Laura Perna, James S. Riepe Professor of Education, University of Pennsylvania
Taking it to the Streets: Connecting Education Policy and Research
In this era of “fake news,” the politicization of science, and what Tom Nichols calls “the death of expertise,” Perna has become increasingly interested in how education scholars connect research and policy. This presentation discusses two projects. The first is a collection of reflections from 16 nationally and internationally recognized education scholars about such questions as: What is the role of research in informing policymakers and practitioners about the need for policies and practices that advance equity, inclusiveness, and social change in higher education? The second project uses Critical Discourse Analysis to explain how legislators determine the role and contributions of academic researchers in a particular aspect of federal policymaking: Congressional legislative hearings. The discursive practices that legislators use serve to construct the social identity of academic witnesses, characterize witnesses’ qualifications, solicit information from witnesses, frame comments from witnesses, and amplify and mitigate witness testimony. The findings make visible the ways that legislators use the power of their positions to depict academic witnesses as both experts who offer independent knowledge and experts who validate or confirm a legislator’s preferences and priorities. Both projects have implications for academic researchers who seek to improve connections between research and policy.