Accounting for teaching within shifting discourses of moral responsibility

Year: 1994

Author: Johnson, Greer

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The following paper is written around the talk of one teacher immediately after an English lesson in a co-educational metropolitan secondary school. Following the methods of Kress (1985), Fairclough (1989, 1992) and Gee (1990, 1993) on critical discourse analysis, Silverman (1993) and Baker (1983) on conversational analysis and Jayyusi (1984) on ethnomethodology, the transcribed account of the teacher's talk about her teaching English is analysed in terms of versions of moral responsibility: the ways the teacher holds herself accountable for the students' learning or failure to learn in her classes (cf. Walkerdine, 1984).

The discourse of moral responsibility is seen as dominant yet unstable in so far as it shifts and changes as it attains links with other discourses of authority, literacy and assessment. Analysis of the three associated discourses gives a clearer picture of how the teacher maintains moral responsibility for her teaching practices. This innovative way of critically analysing teacher talk enables teachers and teacher educators to look inside everyday life in classrooms in order to retheorise future practice. Another potential benefit is the use of insights of the analysis in teacher education. Consequently the often-mentioned dichotomy of theory versus practice at the school and university sites may be disbanded in favour of a more harmonious and cyclical interaction of the two.