An exploration of the contribution of critical discourse analysis to curriculum development.
Luckett, Kathleen Margaret.
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This dissertation explores the contribution of critical discourse analysis (CDA) using functional systemic grammar (FSG) to curriculum development in historical studies at university level. The study is premised on an acceptance of Habermas' (1972) theory of knowledge constitutive interests which claims that all knowledge is "interested" and which, on the basis of different interests, identifies three paradigms for knowledge construction. I make use of these paradigms to describe different approaches to curriculum development, to language teaching and to historical studies. I make the value judgement that curriculum development conducted within the hermeneutic and critical paradigms is educationally more valid than that conducted within the traditionalist paradigm; and that this is particularly so for disciplines such as historical studies, which involve the interpretation of texts. Furthermore, I suggest that the epistemological assumptions and the pedagogy of historical studies have developed within the traditionalist paradigm and that postmodernist perspectives pose a challenge to these epistemological foundations. In response, I suggest that the development of a "post-positivist" approach to historical studies within the hermeneutic and critical paradigms may provide a practically feasible and morally defensible strategy for the teaching of history. But this approach involves understanding history as discursive practice and therefore requires a method of discourse analysis in order to "do history". I therefore develop a method of critical discourse analysis for application to historical studies, which uses Halliday's functional systemic grammar (FSG) for the formal analysis of texts. The applied aspect of this dissertation involves a small staff development project, in which I worked with a group of historians to explore the application of the method of CDA to four selected historical texts (using the post-positivist approach to historical studies). I also designed four critical language awareness exercises to demonstrate how the method might be adapted for student use. The findings of my own explorations and of the staff development project are as follows: Firstly, I suggest that the staff development project was successful in that it provided a stimulating and dialogic context for the historians to reflect on their own theory and practice as researchers and teachers of history. Furthermore, I suggest that the method of CDA developed in this study provides a theoretically adequate and practically feasible methodology for post-positivist historical studies. This claim is in part confirmed by the historians' appreciation of the text analyses done using the method. However, the staff development project showed that the method is demanding for non-linguists, largely due to the effort and time required to master the terminology and techniques of FSG. In this sense the staff development project failed to achieve its full potential because it did not provide the historians with sufficient opportunities to learn and practice the techniques of FSG. The CLA materials prepared for students were positively evaluated by the historians, who felt that they demonstrate an accessible and feasible way of introducing CDA to history students. (However, these materials will only be properly evaluated when they are used in the classroom.) Finally, I conclude that this application of CDA to historical studies meets the criteria for curriculum development within the hermeneutic paradigm and that it holds out possibilities for emancipatory practice within the critical paradigm. Secondly, I conclude that the application of CDA to the discourses of other academic disciplines holds enormous promise for work in staff and curriculum development. This study shows how CDA can be used to demonstrate how the epistemological assumptions of a discipline are encoded in the grammar and structure of its discourse. The insights provided by CDA used in this way could be invaluable for a "discourse-across-the-curriculum" approach to staff development at a university.