ELT Course Descriptions in Tertiary Education: A Critical-interpretative Investigation
Ould Hende, EL Moctar
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The course description is a brief, yet comprehensive, written account of a course teachers produce and give to their students at the beginning of courses. Course descriptions (CDs) are routinely produced and used in many educational institutions. However, with the exception of few passing references to them in Elliot (1997) and Swales (1990), discourse analysis has not sought to provide good understanding. This study is an attempt to fill in such a gap in knowledge by exploring the CD in the context of higher education in the United Arab Emirates, where the researcher has been working up to the completion of the present study. Employing the technique of triangulation, the study forms a methodology that combines Foucault’s approach to discourse, action research and the critical and interpretative paradigms as a basis for analyzing data from 12 CDs, questionnaires and interviews. On the level of analysis, Foucault’s approach to discourse has been operationalized by Systemic Functional Linguistics and Bernstein’s theory of pedagogic discourse. Within the framework of the Systemic Functional Linguistics, the CD as a text is approached from three perspectives: Field, Tenor and Mode. This has revealed the overwhelming use of long clauses, the constitution of the student as’expected to study‘, not as thinking or knowing entity, the use of the Declarative Mood, ambiguity of the source and receiver, ellipsis and obligatory sections. The purpose of investigating the CD within the framework of Bernstein’s theory of pedagogic discourse was to shed light on CD perspectives that could not be accounted for by the text analysis on its own. Thus, it described the roles, production, transmission and reproduction processes of the CD and the attitudes of teachers and students towards it. Thus, it has been concluded that the CD is dominantly regulative, that it is imposed by the Accreditation Committee under the pressure of globalization and that its use needs to be improved or stopped.
EdD in TESOL