Emerging Dialogic Structures in Education Reform: An analysis of Urban Teachers’ Online Compositions

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This paper contextualizes contemporary urban teachers’ online dissent in public discussions of education reform inrelation to past educational crisis narratives to interpret recent shifts in the structure of education reform dialogue inthe United States. It does so by examining the form and content of compositions in which teachers respond toeducation reform. The analysis is intended to describe the digitally mediated roles teachers are asserting in acomplex public debate over the future of education in the United States. The structure and content of educationreform discourse has often cast teachers in static roles, which inhibits their active participation in discussions ofeducational policy. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s position that language choices serve to stifle and/or reinvigorate dialogue,we examine contributions to online discussions and debate composed ostensibly by urban teachers in response todominant discourses. The data were analyzed with respect to discursive choices and grouped subsequently asthemed arguments and rhetorical moves. We argue that teachers’ strategic responses to education reform challengestifling truisms that seek to suspend discussion of all other factors besides teacher quality. Teachers’ critical digitalcompositions thus re-create critical, multi-voiced conversations in place of monologues about school improvement.The online, public compositions point to the dynamic structure of reform discourse that has the potential to benefitthose currently faulted for a variety of social problems. Nurturing and even exploiting the dynamic potential ofeducational reform discourse can create opportunities for teachers, policymakers, and educational researchers tomutually inform one another’s shared interest in educational improvement.Keywords: