EDEV_505 Week 5_7

I tried to answer the first question; Examine patterns regarding values among the various documents:

What similarities and differences are evident among different organisations?

but ran against a wall. Here are some thoughts on our interaction regarding this question.

Deciding similarities and differences between organisations on the basis of those documents presented by team members is an exercise in futility. At best, the documents each member selected portrayed a brief but useful overview of their organisation; at worst, the selections could only show a minuscule aspect of an immense institution. One member selected a few pages from a 730-page policy document; another reported 2600 documents relating only to rules and regulations from their institution. The act of selecting itself, therefore, may be considered rhetorically as an indicator of the values present in their institutions that team members wish to display. This desire can be shown by the lack of negative appraisal any member gave of their organisation, choosing instead to focus only on the strengths of their organisation.

To understand this phenomenon, I’ll draw upon Bakhtin’s (1981)⁠ notion of heteroglossia. Bakhtin recognised that the different (hetero) dialects or languages (glossia) present in literary works provides a linguistic dynamic. Within a single novel, authors often use a variety of types of language, from colloquial speech to highly refined formal discourse. In terms of the documents selected, they represent what Bakhtin would call “authoritative discourse” (p. 342), which he contrasts with “internally persuasive discourse” (p. 345). Authoritative discourse are declarative statements produced by authorities and are not intended to be amenable to interpretation. Bakhtin denies a place in literature for authoritative discourse due to “its inertia, its semantic finiteness and calcification” (p. 344). University policy documents are not supposed to be literary works (however fictitious they may appear at times!) They are permeated with the ideology of the institution; to the degree the message resonates with the reader, the meaning may become “internally persuasive”. In other words, members of the institution may embrace the message as outward reflections of their inner value system.

Heteroglossia is evident in the presentation of the authoritative documents in official language and in the more personal and reflective team members’ accompanying text. Both sources speak of the same message but with different voices. I won’t provide specific examples because I don’t want to single out any individual, but the phenomenon can be seen  most easily in defences of an institution (usually after I have questioned some aspect of it).


Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. (M. Holquist, Ed.). Austin: University of Texas Press.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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