Using multi-dimensional methods to understand the development, interpretation and enactment of quality assurance policy within the educational development community
Policy texts are representations of practice that both reflect and shape the world around them. There is, however, little higher education research that critically analyses the impact of higher education policy on educational developers and educational development practice. Extending methods from critical discourse analysis by combining textual analysis of a policy text with in-depth interviews with policy-makers and policy users, this article seeks to better understand the process of production, interpretation and implementation of policy. The article focuses on a leading national UK quality assurance policy in relation to the educational development community in order to uncover how policy is played out in practice. The findings paint a picture of a text that presents a version of higher education that is portrayed linguistically as universally accepted. Yet, the methodological approach enables the uncovering of the complexities of the policy process that go beyond the text’s words by highlighting the debates that shaped its development and the interpretations of its textual form that subsequently shape its enactment. Looking specifically at the constraints of policy boundaries, word choice and calls to educational development action (or inaction), the policy text is analysed in light of educational developers’ contexts and institutional positioning, surfaced through the research process itself. The article concludes by arguing that the combination of data collection and analysis methods used provide greater insights into how policy is played out in practice than the employment of any one of these methods individually could have achieved.