Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version

September 2004


Published in: An Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis in Education. Edited by Rebecca Rogers. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers: Mahwah, New Jersey & London, 2004. Pages 97–116. Copyright © 2004 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Used by permission.


Education research in the 21st century can be characterized by at least four dynamic, interpretive movements that include the critical analysis of pedagogy, schools, and communities; the politics of representation; the textual analyses of literary and cultural forms; and the ethnographic study of the production, consumption, and distribution of these forms in everyday life. Although these issues are beyond the scope of this chapter (see Denzin & Lincoln, 2000, for an extensive discussion), in large part the basis of these movements in the field of education grows out of a struggle among researchers and educators to make sense of competing social and political goals for children, their teachers, and the communities in which these key players live. An example of this is the ideological and policy debates focused on the implementation of the right reading assessments in U.S. schools during the last 30 years (Sarroub & Pearson, 1998). The changes that have occurred as a result of ideological stances toward the teaching of reading have often undermined local and sometimes national efforts at change. The work of researchers and educators who attempt to critically represent everyday life in this political milieu becomes all the more complicated and complex in the research process. My aim in this chapter is to critically examine how a study group of elementary school teachers and two university researchers made decisions about the type of entries that should constitute the reading portion of an archival portfolio. Through ethnographic and discourse analysis, I explore how one group meeting served to transform the actors in the group, reconstitute previously agreed-on agendas, and shift authority in the group. This study took place in the mid- to late 1990s, at a time when the accountability movement in the United States was gaining national prominence at all levels of political life. The case of this study group (the Alternative Assessment Study Group) exemplifies a grassroots effort at change at both personal and institutional levels.