Educ. 870

Discourse Analysis of International Education Policies


Draft syllabus

Updated version will be provided in class


Mondays 1-4 HS 275

Bjorn H. Nordtveit (office hours by appointment: )




Discourse analysis examines how social and power relations, identities, and knowledge are constructed through written, visual, and spoken texts. This course provides an introduction to discourse analytic approaches to research in international education policy and development. We will consider discourse analysis as theory and method through an interdisciplinary lens, by studying three core traditions of analysis, including discourse theory, critical discourse analysis and discursive psychology.


The course demonstrates tools to analyze policy texts and to assess underlying symbols and imagery of policy in the form of spoken statements, publicity, posters and awareness-raising messages, photos and movies. Students will have the opportunities to apply various analytic methods to conduct hands-on research in their field of interests.



Course Objectives


After successful completion of this course, students will



Those who have spoken or written data samples – or photos or movies – to work with for analysis may use these for the course; the others will be expected to select an international or national policy to be used as their sample for analysis.



Class requirements and evaluation: 


The class entails a combination of personal reading and analysis, lectures, and student presentations. The course is being offered on a pass/fail basis with a letter grade option. Any student wishing a letter grade must submit a written request for that option by the fourth class meeting. The evaluation is based on the following requirements:



Ø Class attendance, participation and leading discussion of one reading: 30%

Ø Four brief online exercises: 40%

Ø Project and presentation: 30%


Required Texts


Reader: Philips, L. and Jørgensen, M. (2002). Discourse Analysis as Theory and Method. Thousand Oaks: Sage.


Please purchase prior to session 3.


Moodle - the course will have other readings, materials and resources available on Moodle. Students will be expected to make weekly use of Moodle for assignments and readings.




Course schedule



January 28: Introduction to the field of discourse analysis


Key premises; evolution of the field from linguistic approaches to discourse analysis. Discussion of how theories of language or discourse shape approaches to discourse analysis, and how discourse analysis can be understood as a cultural practice and process.


Group work on media and policy formation.

Explanation of course requirements.



Nordtveit, B.H. “World Bank poetry: How the Education Sector Strategy 2020 imagines the world” p. 21-32, in S. J. Klees, J. Samoff, and N. P. Stromquist (Eds.) (2012). The World Bank and Education: Critiques and Alternatives. Boston: Sense Publishers.



February 4: Foucault and Derrida


Theoretical foundations of discourse analysis; language and power. Focault’s archeology and genealogy. Deconstructing texts: what do they really mean? Definitions and understanding of ideology.



Allen, A. (2012) Using Foucault in education research, British Educational Research Association on-line resource.

Eagleton, T. (2007). Ideology, an Introduction. New York: Verso. Ch. 1


February 11: The post-development movement


Development theories; how are they related to educational development? Theories of progress and social change. Escobar – Encountering Development in Columbia. Policy implications for development programs and education.



Locke, T. (2004). Critical Discourse Analysis. New York: Continuum. Chs. 1-3.

Escobar, A. The problematization of poverty: the tale of three worlds and poverty, p. 131-140, in S. Chari and S. Corbridge (2008). The Development Reader. Oxon: Routledge.

Illich, I., Development as planned poverty. In M. Rahnema, and V. Bawtree,  (Eds.) (1997). The Post-Development Reader. Zed Books, London.



February 19 (Monday schedule): Laclau and Mouffe’s discourse theory 


Theoretical background and tools for analysis.



Reader Ch. 1: “The field of discourse analysis”

Reader Ch. 2: Laclau & Mouffe’s discourse theory


February 25: Applying discourse theory to policy analysis


Examples of analysis; hands-on demonstrations. First online assignment: application of discourse theory.



Laclau, E. and C. Mouffe. (1985) Hegemony and social strategy: Towards a radical democratic politics. Ch. 3.



March 4: Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA)


Language and images as empirical study within a social context. Norman Fairclough’s philosophy, theoretical methods and specific techniques for linguistic analysis.



            Reader Ch. 3: “Critical discourse analysis”



March 11: Online session – applying critical discourse analysis to a text


Second online assignment: analysis of text or image using CDA methods.



Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. New York: Routledge. Ch. 2: Texts, social events and social practices.

Locke, T. (2004). Critical Discourse Analysis. New York: Continuum. Chs. 4-6.



March 18: No class – spring recess



March 25: Evolution and critique of CDA


Use of CDA in policy and development settings. Critique, limits and new orientations.






April 1: Discursive psychology


Explanation of social psychological phenomena in terms of cognitive processes; thinking perception and reasoning. Cognitive processes as the cause of policy making and social action.


Third online assignment: application of discursive psychology to analyzing everyday discourse or spoken language in policy field of interest.



            Reader Ch. 4: “Discursive psychology”



April 8: The three approaches compared


Towards an integrated methodology? Implications for research.



            Reader: Ch. 5: “Across the approaches”



April 15: Critical policy research in education and development


Implications of discourse analysis for social critical constructionist research. Critique of the critique. Identification of the taken-for-granted; the role of the analyst.



            Reader Ch. 6: “Critical social constructionist research”


April 23: Use of software as a tool for discourse analysis


Introduction to NVivo; hands-on demonstrations.


Fourth online assignment: supporting use of qualitative software for analysis of language use.






April 30: Bringing it all together: implications for policy and way forward


Conclusions of course; presentation of projects.