PISA Rankings and public discourse: Using the web domain dataset to explore how comparative statistical data have been used to set an agenda for educational change in the UK
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), is a way of comparing educational performance in different countries, by testing students at age 15 when they are preparing to leave schooling for work. Conducted at three yearly intervals by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 2000, the latest round in 2012 involved 64 countries including all 34 OECD members. Since their inception the rank orderings of countries’ performance has acted as a major spur to educational reform in many jurisdictions, particularly countries which collect little performance data of their own. The findings are treated in national media as international league tables, with coverage in the UK focusing on our relative position (near to the mean) and whether we have risen or fallen in the rankings. This information often enters political discourse.
This project will use the potential of the web domain dataset to explore how reports of the the first four cycles of assessment in the PISA series (2000; 2003; 2006; 2009) were covered on the net. In particular the research aims are to identify:
• the kinds of institutions that gave most prominence to the PISA findings,
• how the findings were interpreted, and
• the extent to which they led to calls for system reform.
In addition, this project will explore whether the analytic tools offered for analysing the web domain dataset enhance or hinder this form of enquiry.
The research questions are:
1. Can the analytic tools suggested for use with the web domain archive help establish:
• Which kinds of institutions were mostly likely to comment on PISA data? (Newspapers; government agencies; universities; think-tanks; individuals in the blogosphere)
• How the data were represented and interpreted?
• What the data led to in terms of ideas for system change in the UK?
2. Do the analytic tools employed to answer 1. offer efficiencies of research time and scale in understanding the uptake and recontextualisation of research knowledge about PISA via the web and the knowledge communities it represents?
Gemma Moss, Institute of Education