Ruling Relations in Hyperactive Times

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:40
Location: Hörsaal 6C P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Nerida SPINA, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
The rise and rise of high stakes testing has created education systems that are “governed by numbers” (Ozga, 2008).    In this data-driven educational landscape teachers are often positioned as “data-illiterate” and “data phobic”. Using an institutional ethnographic approach, this research began by investigating how teachers at one Australian school work with educational data in their everyday doings.  In contrast to media accounts, this study reveals teachers have long histories of working with data, and are not averse to doing so.  Teachers’ resistance to data is complex and often the result of a disjuncture between embodied knowledge and the “rhetoric of quantification” (Porter, 1994) that presents data as an objective measure promoting excellence and equity.  In this paper I explore this disjuncture by examining the local effects of a state government policy, “Great Results Guarantee” that ties school funding to educational data. As educators at the school activated this “ruling text” (Smith, 2002), chains of events were unleashed that rapidly reorganized teachers’ work.  Central to this reorganization was the “acceleration of time” (Rosa, 2010) as the policy was released to schools and enacted within days.  The hyperactive and mediatised policy environment in which the ruling text was created increased the pace and frequency of data collection at the local level, as teachers went about producing data that would “guarantee” improvement in less than ten months.  This accelerated pace of work and orientation towards numbers was ultimately orchestrated by a ruling text that would enable the government of the day to make media claims about school improvement within a year.  At the local level, the creation and use of “funny numbers” as evidence (Porter, 2012) was challenged by the principal and teachers who struggled to find ways of gathering and using rich sources of evidence to “guarantee” more responsive and socially-just pedagogies.