Accountability practices in adult education: Insights from actor-network theory



Fenwick T (2010) Accountability practices in adult education: Insights from actor-network theory. Studies in the Education of Adults, 42 (2), pp. 170-185.

Accountability mechanisms in adult education, their constitution and their effects, are of increasing concern in an era threatening massive reductions to resources for adult education activity. Such mechanisms are frequently portrayed as unassailably oppressive. However, alternative analyses have illuminated contradictions and ambiguities in the assembly and mobilization of such mechanisms that offer escape routes and non-calculable or even transgressive spaces. Actor-network theory, for example, increasingly has been employed in studies of accountability systems and the evaluation mechanisms serving them. This article presents sample studies that draw from ANT to analyse processes of accountability in workplace learning, professional education, literacy tutoring and public pedagogy. These examples establish not only the complexities of calculation as it is enacted through heterogeneous networks, but also the spaces of non-calculation that can be found or torn open to allow more freedom of play. The conclusion summarizes ANT’s theoretical contributions to the study of accountability in adult education, and suggests further work that might be undertaken to develop ANT’s potential contributions to evaluative practices in adult education.

actor-network theory; adult education; accountability; Education Sociological aspects Research; Adult education Evaluation; Educational tests and measurements Textbooks

Studies in the Education of Adults: Volume 42, Issue 2

Publication date30/09/2010
PublisherNational Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace)
Publisher URL…0000002/art00006

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Professor Tara Fenwick

Professor Tara Fenwick

Emeritus Professor, Education