Making education policy from the ground up: radical disagreement, experimental constructivism and risky knowledge work

Year: 2016

Author: Heimans, Stephen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation is a provocation that arises out of research conducted during my postdoctoral fellowship focussing on a school-university partnership and education policy enactment. The provocation is that education policy enactment research is not research ‘on’ others and their work in schools and other places where education and policy are ‘done’. Rather, it is undertaken ‘with’ these people and places in a way that is emergently ‘world-making’. It constitutes policy (and its research) as that which might be the problem. It generates, prototypes and re-enacts solutions against policy that has been made in the interests of others. It is suggested that education policy enactment research practices “produce reliable knowledge claims only in so far as the questions they address are at risk of being redefined by the phenomena mobilized in them” (Whatmore, 2013), so that whom, and whatever, are ‘researched’ will have multiple and ongoing occasions for undoing emerging certainties and knowledge interests and re-enacting policy. Underpinning the provocation outlined here is the proposition that people who are most affected by policy (and its research) should have the most say in its instigation, formulation and outcomes. It is assumed that education policy links what government seeks to and can do and what education seeks to and can do. In this linking forms of democracy become enacted. In its current institutional forms (with policy being an actor of governing in these forms), democracy has coalesced primarily into serving the oligarchical interests of a political class (a consensus of ‘right’ and ‘left’) (Rancière, 2006). The argument presented here is that research might instigate/ investigate democracy ‘from below’; trench democracy (Dzur, 2013). It is suggested that generative scientific (not reductive scientistic) processes of problem and solution generation are needed that create the potential for policy changes to occur in the interests of those people most affected by these changes. These processes include:1. Enacting radical disagreement (see Rancière, 1999), by2. Presupposing the equality of intelligences of all people (Rancière, 1991), and3. Experimenting constructively with competency groups (see Whatmore, 2013), by4. Collaborating with non-representative stakeholders (Whatmore and Landstrom, 2011). Each of these four suggestions and their relations will be fully discussed in the presentation. Suggestions will be made for doing education policy enactment research ‘with’ others in light of them.