The emergence of a dominant discourse associated with school programs: A study of CLaSS


Rafferty, John Michael. (2007). The emergence of a dominant discourse associated with school programs: A study of CLaSS [Thesis].
AuthorsRafferty, John Michael
Qualification nameDoctor of Education (EdD)

This thesis takes the position that once schools and school systems adopt reform programs,the values and meanings inherent in those programs create and perpetuate powerful forms of discourse that characterize the projects themselves, evoke loyalty and commitment and may ultimately serve to stifle other voices. The thesis examines several primary schools involved with the Children's Literacy Success Strategy (CLaSS) in the Victorian Catholic Education system. It is an analysis of the dominant discourse created and perpetuated by the CLaSS documentation, education officers, principals, and classroom teachers. The study characterizes the nature of that discourse and explores its effects on the work of teachers, principals, and on school improvement. The analysis proposed in no way disparages CLaSS itself, nor does it seek to judge its objectives, or offer a critique of the specific methods used to improve literacy. Rather, it advocates that genuine school improvement requires one to step outside the circle of discourse engendered by reform programs such as CLaSS which promote a 'single minded' discourse about themselves and that which the school is attempting. When programs such as CLaSS are introduced into schools as part of a sector wide reform agenda they are expected to provide proof of improved results in order to justify the financial investment associated with the initiative. The values and beliefs of the reform initiative are expected to be accepted by school systems usually without question (Apple, 2000). The effects of such unquestioned acceptance of particular values are examined in the current study. As schools are expected to accept programs like CLaSS in their entirety, it is not possible within the rhetoric of CLaSS to select what elements of the program to adopt. This appears to lead to the creation and perpetuation of an 'officially' sanctioned way of thinking about school reform and teaching.;Proponents of reform programs may argue that such sanctions are a necessary feature of whole school reform programs and provide a focus for energy and activism, for winning people's support, and for conveying to parents and the wider school community a sense of purposeful action and rational planning. However, these dominant discourses seem to obscure other perspectives, disallowing critique and preventing reflective discourse and analysis. Indeed, this study holds that genuine school reform requires schools to break out of the imprisonment of dominant discourses and remain open to critical reflection.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Education
Final version
Publication dates01 Aug 2007
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