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Editor’s Choice: Researching Curriculum Policy in Australia

Published in Editor's Choice, Governance, Pedagogy & Curriculum by Mark Murphy on February 28, 2013

Image, School Art Project (c) Woodleigh School

Top of the class this week:

Jessica Gerrard & Lesley Farrell (2013). ‘Peopling’ curriculum policy production: researching educational governance through institutional ethnography and Bourdieuian field analysis. Journal of Education Policy, 28:1, 1-20.

This recent paper is well worth a read for anyone interested in the education policy process – Jessica Gerrard & Lesley Farrell use a combination of ideas from Pierre Bourdieu and Dorothy Smith to explore the current attempt to establish a national school curriculum in Australia. They focus in particular on the interplay between national policy and institutional practice.  Here’s the abstract:

This paper explores the methodological basis for empirically researching moments of major policy change. Its genesis is in the methodological challenges presented by the initial stages of an ongoing research project examining the current attempts to establish the first nation-wide Australian curriculum. We draw on Dorothy Smith’s development of institutional ethnography and Bourdieuian field analysis to outline a methodological framework for research that has at its centre a concern to understand the social and institutional processes that enable, support and discursively prepare for significant educational reform. Working with and between these two eminent contributions to sociological enquiry, our paper explores the ways in which research can trace educational governance through the production, reproduction and subsequent enactment of generations of policy texts even before they are officially released for use in schools. In particular, we suggest that examination of the day-to-day processes involved in policy production shows how policy texts are progressively invested with institutional meanings and come to instantiate and govern institutional relations. The methodology we are developing foregrounds the creation and dissemination of discourses that support specific orientations to educational practice and governance, as well as the institutional practices that embed the logics of the field.

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About the author /


Mark Murphy is a Reader in Education and Public Policy at the University of Glasgow. He previously worked as an academic at King’s College, London, University of Chester, University of Stirling, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, University College Dublin and Northern Illinois University. Mark is an active researcher in the fields of education and public policy. His research interests include educational sociology, critical theory, accountability in higher education, and public sector reform.

1 Comment

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    Thank you for putting this up online. Its posting was more timely than you will ever know!

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