Capturing the ‘evidence’ and ‘what works’ agenda in education: a truth regime and the art of manoeuvring floating signifiers

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Education has moved higher up on the policy agenda. Policy-makers and other stakeholders want more of a say in what happens to school and what counts as legitimate educational research. Demands for accountability and comparable choices among public services have followed. Consequently, serving public good has acquired a new meaning of providing policy and market with instruments to enable evidence-based choices in a so-called competitive global knowledge economy. This has, not surprisingly, led to a struggle about evidence and the right to decide how What Works can be defined in education that has consequences for school, professionals and educational research.
The chapter explores this issue by means of Danish examples located within larger transnational agendas. Evidence discourse was initially a bottom-up professional strategy within the medical field. It was, however, reworked and launched into education in a more top-down move that has largely by-passed professionals.
From this perspective the author argues that the field of education and its professions may profit from adopting evidence as a floating signifier, albeit at tough odds as the evidence discourse is currently at odds with a majority of mainstream paradigms and understandings of school and teaching within the teaching profession and educational research. Taking the approach of the floating signifier could, nonetheless, be strategically useful in struggles to expanding the meanings of evidence to also reflect the experiences of professionals as well as the breadth of contemporary educational research. Three analytical distinctions are proposed in order to facilitate manoeuvring evidence as a floating signifier: evidence-based vs evidence-informed knowledge; global vs local forms of evidence; external vs internal forms of evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvidence and public good in educational policy, research and practice
EditorsMustafa Yunus Eryaman, Barbara Schneider
Number of pages21
Place of publicationCham (CH)
Publication dateJun 2017
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-58849-0
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-58850-6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
SeriesEducational Governance Research


  • Evidence
  • Public good
  • Education policy
  • Floating signifier
  • Transnational policy
  • What works
  • Professional discretion
  • Truth regime
  • Foucault


Dive into the research topics of 'Capturing the ‘evidence’ and ‘what works’ agenda in education: a truth regime and the art of manoeuvring floating signifiers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this