11 SES 13, Data Use in Education: Alluring attributes and productive processes
During recent years many European education systems have attempted to modernize their governance by establishing some variety of an “evidence-based governance regime” (Altrichter & Maag Merki, 2016). Since 2008 a policy of performance standards has been introduced in Austrian education. This policy includes the communication of competence-based output standards, the provision of support material (e.g. competence-based assignments, diagnostic tests) and in-service training opportunities, nation-wide comparative competence tests (at the end of the primary and lower secondary cycle of schooling), and data feedback of assessments results to students, teachers, schools, and administrative authorities (Klieme et al., 2007; Altrichter & Kanape-Willingshofer, 2012). The proposed contribution aims to develop a conceptual model for research into the processes and effects of such a ‘performance standard policy’. First the political context of the Austrian ‘performance standard policy’ is explained. Secondly, possible theoretical underpinnings (e.g. Scott, 2001; Schimank, 2007; Mayntz, 2009) and related models (such as Coburn & Turner, 2011, and Ehren et al., 2013) are discussed for their heuristic value for developing such a conceptual model. In the main part of the paper, following a procedure suggested by Leeuw (2003), official documents are analysed in order to formulate the ‘programme theory’ underpinning the policy. This procedure is organized along the following questions: 1. What impact does the Austrian ‘performance standard policy’ intend to have on schools? 2. What are the elements and mechanisms by which this impact is intended to be achieved? Main elements of this policy, its aspired effects, and the processes and intermediary mechanisms are made explicit in this conceptual model which is’ normative’ since it spells out the effects asserted by the proponents of the policy. The major purpose of such a reconstruction lies in the possibility of validating the claims included in an ‘innovatory policy’. This may be done in two ways: Firstly, existing research literature may be used to discuss the plausibility of asserted processes and effects (see e.g. Ehren et al., 2013). Secondly, the model may be used to organize and orchestrate research into ‘performance standard policies’ (Steiner et al., 2015). While the paper concentrates on the Austrian example for analytic purposes, it is expected that the conceptual model may also be relevant for researching other national examples of ‘performance standard policies’.
Altrichter, H. & Maag Merki, K. (2016). Steuerung der Entwicklung des Schulwesens. In H. Altrichter & K. Maag Merki (Eds.), Handbuch Neue Steuerung im Schulsystem. 2nd edition (pp. 1-27). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Coburn, C. E. & Turner, E. O. (2011). Research on Data Use: A Framework and Analysis. Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Perspectives, 9(4), 173-206. Ehren, M.C.M., Altrichter, H., McNamara, G., & O’Hara, J. (2013). Impact of school inspections on improvement of schools – describing assumptions on causal mechanisms in six European countries. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 25(1), 3-43. Leeuw, F.L. (2003). Reconstructing program theories: methods available and problems to be solved. American Journal of Evaluation, 24(1), 5-20. Schimank, U. (2007). Die Governance-Perspektive: Analytisches Potenzial und anstehende konzeptionelle Fragen. In H. Altrichter, T. Brüsemeister, & J. Wissinger J. (Eds.), Educational Governance (pp. 231-260). Wiesbaden: VS. Steiner, R., Altrichter, H., Gamsjäger, M., Plaimauer, C., & Prammer-Semmler, E. (2015). School development by performance standards? Unpubl. Working Paper. Linz: PH OÖ.
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