Keywords and key phrases in vocational education policy in Australia: a lexical semantic analysis of knowledge and skills
AuthorCorbel, Christopher Philip
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2016 Dr. Christopher Philip Corbel
Sociologists of education are concerned with the weakening of knowledge in the vocational curriculum. This thesis provides insights into the problem by undertaking a detailed and systematic examination of knowledge and skills as lexical items in Australian vocational education policy from an applied linguistic perspective. Grounded in critical discourse analysis, the thesis interrogates the claim that the influence of knowledge has become weakened in vocational education policy, as the meanings of skills have expanded. This interrogation required the development of an innovative technique, based on keywords and key phrases, for the analysis of a collection of policy documents. Data for the study consisted of vocational education policies in Australia over the course of a forty year period, from 1969 to 2013. The investigation shows that knowledge has been affected by its constant association with skills, but that it is not emptied of meaning completely, as some commentators have feared. Meanings change and new meanings emerge in discourse from the association of ‘key’ words such as knowledge in frequently occurring phrases including, but not restricted to, knowledge and skills. Theoretically, the study contributes to a further understanding of the complex social and linguistic mechanisms through which the micro level of cultural reproduction proceeds. Methodologically, the study provides a new analytical technique for the critical examination of the lexicology and phraseology of policy documents. An improved understanding of the lexical semantics of keywords and key phrases will assist vocational curriculum and course developers with their critical engagement with official curriculum documents. Those engaged in the critical examination of such documents now have an improved analytical tool at their disposal.
Keywordsknowledge; skills; vocational education policy; lexical semantics; phraseology; social realism
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