CLEG seminar: What’s wrong with ‘deliverology’? Some critical reflections on the use of performance measurement in education
Research Group Curriculum Studies, Leadership and Educational Governance (CLEG) welcomes you to this seminar. Sharon Gewirtz is invited to speak. She is a professor in Education in the School of Education, Communication and Society at King’s College London.
Photo: King's College London
This presentation will use data collected from a survey of 1800 English secondary school teachers (Neumann et al., 2016) as a spring board to ask some critical questions about performance measurement in education. Reflecting a global movement of educational reform and informed by the ideology of ‘deliverology’, in England, as elsewhere, performance measurement has become a core component of the means by which schools and teachers are held accountable to government and the public for their performance.
I will use the survey data to interrogate the apparent plausibility of the performance measures currently being applied to English secondary schools, and to raise questions about the wider approach to educational accountability with which they are associated. I will begin by outlining some of the history of how we have got to where we are now, before going on to examine, and question, the underlying rationale for and effects of the performance measures currently in use.
Sharon Gewirtz is Professor of Education in the School of Education, Communication and Society at King’s College London where she also co-directs the Centre for Public Policy Research. She has been involved in research in the sociology of education and education policy for just over 30 years, during which time she has published widely on issues of equality and social justice, teachers’ work and the changing culture and values of schooling and higher education in the context of managerial reform.
Deliverology is a top down approach to governance that focuses on improving public service delivery processes by identifying goals and measures to assess progress towards them. These goals and measures are designed to both motivate and inform system improvements and ensure that public money is well spent. However, although undoubtedly well-intentioned, a wealth of previous research conducted in diverse national contexts where this approach has been influential has suggested that the unintended harms it generates may be outweighing its benefits. In the case of school education, these harms have been found to include a widening of inequalities, forms of ‘gaming the system’ or outright cheating, a test-driven pedagogic culture and a narrowing of the curriculum. In an attempt to circumnavigate such perverse effects, in England, the performance measures used have, at least in some respects, become increasingly sophisticated over recent years. This sophistication gives the measures a plausibility that has led to them being welcomed by some progressive educators as a means of increasing access to a broad curriculum and high status knowledge for disadvantaged students.
Neumann, E., Towers, E., Gewirtz, S. and Maguire, M. (2016) A Curriculum for All? National Union of Teachers, https://www.teachers.org.uk/sites/default/files2014/curriculum-for-all-64pp-10845.pdf