The application of phronesis to teaching and quality management : a case study in further education
Barr, Glenn (Glenn Andrew)
Thesis or dissertation
- © 2011 Glenn Andrew Barr. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
Over the last twenty years Further Education colleges in England have expanded their Higher Education provision significantly. Higher Education in Further Education is a major force accounting for approximately ten percent of Higher Education students (Parry 2005).
The thesis takes a concept from Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and applies it to Higher Education in Further Education in England. The notion of phronesis adopted for this study differs from literal interpretations of Aristotle such as adopted by Kristyansson, (2005) but accords with adaptations of the concept by such as Eisner (2002), Birmingham (2003, 2004) and Hagar (2000). The interpretation adopted for the thesis is that phronesis is wise, practical knowledge which is deliberative, depends on judgement and is based on circumstances. It is about practicalities and the interaction between the universal and the particular. When applied to teaching it can be briefly summarised as an approach which bases the profession of teaching on practical knowledge and recognises the artistry of the teaching activity (Eisner, 2002).
The argument of the thesis is that phronesis could provide a model for the teaching and quality management of Higher Education (HE) in Further Education (FE) at Hull College. The thesis demonstrates that in the face of pressures of commodification, performativity and vocationalisation in the national and global environment, students, staff and managers at the College hold beliefs more in tune with an approach based on phronesis rather than with that of The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) or The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). As a result phronesis could provide a more effective foundation for teaching and quality management.
After an analysis of the academic and official literature, the empirical research adopted a case study method based on semi structured interviews with students, teaching staff and managers. The empirical evidence reinforced the academic evidence that there is a managerial imperative in colleges which leads to teaching staff and managers facing a range of pressures. There are pressures on their beliefs and what they identified as their proper professional activity: teaching, reflecting, debating, updating their subject knowledge and engaging in scholarship. However, these pressures are moderated by the commitment of the teaching staff and managers to delivering a particular HE in FE experience, in partnership with their students, in accordance with the features of phronesis.
Empirical and theoretical evidence supports the conjecture that phronesis could provide a model for the teaching and quality management of HE in FE, at Hull College. The views of students, staff and managers were broadly in accord with the main features of phronesis, rather than those of performativity and commodification. Their views were also consistent with a vocational education situated in phronesis, rather than with a vocationalism which is part of the 5 managerialist, performative and commodificationist agendas. Although there are pressures from all of these agendas threatening the application of phronesis, there is evidence that it is phronesis which should underpin the teaching, management and indeed, the profession for teachers of HE in FE.
Recommendations focus on acknowledging the distinct role of HE in FE: its quality management; staff participation in reflection, scholarly activity and vocational updating; the recognition of students as partners in learning.
- Centre for Educational Studies, The University of Hull
- Bottery, Mike
- Qualification level
- Qualification name
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