Theses Doctoral

Knowledge Utilization in Education Policymaking in the United States, South Korea, and Norway: A Bibliometric Network Analysis

Baek, Chanwoong

While the need for knowledge utilization in policy development has become greater than ever in an era of evidence-based policymaking, there has been considerable disagreement over what and whose knowledge have an actual impact on agenda setting and policy decisions. Contributing to this ongoing debate, this study investigates what counts as policy knowledge in education and explores how and why particular bodies of knowledge are selected and utilized in the policy process.

The study examined the most recent school reforms in three countries with distinctive political and institutional arrangements: the Every Student Succeeds Act in the US, the 2015 Curriculum Reform in South Korea, and the Renewal and Improvement Reform in Norway. In total, 3,873 texts cited in expert reports prepared for the reforms were used as data for the bibliometric network analysis, and interviews with 45 policy experts in three countries, cued by network findings, were analyzed.

The results showed differences in the institutionalized expertise-seeking arrangements, reflecting each country’s political contexts. The so-called “pluralist US model” sought expertise predominantly from interest group members, and both the expert and reference networks were fairly decentralized. In particular, think tanks and advocacy groups such as the Education Trust, the Center for American Progress, and the Brookings Institution served as important sources of knowledge in policymaking. By contrast, knowledge production and utilization in the “state corporatist system” of South Korea were mainly centralized in and steered by government actors and institutions. The “societal corporatist system” of Norway placed a greater emphasis on consensus building among diverse yet organized interests.

Nevertheless, this study also found that the actual practice of expertise-seeking in the policy process did not always align with institutionalized norms due to local political contexts with regard to who has more access, resources, and power. In addition, the norms are changing along with two seemingly contradictory trends in today’s policymaking: the academization of expertise and increased demands for application-driven mode 2 knowledge.

Overall, this study highlights the transferability of knowledge and the role of intermediary actors and organizations that bridge different systems and facilitate the transfer process. Furthermore, it makes a methodological contribution by employing bibliometric network analysis and network-cued interviews to understand policy knowledge utilization networks and coalitions within and across boundaries. The former demonstrates the structural position of policy actors and bodies of knowledge in a network, and the latter explains why particular actors or bodies of knowledge have greater influence, power, or prominence than others.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Comparative and International Education
Thesis Advisors
Steiner-Khamsi, Gita
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 14, 2020