Tuesday 30 October 2012

PISA Rankings and public discourse

This is a guest post by another of the ADDAA researchers, Gemma Moss:

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

Thursday 18 October 2012

The Decline of Parliamentary Political Engagement, 2004-2010: implications for 2012 and beyond

This is a guest post by Carole Taylor, one of the researchers investigating the Domain Dark Archive as part of the AADDA project:

I  am investigating the decline of Parliamentary political engagement in the UK since 2004, a trend documented in the Hansard Society’s annual Audit[s] of Political Engagement. Public attitudes to the political process have “hardened” in recent years; for example the number of people certain that they will vote in a national election has dropped to an all-time low of 48%. My particular interest is in the impact of the work of MPs and peers in the Westminster Parliament, on public opinion; I want to be clearer about the links between political engagement and what Parliament does.

In my research proposal to this consultation, I suggested four questions that the Domain Dark Archive might address:

One: could we identify websites addressing some or all of the core indicators of political engagement (ie, knowledge and interest, action and participation, and efficacy and satisfaction)?
Two: could comparison searches be done to give parliamentarians an insight into changing public perceptions of the parliamentary process?
Three: can social media forums used by parliamentarians be identified in a time-sensitive way that highlights political themes commented on from one year to the next?
And four: could we examine the House of Lords blog, say, to analyse how politicians – peers in this case – engaged with the spontaneous, seldom thought-through but increasingly influential eruptions of public opinion expressed in tweets and blogs?

Given the limited amount of time we will have with the dataset this spring, I plan to focus on the last two questions, using the House of Lords as a case study not least because the Lords was the first parliamentary chamber in the world to set up a bipartisan blog (in 2008). Many peers comment on other blogs as well, and it will be interesting to chart how a discrete group of peers and public have interacted online during a period of decline in so-called political engagement. Between now and the spring I will interview peers with an interest in social media in order to identify why they got involved in blogging in the first place. This research will give me relevant key words and phrases to submit to the DDA consultation for search and analysis.

Dr Carole Taylor BSc, MA, PhD