The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 433–451 | Cite as

Education research Australia: a changing ecology of knowledge and practice

  • Terri SeddonEmail author
  • Dawn Bennett
  • Sue Bennett
  • Janette Bobis
  • Philip Chan
  • Neil Harrison
  • Sue Shore


Processes of national research assessment, such as Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) are a type of audit technology that confronts and steers established institutional identities and traditions. This nexus between policy and practice drives boundary work that diffracts prevailing policy logics, organisational practices, and habits of mind. We use this notion of ‘boundary work’ as an analytical lens for understanding the nature and effects of ERA in the Australian educational research space. This paper explains the methodology that informed the AARE–ACDE research reported in Strategic Capacity Building for Australian Educational Research. It documents the policy logic of ERA and the way it cuts across the established ecology of educational research, revealing social and symbolic work that is remaking the boundaries of educational research. We report on the historical trajectory of Australian educational research, the way ERA codes research outputs, and how educational researchers are repositioning in this shifting research space. We argue that there are specific loci of boundary work where capacity building in Australian educational research can make a difference to future educational knowledge building.


Educational research ERA Research assessment Knowledge-based regulatory tools Social ecology Boundary work 



We thank Ruth Morton, Joce Nuttall, Michele Simons and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful contributions to this paper.


  1. Abbott, A. (2005). Linked ecologies: States and universities as environments for professions. Sociological Theory, 23, 245–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ABS (2008). A new research classification for a new century, Media Release, 31/3/2008. Retrieved May 13, 2013, from
  3. ABS (2013). 1297.0-Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from
  4. ARC (2010). Excellence in Research for Australia, Evaluation Guidelines. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from
  5. ARC (2011). ERA 2010 National Report. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from
  6. ARC (2013). ERA 2012 Journal List. Retrieved June 3, 2013, from
  7. Ashcroft, C. (2005). Performance based research funding: A mechanism to allocate funds or a tool for academic promotion? New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 40, 113–129.Google Scholar
  8. Austen, S. (2008). Australia’s research quality framework and gender equity. International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 9, 31–40.Google Scholar
  9. Bennett, D., Genoni, P., & Haddow, G. (2011). FoR codes pendulum: Publishing choices within Australian research assessment. Australian Universities’ Review, 53, 88–98.Google Scholar
  10. Bessant, B., & Holbrook, A. (1995). Reflections on educational research in Australia: A history of the Australian association for research in education. Coldstream, VIC: AARE.Google Scholar
  11. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Connell, W. F. (1962). Foundations of Education. Sydney: Novak.Google Scholar
  13. Connell, R. W. (1993). Schools and social justice. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Connell, R. W. (1997). Schools, markets, justice: Education in a fractured world. Forum of Education, 52(1), 1–13.Google Scholar
  15. Curtis, B. Phibbs, S. & Meager, Z. (2011). Exploring the underperformance of female academics in the Performance-Based Research Fund, paper presented at the TASA conference, University of Newcastle.Google Scholar
  16. Dawkins, J. (1988). Higher education policy. A policy statement. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Publishing Service.Google Scholar
  17. Ellis, V., Mcnicholl, J., & Pendry, A. (2012). Institutional conceptualisation of teacher education as academic work in England. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28, 685–693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fenwick, T., Edwards, R., & Sawchuk, P. (2011). Emerging approaches to educational research: Tracing the socio-material. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Filippakou, O., Salter, B., & Tapper, T. (2010). Compliance, resistance and seduction: Reflections on 20 years of the funding council model of governance. Higher Education, 60, 543–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frascati Manual. (2002). Proposed standard practice for surveys on research and experimental development. Paris Cedex, France: OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).Google Scholar
  21. Freebody, P. (2003). Qualitative research in education: Interaction and practice. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Furlong, J., & Lawn, M. (2011). Disciplines of education: Their role in the future of educational research. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Gale, T. (2006). Towards a theory and practice of policy engagement: Higher education research policy in the making. Australian Educational Researcher, 33, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gieryn, T. F. (1983). Boundary-work and the demarcation of science from non-science: Strains and interests in professional ideologies of scientists. American Sociological Review, 48, 781–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Haraway, D. J. & Randolph, L. M. (1997). Modest-_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan-Meets_OncoMouse : Feminism and technoscience. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Hassner, P. (1997). Obstinate and obsolete: Non-territorial transnational forces versus the European territorial state. In O. Tunander, et al. (Eds.), Geopolitics in the post-wall Europe: Security, territory and identity. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Kemenade, E. V., Pupius, M., & Hardjono, T. W. (2008). More value to defining quality. Quality in Higher Education, 14, 175–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kwok, J. K., (2013). Impact of ERA research assessment on university behaviour and their staff. Melbourne: NTEU National Policy and Research Unit. Retrieved May 27, 2013, from
  29. Lamont, M., & Molnar, V. (2002). The study of boundaries in the social sciences. Annual Review of Sociology, 28, 167–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Larkins, F. (2013). ERA 2012 (Part 1): University responses and performances compared with ERA 2010, L.H. Martin Institute, Melbourne University (Downloaded via UWS, 26/4/13).Google Scholar
  31. Larkins, F. (2013). ERA 2012 (Part 2): Discipline research profile changes 2010 to 2012, L.H.Martin Institute, Melbourne University. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from
  32. Lee, A., Goodyear, P., Seddon, T., & Renshaw, P. (2011). Position paper submitted to AARE and ACDE executives. September 2011.Google Scholar
  33. Lingard, B., & Gale, T. (2010). Defining educational research: A perspective of/on presidential addresses and the Australian association for research in education. Australian Educational Researcher, 37, 21–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maroy, C. (2012). Towards post-bureaucratic modes of governance: A European perspective. In G. Steiner-Khamsi & F. Waldow (Eds.), Policy borrowing and lending in education, 2012 world yearbook of education. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Marsh, H., Smith, B., King, M., & Evans, T. (2012). A new era for research education in Australia? Australian Universities’ Review, 54, 83–93.Google Scholar
  36. Middleton, S. (2008). Research assessment as a pedagogical device: Bernstein, professional identity and Education in New Zealand. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29, 125–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Newman, D. (2003). Boundaries). In J. Agnew, K. Mitchell, & G. Toal (Eds.), A companion to political geography. Malden, USA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  38. Oancea, A. (2007). From procrustes to proteus: Trends and practices in the assessment of education research. International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 30, 243–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pons, X. & VAN Zanten, A. (2007). Knowledge circulation, regulation and governance, KnowandPol project, deliverable 4, R&D EU Sixth Framework program. Retrieved May 5, 2013, from
  40. Reidpath, D. D., & Allotey, P. (2010). Can national research assessment exercises be used locally to inform research strategy development? The description of a methodological approach to the UK RAE 2008 results with a focus on one institution. Higher Education, 59, 785–797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rhodes, R. A. W. (2007). Understanding governance: Ten years on. Organization Studies, 28, 1243–1264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roberts, P. (2013). Academic dystopia: Knowledge, performativity, and tertiary education. Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies, 35, 27–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Saltmarsh, S., Sutherland-Smith, W., & Randell-Moon, H. (2011). “Inspired and assisted”, or “berated and destroyed”? Research leadership, management and performativity in troubled times. Ethics and Education, 6, 293–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sassen, S. (2013). When the global arises from inside the national. In T. Seddon & J. Levin (Eds.), Educators, professionalism and politics: Global transitions, national spaces, and professional projects, 2012 world yearbook of education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Seddon, T. L. (1988). The transition in New South Wales schooling: From federation to keynesian settlement. Education Research and Perspectives, 15(1), 60–69.Google Scholar
  46. Seddon, T. (Forthcoming). Making educational spaces through boundary work: Territorialisation and ‘boundarying’, Globalisation, Societies and Education.Google Scholar
  47. Seddon, T., Bennett, D., Bobis, J., Bennett, S., Harrison, N., Shore, S., Smith, E. & Chan, P. (2012). Living in a 2.2 world: ERA, capacity building and the topography of Australian educational research. Retrieved May 5, 2013, from
  48. Shulman, L. S. (1988). Disciplines of inquiry in Education: An overview. In R. M. Jaeger (ed). Contemporary Methods for Research in Education. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  49. Shulman, L. S. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3), 52–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stensaker, B. (2008). Outcomes of quality assurance: A discussion of knowledge, methodology and validity. Quality in Higher Education, 14, 3–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Winch, C. (2001). Accountability and relevance in educational research. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 35, 443–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Yates, L. (2004). What does good education research look like? Situating a field and its practices. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terri Seddon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dawn Bennett
    • 2
  • Sue Bennett
    • 3
  • Janette Bobis
    • 4
  • Philip Chan
    • 1
  • Neil Harrison
    • 5
  • Sue Shore
    • 6
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Humanities Research and Graduate Studies, Curtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of EducationUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  4. 4.Faculty of Education and Social WorkThe University of SydneyDarlingtonAustralia
  5. 5.School of EducationMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  6. 6.School of EducationCharles Darwin UniversityDarwinAustralia

Personalised recommendations