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Education and Conventions

Christian Imdorf & Regula Julia Leemann (2023)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. This contribution provides a research overview of how the economics and sociology of conventions (EC/SC) are applied in the field of education. It reviews European research from various disciplines like sociology, educational sciences, science studies, political science, and social work. The empirical studies cover institutions such as schools, vocational education and training, and higher or adult education; topics such as the transition from school to work, curricula, or professional practices; challenges such as inequalities or digitization; or phenomena like governance and reform in education. After an introduction that summarizes the main methodological differences to common theoretical approaches in educational sociology, the review continues by systematizing conventions in education on the basis of the work of, among others, Luc Boltanski, Laurent Thévenot, and Jean-Louis Derouet. The chapter then proposes three complementary approaches to convention theory in the field of education. The first perspective understands conventions as orders of justification and principles of justice. It serves to analyze how inequality is performed, how justice is disputed, and how inclusion is justified. The second approach conceptualizes conventions as orders of worth and principles of quality. It allows to understand how quality comes into being through (e)valuation and how recruiting and selection of students is enacted by practices of classification. The third view conceives of conventions as grammars of action and forms of coordination. It provides a path toward explaining processes of educational institutionalization and resistance to organizational reforms or mechanisms of educational governance. The chapter concludes with some reflections on the general potential of EC/SC for educational research and on future lines of empirical, theoretical, and methodological work.

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