Shakespeare s Article Critique: Uncovering Information s Role in the State Higher Education

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1 Running head: SHAKESPEARE S ARTICLE CRITIQUE 1 Shakespeare s Article Critique: Uncovering Information s Role in the State Higher Education Policy-Making Process Aoi Yamanaka George Mason University June 9, 2015

2 SHAKESPEARE S ARTICLE CRITIQUE 2 Shakespeare s Article Critique: Uncovering Information s Role in the State Higher Education Policy-Making Process In this article, Shakespeare (2008) applied analysis of testimony, documents, and interviews to examine the application of information in higher education policy-making. She discussed the main theme of this research by addressing coalition alignment in terms of the state s tuition assistance program and the related information that each coalition utilizes in the budget process. Therefore, Shakespeare s main research questions were: (a) How is information used in state higher education policy-making? and (b) What are policy-makers information sources? (p. 876). Shakespeare conducted this research in New York because of that state s unique characteristics its size, governance, diverse population, budget process, significant number of higher education institutions, and use of the budget process as the primary policy lever for higher education policy making (p. 884). Shakespeare focused on addressing New York s unique characteristics in the first part of the article but failed to introduce this policy lever until the analysis section. Even in the analysis section, Shakespeare failed to explain why all policy actors perceive the state s budget process as the main way to affect higher education policy, and therefore, she could have included more detailed information about this earlier in the article when she discussed choosing New York as the research location. Literature Review and Conceptual Framework Hironao Okahana 6/13/15 7:05 PM Comment [1]: A good point and this seems to be an assumption on the author s part. Shakespeare (2008) effectively addressed her focus on coalition alignment in analyzing the application of information in higher education policy-making. She mentioned that many studies about higher education policy have emphasized the relationships between state policies (e.g., state financial aid), the state s higher education performance outcomes (e.g., the percentage of students who completed an undergraduate degree), and the state s overall higher education

3 SHAKESPEARE S ARTICLE CRITIQUE 3 affordability and accessibility (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2000, 2002, 2004; Richardson, 2004; Richardson et al., 1999; Richardson & Martinez, 2002; Richardson, Parker, & Shakespeare, 2004). This information explained why this article focused on the relationship between higher education policy-making and information that affects the decision-making process. Shakespeare (2008) also explained Sabatier s advocacy coalition framework (ACF) that focuses on policy actors who form coalitions such as journalists, researchers, policy analysts, and individuals involved in policy formulation and implementation at all levels of government rather than focusing on specific stages of policy development. Shakespeare successfully introduced the concept of ACF and provided the main theme of this research from the ACT perspective. However, Shakespeare did not introduce any previous research that utilized ACF; including literature reviews and previous research related to ACF would have made this article more analytical. If the literature review showed that there were no previous studies of ACF in higher education policy-making, this might explain why Shakespeare did not include a literature review; she mentioned that ACF has been examined in studies of policy process and outcomes in other fields, such as environmental policy. Shakespeare still could have included a literature Hironao Okahana 6/13/15 7:14 PM Comment [2]: This is a good point. One needs to be unique and original in conducting research but if no one else in higher education used ACF as a framework, then it is important highlight why the author thinks it is relevant approach for the current study. review of relevant studies, such as those examining the role of information in higher education policy-making or the characteristics of coalitions formed by actors, such as governors, legislators, higher education experts, the Association of Proprietary Colleges, and public universities. Therefore, in this article, there was not adequate coverage of the literature review, and Shakespeare did not establish her research s relationship to previous studies. Hironao Okahana 6/13/15 7:14 PM Comment [3]: Any suggested literature to increase the coverage?

4 SHAKESPEARE S ARTICLE CRITIQUE 4 Methodology In this study, the case study method was applied to examine a complex policy process; in this method, little control is presented over the variables and actors involved in the process (Yin, 1994). The data were collected from the Alliance for International Higher Education Policy Studies (AIHEPS), which organized a framework to emphasize the performance of higher education systems by deliberating on the nation s history, culture, economy, and capacity to be receptive to public priorities (Shakespeare, 2008). This was not stated clearly enough, but it seems that the Shakespeare (2008) was one of the researchers from AIHEPS who conducted the study s semi-structured interviews of 30 key higher education policy actors over three months in the spring of Since AIHEPS interviewed 30 actors, including legislators, policy advisors and analysts, government administrators, and higher education institution officials, the interview data should be considered reliable. The interview questions used in this study were not clear, but Shakespeare analyzed the interview data by coding the interviews. This research method is relevant to the study s particular research questions, as Shakespeare mentioned that she could identify which actors experiences were most useful for understanding state-level activities. However, it is not clear how applicable these coded interviews data are to this study because Shakespeare (2008) did not introduce the codes she used to analyze the data. Shakespeare mentioned (while coding) I also listed the bracketed elements, ordered them as they occurred, and saw how each element affected and was related to every other element in the process being studied, how and if they cohered into a totality (p. 879), but it is not clear what the bracketed elements are and or how they are related to other elements, so there is not enough evidence to conclude that this research design is logically associated with the research questions. Another weakness of the article s method section is that it provided the impression that Hironao Okahana 6/13/15 7:18 PM Comment [4]: Very good.

5 SHAKESPEARE S ARTICLE CRITIQUE 5 Shakespeare (2008) was the only researcher who coded the interview data. Even though researcher bias and reactivity are two important threats to the validity of qualitative research (Maxwell, 2013), Shakespeare (2008) did not address such validity issues in this article. Besides analyzing interview data, Shakespeare analyzed documents. These documents included annual executive proposals, legislative testimony, enacted budgets, website position statements, and the state s constitution. She did not clarify how many documents she analyzed, so it is not certain whether this document analysis could be considered rigorous. Lastly, Shakespeare (2008) effectively addressed how she applied ACF to inform and structure her analysis. In this section, Shakespeare s reasons for applying ACF to this study were clearer than in the previous section because she applied ACF s definition of a subsystem to New York s higher education policy arena. Shakespeare also applied ACF s proposal, in which information is used to support or weaken coalitions beliefs, to understand these coalitions information usage while making policy regarding New York s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), a need-based student grant program for New York residents who are students at approved higher education institutions. Analysis Shakespeare s (2008) analysis was well organized. Shakespeare analyzed the annual TAP budget proposal and provided lists of actors involved in the process; she also described TAP s history from 1995 to 2003, which included repeated proposal from the executive to lower TAP s cost. In addition, Shakespeare described the makeup of the key coalitions, discussed the relationship between each coalition and actor (the shrink TAP coalition, the maintain TAP coalition, and unaligned actors), and examined the coalitions responses to executive budget proposals. Shakespeare also described actors who changed coalitions during the budget

6 SHAKESPEARE S ARTICLE CRITIQUE 6 negotiation process because certain concessions were made. Shakespeare effectively utilized tables to explain these processes visually, and these tables helped readers to understand Shakespeare s analysis more precisely. Findings and Results The main findings of this study are (a) that the actors in the higher education subsystem aligned into coalitions at the time of the executive budget proposal and (b) that coalitions aligned predictably on the TAP issue and that these coalitions differed from those that formed regarding the overall budget (Shakespeare, 2008, p. 890). There were differences in information sources between coalitions and within coalitions, and the information was applied for different purposes depending on the coalition (Shakespeare, 2008). Shakespeare (2008) provided a table to compare the information sources each coalition used along with in-text explanations, so the article s main claims were supported by evidence provided in the article. Shakespeare (2008) did not address the limitations of the study clearly; one of the biggest limitations is that the study s validity issues were not adequately addressed. Based on the way Hironao Okahana 6/13/15 7:21 PM Comment [5]: Also how do these findings sound to you? Reasonable findings, given the data/research method the author employed? Were interpretations and conclusions sound? Shakespeare described her research method, she is the only researcher who analyzed the data, and there is a possibility that her biases have influenced the results of her analysis of interview data and documents. However, Shakespeare addressed the policy implications and the goals for future research precisely. As the article described, it is important to have transparency of all information and because currently, actors outside the legislative process are uninformed and illequipped. It is a damaging situation when only certain actors have access to information, as this could maintain policy biases. Considering this situation, for future research, it would be interesting to analyze how equal access to information affects coalition formation and each coalition s usage of information.

7 SHAKESPEARE S ARTICLE CRITIQUE 7 Conclusions Overall, the article s organization, research method, and analysis aligned with the study s purpose. However, there are some areas that need to improve, such as including a literature review to provide more background information and more clearly addressing the interviews purpose. Since this study mainly focused on how coalitions used information during policymaking related to TAP, this article would have been better organized if the author had introduced TAP in the first part of the paper, in the introduction or when describing the study s conceptual framework. Lastly, it would be interesting for future research to analyze increased information accessibility. Hironao Okahana 6/13/15 7:23 PM Comment [6]: A very good paper. It hits major points for an article critique. The discussion and implications could have been discussed further and assert your views, as to if the author s interpretations and conclusion were reasonable or not. Overall Grade: Check Plus

8 SHAKESPEARE S ARTICLE CRITIQUE 8 References Maxwell, J. A. (2013). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. In A. Editor & B. Editor (Series Eds.), Applied Social Research Methods Series (Vol. 41). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. (2000). Measuring up 2000: The state by-state report card for higher education. Washington, DC: The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. (2002). Measuring up 2002: The stateby-state report card for higher education. Washington, DC: The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. (2004). Measuring up 2004: The stateby-state report card for higher education. Washington, DC: The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Richardson, R. C., Bracco, K. R., Callan, P. M., & Finney, J. E. (1999). Designing state higher education systems for a new century. Phoenix, AZ: American Council on Education and The Oryx Press. Richardson, R. C., & Martinez, M. (2002). New Jersey and New Mexico: Explaining the differences in the performance of higher education systems. New York, NY: Alliance for International Higher Education Policy Studies. Richardson, R. C., Parker, T., & Shakespeare, C. (2004). Public policy and higher education performance in the state of New York. Retrieved from /aiheps/

9 SHAKESPEARE S ARTICLE CRITIQUE 9 Shakespeare, C. (2008). Uncovering information s role in the state higher education policymaking process. Educational Policy, 22(6), doi: / Yin, R. K. (1994). Case study research: Design and methods (2nd ed., Vol. 5). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

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