Murphy, M. (forthcoming 2018) Ever greater scrutiny: Researching the bureaucracy of educational accountability. In A. Wilkins and A. Olmedo (eds), Education governance and social theory: Interdisciplinary approaches to research. London: Bloomsbury.
This chapter explores the relevance of Jürgen Habermas to research on education governance and in particular research on education accountability. The introduction defines education governance via accountability as a problematic form of management, given its tendency to deliver unwanted consequences. It positions Habermas as a social theorist who can offer critical tools to explore these consequences. The chapter includes a section on Habermas’ methodology, positioning Habermas as a ‘critical sociologist’. This is followed by an overview of his theory of lifeworld colonisation which is then used to examine research applications in the field of education accountability. Identified as key research findings are the limits of accountability and the damage it can cause to interpersonal relations. The discussion highlights some limitations of Habermas’ theory, while the chapter concludes by making a case for Habermas as an exemplar of hybridization in the field of social theory and education governance research.
This article centres on the recent Higher Education and Research Act 2017 in England and the consultation documents leading to the legislation. I will start by arguing that the reform promotes consumerist understanding of students. Guided by Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis, I will further explore the ways in which five students’ unions from England and their sabbatical officers understand and respond to the consumerist policy discourses. The unions’ official responses to the government’s consultation demonstrated a strong opposition to the reform, particularly against the tuition fee increase and metrics used to measure teaching quality. The follow-up interviews with sabbatical officers, however, highlighted that this opposition can often be fragmented by consumerist counterarguments. The interviewees emphasised consumer rights as benefiting students and the unions. The differences between the written and verbal discourses will be discussed, and the reasons for a lack of consistency in the participants’ discourses questioned in relation to their relationship with the university management and wider student population they represent.
The notion of students as consumers who exercise educational decisions based on economic self-interest leads to interesting questions about their perceptions of current higher education assessment practices. Guided by a Foucauldian theorisation and the findings from focus groups carried out with students from two European universities, one from the UK and another from Estonia, the article argues that globally dominant consumerist policy discourses have altered but not removed the student experience of constraint in assessment. I argue that students’ response to disciplinary power in assessment has become highly strategic and differs depending on the institutional assessment systems: students from Estonia recognise the powerful position of academics as assessors and find ways to create a good social impression of themselves; their counterparts from the UK, however, demonstrate a tactical approach to their learning and study processes.
Little research has been conducted exploring the relationship between public-sector accountability and the law. This is a significant oversight given the potential for this relationship to cause unintended consequences around issues of liability, especially in the context of a growing litigation culture. The purpose of the current research is to explore this relationship, using qualitative studies of public-sector professionals in England. The findings of the study suggest that increasing emphasis on accountability has led to a growing magnification of legal risk in the public sector, with consequences for the ways public-sector professionals perceive their relationships with the public.
Bourdieu’s career long endeavour was to devise both theoretical and methodological tools that could apprehend and explain the social world and its mechanisms of cultural (re)production and related forms of domination. Amongst the several key concepts developed by Bourdieu, habitus has gained prominence as both a research lens and a research instrument useful to enter individuals’ trajectories and ‘histories’ of practices. While much attention has been paid to the theoretical significance of habitus, less emphasis has been placed on its methodological implications. This paper explores the application of the concept of habitus as both theory and method across two sub-fields of educational research: graduate employment and digital scholarship practices. The findings of this reflexive testing of habitus suggest that bridging the theory-method comes with its own set of challenges for the researcher; challenges which reveal the importance of taking the work of application seriously in research settings.
Intellectual life in countries such as the UK and elsewhere is currently framed by a seeming contradiction. On the one hand, notions of engagement and knowledge transfer have taken centre stage in higher education institutions in their desire to create impact with the general public and non-academic institutions. But on the other hand, these societies are witnessing an apparent decline in the role and importance of the public intellectual. Given this is the case, it is important to ask: what does the future hold for the public intellectual? And what is the role of the university when it comes to sustaining and enriching a broader intellectual culture in the public sphere? The aim of this paper is to explore these questions, particularly in the context of the spread of digital scholarship in the academy. This form of web-based academic scholarship, which valorises openness and public engagement, has the potential to change the shape and substance of public intellectualism. The paper explores this potential in detail, while at the same time outlining some of the challenges faced by the digital scholarship movement and its efforts to further ‘publicise’ intellectual life.
One of the greatest contributors to the field of Sociology, Jürgen Habermas has had a wide-ranging and significant impact on understandings of social change and social conflict. He has inspired researchers in a range of disciplines with his multidimensional social theory, however an overview of his theory in applied settings is long overdue.
This collection brings together in one convenient volume a set of researchers who place Jürgen Habermas’ key concepts such as colonisation, deliberation and communication at the centre of their research methodologies. Full of insight and innovation, this book is an essential read for those who want to harness the potential of Habermas’ core concepts in their own work, thereby helping to bridge the gap between theory and method in social research. Structured around three core themes, Habermas and Social Research provides a range of research case studies looking at system colonization, the politics of deliberation and communicative interactions. Issues as diverse as social movements, the digital public sphere, patient involvement, migration and preschool education, are all covered in the book, intertwined with a set of innovative approaches to theory application in social research.
Designed to help researchers harness the potential of Habermas’ core concepts as methodological tools, this timely volume will prove highly useful for graduate and upper level undergraduates within the fields of theory and method, research design, public policy, education policy, urban and environmental planning.
Series Editor: Mark Murphy
The Bloomsbury Social Theory and Methodology in Education Research series brings together books exploring various applications of social theory in educational research design. Each book provides a detailed account of how theory and method influence each other in specific educational research settings, such as schools, early childhood education, community education, further education colleges and universities. Books in the series represent the richness of topics explored in theory-driven education research, including leadership and governance, equity, teacher education, assessment, curriculum and policy studies. This innovative series provides a timely platform for highlighting the wealth of international work carried out in the field of social theory and education research, a field that has grown considerably in recent years and has made the likes of Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault familiar names in educational discourse. Books in the Social Theory and Methodology in Education Research series offer an excellent resource for those who wish to use theoretical concepts in their research but are not sure how to do so, and who want to better understand how theory can be effectively applied in research contexts, in practically realisable ways.
While education researchers have drawn on the work of a wide diversity of theorists over the years, much contemporary theory building in these areas has revolved around the work of Pierre Bourdieu. Theory as Method in Research develops the capacity of students, researchers and teachers to successfully put Bourdieu’s ideas to work in their own research and prepare them effectively for conducting Masters and Doctoral scholarships.
Structured around four core themes, this book provides a range of research case studies exploring educational identities, educational inequalities, school leadership and management, and research in teacher education. Issues as diverse as Chinese language learning and identity, school leadership in Australia and the school experience of Afro-Trinidadian boys, are covered, intertwined with a set of innovative approaches to theory application in education research.
This collection brings together, in one comprehensive volume, a set of education researchers who place Pierre Bourdieu’s key concepts such as habitus, capital and field at the centre of their research methodologies. Full of insight and innovation, the book is an essential read for practitioners, student teachers, researchers and academics who want to harness the potential of Bourdieu’s core concepts in their own work, thereby helping to bridge the gap between theory and method in education research.
The purpose of this collection is to explore how habitus can be used in different areas of knowledge as both theory and method. In other words, through which mechanisms can research ‘capture’, operationalise and theorise habitus?
The conceptualisation of habitus is a reflection of Bourdieu’s attempt to overcome the dichotomy between structure and agency whilst acknowledging the external and historical factors that condition, restrict and/or promote change. Central to fulfilling this objective is an exploration of the particular ways in which the Bourdieuian habitus has been applied to different areas. Research on habitus embeds itself in a wide variety of contexts. Below is a list of different areas featured in the book:
- Social and economic mobility
- Youth and crime
- Digital practice
Educational researchers take a number of decisions that define the credibility and scope of their enquiry – the approaches they adopt, the strategies they employ, the methods they use and the ways they present their findings. This core text provides an easy-to-read, comprehensive introduction to educational research that will develop your understanding of research strategies, theories and methods.
Specifically written for undergraduate education studies students, the book guides you through the process of planning a research project, the different research methods available and how to carry out your research and write it up successfully. Highlighting the theoretical and methodological debates and discussing important ethical and practical considerations, the book is structured to help you tackle all the different aspects of your project from writing your literature review, designing a questionnaire and analysing your data to the final writing up. The book will give you the confidence and enthusiasm to discuss and write about your research effectively.
- extension tasks — to introduce new material and encourage you to think critically
- case studies — with information on important studies and examples of research that have utilised specific approaches
- practical advice and tips — to help you relate the topics discussed to your own on-going project work
- annotated further reading lists — providing you with an opportunity to access more detailed and specific resources.
- Part of the Foundations of Education Studies series, this timely textbook is essential reading for students undertaking a research methods course or a piece of educational research.
Although education researchers have drawn on the work of a wide diversity of theorists, a number of these have been of particular significance to education. While the likes of Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, John Dewey and Paulo Freire influenced previous generations of educational theorists, much of the more contemporary theory building has revolved around a quartet of well-known and much-debated thinkers – Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Derrida. However, while the influence of these thinkers has grown considerably over the last number of years, both their original work and its application to education can prove challenging to the educational practitioner. The challenges they pose to educators are exacerbated by a lack of suitable reading material that can appeal to the advanced practitioner market, while also providing a sufficiently in-depth overview of the various theories and their applications in educational research.
This edited book expertly rectifies this omission in the educational literature, and delivers a text that is both advanced and accessible, offering the education practitioner/researcher a suitable guide to assist their acquisition and application of social theory. The chapters included in this collection are designed to illustrate the diverse ways in which continental theory of whatever stripe can be applied to educational issues. From school surveillance to curriculum, social theory is used to shed light on ‘practical’ issues facing the sector, helping to widen and deepen discussion around these areas when they are in danger of being over-simplified.
This book will be incredibly useful to post-graduate student teachers who wish to develop their capacity to engage with these debates at an advanced level. It will also prove of great interest to anyone involved in education policy and theory.
The sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas has had a wide-ranging and significant impact on understandings of social change and social conflict. However, there has been no concerted and focused attempt to introduce his ideas to the field of education broadly. This book rectifies this omission and delivers a definitive contribution to the understanding of Habermas’s oeuvre as it applies to the field. The authors examine the contribution Habermas’s theory has and can make to: pedagogy, learning and classroom interaction; the relation between education, civil society and the state; forms of democracy, reason and critical thinking; and performativity, audit cultures and accountability.
Additionally, the book answers a range of more specific questions, including: what are the implications for pedagogy of a shift from a philosophy of consciousness to a philosophy of language?; What contribution can Habermas’s re-shaping of speech act theory and communicative rationality make to theories of classroom interaction?; and how can his theories of reason and colonization be used to explore questions of governance and accountability in education?