28 SES 09 A, New vocabularies for investigating education policy and practice
In the analysis of current education policies, the European and the Global are prominent concepts, both they are intended as spaces from where policies originates or as spaces that policies fabricate. These approaches fix in determined spaces the circulation of ideas, resources, tools and actors and are related to what Popkewitz calls the modernizing project of social sciences.
This paper, instead, is an attempt to address the entangled “flowing” of lines of possibilities, constrains, resources and subjectivations in the doing of policy. This objective is pursued through the problematization of what is usually unquestioned in policy analysis: the very concept of policy. Following varieties of approaches, policies are analysed in their formulation, implementation and relation with politics, but the very concept of policy is a taken for granted assumption, rooted in modernist values and orthodoxies. In last 25 years, pinching ideas from post-modernism as a growing intellectual and cultural sensibility, education policy sociology has engaged in advancing understandings of policy. Starting from the reflection about what is policy, such theorizations try to use concepts like discourse, dispositif and subjectivity to grasp the effects of policies: the ways in which they both change what we do and what we are.
The use of the concept of discourse, in particular, has been very generative on field researches. The ontological eclecticism of the split between policy as discourse and policy as text, then repeated in the policy actor / policy subject move, could be traced as the pursuit of a balancing act between the agency of the speaking social actor and the subjectification of the spoken subject. This is a way to subvert the historical relationship between social sciences and the needs of the modern state in population management and education. But it has been also criticized for its epistemological incoherence and its difficulty to account for “the big picture”. Recent theorizations follow a twofold way. Some attempts complexify the starting model, while others go beyond the ontological eclecticism. But all of them suffer from troubling empirical use.
After a review of these critical points and of these recent theorizations, we are able to argue that both the epistemological and the big picture problem are rooted in the ontological eclecticism that characterizes these approaches. Then, we propose policy as dispositif as an attempt to re-work policy as discourse theories. What we suggest is to define this concept in a different way than usual. In our reworking of the concept, we consider the relevance of Sartori’s claim about the need of concepts that can travel, in order to make affordable social analysis in the current global world. In this sense, we try to give a different junction between the concept and the term of “dispositif”, following the main guidelines he suggests. So, drawing on a literature from Agamben to Marzocca, we offer a transgressive reading of the foucauldian journey to assemble a concept of policy: a) which is based on a whole Foucauldian ontology and b) which would reveal itself very useful in empirical research, because of its compatibility with methodologies already used in most generative researches in the field.
For the first part of this work, we made a review of the literature about theories and perspectives of education policy in the last 25 years. In particular, we considered critical approaches in education policy, because of their generative and innovative provision. We started from reviewing main education policy and theory journals and then we broadened our review to those publications which seemed to be crucial in the developing of ideas. Then, we were able to grasp the main strands of the debate and we focus on them to reconstruct a clear overview of the state of art in the field. In the second part, for the construction of the concept of policy as dispositif, we adopted a perspective based on Sartori’s methodology for social sciences. In particular, we consider the relevance of his claim about the need of concepts that can travel, in order to make affordable social analysis in the current global world. In this sense, we try to give a different junction between the concept and the term of dispositif, following the main guidelines he suggests to avoid risks of ambiguity and vagueness in our community of discourse. First of all, we provided a preliminary denotative definition, useful for catching the concept. Secondly, we marked the intension of dispositif, that is to define the ensemble of features or properties related to the concept. Then, the crucial point became to define the extension of the dispositif, that is the class of all those things the concept is correctly applied. Finally, we tried to give an operational definition, also named proposition of reduction, of policy as dispositif, that is the incorporation of procedures of signification of the concept.
In conclusion, policy as dispositif could be intended as an heuristic device with a general scope: a way of framing current educational issues as a pure disposing and ordering activity, focused on educational subjects as effects of this activity and able to recognize the general form of political rationality according to which this activity is deployed. This conceptualization helps to push on our understanding of policy in 3 main directions. First of all, it addresses the epistemological incoherence of policy as discourse theories, by drawing on an entirely Foucauldian ontology. Secondly, it permits to give account of political rationalities at stake through its scalar dimension. Finally, it preserves the empirical usefulness, because it simply leads to a re-articulation of the same analytical tools already exploited by most generative researches in the field. What is at stake here is the enhancing of the aspect of flowing in the researching of the policy eduscape: it permits a way of thinking at policy that goes beyond policy spaces dualism (e.g.: beyond European / Global as competing or interdependent levels) and policy times successions (e.g.: beyond policy design / policy implementation stages). In our opinion, this is a way to address the problem posed by Ong when she argues that neoliberal logic is best conceptualized not as a standardized universal apparatus, but a migratory technology of governing that interacts with situated sets of elements and circumstances.
Alevar, Marina. 2016. “Interview with Stephen J. Ball: Analyzing His Contribution to Education Policy Research.” Archivos Analíticos de Políticas Educativas 24(24):4–12. Bacchi, Carol. 2000. “Policy as Discourse: What Does It Mean? Where Does It Get Us?” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 21(1):45–57. Bailey, Patrick L. J. 2013. “The Policy Dispositif: Historical Formation and Method.” Journal of Education Policy 939(September):1–21. Ball, Stephen J. 2006. Education Policy and Social Class. Oxon: Routledge. Ball, Stephen J. 2015a. “Policy Actors/policy Subjects.” Journal of Education Policy 30(4):467–467. Ball, Stephen J. 2015b. “What Is Policy? 21 Years Later: Reflections on the Possibilities of Policy Research.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 36(3):306–13. Ball, Stephen J. 2016. “Following Policy: Networks, Network Ethnography and Education Policy Mobilities.” Journal of Education Policy 31(5):549–66. Cremonesi, Laura, Orazio Irrera, and Daniele Lorenzini. 2016. Foucault and the Making of Subjects. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. Deleuze, Gilles. 1991. “What Is a Dispositif?” Michel Foucault: Philosopher 159–68. Fischer, Frank, Gerald J. Miller, and Mara S. Sidney. 2007. Handbook of Public Policy Analysis. Boca Raton: CRC Press. Foucault, Michel. 2009. Security, Territory, Population. edited by M. Senellart. Palgrave Macmillan. Foucault, Michel. 2010. “The Governmentc of Self and Others.” 402. Foucault, Michel. 2011. “The Courage of Truth: The Government of Self and Others II.” 364. Gale, Trevor. 1999. “Policy Trajectories: Treading the Discursive Path of Policy Analysis.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 20(3):393–407. Gorur, Radhika. 2011. “Policy as Assemblage.” European Educational Research Journal 10(4):611–22. Grimaldi, Emiliano. 2012. “Analysing Policy in the Context(s) of Practice: A Theoretical Puzzle.” Journal of Education Policy 27(4):445–65. Heimans, Stephen. 2015. Conceptualising Education Policy as Practice. Heimans, Stephen, Parlo Singh, and Kathryn Glasswell. 2017. “Doing Education Policy Enactment Research in a Minor Key.” Discourse 38(2):185–96. Kabgani, Sajad, Richard Niesche, and Kalervo N. Gulson. 2017. “Psycho-Politicising Educational Subjectivity: A Posthumanist Consideration of Rancière and Lacan.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 1857(November):1–12. Marzocca, Ottavio. 2016. Foucault Ingovernabile. Milano: Meltemi. Ong, Aihwa. 2007. “Boundary Crossings: Neoliberalism as a Mobile Technology.” Trans Inst Br Geogr 32:3–8. Popkewitz, Thomas S. 1997. “A Changing Terrain of Knowledge and Power: A Social Epistemology of Educational Research.” American Educational Research Journalm 26(9):18–29. Sartori, Giovanni. 2011. Logica Metodo E Linguaggio Nelle Scienze Sociali. Bologna: Il Mulino.
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