Emerging Dialogic Structures in Education Reform: An analysis of Urban Teachers’ Online Compositions

Trevor Thomas Stewart, George L. Boggs

Abstract


This paper contextualizes contemporary urban teachers’ online dissent in public discussions of education reform in relation to past educational crisis narratives to interpret recent shifts in the structure of education reform dialogue in the United States. It does so by examining the form and content of compositions in which teachers respond to education reform. The analysis is intended to describe the digitally mediated roles teachers are asserting in a complex public debate over the future of education in the United States. The structure and content of education reform discourse has often cast teachers in static roles, which inhibits their active participation in discussions of educational policy. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s position that language choices serve to stifle and/or reinvigorate dialogue, we examine contributions to online discussions and debate composed ostensibly by urban teachers in response to dominant discourses. The data were analyzed with respect to discursive choices and grouped subsequently as themed arguments and rhetorical moves. We argue that teachers’ strategic responses to education reform challenge stifling truisms that seek to suspend discussion of all other factors besides teacher quality. Teachers’ critical digital compositions thus re-create critical, multi-voiced conversations in place of monologues about school improvement. The online, public compositions point to the dynamic structure of reform discourse that has the potential to benefit those currently faulted for a variety of social problems. Nurturing and even exploiting the dynamic potential of educational reform discourse can create opportunities for teachers, policymakers, and educational researchers to mutually inform one another’s shared interest in educational improvement.

Keywords


: Education reform; Teacher activism; Dialogism; Teachers as writers; Dissent; Online civic participation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/dpj.2016.148

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Copyright (c) 2016 Trevor Thomas Stewart, George L Boggs

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