Policy mobilities and methodologies in global education policy research: applications and opportunities

Year: 2021

Author: Gulson, Kalervo, Lewis, Steven, McKenzie, Marcia

Type of paper: Symposium

Policy mobilities is a broad term, capturing work that identifies and conceptualises how policy moves between urban locations, across national borders, and through more diffuse and non-scalar modalities. Policy mobility adds to studies of policy transfer and diffusion by positing that there is an important focus on the relationship between movement and the uptake of policy in relation to particular places. In policy mobility studies, as ‘the processes being analyzed are much more fluid, defined through eddies and flows that move uncertainly and are defined in place as well as in and through networks, finding straightforward ways of researching them is not straightforward’ (Cochrane & Ward, 2012, p. 7). To address this methodological challenge, policy mobilities research in education engages with myriad concepts, including scale, topology and assemblage, and multiple methodologies, such as network ethnography. This paper aims to highlight the methodological richness that mobilities framings contribute to understanding global education policy movement. Drawing on cases of policy mobility research, the paper will outline the policy mobilities approach used in each case, but will also identify a key gap in each; using this opportunity to extend policy mobilities research in education. The cases are: i) the use of causal inference in machine learning in decision making in an Australian education jurisdiction. This example will consider not only what are the networks that make up machine learning, but what is the place of automated decision making; ii) the presence of international organisations  – such as the European Commission  – in education policy making. This example advances an emergent policy mobilities methodology, described here as topological genealogy, which is centrally interested in tracing how governing practices unfold through emerging mobile and digital relations; and iii) influences on UN policy programs focused on climate change education. Beyond just mapping three interrelated networks, the focus of this example is on the relative influence of the whos, hows, and wheres of the network governance and decision-making.Through these case vignettes illuminating relationality, place, topological and network conceptions, and their relatively contributions and gaps in relation to policy mobilities research, we hope to suggest additional methodological opportunities for policy mobilities in researching global education policy movement.