Managing tutorial provision in further education
Education Department, University of Bath, email: email@example.com
Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the British Educational Research Association, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 11th -13th September 2003
Papers available at http://www.bath.ac.uk/education/profiles/mfertig.htm
There has been a recent plethora of studies examining tutorial provision within Further Education Colleges (Green 2001; Martinez 2001). These have looked essentially at the relationships between tutorial provision, student learning, and student retention and completion of courses. In addition, studies exploring the management of Further Education Colleges have also emerged onto the academic landscape. The work of writers such as Gleeson & Shain (1999), Shain & Gleeson (1999) and Simkins (2000) have focused on the issues arising from the incorporation of FE Colleges and the rise of 'managerialism' within the Further Education sector. This study aims to examine issues related to 'managerialism' and its impact on lecturer autonomy and 'professionalism' within the Further Education arena by focussing on the provision of tutorial support for students. The paper does not reject the notion of tutorial provision but attempts to examine it within the context of the continuing debate about the nature of lecturers' work. This provision is seen as located at the confluence of two flows of thought about the role of the lecturer working within a Further Education context. It is seen as relating both to the 'professional' desire to aid the learning of students and the 'managerial' imperative for scrutiny and evidence that educational tasks have been carried out by the lecturers.
Recent years have seen an intensification of the notion of 'managerialism' within the Further Education sector. This was seen most notably by the new policy framework for colleges and higher education institutions established by the Further and Higher Education Act of 1992. This resulted in the 'incorporation' of colleges, with them being granted full legal autonomy as corporations. This meant that individual colleges were responsible for staffing, asset maintenance, and financial management, with core funding provided on a formula basis related to student retention and completion rates. Developments within the Further Education sector were symptomatic of a more general movement encompassing organisations within the public sector. From the late 1980s onwards, similar legislation introduced these issues within other areas of the education system in England and Wales. There does, though, seem to have been some differences in focus between the FE sector and other areas of education provision in terms of the rigour with which these reforms were implemented. Some comparison has been made by Simkins (2000) who felt that '...compared with the schools sector, the funding mechanism for colleges has been used more directly, more centrally and more ambitiously as a policy tool' (Simkins, op cit, p 319). Similar issues have emerged from the study by Shain & Gleeson (1999). Their research suggested that 'the new funding formula, based on the principle of "more for less", means that funds may be "clawed back" if colleges fail to meet their targets, retain students or if students fail to successfully complete courses' (Shain & Gleeson, 1999, p 447). Writers such as Alexiadou (2001) have pointed to the development of a 'quasi-market' within Further Education whose characteristics are 'defined by the nature of the competition instigated by the funding formula, and the central control of the created competing units through the use of both funding and incentive-based performance targets' (Alexiadou, op cit, p 415). Summarising the impact of the new funding approaches, Ainley & Bailey (1997) suggested that:
The extent of the culture change which this new form of funding involved cannot be overestimated. The old world tended to be governed by a number of certainties that meant people felt they knew where they were. The new funding regime tore up this secure existence...It is in the area of funding that the 1992 Act has had its greatest impact, so that it is not an exaggeration to say that changes in the management, the organisation and the student experience of further education have been driven by the changes in funding. (Ainley & Bailey, 1997, p 18)
It will be argued later in this paper that these funding imperatives and the cultural baggage that they have brought in their tow have had a distinct impact upon the function and nature of tutorial provision within FE Colleges.
Writing soon after 'incorporation', Ainley & Bailey (ibid) identified the nature and scope of the Further Education sector. There were at that time, for example, 453 colleges in all within England. The vast majority of provision was made up of further education colleges (222), sixth-form colleges (110) and tertiary colleges (66). Public funding from the Further Education Council for England was almost £3 billion a year, and there were over three million students within the sector in the middle of the 1990s. This was twice as many students as all the full- and part-time students at universities and other colleges of higher education, and more was spent on them at this period than on all higher education.
More recent figures, compiled with the aid of the Individualised Student Record introduced in 1994/1995, indicate a decline in overall student numbers, with approximately 2.35 million students enrolled at colleges in the FE sector in England in November 2001 (Learning & Skills Council, 2002). Indeed, the same survey indicated a slight decrease of 0.4% in total student numbers in FE sector colleges between November 2000 and November 2001 (ibid).
Nevertheless, despite these apparent demographic shifts within the uptake for post-compulsory education within further education colleges, the importance of the sector has been underlined by recent Government proposals to increase the overall investment in further education from £4.4 billion in 2002-2003 to £5.6 billion in 2005-2006. In addition, real-term total funding per student is forecast to rise by 7% during this period (DfES, 2002).
MANAGERIALISM IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
The notion of 'managerialism' emerged within the public sector area in the 1980s and has attracted a wide range of academic interest ( see, for example, Pollitt, 1990; Exworthy & Halford, 1999; Schofield, 2001; and, Stokes & Clegg, 2002). Davies (2003), in her critique of 'new managerialism', has caustically suggested that:
...it is characterised by the removal of the locus of power from the knowledge of practising professionals to auditors, policy-makers and statisticians, none of whom need know anything about the profession in question. (Davies, 2003, p 91)
McTavish (2003), drawing on the work of writers such as Massey (1993), has delineated the key features of such a managerial approach within the public sector:
...there was an injection of business managerial and market forces through the creation of internal markets and/or the introduction of customer/competitive relationships in service delivery, the devolution of operational control and autonomy to institutional level bringing managers closer to the marketplace, thereby making them more accountable for a wider range of cost, resource management and other activities. Reorganized practices and structures were put in place to ensure that these public-funded bodies could achieve their stated objectives. (McTavish, 2003, p 175)
This brought with it a new sense of accountability and a need for a more open and transparent attitude towards the nature of the public sector service that was being provided. It will be argued later in this paper that this encompasses an encroachment into territory that has traditionally been seen as the preserve of the professional public sector worker. The emergence of notions of 'visibility' and 'surveillance' are not new-indeed, Foucault (1977) articulated this concept clearly. However, the weaving of this into ideas of organisational management have been foregrounded by writers such as Schmelzer (1993) in their treatment of what has been called 'the multiple gaze'. This has been seen as involving:
...meticulous control over the network of power relations that produce and sustain the truth claims of an institution by means of an economical surveillance. It multiplies and mystifies the visible and centered gaze of the machine into countless instances of observation of a mechanism. Its operation is distributed to every body in a system of power relations that constitute an institution. (Schmelzer, 1993, p 127)
Davies (op cit) has contrasted the notion of 'surveillance' within the education sector in the pre- and post-managerialism era. She points to the period of the early 1970s, which she characterises as 'high modernity', when educational leaders were happy to observe their professional staff working at a distance. These leaders worked on the assumption that staff:
...were driven neither by them, nor by rules or by surveillance, but by a desire for mutual respect shared with colleagues and students, a desire to make a contribution to knowledge in their chosen area and a desire for personal freedom. (Davies, op cit, p 92)
The emphasis within this scenario gave prominence to significant levels of self-surveillance, based on the individual's awareness of their own knowledge, expertise and limitations. The quality of institutional life was characterised by high social integration levels and personal commitment to being socially responsible members of the organisational community. It seems clear that organisational culture was here being located within the territory of McGregor's Theory Y, with individuals who are self-directed and with high levels of self-motivation (McGregor, 1970).
This is compared to the nature of individual response and organisational ethos within 'new' managerialist systems where, as Davies (op cit) indicates:
...the individual's sense of their own value is no longer primarily derived from responsible self-conduct and competent knowledge and practice of professional knowledge. (Davies, op cit, p 92)
Studies of the impact of 'managerialism' within the schools' sector have also emphasised the dehumanising potential of this approach to organisational management (Meyer, 2002; Stronach et al, 2002; Farrell & Morris, 2003). Other researchers (eg Randle & Brady, 1997; Ainley & Bailey, op cit; Shain & Gleeson, op cit; Lumby, 2001; Simkins, op cit) have carefully charted the impact of the arrival of 'site-based management' within the Further Education sector.
Elliott (1996), in one of the earliest studies in this area, noted what appeared to be a distinct divergence between the views of 'managers' and 'lecturers'. He was keen to distinguish between the views of 'senior managers who seemed to embrace a managerialist culture' (ibid, p 8) and lecturers who held true to 'an ideology underpinned by a commitment to a student-centred pedagogic culture' (ibid, p 8). This dichotomy was also pursued by Randle & Bailey (op cit) who sought to distil out a separation between a 'managerial' culture and a 'professional' culture amongst Further Education staff. In the former, the goals and values espoused related to the primacy of student through-put and income generation, loyalty to the organisation, and a concern to achieve an acceptable balance between efficiency and effectiveness. In contrast, the features of the 'professional' paradigm related to the highlighting of student learning and the teaching process, loyalty to students and colleagues, and a concern for academic standards. As will be argued later in this paper, the management of tutorial provision within a Further Education context stands centre stage at the merging of these two spotlights.
Randle & Bailey's study (op cit), coming as it did within a few years of the onset of 'incorporation', also attempted to identify the features of 'managerialism' within FE Colleges. They suggested that this phenomenon consisted of:
...a package of management ideas, techniques and styles including:
The impact of these ideas since the period of 'incorporation' has been analysed more recently by Alexiadou (2001). This study made the distinction between the 'responsive manager' and the 'pro-active manager', determined primarily by the response of individual managers to the prevailing managerialist culture within Further Education organisations. 'Responsive' management was: '...defined by a "pragmatic accommodation" to market-driven change and to market values, and is primarily concerned with the preservation and development of a "pedagogic discourse" based on educational values' (op cit, p 417). On the other hand, individuals who were identified as 'pro-active managers' had a 'greater acceptance of change compared to the responsive conception, and a more active engagement with both the practices and some of the values of the market. The ultimate objective of this type of management is to tailor the pedagogic discourse to market-led changes...(op cit, p 421). What seems clear within the study is the pervasive nature of many of the characteristics of 'managerialism' identified by Randle & Brady (op cit), especially in relation to the consumer-orientation of colleges and the managers' right to manage.
These values are explicitly underpinned by many policy pronouncements emerging from Government circles. A clear example was seen in the establishment of the Learning & Skills Council, where it was stated that: '...In putting the needs of learners firmly at the centre of our proposals for reform, it is also our unswerving aim that the LSC and all post-16 learning in this country should manifest the highest standards of provision and achievement' (DfEE, 1999, p 2).
PROFESSIONALISM IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
The emergence of interest in the concept of 'managerialsm' within the public sector has also been mirrored by a sustained examination of the nature of 'professionalism'.
Early studies, such as that carried out by Hall (1968), identified professionalism as being associated with a professional ideology that could be assessed and measured at the level of the individual employee. Hall's work (ibid) presented the concept as consisting of five components: the use of a professional organisation as a major referent by the individual; a belief in public services; a belief in self-regulation; a sense of calling or commitment to the profession; and, a feeling of autonomy. Engel, in a study published in 1970, regarded professionalism as being concerned with autonomy over work tasks and methods, an individual responsibility for thinking and acting without interference, and participation in decision processes within an organisation. More recent studies (eg Exworthy & Halford, op cit) have focussed attention on the re-emergence of the notion of line management as an attempt to introduce tighter accountability control and an adherence to targets and efficiency gains within the public sector. Laffin (1999) has presented a succinct view of 'professionalism' in his study of the profession in the public sector. Here, the essential nature of 'professionalism' is seen as lying 'in the efforts of members of an occupation to maximise their freedom from control by others in the immediate work setting, in the management of professional work, and in the regulation of the profession' (Laffin, ibid, p 3). This view will be re-visited later in this paper, when the idea of a 'public' presentation of discussions between student and lecturer will be seen as a potential affront to the professional standing of Further Education staff.
It is here that the merging of the 'managerialist' tide with the debate about 'professionalism' has been clearest. Central to the 'managerialist' argument is the view, often explicitly stated, that inefficiencies existed in the practices that were previously being performed by the organisation or the individuals being examined. This being so, the argument was that it had become necessary to 'rein in' those professionals who were responsible for these poor practices. Thus, 'it is reasonable to consider that the setting of targets to groups previously responsible for regulating themselves is indicative of low trust on the part of the target setters' (Swailes, 2003, p 135). In this context, Swailes (ibid) has suggested that:
...it is hard to over-emphasise the extent to which line management moved to reclaim the right to manage, even to the extent of being seen as returning to Taylorist and Fayolian principles of objective setting, progress monitoring and feedback, all in a general climate of cost reduction and efficiency gains. (p 133)
Traditional notions of 'professionalism', as presented by writers such as Hall (op cit) and Engel (op cit) see no need for the overseeing role of line management, target setting, or external scrutiny, monitoring and audit. The rise of what Strathern (2000) has labelled an 'audit culture' has exerted keen pressure on the concept of professional autonomy and individual responsibility for action. The tensions faced by individuals in this position have been identified clearly by Pels (2000), who talks of:
...the shift, in anthropological ethics, from professionalism to audit [being] yet another instance of the swing of the liberal pendulum from a romantic primacy of the ethical to a utilitarian primacy of the economic. (p 148)
Stronach et al (2002), in their study of professional identify amongst nurses and teachers, have made a important contribution to the debate by postulating the dichotomy faced by professionals as being one between an 'economy of performance' and 'ecologies of practice' (p 109). The former relates primarily to the performance and audit culture that is manifested through, for example, the Audit Commission, OFSTED and the Adult Learning Inspectorate and is often expressed in terms of quantitative performance measures. The emphasis within the Further Education sector on a 'payment by results' mentality and the premium paid for student retention and course completion fits neatly within this scenario. In their examination of nursing and teaching staff, the writers contrast this 'performance' focus with what they call 'professional dispositions and commitments individually and collectively engendered' (ibid, p 109). Here there is a clear referral back to the characteristics of commitment, self-regulation and autonomy identified in Hall's seminal study (op cit).
The emergence of a 'surveillance' culture within the professions reflects wider shifts in public attitudes towards the notion of 'expertise', closely allied to the rise of a more consumer- oriented approach to the public services. This, also, has its origins in the development of a more market-driven focus within the public sector, for example through open enrolment to schools. As Swailes (op cit) has indicated:
The effect of market changes was to make professionals far more accountable to their client/customer markets in addition to greater scrutiny from an increasingly assertive management. (p 134)
Traditional deferential attitudes towards 'the expert' have been eroded, so that 'consumers' feel that the only authority they need to make judgements is their own. This has been coupled with a strong view that their judgement is as valid as the individual judgements of any other individual, qualified professional notwithstanding. Within the broader social context, policy makers have imposed greater expectations and requirements upon professional practice and these have, in turn, informed the expectations of 'consumers' and intensified the work done by the professionals. Professional claims to cognitive superiority, grounded in a background of training and experience within the job, have been severely circumscribed within a consumer-driven atmosphere. The relationship between tutor and student within a Further Education context illustrates the issues raised here well, in that the tutor is not necessarily the sole, or even the major, arbiter of the decisions taken during this relationship.
The analysis of 'professionalism' within public sector organisations has not neglected to examine professionals working within education (for example, see Race, 2002). Interest in this area has blossomed as the impact of 'marketization' has become more and more manifest in the last two decades. The notion of teacher 'performativity' has been introduced into the debate through the work of writes such as Ball (1994). Here, as elsewhere within the public sector, the trend has been towards target setting both at an organisational and an individual level, the internal and external monitoring of organisational and individual performance, and the encroachment of the 'consumer' into domains that had traditionally been the territory solely of the professionals. Here we see elements of what Lyotard (1984) identified as 'the legitimation of education through performativity'. Mirroring organisational developments in other sectors, there has been a concomitant growth in the role of 'management' within schools and colleges and this has brought in its slipstream new cultural nuances. As Andrews (1999) has suggested:
Managers are at the centre, rather than the margins...Technically trained, they offer a new rationality and conviction in the age of disenchantment, disillusion and fragmentation. With their empiricist and pseudo-scientific directives, they project themselves as the new experts, albeit dressed in grey suits rather than white coats. With the attacks on "professional privilege" and the language of "outcomes" and "targets", they are the spokespeople of the new meritocratic (rather than chattering) classes. (op cit, p 20)
Many of these developments have been related to the impact of 'restructuring' within educational systems around the world. The global emphasis on decentralisation, site-based management and devolved financial control that emerged in the 1980s encouraged new views of teacher professionalism to surface. Much of the early writing that linked restructuring and teacher professionalism painted a most positive picture. In an early study of the impact of 'restructuring', Elmore (1988) laid down a clear marker with the view that the role of the teacher was concerned with 'empowering and enabling students to take control over their own learning' (op cit, p 1). Murphy (1993), writing in the early dawn of thinking in this area, suggested that 'the most powerful dynamic of (the) restructuring of today is the shift from a technical to (a) professional view of teaching' (op cit, p 15). Similarly, Rallis (1990) argued that restructuring would contribute to 'an elevated concept of teaching' (op cit, p 15). Ball (ibid) took a contrary view when he argued that the restructuring of education systems resulted in a trivialisation of the educational endeavour. His view was that there was a steady erosion of the spaces left for teachers to make use of their professional autonomy and judgements, with a consequent tendency towards standardisation of classroom practice. In a recent study of the development of teacher professionalism in the Nordic area Klette (2002) has taken this argument further. This analysis has suggested that:
A rhetorical discourse about teachers being autonomous professionals and collaborative decision-makers coexists with growing systems of control mechanisms and of external constraints and demands on teachers' work. (Klette, ibid, p 267)
The conclusions drawn in this study of the impact of system restructuring on teachers' work and professionalism has a strong resonance when related to the work of lecturers within the Further Education sector. After comparing and contrasting trends in development across the Nordic countries Klette (ibid) concludes that:
Restructuring efforts, especially the pressure on evaluation, are in the midst of changing the teaching profession from being an implicit craft-oriented and oral working culture to an explicit, discursive, theory-informed and written working culture. In these terms, contemporary restructuring efforts are setting new professional demands on what it means to be a teacher. (p 280)
It will be argued in this paper that the emphasis on explicitness, on the public recording of discussions, and the setting of targets for achievement within the tutorial process in Further Education mirror these developments.
Studies of management within the Further Education sector following incorporation have also stressed the impact that this phenomenon has had upon the professional activities and standing of staff. As indicated earlier in this paper, Randle & Brady (op cit) drew attention to the distinction between the 'managerialist' and the 'professional' paradigms in their study of managers in the nascent post-incorporation period. This analytical thread has been maintained through more recent studies, including those by Robson (1998), Harper (2000), Loots & Whelan (2000), Clow (2001), Gleeson (2001), McDonald & Lucas (2001), Avis (2002), and Simkins & Lumby (2002). These writers have identified the significance of management developments within the FE sector since the period of 'incorporation' and are in general agreement that the pendulum has shifted towards an emphasis on the 'managerialist' aspects of provision. The notions of audit, 'surveillance' and 'visibility' identified earlier in this paper are also seen as being evident within Further Education organisations. Avis (2002), for example, has drawn attention to the;
...contrast between the managerial forms of control and professionalism. Institutional power within the welfare state has been redirected towards management. It is management who are to ensure that efficient and effective action takes place and that the excesses of professionals are held in check...The consequence of such a process is that professionalism is subordinated to management fiat'. (Avis, 2002, pp 80-81)
This view is given some concrete representation through the comments of FE practitioners in studies such as those by Gleeson (op cit) and Bullock & Fertig (2003). 'Richard', a senior manager interviewed by Gleeson (op cit) presents a concise summary of these concerns:
There is a kind of iconoclasm built into incorporation in the same way as there is for all sorts of government initiatives such as those which have taken place in the health service, which is de-professionalization. There is actually restructuring of the system in a way that doesn't give the primacy of view to the educator in the classroom-that says 'well, I think that in order to achieve these students should receive X'. In the same way that doctors don't run the health service any more, it's to say well in effect that professional argument, as a basis for running the system, is broken. (qtd Gleeson, op cit, p 186)
TUTORIAL PROVISION IN FURTHER EDUCATION
The arguments put forward to support the provision of tutorial support for students in Further Education exemplify the coalescence of the dichotomy between the 'professional' and 'managerial' identified earlier in this paper.
This provision has been seen as playing a central role in encouraging student retention and course completion (Martinez, 1995), factors that are regarded as crucial within the post-incorporation Further Education sector. As Green (op cit) has indicated:
...the role of the tutor is central to successful learning. We have seen the tutor move from a largely autonomous role, sometimes with a vague brief, to an extended and more clearly defined role with a clear link to learning...The commitment and skills of the individual tutor are critical in terms of the learner/tutor interaction, so perhaps this should be seen as the most important issue in our search for a consistently positive learner experience (ibid, p 1).
It is interesting to analyse and deconstruct the issues subsumed within this viewpoint. Here, there is a clear indication that there is someone else, apart from the lecturer employed to teach the specific curriculum area, who is to be involved in the learning of students. Indeed, Green (ibid) suggests that the role of this member of college staff is 'central' to successful learning undertaken by students. Moreover, the tutor's relationship with the student is seen as 'the most important issue' in the search for a 'consistently positive learner experience'. The issue here centres essentially on the relationship between these two factors, both seen by writers such as Green (ibid) as playing a central part in developing student learning.
This raises a number of questions about the tutorial 'project' within the Further Education sector. It is not clear, for example, on what basis Green (ibid) argues that the tutor/student relationship is more 'critical' than the relationship that would be built up between the lecturer and the student through interactions within the teaching environment. Is there an expectation here, for example, that the 'tutor' will be able to inform the student's learning within specific curriculum areas to a greater extent than the lecturer teaching those areas? Since it appears to be unlikely that individual tutors will have an intimate knowledge of the different curriculum areas experienced by their tutees, the underlying assumption here would seem to relate to the potential that the tutor has within the area of 'generic' advice and support for learning. The explosion of interest in 'key skills' within the Further Education sector (and elsewhere) clearly bears witness to the 'generic' thrust of tutor support. The issue then focuses on the degree to which the advice and support given to students by their tutors relates to the specific reality of the learning experience within the taught areas of the curriculum. Green's viewpoint appears to send clear messages about the potential erosion of lecturer autonomy, in particular with regard to their knowledge and awareness of the pedagogical issues raised by the teaching of their curriculum area.
A similar concern relates to a general lack of clarity about the notion of the 'tutor' (see, for example, Bullock & Fertig, op cit). This is exemplified in some of the issues emerging from studies of tutorial provision undertaken by the Learning & Skills Development Agency. An influential study on 'target setting' within the sector (Martinez, op cit) appears to conflate the roles of the different individuals who have some potential influence on student learning. This study suggests, quite appropriately, that target setting needs to be based on the use of accurate data. A note of concern arises, though, when the detail of the tutorial experience is identified. Here, 'one of the most important aspects is the relationship between the learner and their personal tutor who knows them, champions their interests and liaises closely with subject teachers and trainers' (Martinez, ibid, p 12).
A number of clear assumptions about the professional ethos of 'subject teachers and trainers' are embedded within this view, many of which play into the 'managerialist' discourse and the limitations placed upon lecturer professionalism in Further Education. Writers such as McTavish (op cit) have alluded to the introduction of 'target setting' within the management operations of public sector organisations. Within the FE sector the approach identified by writers such as Martinez (op cit) has both an explicit and a subtle message for practitioners.
On the one hand, the notion of 'targets' encompasses the view that it is possible to identify with some degree of detail, firstly, the current learning position or target of individual students, then the anticipated learning position of these students after the teaching has taken place and, finally, the approaches that will be needed for this position to be achieved by individual students. As Shain & Gleeson (op cit) have indicated in their discussion of the 'reconstruction' of lecturers' work since incorporation, this exemplifies 'the re-definition of quality from one based on process to outcomes' (ibid, p 452). The success, or otherwise, of this process has been identified by writers such as Martinez (op cit) as having a clear impact upon the retention and completion agenda that forms the core of recent developments within the FE sector. Indeed, in his study of 'target setting' cited earlier, Martinez (op cit) is clear about the general features of this process:
It is clear, though, that even advocates of a target-setting approach to tutorial provision, such as Martinez, are aware of some of the problems evinced by a focus on this area. In the study cited, there is an understanding of the 'tentative and imprecise nature of the target setting process' (op cit p 3), an imprecision that is likely to be exacerbated if tutors rather than subject lecturers are seen as the 'critical' components involved in the process. Martinez (op cit) has also identified a further problematic area, in that he has contrasted the wide use of target setting within A-Level provision within the case study Colleges examined with the rather limited use of the approach within vocational study areas. He commented here that '...improvements in student performance in vocational qualifications have not generally employed target setting and have been measured by more conventional indicators such as attendance, retention and achievement rates (Martinez, op cit p 4). This does seem to indicate some degree of difficulty with a 'one size fits all' approach to the development of a target setting culture within tutorial provision and begs the question as to the specific issues that make vocational studies less amenable to the target setting process.
In a more subtle way, the thinking behind target setting creates inroads into the territory traditionally seen as being located within the professional arena. Studies such as those by Green (op cit) and Martinez (op cit) lay great stress upon the reflective nature of the tutorial process, both for the student and for staff. The tutorial provides a location and a platform for issues concerning pedagogy and learning to surface and assume the 'visibility' associated with Schmelzer's notion of' the multiple gaze' (op cit). Indeed, this can be seen as another example of the opening-up of the curriculum and pedagogy that has accompanied the incorporation of colleges. In this area, advocates of the value of tutorial provision sometimes present arguments that appear to be non-controversial. A good example relates to comments such as those found in the Martinez study of 'target setting' (op cit). These suggest that 'targets encourage a reflective approach: using targets effectively involves ongoing reflection about the appropriateness of teaching and training strategies and curriculum design' (op cit, p 12). The issue underlying this viewpoint focuses on the lack of clarity about 'who' is to carry out the 'ongoing reflection' that considers the 'appropriateness' of the pedagogy and curriculum employed by the lecturer. The arguments in favour of an approach that foregrounds 'professional' attitudes would indicate that this 'ongoing reflection' and commitment to improvement form part of the approach that FE lecturers would bring to their work through their professionalism (Laffin, op cit). Indeed, this may very well be closely linked to the individualised 'critical reflective' stance that Martinez is advocating. It is interesting, therefore, to note that a more customer-focused and managerialist viewpoint related to student empowerment is also being developed alongside this. There is a clear view presented that:
...students should be encouraged to self-assess their progress against qualitative targets for underlying progress (Martinez, op cit, p 13).
Such an advocacy of student involvement in their own assessment, though in itself emerging from a long line of thinking about the ownership of learning, does make significant inroads into previously hidden areas of teaching and learning. There are clear connections here with Randle & Bailey's (op cit) discussion of the development of a consumerist ethos within the FE sector and the impact of the growth of accountability on professional behaviour (Swailes, op cit).
One final area of the management of tutorial provision that impacts upon the professional behaviour of lecturers within FE centres on the issue of cross-organisation consistency and student entitlement. Detailed studies of tutorial programmes, such as Lankester (2002) and Milthorpe (2002) have examined the questions raised by a desire to offer a similar tutorial entitlement to students. Other studies (eg Green, op cit; Martinez op cit; Bullock & Fertig, op cit) have brought to the surface the issues that relate to the management of provision across Further Education organisations whose diversity far outweighs that usually found within the schools sector. It is interesting to note that the focus here often emanates from an advocacy of the student experience, rather than from the perspective of the lecturer. Green, in the study cited earlier, states quite clearly that:
...managing for quality and consistency in tutoring is the priority for colleges nationally...responding to this challenge many colleges have moved to greater centralisation in a bid to standardise systems and secure an equitable service for learners across different sites and curriculum areas (Green, op cit, p 1, emphasis in original).
The manifestation of this within colleges is seen in two of the case studies examined by Green (op cit):
- in Case Study 2...All subject areas have adopted a common system of recording the outcomes of individual reviews with copies made available to learners to discuss with parents/guardians;...
- in Case Study 7...All subject staff work to a common set of criteria in their monitoring of progress and grading performance (Green, op cit, pp 18/31).
It is clear here that college managers find themselves in a double bind in these situations. On the one hand, there is the need to support student learning in significant ways so as to improve retention and achievement. The view taken is that one key way to reach that goal is to devote staff energies towards student support in ways that send positive messages about entitlement to the customer group ie students and parents/guardians. Contrasted with this, is the desire to shoehorn lecturers' professional practice into clear and precise patterns of consistency, on the assumption that all curriculum areas and pedagogical practices will fit. The leeway for professional judgement, seen as one of the cornerstones of 'professionalism' (Hall, op cit; Swailes, op cit), is likely to become increasingly narrowed within such an organisational culture.
The management of tutorial provision within Further Education colleges has been given increasing prominence since the period of 'incorporation' in the early 1990s. Much time and energy has been devoted to identifying the purposes of tutorial provision and to examining how it can best be managed so as to achieve the aims of the provision. Given the wide diversity of student background and curricular programmes within the FE sector, concerns to come up with the 'magic bullet' regarding tutorials have been understandable. The work of writers such as Martinez (op cit), Green (op cit), and the case studies supported by the Learning & Skills Council (eg Lankester, op cit; Milthorpe, op cit) have done much to exemplify effective practice in this area.
This paper has sought to stand back from the specific practice of individual colleges in order to attempt to put the move towards effective tutorial provision into a wider theoretical framework. While not arguing against the introduction and development of tutorials, the paper identifies some of the problematic area associated with provision, especially as they relate to the nature of lecturer professionalism. The paper has argued that this development forms part of the wider movement within FE towards a more managerialist, outcomes-based approach to pedagogy and learning, with its tendency to de-professionalise the work of college lecturers. Tutorial provision is seen as being located at the focus point for these trends, as it impacts upon both the private and the public work of the lecturer. This study opens up further areas for examination and research, especially in relation to the testing out of the ideas identified in the paper. The increased emphasis being put on post-16 developments by Government policy, coupled with the emergence of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (2003) in late 2003, all add to the imperatives that should allow this research to forge ahead.
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