This is a call for abstracts for the volume: ‘The practice of method: intimate accounts of researching education policy’

In the area of education policy, researchers need to address ‘hinterland research’ issues that relate to research encounters with and in the field and the co-constitutive relationship between the researcher and the field, by focusing on issues such as access, trust, positionality, power relations, ethics, research for policy, issues of self-censorship and impact, among others. These issues bring out the untold stories of how scholars, for example, make transgressive methodological moves to gain access to concealed research settings, navigate gender and age gaps to manipulate power relations, acquire and manage local cultures and norms, rethink their beliefs and practices, play with perceptions of threat in sharing confidential information by dressing up or down, establish thresholds for ethical standards of conduct, and construct boundaries between friendly and formal relationships with research participants.  In seeking to recount how scholars ‘practice method’ in the spaces of education policy and governance, contributors may experiment with language and style in their chapters by using, for example, auto-ethnographic accounts, story-telling, dialogues, and other intimate accounts of mundane practices of methodology.

 

 

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This is a call for abstracts for all scholars wishing to contribute a chapter (approximately 7000 words) to the edited volume outlined here below. Please send an abstract of 500 words (excluding references) which includes: a) the chapter title and author/s, b) the purpose of the chapter, c) the methodological areas and questions the chapter deals with, d) its analytical framing, and e) an outline of what the chapter contributes, argues and concludes in relation to the volume’s overall description. Please ensure your abstract responds to the call. We reserve the right to reject abstracts and/or chapters, or require major changes to ensure the originality and cohesion of the edited volume.

 

Please include a 100-word biography (similar in style to the editors’ biographies below). Please send the abstract and biography in a word document to Camilla Addey. The timeline is as follows:

 

Submission of abstracts: 31st October 2019

Review results and invitation to submit full chapters: 31st December 2019

Full draft chapter submission: 30th April 2020

(Editorial negotiations between January and April with publishers on the basis of the full volume outline)

Feedback on full draft chapter: 15th June 2020

Submission of final, revised chapters: 30th September 2020

Publication date: to be negotiated with publisher

 

A panel will be organised at the ECER 2020 conference in Glasgow to bring together the invited scholars and volume chapters. Participation at ECER 2020 is self-funded.   

  

Book title: The practice of method: intimate accounts of researching education policy

 Area: Methodology, Research Methods, Education Policy, Education Governance, Sociology of Education

Disciplines: Multiple disciplinary and methodological approaches

Keywords: research methodology, data, field access, ethics, scholar identities, gender, elite policy spaces, policy, power relations, trust, education policy, politics and governance

Editors: Dr Camilla Addey (Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain) and Dr Nelli Piattoeva (Tampere University, Finland)

 

Dr Camilla Addey is a Marie Curie Fellow at GEPS – the Globalisation, Education and Social Policies – research centre at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain. Formerly, Camilla was lecturer in Comparative and International Education at Teachers College, Columbia University (USA), and a researcher at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. She researches international large-scale assessments, global educational policy, and education privatizations. Email addey@tc.columbia.edu Twitter @CamillaAddey

 

Dr Nelli Piattoeva is associate professor in New Social Research programme and the Faculty of Education and Culture at Tampere University, Finland. Her research principally focuses on the transnationalization and datafication of education policy. She is concerned with national and international large-scale assessments as sources of evidence for policymaking and new technologies of governance at a distance. Nelli’s primary geographical focus of research is Russia and the post-Soviet space. E-mail nelli.piattoeva@tuni.fi Twitter @NelliPiattoeva

 

Foreword author: Professor Jenny Ozga, Oxford University, UK

 

Synopsis

 

‘Scientists have a culture. They have beliefs. They have practices.

 They work, they gossip, and they worry about the future. And, somehow or

 other, out of their work, their practices and their beliefs, they produce

 knowledge, scientific knowledge, accounts of reality. So how do they do this?

How do they make knowledge?’ Law 2004, 19

 

‘We need a way of talking that helps us to recognise and treat with the fluidities, leakages and entanglements that make up the hinterland of research’ Law 2004, 41

“That’s the working in the world isn’t it? If you work in the world then your practice is shaped by the world. It may bite back. It’s about “becoming with” the world.”

Law & Singleton 2013, 488

 

How do researchers focusing on education policy, politics and governance of education make knowledge? How do we know and understand what researchers actually do when they ‘practice’ research – for example, make methodological choices and translate them into practice? How do researchers balance the contingent, political and ethical nature of the policy settings that they study with rising academic precarity, pressure to publish and make (fast) impact in scientific and political domains? We wonder if the urge to create smooth master narratives of education policy and governance conceal not only the complex and provisional nature of research-making in these settings, but ultimately prevent researchers from seeing and theorizing education governance in richer terms. Overall, how could research tell its methodological story otherwise, and why should it matter? The aim of this book is to make visible and stimulate scholarly discussion on the hinterland of education policy and governance research that is kept almost invisible in research accounts.

 

Most accounts of methodology[1] seem to imply a set of standardized, technical procedures (Law 2004) that a scholar can apply and recount without much variation. However, if we recognize ‘methodological decisions as deeply political and consequential’ (Gorur et al. 2019: 7, also Law & Singleton 2013), specific to cultural and historical contexts (Law 2004), and that ‘worlds and methodologies are co-produced’ (Gorur et al. 2019: 6), we must recognize that research unfolds with and in the field. Moreover, the co-constitutive relationship between the researcher and the field generates methodological practices that affect the types of knowledge and realities produced in the research process (Rimpiläinen 2015).

 

Through experimental and intimate accounts, this volume will allow the cultures, beliefs and individual researcher’s situated and uncertain epistemic choices and practices to be told. The collected chapters will make explicit how such practices are assembled, managed, and given meaning. Together, they will show the messy, subjective and even deeply personal processes through which scientific knowledge on education policy(making) and governance is made – an exclusive space which is particularly susceptible to the concealment of discussions of practice and its complexities. To do so, the chapters will respond to questions like: How does the scholar ‘become with’ the world? How do research encounters with and in the field generate methodological practices that affect the types of knowledge and realities produced in the research process? How are such encounters and ‘becomings’ managed and given meaning?

 

Why this volume is original

Recent publications, such as the 2019 World Yearbook of Education on Comparative Methodology in the Era of Big Data and Global Networks (Gorur et al. 2019), have recognized how research contexts have changed and enabled, as well as necessitated, new methodological practices (as described below). In contrast to the 2019 World Yearbook of Education, which collected contributions on how to study education in light of profound recent changes, this volume makes explicit how education scholars undertaking research in and on ‘high-level policy settings’ become part of their methodology and make methodology part of themselves – their ‘becoming with’ the world. This volume is therefore not a detached research methods manual, but tells how scholars have actually studied and constructed the world through and with their methodology – stories that will help researchers in general and education policy scholars in particular who are dealing with the practice of method.

 

This volume was originally inspired by the work of Jenny Ozga and Sharon Gewirtz: Sex, Lies and Audiotape: Interviewing the Education Policy Elite (1995)[2], on the untold practice of method that young female scholars engage with in high level, predominantly male and elite policy settings[3]. This volume gathers accounts of the practice of method in high level decision and policy-making settings[4], but extends beyond female scholars[5] to invite as broad a range of scholars as possible.

 

To make the case for this volume and to explain how we understand the constitutive role of methodology we draw on Science and Technology Studies (STS), however, it is important to clarify that the chapters contributed to the volume are not required to adopt the same framework.

 

We see knowledge making as performative and “[…] knowing [as] embodied, situated, and embedded in practices, and practices [as] always being done somewhere […]” (Law & Singleton 2013, 486). While “knowing is an intervention in the world” (ibid.), making knowledge is also an intervention into who the knower is and what she/he becomes (see e.g. Thomson & Kamler 2010 on becoming a doctoral researcher). In particular, this approach helps to see the scholar as fluid and emerging, and as an effect of various networks and contexts that he/she is part of, including the context under study.

 

Why this volume is timely in the light of ongoing changes in the politics and governance of education and their impact on research practices

How do we ‘practice method’ in the often hidden spaces of education policy and governance? How are current transformations changing the way we ‘become with’ these spaces? These questions are made urgent in light of three recent complex changes in the contexts and means of politics, policy-making and governance in education, which in turn affect education research in general and research methodology in particular. Namely, the changing nature of educational policymaking and governance; the increasing pressure on academia to generate external funding and lead to impact on policy and practice; and the fast-growing datafication and digitalization of education. Researchers have documented a profound turn in the governance of education to “new modes of government and governing where power is not confined to the state or to the market but is exercised through a plethora of networks, partnerships and policy communities who ‘consensually’ work with stakeholders to produce more flexible, responsive forms of service delivery” (Wilkins & Olmedo 2019, 5). The emergence of interrelated transnational and intranational spaces of policy (Ball 2016) compel researchers to acknowledge the complexity of power relations and governance structures and to examine them beyond topographical, static, state-bounded imaginaries (e.g. Ball 2016; Lewis et al. 2016; Hartong 2018).

 

In relation to the second trend of intensifying entanglements between research and policy, we observe the rising dependence of research on external funding that is often an important element in academic career advancement. Funding is sought from private foundations and state structures including the very organizations that policy researchers typically tend to study, such as national ministries and governments or supranational bodies such as the European Union. Moreover, new modes of governance such as auditing, standardization, testing, predictive analytics, and algorithmic codes not only hark back to older scientific discourses and methodologies, but also rely on complex academic expertise, thus narrowing the distance between research and policy-making. With scientization of policy-making and education governance (e.g. Grek & Ozga 2010), as Neumann (2011, 231) has noted, “policy-makers more and more see themselves as competent readers of social sciences who are also conversant with social science discourse”, which in turn influences the way they behave in encounters with researchers. There is also the question of whether or not increased emphasis on public accountability of policy-makers and civil servants has eased or made more difficult access to high-stakes policy-making contexts.

 

With regards to the third trend, we identify both the rise of new means of policy-making and governance practices that use digitally collected, analysed or represented data, and the simultaneous multiplication of the spaces of policy-making extending the traditional confinements of ministerial cabinets, meetings rooms and parliamentary assemblage halls to new transnational and often virtual meeting spaces such as international conferences and workshops or social media such as Twitter. Finally, new actors, such as edu-businesses but also academically embedded R&D companies, have emerged and act as methodological experts and gatekeepers, inducing automated (big) data-driven educational research and thus potentially transforming epistemological and theoretical premises as well as the very political economy of education knowledge production (Williamson 2017). As big data, digitalization and automation enter the field of education research, there is a growing danger that qualitative methodologies are perceived as being at risk of “human bias” and thus become marginalized.

 

Any attempt to understand contemporary processes of policymaking thus grapple with old and new questions such as the interdependent multiscalar nature of policy-making and enactment, the fast and multidirectional movement of ideas, models and policies across contexts and their ongoing transformations together with the changing contexts of policy implementation. There is also the question of the nature of policy actors whose identities and locations might not be clear-cut and geographically fixed (Wedel et al. 2005). Overall then, the shift from government to governance, the entangled relationship between scholarship and policy processes, and the role of big data and technologies in education create new research contexts and enable new methodological practices, such as network ethnographies (Ball 2016), social network analysis (Verger & Menashy 2019), policy mobility (Gulson et al. 2017), “assemblage approach” (Clarke et al. 2015), and others.

 

From conventional reflexive analysis to uncomfortable reflexivity

The edited volume will stimulate a discussion that goes beyond conventional reflexive analysis and calls for more intimate accounts and alternative ways of academic writing (see e.g. Petersen 2015) to document how scholars are deeply implicated in science making. Engaging in methodological reflexivity, we are acutely aware of the danger of pursuing what Pillow (2003) categorises as narcissistic confession, catharsis, purification or transcendence. The point that we want to make is different and we do not claim innocence or simply search for “better” methodologies, data collection techniques or ways of documenting education policy research. “Uncomfortable reflexivity” to us means courage to bring in data and narratives that scholars do not normally share in their published texts. Uncomfortable reflexivity acts “not as a tool of methodological power but a methodological tool” (ibid., 192) and interrupts “practices of gathering data as “truths” into existing “folds of the known””, encouraging practices that “interrogate the truthfulness of the tale and provide multiple answers” (Trinh, 1991, p. 12 in ibid.) and “unfamiliar – and likely uncomfortable – tellings” (Pillow 2003, 192). Perhaps this is the uncomfortable reflexivity that brings to the fore the impossibility of exteriority and our inescapable complicity in upholding certain elite positions and relations of power in order to meet scholarly research goals or professional ambitions. Bourdieu (2000) claims there is no such thing as epistemological innocence, and in conversation with Wacquant (1996), they argue that ‘good research’ opens itself up to review and criticism by laying bare its constructions. In addressing these issues, the volume seeks to respond to John Law’s call: ‘We need a way of talking that helps us to recognise and treat with the fluidities, leakages and entanglements that make up the hinterland of research’ (2004: 41).

 

The volume seeks to address ‘hinterland research’ issues that relate to research encounters with and in the field and the co-constitutive relationship between the researcher and the field, by focusing on: access, trust, positionality, power relations, ethics, research for policy, issues of self-censorship and impact. These issues bring out the untold stories of how scholars, for example, make transgressive methodological moves to gain access to concealed research settings, navigate gender and age gaps to manipulate power relations, acquire and manage local cultures and norms, rethink their beliefs and practices, play with perceptions of threat in sharing confidential information by dressing up or down, establish thresholds for ethical standards of conduct, and construct boundaries between friendly and formal relationships with research participants. To do so, contributors may experiment with language and style in their chapters by using, for example, auto-ethnographic accounts, story-telling, dialogues, and other intimate accounts of mundane practices of methodology.

  

References

Addey, C. 2019. Researching inside the international testing machine: PISA parties, midnight emails & red shoes. In, Maddox, B, International Large-Scale Assessments in Education. Insider Research Perspectives. London: Bloomsbury. Pages 13 – 29. Free access at https://bloomsburycp3.codemantra.com/viewer/5bca026e713c090001a4068f

Ball, S. 2016. Following policy: networks, network ethnography and education policy mobilities, Journal of Education Policy, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2015.1122232

Bourdieu, P. 2000. The Weight of the World. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Clarke, J., Bainton, D., Lendvai, N. and Stubbs, P. 2015. Making policy move: Towards a politics of translation and assemblage. Bristol: The Policy Press.

Gorur, R., S. Sellar, G. Steiner-Khamsi. Eds. 2019. World Yearbook of Education 2019. Comparative Methodology in the Era of Big Data and Global Networks. Routledge: Oxon.

Hartong, S. 2018. Towards a topological re-assemblage of education policy? Observing the implementation of performance data infrastructures and ‘centers of calculation’ in Germany. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 16:1, 134-150.

Kalervo N. Gulson, Steven Lewis, Bob Lingard, Christopher Lubienski, Keita Takayama & P. Taylor Webb. 2017. Policy mobilities and methodology: a proposition for inventive methods in education policy studies. Critical Studies in Education 58 (2), 224-241.

Latour, Bruno. 1988. The Pasteurization of France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Law, J. 2004. After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. London: Routledge.

Law, J., Singleton, V. 2013. ANT and politics: Working in and on the world. Qualitative Sociology 36 (4), 485–502.

Lewis, S., Sellar S., Lingard, B. 2016. PISA for Schools: Topological Rationality and New Spaces of the OECD’s Global Educational Governance. Comparative Education Review 60 (1), 27-57.

Neumann, E. 2011. Negotiating power: interviews with the policy elite – stories from Hungary lost between genres. European Educational Research Journal 10 (2), 225-232.

Ozga, J. and S. Gewirtz. 1995. Sex, Lies and Audiotape: Interviewing the Education Policy Elite. Researching Education Policy: Ethical and Methodological Issues. D. Halpin and B. Troyna. London, Falmer Press.

Petersen, Eva Bendix. 2015. “What Crisis of Representation? Challenging the Realism of Post-structuralist Policy Research in Education.” Critical Studies in Education 56 (1): 147–60.

Pillow, W. 2003. Confession, catharsis, or cure? Rethinking the uses of reflexivity as methodological power in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 16 (2): 175-196.

Rimpiläinen, S. 2015. Multiple enactments of method, divergent hinterlands and production of multiple realities in educational research, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 28:2, 137-150.

Wacquant, L. J. D. (1996). “Toward a reflexive sociology: A workshop with Pierre Bourdieu.” Social theory and sociology: The classics and beyond: 213-229.

Wilkins, A. & Olmedo, A. 2018. Introduction: Conceptualizing education governance: Framings, perspectives and theories. In Education Governance and Social Theory, ed. A. Wilkins & A. Olmedo. London: Bloomsbury, 1-17.

Williamson, B. 2017. Who Owns Educational Theory? Big Data, Algorithms and the Expert Power of Education Data Science. E-Learning and Digital Media 14 (3): 105–122.

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[1] In this volume, we use to the term ‘methodology’ (and ‘practice of method’ as Law called it) to indicate the scientific processes through which empirical evidence is sought in response to research questions. These do not include only methods (i.e. interviews, observations, etc.) which are used to gather data, but the entire process (including its justifications) of formulating and answering research questions by plugging in theory, data, methods, context, ethical concerns and actual affordances of the research setting and the researcher’s larger professional, cultural and even personal milieu.

[2] We strongly recommend reading this paper as it will be helpful to see an example of the contributions we have in mind.

[3] A strong interest in this edited collection was observed through the many stories shared with Camilla Addey (one of the editors of this book) as a result of her chapter PISA parties, midnight emails and red shoes: researching inside the international testing machine published in 2019.

[4] These might include, for example, government bodies, local education administration, international organizations, private education companies, networks involved in educational governance.

[5] We invite scholars of all genders, not understood as a sex group, but as cultural action and identity.

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