Governing teachers’ work and learning through data

Year: 2016

Author: Hardy, Ian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This article reveals the multiple ways in which data are constituted as a vehicle for governing teachers’ work and learning. To do so, the article focuses upon how teachers’ work and learning are construed in one school in the northern regions of the state of Queensland, Australia. Drawing upon Foucauldian-inspired concepts of governance and governmentality, and the sociology of numbers, the research reveals how teachers’ work and learning are constituted through practices of: establishing specific ‘targets’ including in the form of various ‘audacious goals’ for national testing; focusing upon ‘aligning’ all forms of school, regional and national data collected within the school, and; participating in various ‘data conversations’ about specific students with senior members of staff, particularly those students whose data indicated they could improve above designated thresholds. While the research reveals how some teachers found such practices beneficial for their own learning to improve their practice with students, it also reveals how this learning was always and everywhere framed within a broader discourse of data, and how this data-centric focus came to constitute what was considered important by these teachers about their work, and the learning of their students. The article cautions against the current focus upon data, without an adequate interrogation of how data constitute and are constitutive of the work and learning of both teachers and students.