Transcending qualification: Working with diffraction to explore the plural pedagogic effects of inquiry learning in a Danish university

Renae Acton

Publikation: KonferencebidragKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningpeer review


Topic: The emphasis on measurement and ranking in the evaluation of pedagogic outcomes is anticipated to continue indefinitely within higher education (Peters, 2019). Currently, evaluation practices for inquiry and problem-oriented pedagogies favour the measurement of qualification-related outcomes (Acton, 2019). This renders silent additional purposes of education to develop student traits of social consciousness and civic agency. The research presented here challenges this reductive view, enacting a multifaceted educational evaluation that values a suite of beyond-qualification effects at an inquiry-focused Nordic university.
Theoretical orientation: The enactment of a diffractive orientation allows multiple stories to exist together; touching, overlapping, contradicting, opposing (see, Petersen, 2020; 2016). With a multivocal approach, diffractive analyses sense into complexity rather than seeking unified coherence. Instead of a holistic ‘more complete’ representation of pedagogic effect, the theory allows acknowledgement of the plural educational outcomes that may arise from inquiry-based educational experiences. Hence, the analysis can then explore the tensions-between, the parallels and entanglements of multiple pedagogic effects across qualification, socialisation, and subjectification functions of education (Biesta, 2010).
Methodological design: The research design works with a mixed-methods case study strategy. One Danish university – with inquiry as its signature pedagogy – constitutes the case. This assembles longitudinal quantitative student achievement data alongside qualitative data from a survey of graduates and interviews with external community partners. These are complemented with photovoice, a participatory methodology where student co-inquirers illustrate, narrate, and evaluate the effects most meaningful to them.
Expected Results: It is anticipated that the empirical data will contribute to improved understandings about what students, graduates, and community partners value as outcomes of an inquiry approach. The research design is deliberate in its intention to elicit nuanced insights into pedagogic effects that are civic, subjective, and/or community-based. The concurrent listing of miscellaneous outcomes further enables the illumination of instances of connection, subjugation, resonance or tension.
Relevance to Nordic context: The Nordic countries are not immune from global quality assurance processes that measure, evaluate, and rank universities. As dominant practices, these shape and constitute what is valued as significant outcomes of educative experiences. This research explores how institutional evaluation and measurement might better explore the complex impacts of pedagogic work in locally responsive ways. As such, it provides a Danish exemplar of how future evaluations might transcend qualification-only outcomes to value diverse socialisation and subjectification effects, especially those not easily measurable, such as civic awareness or agency, and those not often imagined, such as community benefit.

Acton, R. (2019). Mapping the evaluation of problem-oriented pedagogies in higher education: A systematic literature review. Education Sciences, 9(4), 1-21.
Biesta, G. (2010). Good education in an age of measurement. New York: Routledge.
Peters, M. (2019). Global university rankings: Metrics, performance, governance. Educational Philosophy & Theory, 51(1), 5-13.
Petersen, E.B. (2016). Turned on, Turned off. NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 24(1), 5-17.
Petersen, E.B. (2020). What is an inaugural professorial lecture? Exploring academic practices through diffractive listing. In J. Lynch et al. (Eds.), Practice Methodologies in Education Research. Abingdon: Routledge. 206-224.
Publikationsdato3 mar. 2020
StatusUdgivet - 3 mar. 2020
BegivenhedNERA 2020: Rethinking the futures of education in the Nordic countries - University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Varighed: 4 mar. 20206 mar. 2020


KonferenceNERA 2020
LokationUniversity of Turku

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