Discourses in Education Policy – My Independent Research

This past semester of school was the final semester of school as an undergraduate student. The past two years have been devoted to completing my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. To complete the degree, students are required to complete a senior project. The driving idea behind all of my schooling for the past six years has of course been an interest in education, education policy, and education research.

During my time at the University of Minnesota, I discovered a fascination with the study of discourse in society, which is a field within sociology. By combining these two interests, I decided utilize the resources around me and do an Independent Senior Research Project, instead of taking the Senior Project class. This allowed me more flexibility in the kind of project I did. The main question my paper asked was: What impact is the free-market ideal having on the relationship public school districts have with charter schools and how do those in charge of making policy decisions frame opportunities for collaboration?

The result was a a 20-page paper that detailed some recent trends in education policy in Minnesota, laid out my process for collecting data, and explained my findings based on 6 interviews I conducted with school board members from Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Richfield. Overall I found two frames, a pro-competition frame and pro-collaboration frame. Within the individual contexts of competition-based policy approaches versus collaboration-based, I found other important frames that seem to help facilitate a favoring for one approach to the other.

Here’s a short quote from the paper:

Within the pro-collaboration frame, I found a focus on how to best teach to the individual student, a focus on class as a factor that disadvantages students, and an emphasis on equal opportunity for every student. Within the pro-competition frame I found a focus on how to provide the best learning environment and a focus on race as a factor that disadvantages students, then emphasizing the importance of diversity. Alternately, while Minneapolis school board members were more wary of charter schools, they were also more open to working with them, while St. Paul school board members were generally approving of charter schools existing as competitors to public schools but were hesitant about working collaboratively with them.

This was a massive project, I’ve never done anything like it before. What’s even more exciting, though, is that I got an A on my paper!

I’ve gone through and made a few edits to it, and I have made it available to download as a protected PDF file if you are interested in reading it.

Download the PDF

If you do download it, let me know what you think in the comments section.

Posted in Blogging, News, Sociology by Preston on June 22nd, 2014

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