Agnès van Zanten

Educational research or educational research-based policy knowledge? The blurring of Distinctions

Wednesday 3 September 14:00 - 15:00
Chairperson: Paula Korsnakova

Location: A101 (Keynote will be streamed to room B029)

This keynote presentation will address the question of the increasing use of educational research-based knowledge for policy purposes both by European States and by the European Commission and European agencies and its implications for national and international educational research communities.
Although the massive use of educational research knowledge for policy purposes can be dated back to the development of compensatory educational programmes in the United Stated in the 1960s, in most European countries this is a more recent phenomena, strongly linked to the development of “soft governance” methods by the European commission and by nation-States addressing much more educated populations and trying to create the conditions for policy changes without a strong political legitimacy to impose them. Analysis of policy discourses in the 2000s shows that a growing number of EU and European national policy documents refer to research results in order to justify decisions while policy instruments (future scenarios, rankings, country visits, different types of evaluation…) are more and more strongly influenced by research methods and procedures.
Some researchers are strongly involved in the transformation of research knowledge into policy knowledge although their proportion within research communities varies strongly across countries depending on factors such as the scientific status of applied versus fundamental research, the funding and institutional status of universities, the variety of institutions and think tanks where research is conducted or disseminated outside universities, the links between researchers and policy-makers, etc. The presentation will analyse some of the characteristics, motivations and work patterns of these researchers as well as the national and international links between them. It will also tentatively explore differences between countries concerning their profiles and impact.
The presentation will also analyse the effects of the growing using of educational research knowledge for policy purposes on educational research communities as a whole. It will explore how this new trend affects the way in which educational research is conceived, funded and evaluated within countries and at the European level but also how it affects the internal dynamics of educational research communities in terms of cohesion and identity. Finally, the presentation will also analyse how these changes influence the ways in which educational research is perceived by teachers, parents and public opinion.

AGNÈS VAN ZANTEN is a sociologist and senior research professor at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). She works at the Observatoire Sociologique du Changement at Sciences Po in Paris and is the editor of the "Education and Society" collection for Presses Universitaires de France. She directed for several years the CNRS's network Réseau Analyse Pluridisciplinaire des Politiques Educatives (RAPPE) as well as the  French Sociology Association's network on the sociology of education and training. Her main areas of interest in terms of research are related to the construction of social inequalities and segregations in schools, local educational dynamics, educational policies, comparison of local and national educational systems, and educational sociology research theories, methods, dissemination and reception. She is currently involved in research on elite education in France and from a comparative perspective as well as on transition to higher education in the US and in European countries.

Recent publications include: L'école de la périphérie, Paris, PUF, Coll. Quadrige (2012); Compétition et choix dans le champ scolaire. Un modèle statutaire d’analyse des logiques institutionnelles et sociales, Le Lien Social et Politiques n°66 (2011); Les politiques d’éducation, Paris, PUF, coll. Que sais-je ?, (2011) and Choisir son école. Stratégies familiales and médiations locales, Paris, PUF, coll. Le lien social (2009).

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