explained that in England schools are warned of the arrival of the inspectors and thus -the conclusions of the visit might be biased because of the preparation of the school. He stressed the need fo a balanced selection of both schools and within schools of lessons visited to ensure the validity of inspections. “It would be interesting to see the schools as they really are and not only the best case scenarios,” he added. Recently the inspection notice has changed in England as part of the new inspection scheme, and now schools only get two to three days notice. This addresses the issue of over-preparation.
Finally, Bert Jaap van Oel, from the Dutch inspectorate, reported on its visit to the Académie de Versailles in France. He acknowledged the specificity and the complexity of the French model with its many different inspection corps (regional, national..).Changes and innovations are often effectuated in very indirect ways because of the system and its many levers, however “it is impressive to see how all these actors try to work together to make changes and improvements happen,” said Bert Jaap van Oel.
A strength of the system is the expertise and independence of French national inspectors, the IGEN. In general, inspectors in France have a strong knowledge of their field and pedagogy, which could allow driving change and promoting new applications and new teaching methods including ICT. There is no general model to evaluate the use of ICT in schools and inspectors are free to shape the work as they wish. Inspectors evaluate individual teachers and grade them accordingly. This grade effects the speed at which their career progresses. There are high quality discussions on subjects – the professional dialogue is an essential element of inspections- and there is a risk of loosing part of this discourse when shifting to a whole school approach.
A Shared framework
On the second day of the meeting in Brussels, all inspectors worked together on the construction of a shared framework for the evaluation of ICT. To achieve this, participants were provided with a list of quality indicators from sources collected during the P2P-i visits. In the coming month, resulting from this work, a final framework for the evaluation of ICT in education will be presented.
The themes, areas and indicators discussed, represented the thinking of the six inspectorates involved. Based on the existing instruments and indicators, the group selected three main themes for the framework: Conditions, Use and Outcomes. For each of these themes participants worked in groups to formulate appropriate areas of quality and quality indicators. Continuously the question was asked: “could this work in our country?”. Through intensive work, a first draft framework was designed. The framework will be elaborated in the coming month and will be presented at this year’s Eminent conference in Paris.
Last changed: Thursday, 10 November 2005