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Language matters : a study of teachers' uses of language for understanding practice

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library
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  • Anthropology
  • Education
  • Linguistics
  • Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


This dissertation asks how thinking about language can help us think about, and perhaps think differently about, education. Based on interviews with practicing classroom teachers who are also alumnae of a Master's in Education degree program for Experienced Teachers, in this work teachers describe encounters with various languages of education, including administrative languages and languages of the academy. Based in Bronwyn Davies' (2000) assertion that theorizing language allows us to make visible and disrupt our positioning through language, thereby repositioning ourselves, this study interprets practices of education through theories of language to explore both the contradictions and the possibilities for change that are revealed when languages of education are theorized. Located at the nexus of phenomenology, philosophical anthropology, and literary criticism, this work applies a postmodern hermeneutics (Nash, 1997) to the study of languages of education. Texts of teacher interviews were put into conversation with other key texts that inform thinking in education. Arguing that contemporary politics of education block meaningful conversations among educators, this work also confronts reductions of language that reduce practice. This work advances Kristeva's (1984) notion of the semiotic for its potential to open up and expand discursive situations and positions in education.

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