Discourses in Higher Education and Their Implications for Student Experience. Essay - 2627 Words

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Discourses in Higher Education and Their Implications for Student Experience.

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Text Preview Discourses in higher education and their implications for student experience. What are the ways in which discourses emerge in higher education and what are their implications for a student experience?

Discourses in higher education are apparent in almost every interaction a student has with any aspect of the higher learning institution including but not limited to staff and policies and procedures (including assessment procedures). The notion of subjectivity, or the subject position of student is also central to the following discussion of discourse. The use of language in promoting and maintaining such discourses can be seen in higher education policy documents developed by both the Government and the higher education institution, documents with students as a large proportion of the intended audience. A number of claims are made in these higher education policy documents that are ambivalent and ambitious (to say the least), and possibly even misleading. I will qualify this statement by highlighting some of my own experiences as a student in higher education in which these claims are contrary to what occurs in practice, before suggesting some posible reasons for the disparity between policy and practice. Discourse theory, subjectivity and a number of higher education policy documents including Transforming Australia’s Higher Education System (pp.7-8), University Strategy 2011-2015 (p.5) and School of Psychology Orientation 2011: Course Induction Booklet (p.4 & 6) will be examined to suggest possible implications of such discourses for student experience in higher education. Fox (2011) describes subjectivity as ‘the ways in which all your experiences of your social world have influenced you and will influence your interactions with the world’. (p. 3) She goes on to suggest that your culture, country, the social groups to which you belong, communities you have previously or currently belong to, schooling experiences, friends and family will all influence you thoughts, communications and actions and how you engage with the world around you. Henriques, Halloway, Urwin, Venn and Walkerine (1998) discuss the notion that an individual is not simply produced by forces external to them, but through a process whereby the individual forms within the context of their society. They also suggest that subjectivity involves individuality and self awareness, however subjects influence and are influenced by discourses that surround them in their social world. Furthermore, the resulting practices of such discourses result in non-unitary subjects who are active and dynamic. Discourse is a term that is not easily understood, in part due to the many and varied definitions it has been afforded over time, and the vide array of contexts in which it is and has been used. Even within a given discipline there is much inconsistency in how the term is used (Mills, 2004). Foucault (1972, 1980 cited in Mills, 2004) has provided an evolving view of discourse moving from the notion that it is ‘the general domain of all statements’ (p. 6) to discourse being ‘an individualizable group of statements’ (p. 6), before finally suggesting that discourse is ‘a regulated practice which accounts for a number of statements’ (p. 6). Mills (2004) concludes from this last definition that the actual texts or utterances are less important (in terms of defining discourse) than are the structures or rules that produce them. MacDonnell (1986, cited in Mills 2004) thickens the previous definitions of discourse by adding that it is institutional in nature and highlighting the social nature of dialogue. She suggests that ‘discourses differ with the kinds of institutions and social practices in which they take shape and with the positions of those who speak and those whom they address’ (p. 9-10). The use of language is an important element of discourse and encompasses ways of speaking and being, assumptions, ideas, as well as structures and... Show More

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