23 SES 08 B, Inside a Global Player: Looking at the OECD ‘from within’
In the tradition of a branch of International Large-Scale Assessments (ILSAs) scholarship which seeks to research ILSAs from inside the global testing machine (i.e. Bloem 2015, Hamilton et al. 2015, Maddox 2015 and forthcoming), this paper highlights the value of understanding ILSAs from the inside but also the methodological and ethical challenges. Although lLSAs are tools of global accountability and transparency and processes through which they are made appear to be made accountable and transparent, ILSAs tools and processes are also secretive and hard to study from the inside. This paper opens a window into a process shared by an elite club of select experts, private businesses and government representatives, whose epistemological, ontological and ethical stances have deep inferences on educational policy, practice and research. In order to open this window onto the ILSAs secretive world, the paper discusses the process of data gathering of the research project ‘PISA for Development for Policy’. One aspect that this project sought to analyse was how the OECD strengthens its global governance by extending the global space of commensuration in education and embedding its global metric into national assessments. To do so, the project focused on the OECD’s redevelopment of PISA, known as PISA for Development (PISA-D) which is intended for lower and middle income contexts. Data was gathered through interviews in 2015 and 2016 with staff at the OECD and document analysis of OECD, PISA and PISA-D documents. Data was also gathered through participant observations of a PISA-D International Advisory Group meeting held in Paraguay and the social events organized alongside. Although the OECD adopted a transparency approach in the development of PISA-D by opening up the initiative to independent researchers like me and posting all working documents online, this paper uncovers the untold practices of the making of ILSAs and the different voices of OECD staff which are hidden by what is perceived as a monolithic OECD developing ILSAs. Drawing on a seminal paper by Ozga and Gewirtz (1995) on the challenges of policy elite researching, this paper provides an anecdotal account and critically reflects on how the challenges of insider ILSA research deepens our understanding of the practices and multiple voices through which ILSAs are made and the complex working of the OECD through multiple voices, practices and approaches.
Bloem, S. 2015. The OECD directorate for education as an independent knowledge producer through PISA. In H.-G. Kotthoff & E. Klerides (Eds.), Governing educational spaces. Knowledge, teaching, and learning in transition. Rotterdam: Sense. Hamilton M., Maddox B., Addey, C. 2015. Literacy as Numbers: Researching the Politics and Practices of International Literacy Assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Maddox, B. (2013). Inside the assessment machine – The Life and Times of a test item. International symposium 'Literacy as Numbers'. C. Addey, M. Hamilton and B. Maddox. Institute of Education, London. Maddox, B. Forthcoming. International Large-Scale Assessments in Education. Bloomsbury. Ozga, J. and S. Gewirtz (1995). Sex, Lies and Audiotape: Interviewing the Education Policy Elite. Researching Education Policy: Ethical and Methodological Issues. D. Halpin and B. Troyna. London, Falmer Press.
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