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A critical discourse analysis of the standards for the education, competence and professional conduct of educators in British Columbia Higgins, Christine Lorna

Abstract

This dissertation examines discourses of professionalism and teacher education reform by carrying out a Critical Discourse Analysis of the British Columbia College of Teacher’s Standards for the education, competence and professional conduct of educators in British Columbia (BCCT, 2004). The broader context of the dissertation is the evolution of competing notions of professionalism in teacher education in Canada and the United States in the decades following the release of the influential policy report, A Nation at Risk (NCEE, 1983). It is argued that a more perspicuous understanding of professionalism in teaching will help prospective and practicing educators make better sense of their professional responsibilities, and will also encourage educators to enter into the ongoing discussions about appropriate directions for teacher education reform. The study takes the form of a critical discourse analysis (CDA). CDA is an interdisciplinary form of qualitative research that treats language as a social practice, and interprets texts in accordance with concepts such as discourse, power, and knowledge creation (Fairclough, 1995; Foucault, 1970; Habermas, 1970). The research utilizes the methods provided in Fairclough’s (1995, 2003) three step model of CDA to first describe, then interpret, and finally, to explain the relationships between understandings of professionalism and reform as these are taken up in the Standards text. The key finding from the study is that the term professionalism as it appears in the Standards is part of a discourse best understood in light of the tensions between various conceptions of educators’ responsibilities in an age of accountability. These various and often competing notions of responsibility are intertwined with genres of texts that are described as codes of conduct, manifestos, and standards. Contested perspectives on professionalism are interconnected with offers of membership, stipulations of governance, and regulatory pacts concerning educators’ professional obligations. In conclusion, it is argued that educators’ obligations should be framed in terms of ethical commitments, and specifically as a continual search for balance between notions of individual moral responsibility and professional accountability as defined in such documents as the Standards for the education, competence and professional conduct of educators in British Columbia.

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