HIEST seminar 20 Feb 2024: Laura Smithers

 Productivity in Finnish and American Higher Education: A Comparative Postqualitative Inquiry

In RUU E314 Isa; to attend online please register here.

Presentation summary:
At a time of ever-increasing national movements toward productivity in higher education, education researchers across national contexts have bumped up against the limits of the scientific study of the efficiency and effectiveness of educational environments. A poststructuralist approach considers productivity an assemblage of affects and practices that creates reality in each moment. A study that uses assemblage theory as method moves with the no longer of productivity – its practices, always past once represented – and the not yet of productivity – its affects and futurities, the histories that have yet to be realized and emergences to come. This in-progress project is a study of the assemblage of affects and practices of productivity at the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Nevada, Reno, USA.

This study includes archival work and interviews with current institutional actors – technicians of productivity, or those who perform tasks productivity makes thinkable like strategic planning and analytics. This presentation will focus on postqualitative inquiry as a generative approach to research on productivity, and it will also present early findings from the University Archives at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The stakes of this analysis are high, as most actors find this moment in productivity unsustainable – it is either killing higher education as we know it or not innovating fast enough to produce the higher education we deserve. Either way, the most socially precarious students lose, as either it is their identities that become commodified as another productivity factor to be optimized or it is their institutions who face these pressures most – or both. To work with these comparative productivities as recycled histories-in-motion takes the productivity logic baked into “conventional humanist qualitative inquiry” (St. Pierre, 2015, p. 75) out of the methods, thus opening the possibility of findings that escape the capture of the very productivity logic under study.

Presenter: Laura Smithers

Presenter background: Dr. Laura Smithers is an Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, USA. Her research explores the possible futures created and foreclosed by assessment regimes in undergraduate education. Prior to becoming faculty, she worked as staff advising and coordinating learning services for college student athletes.