Graduate Student Spotlight

The Research/Project Spotlight initiative features emerging research and projects conducted by CERA’s graduate students. The spotlight initiative further the mission and goals of the association by providing a structured means to enhance the visibility of the association, support the work of its members, and support knowledge mobilization efforts to better communicate research efforts and findings to the broader education community.

Codie Fortin Lalonde (Carleton University)


Title of Project: “And this 21st century learning … what is that?”: A critical examination of educational discourses in Canada

Pilot Research Questions: How are education, students, and teachers discursively rendered within and across educational discourses (white papers and reports) from the international, national, and provincial (Ontario) levels in Canada?

Description: What is taught in the classroom is dependent upon teaching practices, curricula, and educational policies, which are further influenced by societal values, social structures, power relations, and so on. In other words, education is socially constructed and mediated, and is realised through texts and discourses. It is thus important to examine such discourses critically, and my work ultimately aims to explore how these discourses (policies, whitepapers/reports, etc.) trickle into and impact the classroom level.

This two-phased pilot study explored how education, students, and teachers are represented within and across a small collection of public educational texts (reports, white papers, etc.) from the international, national, and provincial (Ontario) levels regarding education in Canada.

The first phase focused on deconstructing the texts, while the second phase invited public perspectives through a focus group in which participants read and discussed four excerpts from the reports. The findings of each phase were complementary in highlighting themes within the discourse such as the marketization of governmental and educational institutions as well as of an individual’s skills and abilities, a managerial approach to education through accountability measures and emphasis on outcomes or targets, and an effort to disguise top-down power and eliminate resistance through conversational tone and inclusion (use of we). These findings also align with much of the critical discourse analytic research being done in other parts of the world (e.g., US, UK, Singapore) which look critically at how neoliberalism is embedded within educational discourses and practices.

Next steps for this project: Building from this pilot project, I am currently preparing a dissertation proposal with the aim of implementing a multi-phased, mixed- and multi-methods research structure. This includes building and critical analysing a larger corpus of educational discourses (policies, white papers, reports) from the international, national, and provincial/territorial levels, and using these findings to develop a survey to be distributed to public school teachers in Canada, as well as to conduct focus groups with first- and second-year undergraduate students in which they reflect on their public school experiences.

CERA’s impact on Codie’s work: CERA provides an important community-building platform for sharing ideas, research, and experience across the wide range of interests, disciplines, and methodologies that educational research affords. While I am a new member, having access to this diverse network of education scholars promises to be an enriching experience and I am grateful for such an opportunity.