STudieS: STS in education

Despite its status as an eclectic, multi-disciplinary field of enquiry, research in education has been relatively slow to recognise the rich potential of STS. The field has arguably been dominated by theoretical perspectives from social science that assume a priori sociopolitical structures as organizing forces in the practices of education and knowledge. This has led to an elision of the emergent, the sociomaterial and the more-than-human in research.

However, several strands of educational research have drawn on insights, perspectives and methods from STS leading to fine-grained analyses of the processes and practices of education. These have included analyses of relationships between states and knowledge, the sociomateriality of epistemic and regulatory practices, regimes of discipline and audit, big data and learning analytics, the political economy of educational technology, and the unfolding assemblages of educational institutions, classrooms and online spaces. Especially within a policy environment that increasingly requires educational knowledge of ‘what works’ from the research community, STS theories contribute to educational research from a distinctive angle, by making visible the enormous work that is required to make certain understandings of truths and rationalities stick as scientific beliefs (Sismondo, 2010). The international STudieS-network brings together researchers who are active across a range of STS research in education. As we grapple with increasing inequities, growing standardisation and internationalisation, the deprofessionalisation of teachers, the entrenchment of detrimental neoliberal practices of governance and accountability, the erosion of institutions and the increasingly unquestioning trust in numbers (Porter, 1995), STS is needed to make sense of, and to respond to, the unique pressures facing the field of education as the approach provides means for engaging with the ontological politics of these phenomena.

In the varied use of STS-studies in education, we see confidence and evidence of a certain maturity and development of the field. We hope this network will provide a space for new debates, new thinking and new and interesting intersections with other theories, which are much needed to engage with the many interesting – and often somewhat terrifying – issues that confront us in the field of education.