Reflexive Professionalism: Reclaiming the Voice of Authority in Shaping the Discourses of Education Policy

Jun. 01, 2013

Source: Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 41, No. 4, 2013, p. 398–413.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article examines who counts as an “authority to speak” on professionalism in the educational field.
This article uses Foucauldian archaeology as a rigorous method to examine the shaping of discourse and acknowledges other writers who have ventured into Foucault’s toolbox to borrow one or two of his gadgets.
Then the archaeological method is utilised to overview significant voices of authority from the enunciative field of professionalism and professional standards, the latter now a key strategy globally for enhancing professionalism.


Many strategies have been used in these analysed documents for governments to establish a “correct reading” or to promote certain “discursive truths.”
These include the positioning of teachers in deficit terms diminishing their authority; and repetition, imitative statements and co-location of words, providing lexical cohesion of selective ideas across texts.

The discourse analysis techniques associated with archaeology are applied to two key Australian policy documents to identify not only the dominant discourses, but also the privileged voices that have shaped these discourses.
Various policy texts are introduced to the enunciative field to support the need for the first key discourse – quality improvements.
Professional standards are the normalised, incontestable strategy to improve quality.
Thus, it is evident that policy borrowing has been employed to promote the inter-discursive theme of “calls for quality improvements.”
Policy texts have been privileged with academics’ voices in general absent from the discourse.


The analyses undertaken here reveal how particular groups of people are represented in ways that privilege their voices over others.
The archaeological method is valuable for tracing both academic and policy discourses and the ways in which teachers are constructed, empowered, or disempowered within and through such discourses.
Therefore, it is necessary to appreciate the way policy assembles collections of words, statements, and related policies, exercising power through a production of “truth” and knowledge as discourse.

By using Foucauldian archaeological analysis, the authors disrupt the taken-for-granted practice of the implementation of professional standards by exposing whose voices have come to count.
Rather than taking for granted the need for professional standards in a “demanded,” “prescribed” or “managerial” discourse of professionalism, the new policy “moment” needs to explore teachers’ reflexive thinking and decision-making about what constitutes quality and how it can be achieved in their context.
Reflexive teachers and researchers use real evidence of what works to improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

This trustworthy evidence accounts for teachers’ subjective attitudes and values, their intellectuality and knowledge, and their motivations for action, along with the objective conditions within which they work, including diverse students’ needs, curriculum, and institutional requirements and community influences.
The authors argue that policy needs to utilise such trustworthy evidence by listening to teachers’ and academics’ voices for a “new” and “enacted” reflexive professionalism.

Updated: Jun. 17, 2015