ABSTRACTS. Advocacy and the activist professional: Public education in tough times

For the full programme – click here or download WERA Network Programme.

Abstracts below:

Why, if it’s kicking off everywhere, is it not kicking off where I am? Making sense of ‘resistance’ in the neoliberal school system.

Howard Stevenson (University of Nottingham)


Times are tough – but that does not always result in teachers speaking back to reforms in the ways that we might expect, or indeed hope for. In this paper I explore why teachers sometimes resist, and often times don’t, and why they always behave unpredictably. In arguing we have to analyse consent as much as we try to understand resistance I will argue that those involved in activism and organising need to act as ‘organisers of ideas’ if teachers are to develop progressive collective responses to the neoliberal restructuring of public education systems.


Equity Is Not Enough:  Seeking Persuasive Arguments for Policy Change

Sue Winton (York University, Canada)


I present findings from research that examined the persuasive arguments mobilized by People for Education (P4E), an educational advocacy group in Ontario, Canada, in three campaigns over the past two decades.  The campaigns aimed to change government policies related to school fundraising, school fees, and special education assessments.

The campaigns had different outcomes: the government banned school fees and school practices changed; a fundraising policy was introduced but school practices did not change (indeed fundraising may have intensified to offset funds lost through the change in school fees policy); and special education assessment policy remains unchanged.  Examining the campaigns in their socio-historical contexts, Ontarians and its Liberal government appear to support equal opportunity (which explains changes after the new school fees policy) but are not persuaded by arguments to ensure equity.  Indeed, the appearance of equal opportunity is necessary to legitimate Ontarian’s belief in meritocracy and the inequities it produces.

I hope these findings inspire a conversation with audience members about persuasive arguments in policy advocacy since the argument for equity does not, on its own, appear to matter enough to change inequitable practices.



Rethinking “advocacy” and “activism” in parent empowerment: What do we mean across national contexts?

Lauri Johnson (Boston College, MA)


This presentation and discussion will explore different ways that researchers have looked at parent involvement/empowerment in different national contexts.  It will mostly draw on studies from US, Canada, and UK, but will also include studies from Hong Kong, Maori families in New Zealand, Eastern Europe, & South Africa.


Teacher unionism in Scotland: union renewal as co-construction

Nina Bascia (OISE, Canada)


Education policy in Scotland has developed in ways that are much closer to its Northern European counterparts, than, for example, its immediate UK neighbour, England.  Scottish education policy has retained a strong commitment to local government provision and for many years has set itself against curriculum prescription, standardised testing and privatisation.  This has often been presented as a direct repudiation of ‘the neoliberal agenda’ (national policy officer and project interviewee).

The focus of this paper is the Educational Institute of Scotland.  It will focus on how the union has engaged with government, and through this relationship between labour and the state has  co-constructed a consensus that has challenged the trajectory of neoliberal reform.  The paper will particularly focus on the ways that the union has sought to fuse professional and industrial issues, and its innovative use of ‘union learning representatives’ to engage members around a wide range of issues (Alexandrou, 2009).

The paper will explore the tensions inherent in such a strategy, and in particular the challenges now presented by a policy agenda that is developing in new and potentially threatening ways (see for example the introduction of standardised testing and possible emergence of league tables).


Getting actively involved in a trade union: the experiences of young teacher activists.

Alison Gilliland (Senior official, INTO)


This presentation will explore the preliminary findings of one particular aspect of my doctoral research into young teacher union activists – the influences, experiences and contexts that led to them becoming actively involved in their union.


Social Justice and Migrant Families in Spain

Dr Patricia Silva (University of Llerida), Dr Serafin Antunez (University of Barcelona) and Dr Charles Slater (California State University Long Beach)

Corresponding author: Charles.slater@csulb.edu

Schools today have the challenge and commitment to address the problems arising from the economic crisis and changes in the social structure which are a product of the migration of entire families. Teachers have had to learn quickly on issues related to social justice and management of resources to care for children. This study from Spain provides data on how schools make every effort to implement meritorious professional practices to: (i) assist students in academic and social aspects; (ii) promote and implement the participation and collaboration with families; (iii) review and improve educational processes, organizational processes and performance management; and (iv) improve relations between the school and the community.



PROGRAMME. Advocacy and the activist professional: Public education in tough times

Venue and date: Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), 35 Parnell Sq, Dublin 1. Monday August 22, 2016.

The event is organised by WERA Researching families, educators and communities as educational advocates: cross national perspectives research network. For further details about the network visit https://educateadvocate.wordpress.com/

This event is FREE. We are very grateful to INTO for hosting and supporting this event.

There is still time to register. REGISTER HERE.


9.30-10.00 Registration and coffee/tea.

10.00-11.00 Opening presentation and discussion.

Howard Stevenson (University of Nottingham) Why, if it’s kicking off everywhere, is it not kicking off where I am? Making sense of ‘resistance’ in the neoliberal school system.

This will be a presentation, followed by questions and structured small group discussion.


Sue Winton (York University, Toronto) Equity Is not enough: Seeking persuasive arguments for policy change


Short comfort break


Lauri Johnson (Boston College, MA) Rethinking “advocacy” and “activism” in parent empowerment: What do we mean across national contexts?




Nina Bascia (OISE, Toronto) Teacher unionism in Scotland: union renewal as co-construction

Alison Gilliland (Irish National Teachers’ Organisation) Getting actively involved in a trade union: the experiences of young teacher activists.


Patricia Silva (University of Llerida), Serafin Antunez (University of Barcelona) and Charles Slater (California State University Long Beach) Social Justice and Migrant Families in Spain.

Plenary – panel and discussion.

An opportunity to reflect on the day, further discuss the issues arising and think through the implications for the Network’s research agenda.

Abstracts can be accessed here.


Close, followed by . . .

Following the formal events we will retire to the Teachers’ Club for much more informal discussion of the day’s proceedings. The Teachers’ Club is located in the same building as the seminar. Everyone attending the seminar is welcome.

The Network will then be having an early evening meal in Dublin centre. Again, all are welcome, but please email howard.stevenson@nottingham.ac.uk in advance so we can make a reservation. Restaurant details will be provided on the day.

Special Issue: Families, Educators, and Communities as Educational Advocates: Cross National Perspectives

Lauri Johnson and Sue Winton, co-convenors of this network have edited a special issue of Leadership and Policy in Schools. This is volume 15, number 1 and it is available now.

The journal includes articles by the editors and by several others including Dennis Shirley and Rodney Hopson with Peter Miller and Temple S. Lovelace. A full list of contents is here.

The publication makes a significant contribution to the developing work of this Network.

Immediate next steps in Network activity are that Lauri Johnson and Howard Stevenson will be presenting at the next BELMAS Critical Educational Policy and Leadership Studies meeting at the University of Nottingham on Saturday 13th February – https://www.belmas.org.uk/Events/CEPals-RIG-Meeting—13th-Feb-2016/32088.  Each will present on their article in the special issue.

The Network also has a symposium at the WERA focal meeting taking place alongside the American Educational Research Association annual meeting.   Full details of the Network’s presence at WERA/AERA will be on this website shortly. Click ‘Follow’ on the blog to be emailed whenever there is a new post.

Network symposiums at ECER 2016 – call for proposals

Dear WERA Education Advocacy Network Members*,

We aim for our new WERA network to have a strong presence at ECER 2016 in Dublin, Ireland in August 2016. To that end, we are inviting network members to submit a 400 word abstract for a single authored or co-authored paper proposal which relates to one of our network themes:

  1. Family- Community Engagement
  2. Community Organizing
  3. Teacher and Teacher Union Activism
  4. Leadership for Advocacy

Because all ECER symposium proposals must include papers from at least 3 countries, we need broad international participation by network members to construct panels.

Please send abstracts by Jan. 4th to Lauri Johnson (lauri.johnson@bc.edu) and Sue Winton (SWinton@edu.yorku.ca) to provide time for the convenors to write and submit symposium proposals by the Jan. 15th deadline. We will do our best to create symposia that include all submissions but individuals may be asked to submit individual paper proposals if it is not possible for us to do so.

If you are not interested in presenting a paper but would like to be a chair or discussant for one of the panels, let us know that too.

Thanks, Lauri, Sue, and Howard

* Not a member? If you are interested in the work of this Network and want to be kept informed about what we are doing simply email Lauri Johnson to be added to the email list.

ECER 2016 Pre-conference workshop – ‘Advocacy and the activist professional: teachers and teaching in tough times.’

Teachers Club, Dublin
Teachers Club, Dublin

The World Education Research Association Research Network ‘Researching families, educators and communities as educational advocates: cross-national perspectives’ will be holding a one day pre-conference workshop at ECER 2016. The workshop will be on 22nd August (ECER conference commences on 23rd August).  This event is being supported by the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and will be hosted at INTO’s headquarters in the heart of Dublin city.  The event will be attended by local teachers as well as researchers/scholars.

Teachers are under pressure. Public education is under attack. This day of presentations and papers will explore what it means to be a an advocate for public education in an age of the globalised education ‘reform’ movement (GERM).

What is happening to teachers’ work? How are teachers resisting the attacks on their professionalism and to what extent do teachers’ acts of resistance connect with a wider and more hopeful vision of education as a public good? What does ‘activist professionalism’ (Sachs, 2003) look like in the age of the GERM?  The focus of the day will be on teachers as advocates for public education, activists in unions and participants in social movements.

The day will be informal and focus on sharing work and ideas. This is in keeping with the network’s commitment to connect ideas and activism.   It will be structured around the presentation of papers – likely to be two papers in a single hour session.  Proposals are invited that speak to the themes identified above. Presentations do not need to be accompanied by a formal paper, although such papers will be welcomed. Proposals should not replicate any submission to the ECER conference but it may be that proposals are drawn from the same substantive research and present a different aspect of this work.

The event is free with lunch and refreshments provided. We are grateful to the INTO for hosting this event and providing the day time refreshments.

Following the workshop there will be a gathering at the Teachers’ Club, Dublin, followed by a Network dinner (cost) – all invited.


Proposals should be in the form of a title, list of presenters (with email addresses) and an abstract (maximum 300 words) outlining the key elements of the work to be presented (sent as a Word file). Submit proposals to Howard Stevenson, University of Nottingham, UK, via email (howard.stevenson@nottingham.ac.uk) with ‘WERA workshop’ in the title line.  The deadline for submissions is 30th June 2016, but early submissions is strongly encouraged.

Attendance is open to non-presenters, but numbers will be limited and priority will be given to presenters. Further details about registration will follow once the programme has been finalised. For informal enquiries about any aspect of the above – please contact Howard directly.

WERA International Research Network (WERA-IRN) Proposal Families, Educators, and Communities as Educational Advocates: Cross National Perspectives

A. Introduction and Overview of the Research Topic
Governments, schools, and researchers around the world call for parent and community involvement in education (e.g., Duncan, 2010; Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010). Parent and community involvement is purported to improve student achievement (Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, & Davies, 2003; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2012), and public participation in policy processes enhances democracy, policy, and education (Barber, 2003; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2003; Orr & Rogers, 2011). There is a growing research base that examines how and why parents, community-based organizations, businesses, universities, unions, professional organizations, and other interest and advocacy groups engage with educators and other decision-makers in education.

Research on Parent Involvement. Traditionally, research on school-based educators’ relationships with families has examined different ways parents are involved in schools (e.g., Chrispeels, 1996; Epstein, 2011); the benefits of parental involvement (e.g., Henderson & Mapp, 2002; LaRocque, Kleiman, & Darling, 2011); the barriers to parent involvement (e.g., Flynn, 2011); parents’ motivation for becoming involved in schools (e.g., Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2005); and strategies for increasing parent involvement in schools and enhancing home-school relationships (e.g., Georgis, Gokiert, Ford & Ali, 2014; Hands, 2013). Much of this of work may be characterized as school-centric; that is, its focus is on the ways parents and communities can support school goals (Baquedano-López, Alexander & Hernandez, 2013).

Other research examines the politics of parent involvement. This work considers how class, race, language, and other social factors affect parent involvement and perpetuate social inequalities (e.g., Baquedano-López et al., 2013; Pushor & Murphy, 2010). The advocacy work of parents with children with special needs in particular is well documented (e.g., Bacon & Causton-Theoharis, 2013; Hutchinson et al., 2014). A related area of research considers the work of formal parent organizations at the local (e.g., school councils and parent-teacher associations), state, and federal levels. This work examines participants’ experiences and organizations’ activities and outcomes (e.g., Leithwood, Jantzi & Steinbach, 1999; Pharis, Bass & Pate, 2005). Yet much of this research focuses on how parents and parent organizations respond to single issues, and fails to consider how parents might interact with other advocacy groups. Continue reading “WERA International Research Network (WERA-IRN) Proposal Families, Educators, and Communities as Educational Advocates: Cross National Perspectives”