Policies and practices of parental involvement and parent-teacher relations in Irish primary education: a critical discourse analysis

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Title: Policies and practices of parental involvement and parent-teacher relations in Irish primary education: a critical discourse analysis
Authors: Bennett, Brigid
metadata.dc.contributor.advisor: Galvin, Conor
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/6781
Date: 2015
Abstract: This thesis presents a critical discourse analysis of policies of parental involvement in Irish education from the past decade. It explores three questions: Do discourses of parental involvement and teacher professionalism construct parent-teacher relations in Irish primary education?; What implications do these constructions have for policies and practices of parent-teacher relationships, particularly parent-teacher partnerships, in Irish primary education?; How can these constructions be challenged and/or supported (as appropriate) to enhance parent-teacher relations and parental involvement in Irish primary education? The research is framed theoretically by the contention that discourse has the power to determine what is perceived as being true, acceptable and appropriate in various situations. International and Irish literature reviewed during the research identified traditional, managerial and democratic discourses of teacher professionalism as exerting an influence on the development of parent-teacher relations in Irish education. A critical policy discourse analysis approach was used to explore the research questions at three levels: the individual school level, the systemic/national level and the supra-national level. The Foucauldian-based, document-focussed discourse analysis was augmented by thematic analysis of elite interviews with key policy actors in Irish education. The research findings revealed that discourses of parent-teacher relations are constructed differently at various levels of the education system. While there was evidence of much inter-discursivity at each level, traditional discourses were found to be resilient at school levels, whereas democratic discourses were more apparent at national/systemic levels. Managerial discourses were most readily identified at supra-national levels, but significantly, their influence was found to be increasing at national/systemic levels also. An analysis of the discursive plane of parent teacher relations provides useful insights into how democratic discourses of parent-teacher relations are legitimated in Irish education. Irish teachers were found to be well-placed to promote and engage with democratic parent-teacher partnerships, and such partnerships have the potential to advance activist forms of teacher professionalism. This rather optimistic analysis is, however, tempered by observations from the research that democratic discourses of parental involvement are currently being systematically recontextualised to advance managerial objectives in Irish education. The potential of this as a policy lever makes parental involvement a topic of extreme importance in Ireland. Teachers must counter and ‘re-recontextualise’ parent-teacher relations to protect Irish education and primary teacher professionalism from the excesses and dogma of new managerialism so dominant internationally. This research suggests that teacher action with regard to parental involvement is a matter of urgent importance for Irish education.
Type of material: Doctoral Thesis
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of Education
Advisor: Ph.D.
Copyright (published version): 2015 the author
Keywords: Critical discourse analysis;Discourse;Parental involvment;Parent-teacher relations;Teacher professionalism
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Education Theses

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