Authors: Verckens, Anneleen; M0116916
Issue Date: 30-Jun-2011
Abstract: High-class education. A critical discourse analysis of the magazine 'Klasse'. Over the past two decades, the magazine 'Klasse', published by the Ministry of Education has become an important phenomenon in Flemish education. 'Klasse' is not only a central instrument for information and communication in the relationship between the government and schools (or the educational field in general). As a policy instrument it is at the same time part of the optimization strategy of the government, aiming at innovation and quality improvement in Flemish education. Our study conceives of the magazine 'Klasse' as a steering instrument from the government and aims at a critical analysis of the way this steering actually operates through the discourse in the magazine. In other words, we look at the steering as it takes place through ‘what is being written/said’ in 'Klasse'. We argue that the discourse in 'Klasse' positions educational actors (including policy makers) in a particular way. It creates expectations about how those actors should understand themselves, act and behave among each other. These ‘positioning effects’ of the discourse in 'Klasse' constitute the heart of our research interest. In order to situate and justify our research interest we started with three literature reviews on the broader educational and policy context. These entail a study of the relationship between the government and the educational field in the broader international and Flemish policy context; a study of the phenomenon of the 'mediatization' of actual (educational) policy; and a study of the history of the magazine 'Klasse' itself in Flemish education. These literature reviews result in a fine-tuning of the problem statement that focuses on two questions: how does 'Klasse' operate in the Flemish educational context and how does it influence the way the government and the teachers are supposed to relate to each other? The theoretical perspective and the methodological framework are presented in Chapter two. Theoretically our work joins the so-called governmentality studies, inspired by the work of Michel Foucault, that investigate how 'government through self-government' takes place in specific contexts and how particular power configurations operate in society. We assume that the 'order of discourse' in 'Klasse' can elucidate how this way of governing operates in the Flemish educational context. Methodologically we draw on the work of Norman Fairclough as we developed and adapted his critical discourse analysis in our study. This methodology develops through three research phases: text analysis, discourse analysis and social analysis. Adapting the phases in line with the governmentality perspective, implied that our text analysis focuses on the representations, actions and discursive identities. The discourse analysis linkes those aspects with discourses, genres and profiles of characters respectively as well as with the 'order of discourse' of 'Klasse'in general. The social analysis focuses on the assemblage of apparatuses and the governmental regime. Chapter three extensively reports on the results of the discourse analysis. The different discourses, genres and profiles of the characters that were identified in 'Klasse', are defined and illustrated using text fragments. The particular combination of these discourses, genres and profiles in the magazine reveals three constant elements in the order of discourse in 'Klasse': 'Klasse' is a magazine about educational quality, is an edutainment magazine, and is a mediatizing magazine. We further argue that over the years the appreciation as well as the definition of expertise of different educational actors in Klasse has clearly shifted. In Chapter four we focus on the 'effects' of this order of discourse of 'Klasse' using the perspective of governmentality. We demonstrate that the order of discourse of 'Klasse' installs a synoptical power configuration in education. In this power configuration a particular type of feedback information –constituted by stories of experience and examples of good practice – plays a crucial role. Through this feedback information educational actors are ‘responsibilized’ and mobilized to fully engage as a person and to share their individual experiences with others in the educational community. And in this way they can at the same time permanently collect new feedback information on their own functioning, and be an inspiring example to others. Following Foucault, we argue that this kind of feedback information establishes a double bind between personalization and community building in education. This power configuration positions the educational government as a coaching information-manager of the educational field. The teachers are positioned as active experts-of-themselves, with their practical experience and the professionalization of their personality constituting the core of that expertise. Furthermore, we show that through this central role of feedback information an information apparatus is installed in education, in which assuring and guaranteeing access to feedback information is the essential governmental strategy. Moreover, we argue that this information apparatus allies itself with the quality apparatus and the learning apparatus in education, and as such contributes to the effectiveness of the advanced liberal regime of government in Flemish education. In Chapter five we analyze the consequences or 'side-effects' of this synoptical power configuration for the public in education. We demonstrate that the focus on feedback information as unique and personal experiences –'matters of experience' – results in a privatization and depolitisation of education. This leaves no more space for 'matters of public concern'. The order of discourse of 'Klasse' and its emphasis on examples of good practice further creates a privatization of the experiences of the teacher. Finally we argue that still a different attitude of the teachertowards himself remains possible, more in particular one that acknowledges the crucial role of vulnerability and e-ducational experiences in teaching.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Education and Training
Educational Sciences Research Units (-)

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