Performative practices and ‘authentic accountabilities’: Targeting students, targeting learning?

Ian J. Hardy, Vicente Reyes, M. Obaid Hamid


This paper critiques recent practices in schooling, particularly efforts to enhance student learning outcomes for more performative purposes. Such practices have become increasingly prevalent as part of a broader trend towards results-oriented accountability practices, with concomitant pressures upon teachers and students to achieve particular outcomes as evidence of improvement—and often in relation to various forms of local, national, and international standardized tests. The research draws upon experiences of teachers in one school in Australia as they grappled with various reform initiatives as part of their overall School Improvement Plan to enhance educational outcomes for students. This paper draws upon theorizing and research into specific practices of performativity, particularly how children, data and teachers’ learning processes are all constituted as “targets” for continuous intervention. As well as revealing the problematic effects of more performative accountabilities, the research also shows how alternative more “authentic” forms of accountability were in evidence and enacted by those constituted through these processes. This paper seeks to provide insights into how teachers’ work and learning are heavily influenced by performative pressures, but also how teachers might contest the more instrumental and technicist influences of such practices.


accountability; performativity; standardized tests; data; teacher learning

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