Johnston, RM, Learning Area Tensions and Popularity, Proceedings of the International Conference on Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory into Research, 15 - 18 November, 2005 , University of Tasmania, pp. 306-312. ISBN 1862952965 (2006) [Refereed Conference Paper]
Theoretical discussions of ‘discourse’ and critical discourse analysis highlight the varied
meanings of the terms: meanings which vary according to the traditions from which they
are derived. Currently, critical discourse analysis is assuming a place within the teaching
and learning of Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE); a learning area
increasingly recognised for its multi-textuality. The learning area is recognised widely as
being unpopular with students and has been criticised for its largely passive pedagogical
practices which are thought to contribute to the high level of student dissatisfaction.
Discussions of the learning area tend to centre on the pedagogical binary of passive and
active approaches to teaching and learning. However, recent longitudinal research
which explored pre-service teachers’ choices of field sites for SOSE led to a series of
research questions about the discourses—both explicit and implicit—underlying the
teaching of SOSE in primary classrooms in Australia. The research highlights the
importance of remaining open to an evolving approach to research. A discourse analysis
of the blueprints for SOSE indicated the potential power of institutional and disciplinary
discourses to influence the way that the learning area is conceptualised and taught.
Although discourses of schooling may act to position students and teachers in particular
ways��for example, either as passive receivers of knowledge or constructors of it��the
effect of such positioning would also seem to be far from deterministic. Yet, findings from
the study discussed in the paper pointed to three dominant discourses that seemed to
be highly influential in shaping pre-service teachers’ choices: a discourse of community,
a discourse of the local environment and a discourse of history. These findings are
significant in that they shed new light on the tensions between the dominant discourses
of SOSE and the contested global environment in which students live.