Re: [Fwd: Re: constructs, science and religion]

Wendy Crebbin (
Tue, 18 Jun 1996 18:04:34 GMT+1000

Dear discussants

At last I have found a small space to respond to a couple of generous
people who have asked me to write a little more about my research.

Its interesting that in the meantime, and particularly in the last
couple of days, there have been some posting which bring this work
back into focus (for me at least). I know in advance from Gary's use
of words like science as a process to " validate our claims about
reality" which "allows us to proceed with more confidence and
certainty" that he will not like what I have to say.

So here goes....

My research is titled "Between the pubic and personal voices: an
examination of discourses surounding quality teaching in higher

I have collected materials from 3 interconnecting sites being:- the
national level, where there are policy documents from the government as
well as documents produced by professional groups and books and
articles written by professional developers; the institutional, were
again there are a mixtue of documents from different groups and for
different purposes; and a great deal of transcribed material from a
group of six academics who are 'good teachers' and who worked on a
project with me for two years to improve their teaching.

Having collected all of this information, with many different
constructs about what quality teaching is, and what quality teachers
do, I needed to be able to identify MEANINGS. This word is
intentionally emphasised here because I cannot say strongly enough
that there is little confidence, reality or certainty about meaning

For example the words 'quality' and/or 'teaching' are not confined
within a lexical meaning but, have a wide range of meanings depending
upon the context, the purpose, the speaker and the responder (either
listener, or reader).

Working from a postmodern critical theory (Yeatman, 1990; 1994) I
also wanted to identify the ways in which power and meanings
intersect. How they, are advanced, or subsumed, and the impact that
this has in the enactment of the ways in which teachers/teaching in higher
education is currently being politicised and re-constructed.

I am using critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1989; 1993) as a
tool for my analysis because I agree with Fairclough's arguement that
in order to deconstruct meanings it is necessary to do more than semiotic
analysis. Ideology and power are not visible in the words, but are
part of the meanings of the words, as are the potential for
alternative readings, contradictions, and contestation.

It is this area of contestation which I am now finding exciting
because, despite some fairly concerted efforts over the last 5-6
years to create some kind of discursive closure and encapsulate the
meaning (singular) of quality teaching within a fairly narrow frame,
my research shows that there are a wide range of alternative meanings
available for teachers to draw from. I have also found that even
though some of these meanings are not part of the current public
contestation, they are strongly held views which are part of the
meanings which are acted on by (at least some) good teachers.

And so, when I said in an earlier posting that my research work was
messy, I was expressing a frustration at that time that what I am
dealing with is complex and uncertain. That does not mean that I am not
enjoying it. The whole process has been extremely mind stretching.
And now coming close to the end of it, I am hoping that the process
itself has 'thrown a few more stone, and made a few more ripples, in
the pool of meanings'.

Fairclough, N., 1993, Critical discourse analysis and the
marketization of public discourse: the universities, Discourse and
Society, 4, 2, 133- 168.
Fairclough, N., 1989, Language and power, Longman; Harlow, Essex.
Yeatman, A,. 1994, Postmodern revisionings of the political,
Routledge; New York.
Yeatman, A., 1990(a), A feminist theory of social differentiation, in
L. Nicholson (ed.), Feminism/postmodernism, Routledge; New York.
Yeatman, A., 1990(b), Bureaucrats, technocrats, femocrats: Essays on
the contempory Australian state, Allen & Unwin; Sydney.

Thank you for listening to me. I appreciate your feedback.

Wendy Crebbin