Dissertation Abstracts

A Discourse Analysis of Teacher Professionalism in England since the 1980s

Author: Tseng, Chun-Ying , vernalblue@hotmail.com
Department: Humanities and Social Sciences
University: Institute of Education, University of London, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Professor Stephen Ball
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Discourse analysis , Professionalism , policy sociology , sociology of educati
Areas of Research: Education , Economy and Society


Teacher professionalism is a concept with a contentious history. In the midst of wider research debates concerning professionalism, however, less attention has been paid to the processes in which professionalism is discursively constructed. This thesis attempts to explore the conflicting notions of de/re-professionalisation and is mainly about the investigation and identification of the recurring and salient discourses of teacher professionalism in England since the 1980s. By addressing the changing power relations between teachers and the state, this thesis aims to examine closely the ways in which contemporary teachers have been made and remade via education policy centred on discourses of professionalism. This is done by examining policy and practices of both teacher education and school management. Through a discourse analysis of policy documents and data from 18 interviews this thesis argues that a new sense of performative professionalism in England has been produced via a neoliberal education policy that rests on the discourses of practicality, standards and management. A practical-based mode of teacher formation, standards-driven policies and systems of managerial control in schools work together interdiscursively and produce new ways of being professional.

Specifically, the ‘making up’ of new teachers with particular performative dispositions and sensibilities is facilitated by an interplay of heterogeneous powers, which involves assembling different forms of power?sovereign power, disciplinary power and governmentality in complex and subtle ways. ‘New’ teachers are technical experts operating within a delimited space of autonomy and expected to follow directives; concurrently, they are framed as having ‘freedom’ and made ‘responsible’ for performance outcomes. Teachers are disciplined and empowered simultaneously within this dual transformative process. Moreover, professionalism is a discursive technology, which turns teachers into agents of governmentality who produce the human capital needed by the economy and serve the interests of capital. Teachers are made docile and productive at the same time.

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