Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Workshop: Muiris O Laoire, "subaltern agency..."

Muiris started by telling about his own trajectory in language education: teacher, policy actor, researcher. HE then went on to warn the audience that he will make us work ; Great!

He explained the term "subaltern" (refers to something / someone outside the hegemonic power). HE went on to talk about his own original understanding of policy implementation (something that happens regardless of individuals, based on "policy texts"). Undertanding of policy can also be historical: "This has always been the policy"

Part I: preliminary discussion

Policy as should be (not just the new, but also the old keeps coming back as should not be) Muiris then continued to introduce a short discussion on some typical issues / questions in language in education that need / evoke policy from your own interest and perspective. We came up with different kinds of situations that dealt with multilingual education, language of instruction, writing a policy strategy, bottom up vs. top down situations etc., creating a network for policy making etc. Implementation of policies vs. dialogical creation of policies? How to create a policy space for policy making?

=> Is the policy always clear, is it named (see Lo Bianco's plenary)? We need a norm in order to create / solve a problem, but the problem of problems is that people have different understandings of the norm. Problem of "bottom up": sometimes "bottom up" supports majority views, and minorities can sometimes be better supported by top down action.

On the other hand, is there a problem or not? => is change always necessary? Policy, especially top down, implicitly assumes that change is inevitable and necessary.

Muiris went on to present Baldauf's eight components of language policy: access policy, personnel policy, curriculum policy, methods and materials policy, resourcing policy, community policuy, evaluation policy, teacher-led policy (Baldauf, Li & Zhao, 2010, Language acquisition management in and outside school. In Spolsky & Hult, The Handbook of Educational Linguistics.

The participants presented some criticism of the list (a noticeable omission of learners; the narrow understanding of community etc. Sjaak came up with a three-dimensional system of describing problems.

Part II: Looking again at implementation

IS policy implementation really just a rationalistic exercise, or should we admit that policy is also about values, emotions etc.? Policy is also about local, but the problem with traditional understanding of policy implementation that it appears to bring the global or the general to the local => this creates problems!

On the other hand, local is not just bottom up, or micro, or contextual, but a "spacial practice (Pennycook 2010:54; Language as local practice. London: Routledge). Ecample: government changes policy. Where does this "policy" become action? Does it "touch" something?

Part III: Different perspectives / orientations: policy maker and policy implementer

1. Policy decisions made based on attitude / ideology
2. Options at disposal, i.e. cost /resources, plan, evaluation...
3. participation (those who buy in to policy and will implement) => policy now named!

Part IV: Evidence from a case study

OLE (2003): Official languages act
All public institutions were expected to prepare a scheme based on this policy.

Research questions: Which social actors engage in what activities using which spaces drawing on which discourses using which discursive strategies coming to which results?

How is policy implemented? Orientation / habitus => imposed constraint => interaction / link with other spaces => economic/social constraints in agents' circulation => language as social action - consequences

Part V: Conclusions / Final discussions

Are actors active or reactive? How do they operate on the policy implementation level? CAn we get from implementation to dialogical construction of policy.

=> policy is process.

=> How can we build this into a working model of LPE? Open source policy making? Policy is imposed on someone, and that person takes that policy and starts to implement it - why? He is translating the policy into something in his / her environment?

(policy) text => trigger => creation of policy (in action -- what do people do when they do policy). We should not set up a dichotomy of policy makers and policy objects!

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