New Zealand's Research Assessment Exercise (PBRF) as a pedagogical device: A Bernsteinian analysis of its impact on Education

Year: 2006

Author: Middleton, Sue

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As a reflexive field, Education's objects of study include the systems and ideas within which Educationists work. Research Assessment Exercises - Britain's RAE, New Zealand's PBRF, etc. - have become objects of critique and research. Bernstein's final work has been applied in studies of the impact of Britain's RAE in subjects such as Education. While the RAE's Units of Assessment are the collective outputs of departments or institutions, the PBRF's evaluations of subjects and institutions are based on the quality evaluation scores accorded to the Evidence Portfolios of individual staff. The PBRF projects new classifications within and across disciplinary boundaries, inscribing new collective and personal identities: "research active/ inactive", and "A, B or C" rated research activity. In Bernstein's sense, PBRF acts as a pedagogical device: it transmits criteria for the production of "legitimate texts". I interviewed 36 Educationists who submitted Evidence Portfolios in the PBRF's first (2003) quality evaluation round. Their accounts exemplify changing senses of professional identity before, during and since the evaluation. They illustrate gaps between personal (internal) professional identities and official (external) researcher identities and suggest that intellectual autonomy may be being compromised. Education was reproduced as of low status and its clinical/ professional mandate undermined.