28 SES 01, Introduction
Parallel Paper Session
Since the 1990s, debates about the character, purpose and status of sociology of education have become increasingly common. These debates were partly prompted by the globalisation of education research, its appropriation as a means of governing, and associated assessments of national education research capabilities through exercises like UK’s RAE and ERA, Excellence in Research for Australia. Scholarly conversations also proliferated and fragmented as education researchers and researcher-professionals navigate the shifting institutional and intellectual configurations of sociological research and its application to education from workplaces that were themselves changing. Sociological research discourses provided important resource for education researchers in globalizing times, enabling insights into national education systems, pedagogical processes within the ‘black box of schooling’ and the educational effects of global transformations. Yet social, organisational and epistemological changes across education also problematised the space for sociology of education and its relations with sociology and with education.
This paper reconsiders ‘sociological practice’ in a globalized research environment in order to suggest ways of doing sociology in and around education that might further develop and institutionalise the space for sociology of education.
I develop my argument by reflecting on the practices of sociological research that have proved helpful in a transnational, cross-occupational and interdisciplinary research project. Funded through the EU and Australian Research Council, this research program has used case study research to examine the way global transformations effect educators, educational orders and their distinctive practices of educational work. I report on the trajectory of this research to clarify the shifting character of sociological practice by drawing on Durkheim’s Rules of Sociological Method and more recent commentaries on the discipline of sociological research in educational spaces (Lawn, **; Apple, et al, 2010), the sociology of globalisation (Sassen, 2007) and its implications for knowledge building in transnational research spaces (Connell, 2007). I then indicate the empirical evidence which led us to postulate the concept of ‘educational work’ as a way of representing the trans-historical and cross-cultural labour of educating, which is evident both within the established institutions that make up national education systems and in other workplaces, community settings, social webs and supra- and sub-national networks. Finally, I explain the way we codified this concept of ‘educational work’ as a distinctive labour process that is constituted through forms of educational boundary work. In this aspect of our work we mobilised sociological discourses in ways that built on and established continuities with the history of sociologies and their application to educational spaces.
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