CFP: ISCHE 38 Preconference Workshop on “Merit | Achievement as Paradigm” 16 Aug 2016 (Chicago)

CFP: ISCHE 38 Preconference Workshop on “Merit | Achievement as Paradigm” 16 Aug 2016 (Chicago)


Proposals are invited for an ISCHE Preconference Workshop on “Merit | Achievement as Paradigm: Discourses and Practices in a Historical Perspective”.  Convened by Kathrin Berdelmann (Research Library of the History of Education, Berlin, Germany) and Sabine Reh (Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany), and Noah W. Sobe (Loyola University Chicago, USA) this workshop will take place Tuesday August 16 in Chicago IL prior to the start of the ISCHE 38 Annual Conference.

Currently a quite significant field of research around the globe is focussing on questions of testing and pupil-assessment cultures. Within this context, merit and achievement are basic concepts. They function as a sort of “a priori” of modern educational discourses and practices. Not only student achievement studies (such as PISA) that are carried out in worldwide comparison, but also the debates carried out with renewed emphasis about the problem of the reproduction of social inequality in education confirm the idea that achievement is a structural moment of school practices. Furthermore achievement is even the core of a human self-conception that has become universal. Consequently understanding achievement and merit as educational paradigm is unsurprising.

Research projects are concerned with questions how achievement can be adequately captured and evaluated, how differences in achievement can be explained and if education does not even necessarily contribute to the production of such differences. Such studies often reveal themselves to be either essentialist-naturalizing or beholden to strict-constructivist methods. Thus the former miss the historicity, and the latter the materiality, and many of both the intersubjectivity of that which can and does appear to be achievement. Even if empirical studies carefully try to observe, understand, and measure something as “merit” or “achievement” it is never questioned that achievement or merit as such exists and are the concern of school education.

Our assumption is: What is recognized as “merit” or “achievement” is a cultural and historical production that simultaneously produces certain “kinds” of human beings. Over the past century schooling has become an increasingly important factor in forming societies around the globe, and merit systems and practices have been increasingly institutionalized. Given this context there is urgent need for historical and international comparative research that examines the past and present of educational meritocracies and practices of achievement and measuring achievement. The objective of our pre-conference workshop is to show that achievement and merit are anything but self-evident, manifest or even natural phenomena. The pre-conference will reconstruct achievement and merit in their historical and socio-cultural becoming, and deconstruct its self-obviousness and logic.

The pre-conference will host:

  • Empirical and practice-theoretical contributions, which indicate the practical constitution of something as achievement;
  • Historical contributions that sketch the genesis of the paradigm and contrast these with earlier alternatives – which have differently contoured content;
  • International comparative contributions, which point to different cultural productions of merit and achievement in education in different countries;
  • And finally contributions in a “subjectivation-theoretical perspective, which investigate the formation of the “modern subject” as a bundle of capabilities, or rather as the ability to express capabilities, and as a “someone” who underlies his actions and attitudes and is responsible for them.

Please send an abstract up to one page by February 1, 2016 to  Please note that the deadline for submitting a paper proposal to the ISCHE 38 conference is earlier (December 31, 2015).

Previous CFP: ISCHE 38 Preconference Workshop on "Migrants, Migration and Education" 16 Aug 2016 (Chicago)
Next ISCHE 38 Preconference Workshops Announced CFP (Deadline 1 Feb 2016)

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