2. A series of comments on research in science education

Here is the second comment on research in science ed. I got a book from a fellow who is also on his way towards the same degree as me (thank you Christian Rydberg!).

The book is Diskursanalys – som teori och metod by Marianne Winther Jörgensen & Louise Phillips and is written in Swedish, translated by Sven-Erik Torhell. The original was written in 1999, this copy in 2000.

The book is written as an introduction to the method of discourse analysis. It describes the area of discourse analysis to be in three aspects, namely discourse theory, critical discourse analysis and discourse psychology.

Their view of discourse is that language is structured in different patterns, and this follows or is between different social domains. One social domain is the medical domain or political domain and that these practices has its own language within this domain or maybe practice. Their definition they agree upon is that ”a discourse is one direct way of speak about and understand the world (or a particular sector of the world)” – my translation!

The three different ways of discourse analysis, that the book presents, shares the starting-point that our way of speaking do not reflect our world, our identities and social relationships in a neutral way. Also, that it creates and changes them. Their way of discourse analysis takes the point of critical analysis which means they go for to find, analyse, criticise and change power relations in society. This is not really compatible with James Paul Gees way (Gee however, sees that you cannot avoid power relations but that you, with his method can see/analyse it in a social way not just power structures (thank you for clarification, Mats)). They describes their way as sprung from social-constructivism, the view of language in its turn sprung from structural and poststructural theory of language. The writers describes discourse analysis as a package of theory and method, for instance the role of language in the social construction of the world, particular theoretical models and methodological guidelines and techniques how to analyse language has to be accepted. You cannot choose your own however you like since discourse analysis already has its belonging. In my view it is here you really has to take care, what is the meaning of this where I am now? It has an social-constructivistic base (not the Piagetian way! They refer to Collin (1997) and Järvinen & Bertilsson (1998)). We all together construct the society in which we live and act, for instance gender, masculinity and femininity et.c.. They also say that we have to have a critical stance towards self-evident knowledge. We categorise the world and the categories we have makes us understand the world and we understand the world through these categories. We can’t reflect the world out there as it is, it is a product of our way of categorise. We are cultural and historic creatures and our view of the world is shaped through our culture and history. Our way of interpret the world is created and maintained in social processes. Knowledge is constructed by social interaction, where common truth and false is fought for. In a determined worldview some forms of actions becomes natural and others unacceptable. The social construction of knowledge by social interaction leads to concrete social consequences.

The first view presented by Jörgensen & Phillips is based on Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffes discourse theory. It has a starting-point in the poststructural point of discourse constructs the social world in meaning. This meaning can never be locked in place due to the instabilities in language. No discourse is stable, they are changed in the interaction with other discourses. Here an important concept is the struggle of the discourse.

The second view presented is the critical discourse analysis takes it’s starting-point in Norman Fairclough. This means that the discourse only gives one view among several others who constructs the social practice.

The third and last view presented is the discourse psychology. The purpose here is to investigate how people strategically use the discourses to present themselves and the world in intended ways, beneficial for themselves, in social interaction and which social consequences that it gives. The main focus is not psychology, rather a social-psychological way.

It seems to be a lot of work behind discourse analysis.




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