Psychodata: Disassembling social-emotional learning, edutech and policy

Ben Williamson, University of Edinburgh

Thursday, November 6, 4pm – 5.30pm

Room 351, Education Building, University of Sydney

RSVP via Eventbrite

An event cosponsored by the SSESW Education Policy Research Network and the Socio-Tech Futures (STuF) Lab.

Psychology and economics are powerful sources of contemporary governance, and are increasingly influential in education policy and practice. In this context, social and emotional learning (SEL) is becoming an educational priority in many parts of the world. Based on the measurement and assessment of students’ ‘noncognitive’ skills, SEL consists of a ‘psycho-economic’ combination of psychometrics with economic analysis, and is producing novel forms of statistical ‘psychodata’ about students. This presentation examines how psychological and economics experts are producing policy-relevant scientific knowledge and statistical psychodata to influence the direction of SEL policies, by following the development of SEL as it has travelled transnationally through the advocacy of psychologists, economists, and behavioural scientists, with support from think tank coalitions, philanthropies, edtech companies (e.g. ClassDojo), investment schemes, and international organizations (e.g. OECD). These emerging efforts to measure SEL instantiate ‘psycho-econometric governance’ within education, part of a political rationality in which society is measured effectively through scientific fact-finding and subjects are managed affectively through psychological intervention.

Ben Williamson is a Chancellor’s Fellow in the Centre for Research in Digital Education and the Edinburgh Futures Institute at the University of Edinburgh. He maintains the research blog Code Acts in Education, tweets @BenPatrickWill, and wrote Big Data in Education: The digital future of learning, policy and practice (Sage, 2017).