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Performance management

In recent years, governance and management through performance indicators has become the norm within education systems across the world. This mode of governance involves the calculability and comparability of education and educational subjects, including student performance, teaching quality, institutional effectiveness and output in the form of graduate employment. The performance indicators work through specific calculation models, visual technologies and infrastructures of circulation that induce self-discipline and accountability. Performance management also works through the identification of best practices that can be spread across a sector of similar schools or institutions and imitated in an effort to improve performance.

Research on performance management includes the study of how performance indicators are produced through the development of (sometimes very complex) contingent calculation models, how circulation and reporting practices are established and maintained through monitoring and accountability systems and, not least, which performative effects the use of performance indicators has on educational practices and subjects, including the strategies used by accountable units to improve their performance.

The research programme Policy Futures explores interactions between policy, governance and administration, both globally and nationally, and performance management is a key category of interaction in contemporary education systems. One of the theoretical approaches employed by Policy Futures is based on performativity studies, including valuation studies. The latter allow the research unit to explore the ways in which valuation devices (such as calculation models and rankings) not only reflect, but also produce what is considered valuable, and how they translate value across different value systems. Another theoretical approach is inspired by the affective turn, investigating how performance indicators and visual technologies produce affective economies.

The study of performance management in Policy Futures covers a range of educational fields, such as primary and lower secondary education (student testing for example) and the higher education sector (measurements of study progress, quality and graduate employment as part of the new funding structure, creating specific rankings of degree programmes and incentivizing academic staff  teachers to act in ways that can improve their ranking positions of the universities).