Discovering Discourses of Citizenship Education: In the Environment Related Sections of Australia's 'Discovering Democracy School Materials' Project.
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This study explores the impact of neoliberal education policies on the discourses of citizenship and citizenship education in an Australian citizenship education project entitled 'Discovering Democracy School Materials.' This project is the largest national curriculum development project in Australia and represents the official discourses of citizenship in Australia. The materials were developed in response to concern about the poor understanding of civics and citizenship in Australia and the lack of quality citizenship education materials and background information for teachers. The scope of the study was managed by focusing on a corpus of twelve text groups, selected from the materials because they related to the environment - an area of citizenship of interest to young people and which allows consideration of recent trends in the practice of citizenship. An approach to critical discourse analysis recommended by Fairclough (1992) was used. This involved a three-step process of identifying and analysing: (i) the discourse evident in the words in the text, (ii) the processes of production, dissemination and consumption of the texts, and (iii) the contextual social and cultural practices that influenced the development of the text. There were six steps in the discourse analysis. The first involved identifying the corpus related to the environment. The second was to identify and describe the discourses of citizenship and citizenship education evident in the text. The third involved interviewing key participants in the processes of text production, dissemination and consumption to ascertain their perceptions of the discourses evident in the texts. The fourth was an analysis of these interviews to interpret the discourses participants acknowledged as being within the text and the discursive practices that operated to establish those discourses. The sixth was an explanation of the impact of neoliberalism on the development of the materials. The results indicate that two discourses of citizenship and citizenship education were dominant within the materials - Legal Status and Public Practice. The same two discourses were evident in the interviews with key participants in the processes of text production, dissemination and consumption. In all cases, the materials lacked any evidence of the citizenship or citizenship education discourses of Democratic Identity, World Citizenship and Democratic Participation, although Democratic Identity was a minor aspect of one of the twelve text groups. A range of discursive practices related to neoliberalism was identified as influential on this pattern of discourses. Perceptions of teacher deficiency were influential in the process of text production as was the power of key individuals and groups such as the national education minister and his department, a government-appointed Civics Education Group, the Curriculum Corporation and, to a much lesser extent, teacher professional associations. Two discursive practices were influenced in text dissemination: the materials were provided free of charge to all schools and extensive professional development was provided. These provided significant inducements to teachers to use the materials. Discursive practices operating in the process of text consumption provided added inducement by showing teachers how to select key components of the materials for local use. However, this concern for local context was undermined by the extreme strength of the presentation of what counts as legitimate citizenship and the lack of opportunity for alternative or resistant readings of the texts. Three aspects of neoliberalism were seen as especially influential in these discursive practices - the strong focus on the development of legitimate knowledge, marketisation, and an emphasis on the need for evaluation. The study concludes with an examination of the implications of the findings to identify recommendations for teachers, teacher educators, materials developers and opportunities for further research.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Australian School of Environmental Studies
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