Dialogic analysis vs. discourse analysis of dialogic pedagogy: Social science research in the era of positivism and post-truth

Eugene Matusov, Ana Marjanovic-Shane, Tina Kullenberg, Kelly Curtis


The goal of this article is to compare and contrast dialogic analysis versus discourse analysis of dialogic pedagogy to address Bakhtin’s quest for “human sciences” and avoid modern traps by positivism and by post-truth. We argue that dialogic analysis belongs to dialogic science, which focuses on studying “the surplus of humanness” (Bakhtin, 1991, p. 37). “The surplus of humanness” is “a leftover” from the biologically, socially, culturally, and psychologically given – the typical and general – in the human nature. It is about the human authorship of the ever-unique meaning-making. Dialogic analysis involves the heart and mind of the researchers who try to reveal and deepen the meanings of the studied phenomena by addressing and replying to diverse research participants, other scholars, and anticipated readers (Matusov, Marjanovic-Shane, & Gradovski, 2019, in press). We argue that dialogic science is concerned with meta-inquiries such as, “What does something in question mean to diverse people, including the researchers, and why? How do diverse people address and reply to diverse meanings?” In contrast, traditional, positivistic, science is concerned with meta-inquiries such as, “How things really are? What is evidence for that? How to eliminate any researchers’ subjectivity from the research?” (Matusov, 2019, submitted). Positivist (and monologic) science focuses on revealing patterns of actions, behaviors, and relationships. We argue that in the study of dialogic pedagogy, it is structural and/or functional discourse analysis that focuses on studying the given and objective aspects of dialogic pedagogy. In the paper, we consider, describe, interpret, and dialogically re-analyze a case of dialogic analysis involving science education coming from David Hammer’s and Emily van Zee’s (2006) book. We also discuss structural and functional discourse analysis of two pedagogical cases, a monologic and a dialogic one, provided by David Skidmore (2000). We dialogically re-analyze these two cases and Skidmore’s research. We conclude that in research on dialogic pedagogy (and beyond, on social sciences in general) both dialogic science (involving dialogic analysis) and positivist science (involving discourse analysis) are unavoidable and needed, while providing the overall different foci of the research. We discuss the appropriateness and the limitations of discourse analysis as predominantly searching for structural-functional patterns in the classroom discourses. We discuss dialogic tensions in the reported dialogues that cannot be captured by discourse analysis search for patterns. Finally, we discuss two emerging issues among ourselves: 1) whether discourse analysis is always positivist and 2) how these two analytic approaches complement each other while doing research on dialogic pedagogy (and beyond).


dialogic analysis; discourse analysis; dialogic pedagogy; positivism; post-truth;

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/dpj.2019.272


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