Ruling Relations at Work: The Active and Occurring Text in the Everyday Life of a Local School

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Lyn KERKHAM , Education, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Helen NIXON , Queensland University of Technology, Australia
In Australia, as in many western education systems over the last two decades, discourses of accountability, transparency and performativity have reshaped education policy that in turn has reorganized the work of school leaders and teachers. Increasing attention to the production, analysis and display of student achievement data has been one of the effects of this reorganization.

This paper presents some of the work undertaken by school leaders and teachers in a small religious school whose NAPLAN results suggest that it is succeeding ‘against the odds’. In the spirit of institutional ethnography we are interested in the ways in which the educators’ everyday practices in this school are textually mediated and shaped by a number of different texts and discourses, including the discourses of accountability and transparency associated with the national school reform agenda, and the discourses of professional learning, Veritas and care that are promoted locally.

The paper examines how intersecting layers of national, state and sector policies connect with and coordinate school leaders’ and teachers’ everyday practices. We trace the ways in which translocal ‘ruling relations’ (Smith, 1999; 2006) of a globalized education system reach into and regulate the activities of people in local everyday settings. Our analysis uses the concept of the ‘active text’, the text as activating and occurring in a specific place and time and at the same time coordinating and ruling from a distance. We examine in detail a sequence of the production and reading of assessment data by educators in one school and consider how this codifies students and their learning experiences and articulates with and coordinates teachers’ actual practices. In this process we begin to learn from those involved how their everyday work brings into being institutional processes that produce a particular institution’s standard sequences, its decisions, policies and outcomes.