Thinking with/in the milieu of equity-oriented education partnership research

Year: 2016

Author: Heimans, Stephen, Singh, Parlo

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This article arises from a series of research partnership projects. Each project designed and enacted literacy interventions to improve student reading fluency and comprehension, which prior to the respective research interventions were well below the national mean as measured by the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). Here we draw on field note, interview and focus group discussion data conducted in the third year of the research partnership project. One of the interventions concerned the use of data walls to display students’ results from reading comprehension tests. Making data ‘public’ is a relatively uncontroversial approach to improving teaching and learning in the school improvement literature (see for example Lai & McNaughton, 2013), but ‘critical’ policy scholarship is unhappy with this kind of work- as being caught into ‘performative’ logics (Ball, 2003). As critical policy scholars we work in the mobile terrain of post-qualitative research, and with and against the ‘terrors of performativity’ (Ball 2003). Our field notes recorded the ways in which the data walls mushroomed and morphed into data formations on classroom and staffroom walls across many school buildings. Our interview accounts with school leaders and classroom teachers recorded the resourceful ways in which data were mapped, used and displayed in these schools. At first, we wondered whether we had wandered into and been party to contributing to the performative terror that Ball (2003) describes. Perhaps so!But then we thought again. What else could we offer other than critique? Maybe our task should be to think again- with, and within this, complex milieu. We wanted to think with the obligations and responsibilities (Stengers, 2002) that we as researchers have in the midst of the research partnership work and rather than critiquing the performativity of pedagogical data use by others, work to create a theory-method-data space for other responses and response-abilities (Haraway, 2015). This plays into the inventiveness of ‘post’ work (critical/ qualitative) (Lather, 1992, St Pierre, 2013) as a theory-method-data entity- one that makes these epistemological (ontological?) boundary riders trip up a little in their gait. This ‘post’ work arises out of feminist poststructuralist scholarship and the emergence of a research sensibility toward immanence bound up with response-ability (Haraway). We dwell with the responsibilities and obligations (Stengers, 2010) of others that we research with (in our case students, schools, education policy workers and teachers), affecting research processes and opening them up to potential unforeseeable risks and opportunities.