Chapter Abstracts

Chapter 1: Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis in Educational Research
Rebecca Rogers

This chapter demonstrates the compatibility of critical discourse studies within the field of educational research. After providing an overview of the research traditions that have informed research in critical discourse studies, the chapter explores the major terms and key concepts associated with “critical,” “discourse,” and “analysis.” The chapter considers the theories and methods of three major traditions in critical discourse studies—discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, and multimodal discourse analysis—through an analysis of the ideas of leading scholars in the field. In doing so, it invites readers to think about the links amongst traditions of critical discourse studies.

Chapter 2: Discourse Analysis: What Makes it Critical?
James Paul Gee

In this chapter, Gee introduces his “tools of inquiry” and “the seven building tasks,” theoretical devices which express his theory of the form and function of written and oral language as social practices. Gee argues that learning is best seen not as a mental process, but a type of social interaction in which knowledge is distributed across people, tools, and technologies, dispersed at various sites, and stored in links among people. Such a view of learning, he argues, in enabling the integration of CDA, situated cognition, sociocultural approaches to language and literacy, and particular forms of social theory, is necessary for social transformation.

Chapter 3: Narratives of Exclusion and the Construction of the Self
Guadalupe LĂłpez-Bonilla

LĂłpez-Bonilla uses Gee’s concept of “figured worlds” to explore narratives of personal experience told by Mexican high school students. Analyzing the narratives of youth, which she (re)presents in bilingual transcripts, the author investigates their experiences of “not understanding” versus “getting” a school subject, perceived failure versus perceived success.  She discusses issues of agency and the construction of the self, and suggests that the students’ figured worlds articulate their experiences, an articulation between language and social order that evidences the strategies institutions sometimes use to enforce statutory and symbolic barriers between people and groups.

Chapter 4: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Neocolonialism in Patricia McCormick’s Sold
Manika Subi Lakshmanan

Lakshmanan is interested in literature written by North Americans about the developing world. Taking up Gee’s “seven building tasks,” social semiotics, and post-colonial social theory, she examines a young adult novel and finds problematic connections between literary discourse, the visuals on the book’s cover, and the knowledge practices suggested by the publisher’s discussion guide. These connections make the reader aware of how the novel establishes an ideological position, and how such positions might affect real-world international relations. As a commercial product, Sold advertises both a lack of transformative agency within the so-called third world and the idea of the outsider-Westerner-as-savior.

Chapter 5: Figured Worlds and Discourses of Masculinity: Being a Boy in a Literacy Classroom
Josephine Marsh and Jayne C. Lammers

Marsh and Lammers call upon theories and tools from both Gee and Fairclough’s critical discourse frameworks to consider how a middle class, Latino boy of 18 experienced gendered discourses in constructing his identity as literacy learner in school and at home. How did discursive practices across different contexts shape his understanding of what it meant to be a boy in a literacy classroom? The authors construct stories to represent the cultural models of Chavo, his mother, and his teacher, and conduct a micro-analysis on the form and function of the spoken language to inform their interpretations of Chavo’s experiences as a literate person in and out of school. 

Chapter 6:
Semiotic Aspects of Social Transformation and Learning
Norman Fairclough

This chapter incorporates a theory of learning into the framework of CDA. Social practices such as teaching and learning are mediated by structures and events and are networked in particular ways through orders of discourse. Orders of discourse are comprised of genres, discourses, and styles; or, “ways of interacting,” “ways of representing,” and “ways of being.”  Fairclough theoretically reflects on semiotic aspects of social transforma­tion and learning, where learning is addressed as a performativity of spoken and written texts. How, Fairclough asks, might critical discourse analysts envisage their contributions to projects of individual and collective learning and progressive social transformation?

Chapter 7: Learning as Social Interaction: Interdiscursivity in a Teacher and Researcher Study Group
Cynthia Lewis and Jean Ketter

How do interaction patterns in a group sustain or disrupt discourses in ways that shape the group’s thinking, talking, and learning? Lewis and Ketter examine key transcripts in order to see how White middle-school teachers and university researchers construct a discursive community over time. Calling on Fairclough’s orders of discourse, the authors identify clusters of themes, statements, and ideas, and also of genre and voice, that reveal how the teacher researcher group participants took up aspects of each others’ worldviews, patterns of talk, and systems of thought as they related to multicultural literature and to the meaning and purposes of multicultural education.

Chapter 8: Language, Power, and Participation: Using Critical Discourse Analysis to Make Sense of Public Policy
Haley Woodside-Jiron

Woodside-Jiron situates CDA in the field of critical policy analysis in order to examine  particular large-scale public reading instruction policy in California and its political and social ramifications between 1995 and 1997. This research pushes to deeper understandings of how specific texts, discourse practices, and social practices affect social arrangements, the naturalization of cultural models, and development of literate identities.  The author argues that people are positioned in specific ways by policy professionals and related policies with respect to knowledge and what is thinkable/unthinkable. Such engineering of social change reduces resistance and places specific, potentially hegemonic, restraints on our interactions.

Chapter 9: Locating the Role of the Role of the Critical Discourse Analyst
Lisa Patel Stevens

Stevens uses Fairclough’s framework to examine the metalanguage used by a field-based university researcher (Stevens herself) and a teacher-participant in order to describe the nature of their analytic relationship. In particular, she explores questions about authority, identity, and knowledge claims as these concepts are revealed in the themes and patterns of their interactive discourse. Because forefronting CDA demands a high level of engagement of both parties to act as interlocutors, the shared process of analysis can lead to deeply transformative interpretations, and can shed considerable light on the positionalities, subjectivities, and school-based identities negotiated between researchers and participants.

Chapter 10: Discourse Analysis and Education: A Multimodal Semiotic Approach
Gunther Kress

In this chapter, Gunther Kress provides a theory of multimodality applicable for educational research. Multimodality, he argues, draws attention to the material resources beyond speech and writing which societies have shaped and which cultures provide as means for making meaning, resources which make possible the “expression” of all thoughts, experiences, feelings, values, attitudes. Multimodality attends to the distinctive affordances of different modes. In a communicative world understood as multimodal, in realizing the complexity of social/pedagogic environments of learning and teaching, discourse is just one category. Texts are (made) coherent, through the use of semiotic resources for establishing cohesion, internally among the textual elements and externally with elements of the environment in which texts occur.

Chapter 11: Discourse in Activity and Activity as Discourse
Shawn Rowe

Applying CDA in the context of learning theory, Rowe takes up the complex, multimodal experience of a family interacting with a science museum display, where people attend as natural groups and where learning is one goal of activity, but not the dominant activity. Using a new transcription system that accounts for activity, Rowe discusses the possibilities opened up by addressing nonlinguistic semiotic systems in a critical study of learning. How might analyzing both linguistic and nonlinguistic aspects of activity help us better understand how the privileging of particular discourses is reproduced in local interaction?

Chapter 12: Mapping Modes in Children’s Play and Design: An Action-oriented Approach to Critical Multimodal Analysis
Karen E. Wohlwend

Wohlwend uses theories of social semiosis and multimodal analysis to understand how actions are made meaningful and social in situ. Taking up the sounds, words, images, and actions of Kindergarten children during a reading lesson, she describes how modes shape children’s literacy learning and participation. Mapping the interplay of modes uncovers power relations and social effects visible at the level of modes. Wohlwend argues that a clear understanding of tensions across multiple perspectives, especially gaze, might help teachers see discourses as resources and to act strategically with greater awareness. Critical multimodal analysis provides a way for early childhood teachers to see how the tangible everyday aspects of familiar classroom activity matter.

Chapter 13: The Discourses of Educational Management Organizations: A Political Design
MĂłnica Pini

In this chapter, Pini applies multimodal analysis to the websites of Educational Management Organizations (EMOs), businesses which administer and manage schools for a profit. Examining multiple and moving streams of data across similar, apparently stable institutional structures allows her to unpack and describe ideological features embedded in the companies’ marketing and communication decisions. Pini argues that these EMOs shape their images as an ideological construct through visual and verbal cues and through association between the characteristics of the product and the lifestyle they afford. Linguistic choices such as these are “read” in conjunction with the images that lie behind them on the screen.


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