Methodology, fake learning, and emotional performativity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Academics are at the forefront of criticisms about so-called “fake news” considered to undermine evidence-based approaches to the understanding of complex social, political, and economic issues. However, universities contribute to the production of fake news through the legitimization of measures that promote student performativity rewarding their academic non-achievements. This conceptual article will seek to illustrate how this can occur via the writing of methodology chapters by postgraduate students.
Design/Approach/Methods: This article provides a critical analysis of the writing of methodology chapters in dissertations and theses in postgraduate education in the social sciences. In so doing, it applies the concept of performativity to student learning.
Findings: It is argued that the pressures on students to comply with the requirements of emotional performativity in respect to ideology and method in close-up, qualitative research can lead to fake learning. This phenomenon may be exemplified by reference to a number of practices, namely, phony positionality, methodolatry, ethical cleansing, participatory posturing, and symbolic citation.
Originality/Value: This article provides an illustration of the concept of student performativity. It demonstrates that emotional performativity plays a significant role in the way in which students are required to comply with expectations that give rise to inauthenticity in learning. Copyright © 2021 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-155
JournalECNU Review of Education
Issue number1
Early online dateMar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


Macfarlane, B. (2022). Methodology, fake learning, and emotional performativity. ECNU Review of Education, 5(1), 140-155. doi: 10.1177/2096531120984786


  • Fake learning
  • Methodolatry
  • Qualitative research
  • Student performativity


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