The GPAC² PhD programme, designed for working professionals, brings us not only interesting PhD fellows but also increases our academic network thanks to external supervisors. One of our associated researchers, Prof. Louis Volante, initially came in as supervisor to Dr. Derek Copp, but is now contributing to the GPAC² programme as a teacher and supervisor.
How did you get involved in the GPAC² programme?
Derek initially contacted me in 2013 and inquired about my willingness to serve on his supervisory team. After reading a draft of his research plan, I felt I could make an important contribution to his study which focused on teachers’ reactivity to large-scale assessment programs across Canada.
During my first visit to Maastricht in November, 2014 I had the opportunity to meet with you, Dr. Mindel van de Laar, the GPAC² Coordinator, and Derek’s promoter, Dr. Jo Ritzen. I was also invited to be a reviewer for various GPAC² Fellow presentations and to give a PhD seminar in my area of expertise (globalisation, international testing, and education governance).
My first impression of GPAC² was that UNU-MERIT and MGSoG was offering a truly unique programme that brings together a diverse and eclectic array of international scholars and PhD Fellows. I continue to be involved with the GPAC² programme and routinely visit for the higher year cohort workshops that run every June and November. I also continue to supervise PhD students and am looking forward to Brenda Yamba, my current GPAC² Fellow, successfully completing her dissertation on the factors that facilitate school attendance for girl child carers in Lesotho, Africa.
As an expert on educational governance, and educational policy, you cover a research field that many GPAC² fellows feel connected to. But you also became an affiliated researcher to our institute. Can you tell us what your core expertise is, and what research connections you find here that complements your home university, Brock University?
My research focuses on a number of interrelated strands that include the global governance of education, international achievement studies, migrant integration and student achievement, education policy analysis, and large-scale reform and innovation. These topics naturally intersect with the research interests of various GPAC² researchers such as Jo Ritzen, Melissa Siegel, and Ozge Bilgili. Dr. Ritzen and I recently published a joint article in the academic journal Policy Futures in Education this past June titled “The European Union, education governance, and international education surveys.”
Dr. Ritzen and I continue to work together and are planning a future paper related to the OECD’s influence on educational innovation. Given that I also teach a graduate course at Brock University titled Politics, Power, and Policy in Education, I consider the discussions and advice I have received from Dr. Ritzen, who has extensive experience as a former Dutch Minister for Education and Science, invaluable in shaping my thinking.
I am also working closely with Dr. Melissa Siegel and Dr. Ozge Bilgili on research that examines immigrant student achievement and educational policy development. This partnership has led to a joint publication that will appear in February, 2017 in Canada’s largest educational magazine, Education Canada. I am also collaborating with Dr. Siegel on the development of a research grant proposal that will undertake a Pan-Canadian analysis of the achievement of immigrant students.
Similarly, Dr. Bilgili and I, along with a colleague from Queen’s University (Dr. Don Klinger, Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Education) will be leading an edited volume that examines policy approaches to addressing immigrant student achievement within England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Collectively, I believe my strong connections with the UNU-MERIT community has enriched the research and teaching I do within Canada.
You currently published a book on educational testing and international policy. What exactly is it about? Can you share some insights?
This Routledge book examined the intersection of international achievement testing and educational governance across a range of Western nations which included Germany, England, Scotland, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Netherlands, United States, Canada, and New Zealand.
Each of the national profiles: provided a brief overview of the structure of public schooling and the administrative processes used to determine curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment at the national and/or regional level; explained the genesis and evolution of international testing (i.e., PISA, TIMSS, PIRLS) within their respective context; and discussed the “actions and reactions” that stemmed from the relative performance of students on international benchmark tests, particularly PISA which garners the most attention in educational policy spheres.
Although it is difficult to distill the book’s key insights within this short synopsis, it is fair to say that there were both intended and unintended outcomes that followed the increased utilisation of international achievement studies, particularly PISA. Indeed, one of the key findings of the book is that it is ultimately the unique political, economic, social, and educational context that influenced the uptake of recommended policies and large-scale reforms that are promoted by international organisations such as the OECD, which coordinates the PISA triennial survey.
Although the trajectory of reforms seemed to suggest greater reactivity in response to PISA, the diversity of national profiles also suggested that the influence of the OECD on global educational governance is actually not a uniform or even process across much of the Western world. Overall, I believe the global community needs to be open to the opportunities and vigilant to the constraints that may be associated with the results of international achievement studies.