Chapter 13: Evaluating critical discourse analysis in research: a Canadian educational policy case
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Critical Discourse Analysis (henceforth CDA) is a qualitative approach that analyzes the context and content of spoken and written discourses, and has been called an epistemology, methodology and method. If we understand the concept of discourse to include the performative operations and uses of language beyond the words themselves, then analyzing discourses also requires asking why one discourse takes precedence over another (Olssen et al., 2004). Generally, educational policy scholars using CDA take critical theory perspectives alongside CDA to analyze “everything from mission statements and textbooks produced in response to a policy mandate, to transcripts of meetings and evidence considered during policymaking processes” (Lester et al., 2016). In this chapter, we conduct a critical review of the literature over a 10-year span in Canadian education policy research as a heuristic to examine how the reported use of CDA is represented, since CDA is becoming an increasingly important and powerful analytical approach for scholars in education and beyond. Significantly, researchers using CDA tend to reject the notion of research as value-free and use their research to address social justice issues through an activist research approach (Rogers et al., 2016). Our aim is to examine a salient cross-section of examples of articles claiming to take a CDA approach, during a timespan where it was gaining traction in the literature, assess their usage of CDA and make suggestions for further dialogue around operationalizing CDA. The criteria for inclusion/exclusion for this critical review considered year of publication (2008-2018), Canadian specific education policy and the use of CDA in titles or keywords. These constraints were put in place to limit breadth in order to provide a in depth critical review that could do a deep dive into operative definitions of CDA and how it being used in the specific area of policy analysis.

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