23 SES 10 B, Evidence Based Approaches to Policy Making
Since the 1990s, evidence-based policy in England has increasingly relied on positivist research methodologies to supply policy-makers and school leaders with a knowledge base of 'what works' in the education system. For example, the scientific research design of the randomised controlled trials (RCT) has been elevated to the 'gold standard' of research-based education policy and school improvement (Cohen et al. 2011; Hammersley 2013). Similar to their application in medical research, educational RCTs are utilised in conjunction with 'systematic reviews' or 'rapid evidence synthesis' involving statistical meta-analyses of all relevant research about a particular 'intervention' (Hammersley 2013; Scott and McNeish 2013). Knowledge of 'what works' is then 'mobilised' for leveraging interventions throughout the system independently of the local context.
Similar positivist methodological approaches have been rolled out internationally, giving rise to new global modes of governance in education. As noted by Sellar and Lingard (2014), the evidence informing the global policy field has increasingly been produced by supranational organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Much of the OECD research relies on quantifying national education systems and using large data samples to increase the explanatory potential of international comparisons, in an exercise of conceptualising the globe as a 'commensurate space of performance measurement' (Sellar and Lingard 2014: 932). Nothing less than a speedy 'transformation' (DCSF 2005; DfE 2010; OECD 2008, 2009) or an education 'revolution' (Barber 1997; Hursh 2005; Lingard 2010) is expected from schools as they transition towards evidence-based school improvement.
There are, however, limitations to these approaches, including the constraints on school leaders, who struggle with the rapidly changing policy demands emanating from the 'what works' approach. By utilising an analytical framework of complexity theory, this paper will illustrate how the claims to the universal validity of normative policy solutions articulated within these approaches engage in a 'complexity reduction' (Biesta 2010) which distorts educational improvement frequently for particular political ends. Because these global policy approaches are bound up with improvement strategies that are myopically focused on student performance data, they also limit the possibilities of alternative educational transition(s). Two questions, therefore, arise:
- How else can we conceptualise the complexities of leading educational transition(s) towards complex forms of knowledge?
- Whose interests are served by the complexity reduction inherent in evidence-based policy approaches?
This paper will discuss the implications of recent developments within the complexity sciences for researching complex social phenomena such educational improvement.
Barber, M. 1997. The Learning Game: Arguments for an education revolution. London: Indigo. Biesta, G. 2010. 'Five theses on complexity reduction and its politics'. In 'Complexity, consciousness and curriculum'. In D. Osberg and G. Biesta (Eds.) Complexity Theory and the Politics of Education. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 5-14. Biesta, G. and Osberg, D. 2010. 'Complexity, education and politics for the inside-out and the outside-in: An introduction.' In 'Complexity, consciousness and curriculum'. In D. Osberg and G. Biesta (Eds.) Complexity Theory and the Politics of Education. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 1-4. Byrne, D. and Callaghan, G. 2014. Complexity Theory and the Social Sciences: The state of the art. Oxon: Routledge. Cohen, L., Manion, L. and K. Morrison. 2011. Research Methods in Education (7th ed.). Oxon: Routledge. DCSF (Department for Children Schools and Families). 2006. Primary National Strategy. http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/primary/primaryframework. DfE (Department for Education). 2010. The importance of teaching: The schools White Paper 2010. www.ictliteracy. info/rf.pdf/Schools-White-Paper2010.pdf. Gunter, H.M. 2014. Educational Leadership and Hannah Arendt. London: Routledge. Gunter, H.M., Hall, D. and C. Mills (Eds.) 2014. Education Policy Research: Design and Practice at a Time of Rapid Reform. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Hammersley, M. 2013. The Myth of Research-based Policy & Practice. London: Sage Publications Ltd. Hursh, D. 2008. High-Stakes Testing and the Decline of Teaching and Learning: The Real Crisis in Education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Lingard. B. 2010. Policy borrowing, policy learning: testing times in Australian schooling, Critical Studies in Education (51)2: 129-147. OECD. 2008. Improving School Leadership VOLUME 2: CASE STUDIES ON SYSTEM LEADERSHIP. www.sourceoecd.org/education/9789264044678. OECD. 2009. Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments. First Results from TALIS: Teaching and Learning International Survey. http://www.oecd.org/education/school/43023606.pdf. Scott, S. and McNeish, D. 2013. School leadership evidence review: using research evidence to support school improvement. www.nationalcollege.org.uk/publications. Sellar, S. and Lingard, B. 2014.The OECD and the expansion of PISA: new global modes of governance in education, British Educational Research Journal, (40)6: 917-936. Simons, H. 2009. Case Study Research in Practice. London: Sage Publications Ltd. Stacey, R.D. 2010. Complexity and Organisational Reality: Uncertainty and the need to rethink management after the collapse of investment capitalism. London: Routledge. Stacey, R.D. 2012. Tools and Techniques of Leadership and Management: Meeting the challenge of complexity. London and New York: Routledge. Tsoukas, H. 2005. Complex Knowledge: Studies in Organizational Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.