Proposed Call for Proposals
Critical Institutional Research: Analysis, Methods, Theories
Association for Institutional Research Pre-conference Workshop
May 25/26, 2015, Denver, Colorado, USA
In spite of a long tradition of critical approaches to both the study and practice of education, institutional research is dominated by very much traditional approaches to inquiry. Positivism, behavioralism, managerialism, and rationalism remain key—and usually unexamined—substantive and methodological commitments in IR, and opportunities to pursue alternatives are limited by both the immediate demands of the decision-makers to whom IR professionals are accountable and the conflation of these values with scholarly rigor. Critical approaches to IR offer the opportunity to better understand and perhaps improve existing practice, to open new directions for inquiry, to broaden the groups represented in IR analyses, and when necessary to challenge problematic practices in IR and in higher education more broadly.
To address these issues, I propose that interested institutional researchers organize a mini-conference on critical approaches to institutional research as a pre-conference workshop at the Association for Institutional Research conference.
The mini-conference has several objectives:
- To explore new or underappreciated dimensions of IR
- To develop applications of critical approaches to the study of society, especially of education, to problems in higher education
- To demonstrate the value that critical approaches add to the practice of IR, both as alternatives and complements to traditional approaches
- To challenge dominant approaches to IR, especially from the perspectives of marginalized groups in higher education
- To build a network of IR professionals who engage critical approaches to the field
We might conceive of critical approaches to IR long at least three dimensions. As critical analysis, critical IR would ask questions about how and why we do what we do that we might otherwise take for granted. As critical methods, critical IR brings new (typically non-positivist) approaches to the problems that IR professionals confront. As critical theories, critical IR explores the social structures that influence the field and its place in higher education.
The heart of critical IR might, in philosopher Iris Young's words, be a call to see our profession from the perspective that, "It does not have to be this way; it could be otherwise." As such, possible topics in critical IR might include:
- The concepts and practices that IR analysis implicitly use in representing students
- Concepts of privacy that are appropriate for use in IR analysis
- The scientific status of typical methods in IR
- The relevance of feminist, critical race, queer, or other theories of marginalization in IR
- The influence of political economy on IR practice
- How management theory operates as a legitimating ideology for IR analyses.
- How IR might consider intersections among gender, race, or class in supporting institutional decisions
- Whether discursive methods can provide information useful for supporting institutional operations
- The extent to which IR relies on or reinforces structures of privilege in institutional management
- The values embedded in the technologies and organizational practices of IR
Those who are interested in participating in any form can contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@the_other_jeff) as appropriate. Presenters should send a title and one paragraph abstract via email. Those willing to serve as panel moderators or commentators can contact me via email or Twitter. Please let me know even if you’re only interested in attending and participating in the discussions, as that information will be included in the AIR proposal.
Please let me know of your interest by the end of October so that I can get a proposal done in time for the separate call for proposals for the pre-conference workshops in November.