Call for papers: Digital education governance beyond international comparative assessment

6 Oct 2021
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Digital education governance beyond international comparative assessment: complex histories, contested presents, and contingent futures

Call for papers for online conference, 25-26 May 2022

Deadline for titles and abstracts 17 December 2021; decisions on submissions by 31 January 2022

International organizations have driven large-scale comparative assessments and quantification as the basis of policy influence, development and diffusion since the mid-20th century, and have been instrumental in shaping education discourse since the turn of the 21st century. A growing body of research, however, has begun identifying the influence of new ‘digital’ actors and methods in the ways education systems, schools, teachers and students are governed and how educational policies are developed, diffused and enacted. Schools are underpinned by digital systems for management and pedagogy, while official agencies employ data infrastructures to formulate and assess policy interventions. The education technology industry, with political and investor support, has introduced new algorithmic capacities of learning analytics, artificial intelligence and automation into classrooms through digital platforms. Global technology corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon have extended their powers in education too, expanding the reach of their cloud architectures, digital platforms, and data mining into schools, colleges and universities worldwide. At the same time, the most powerful governing organization of the last twenty years, such as the OECD, World Bank and UNESCO, have begun ‘digitalizing’ and ‘datafying’ their practices and methods.

The online conference ‘Digital education governance beyond international comparative assessments: complex histories, contested presents, and contingent futures’ provides an opportunity to examine and discuss recent paths of development, current enactments, and possible trajectories for education policy and governance in a time of intensive digitalization and datafication. ‘Digital education governance’ signifies three major interrelated transformations: a structural shift in the organizations, actors and expertise involved in the governance of education; new techniques to govern, control, steer, enable or constrain education systems, institutions, populations and individuals; and changing forms of agency and authority, which make governance more pervasive and challenge the relationship between public and private. The goal of the conference is to bring together researchers with a particular attention to digital technologies in education governance, and to build a collective knowledge base for future research, theory generation, and critical intervention.

Hosted by Ben Williamson (Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh) and Barbara Hof (Institute of Education at the University of Zurich), the international conference will take place over two half-day sessions online, and will be video recorded and captioned. It will include two short keynote provocations, panels of short 10-15 minute research presentations with in-depth discussion, and facilitated roundtables. We invite contributions on topics including:

  • Historical/genealogical perspectives on digital education governance
  • Power relations between ‘old/new’ actors and forms of governing
  • Empirical studies of new digital governing actors and practices
  • Informed speculation on future forms of digital education governance
  • Methodologies and theories for researching digital education governance
  • Comparative analyses of digital education governance in situated action
  • The connections between digital governance, discrimination, digital divides and inequalities
  • Emerging public-private governance relations and shifting sectoral dynamics
  • The role of intermediaries, think tanks, and consultancies in changing forms of governance
  • Counter-power, resistance and alternative modes of governing

To take part, please send a title and 250 word outline of your proposed 10-15 minute contribution to by 17 December 2021. You may also propose a panel session, which should include 3 or 4 speakers on a coherent theme; please send panel proposals featuring a brief 200 word thematic outline plus 250 word abstracts for each individual contribution. We will consider all proposals and respond by 31 January 2022.