Looking behind ERA: Mapping the socio-spatial ecology of Australian education research

Year: 2012

Author: Seddon, Terri, Chan, Philip Wing Keung

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The effects of education reforms that travel globally, such as outcomes based education, are well recognised in the various sectors of education (primary, secondary, tertiary, early years and international). However these travelling reforms are also reconfiguring the way educational knowledge is produced and used, which steers and scopes education research and ways of being a researcher in particular ways (Ozga, Seddon and Popkewitz, 2006). With the implementation of ERA in 2010, Australian education research was identified with FOR13 - Education and averaged 2.2, which is below world standard but what does this characterization as a 2.2 world mean in terms of education research and research capacity building to secure education research into the future?

This paper considers Australian education research as a socio-spatial ecology in which actors, locations and relationships produce the research outputs, which constitute education research. We report on three aspects of this research. First we elaborate this conceptualisation of Australian education and the way we used this approach to design and implement the research process in Task Group 1. Second, we comment on some of the methodological challenges in this project, which relate particularly to questions of access, anonymity and communication. Finally, we comment on the disconnects between the concept of 'Australian education research' when it is scoped as FOR13 - Education, and as a socio-spatial ecology that is defined by the agency of the education research community.

We argue that the ERA representation of education research creates both challenges and opportunities for education research because there is a growing mismatch between the reform trajectories steering education research and education research capacity in Australia. This mismatch needs to be addressed through a more strategic approach to building research capacity, nationally and in each University, but there are diverse avenues for taking this agenda forward, which require careful consideration.