23 SES 06 A, Curriculum Policy Reforms and Their Implications (Part 2)
Paper Session continued from 23 SES 05 A, to be continued in 23 SES 07 A
In this paper, we introduce an integrated framework developed from both Vivien Schmidt’s (2008, 2010, 2012a, 2015) ‘discursive institutionalism’ (DI) and curriculum theory (CT) to provide a more multifaceted set of concepts to explore the lending and borrowing of transnational education policies and their actual application at a national and local level. The concepts have been applied as analytical tools in a research study on the most recent curriculum reform in Sweden, and they may serve as an example of how different ideas, discourses and levels can be distinguished in research studies, thereby maintaining the complexity that is always built into the field of education policy and reform. We argue that a theory of discursive institutionalism might contribute to a deeper understanding of what happens within the ‘black boxes’ of curriculum codes (Lundgren 1989) and conceptions of education (Englund 2005) built on curriculum theory by introducing a more articulated notion of institutional change as well as drawing attention to the discursive nature of transnational policy transfer (Steiner-Khamsi 2012).
The purpose of this paper is to contribute to an on-going conceptual discussion of how to trace the influence of policy on different institutional arenas. The key question that foregrounds the conceptual inquiry in this paper is ‘What concepts can form an analytical framework that considers the different arenas, discourses and social actors through which education policies are framed and performed?’
Our starting point for the exploration of a framework for analysis of the transfer of education policy discourses is in line with Steiner-Khamsi’s (2012) view on education policy as a discursive practice that links transnational policy movements to national education reforms, where tangible imprints from discourses in practice cannot be taken for granted. According to Scott (2014, 218), most researchers today have shifted focus from distinguishing a one-way determinant institutional effect to examine the relations between organisations and institutions as ‘complex recursive processes by which institutional forces both shape and are shaped by organizational actions’. Scott (2014, 57) notes that institutions comprise regulative, normative and cultural–cognitive elements as their central building blocks of institutional structures.
In accordance with Schmidt’s (2012) explanation of institutions, we use discursive institutionalism in this study with an aim to improve analyses of institutional changes and displacements in relation to analyses of different levels and arenas within curriculum theory, historically anchored in the sociology of knowledge (Deng and Luke 2008; Lundgren 1989). The characteristics of DI studies are that they (1) take an interest in the content of ideas in terms of ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be’, (2) are concerned with the interactive processes of ideas and the ways in which they are exchanged and modified through discourse, (3) understand institutional structures as both constraining and enabling and (4) provide insights into the dynamics of institutional change (Schmidt 2010). Thus, DI is useful when tracing transnational ideas between different contexts and arenas because of its focus on institutional ideas and discourses from a local perspective (Alasuutari, 2015).
DI focuses on two basic forms of discourse: (1) coordinative discourse among policy actors in policy arenas and (2) communicative discourse, which represents communications between policy actors and the public. These two forms of discourse have two functions: formulating the content of ideas and the interactive processes by which ideas are conveyed. Central to both types of discourse are the actors involved in the policy process.
References Alasuutari, Pertti.2015. “The Discursive Side of New Institutionalism.” Cultural Sociology 9 (2) 162–184. Deng, Zongyi, and Allan, Luke. 2008. ”Subject Matter: Defining and Theorizing School Subjects.” In The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction, edited by F. Michael Connelly, Ming Fang He, and JoAnn Phillion, 66–87. Los Angeles: Sage Publications. Englund, Tomas. 2005. Läroplanens och skolkunskapens politiska dimension [Curriculum as a Political Problem]. Göteborg: Daidalos. Lundgren, Ulf P. 1989. Att organisera omvärlden [Organising the World Around Us]. Stockholm: Utbildningsförlaget. Steiner-Khamsi, Gita. 2012. “Transferring Education, Displacing Reforms.” In Discourse Formation in Comparative Education, edited by Jürgen Schriewer, 4th revised ed., 155-187. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. Schmidt, Vivien A. 2008. “Discursive Institutionalism: The Explanatory Power of Ideas and Discourse.” The Annual Review of Political Science, 11, 303–326. Schmidt, Vivien A. 2010. “Taking Ideas and Discourses Seriously: Explaining Change Through Discursive Institutionalism as the Fourth ‘New Institutionalism’. European Political Science Review, 2 (1): 1–25. Schmidt, Vivien A. 2012a. “Discursive Institutionalism: Scope, Dynamics, and Philosophical Underpinnings.” In The Argumentative Turn Revisited:Public Policy as Communicative Practice, edited by Frank Fischer and Herbert Gottweis, 85-113. Durham: Duke University Press. Schmidt, Vivien A. 2015. “Discursive institutionalism: understanding policy in context” In Handbook of critical policy studies edited by Frank Fischer, Douglas Torgerson, Anna Durnová, and Michael Orsini,. Cheltenham,171-189. UK; Edward Elgar Publishing Scott, Richard W. 2014. Institutions and Organizations. Ideas, Interests, and Identities.4th ed. Thousand Oaks: SAGE. Wahlström, Ninni and Daniel Sundberg. 2015. Theory-Based Evaluation of the Curriculum Lgr 11. Working Paper 2015:11. Uppsala: IFAU.
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