Re-Newing the New in Literacy Studies

Street, Brian (2009) the future of ‘social literacies’ p21 – 37, Ch 1 in Baynham, Mike and Prinsloo, Mastin, The Future of Literacy Studies Palgrave MacMillan: Hampshire

‘…a practice is a mediated action with a history.’
Schollon 2001:66

Practice is a property of human activity and practice is a property of non-human entities, institutions, texts. In this further sense we can talk about institutional practices, disciplinary practices, discursive practices […] human beings are hailed, interpellated, subjected to these discourse or practices in the Althusserian sense […] not just in terms of constraints but also in terms of affordances or opportunities. 
Baynham and Prinsloo (2009:7)

Social Literacies starts from the local – the meanings and uses participants bring to literacy practices in varied contexts. In exploring literacy practices of designated ‘illiterate’ communities asks about the practices that those communities have and how do these connect to those of programme providers. Exploration of the cultural & ideological assumptions behind ‘autonomous’ models of literacy. 

How people engage with text is rooted in conceptions of knowledge, identity & being. Always contested in terms of meaning & practices. How then do people ‘take hold’ of the new communicative practices being introduced to them.  Need to suspend own judgements of literacy & ask what it means to the people you are working with. 

Student academic writing – what can it tell us about discourse, identity & power. 

Literacy associated with HE

study skills‘surface’ features of text – grammar, syntax, spelling &c

socialisation:  more interested in ‘genre’ making the rules of the game explicit

& academic literacies: both of these

Also – definitions of literacy now need to take account of multi-modality. A mode may be linguistic, visual, kinaesthetic &c. Orchestration of shift between modes. 

The research proposal is aimed at making use of NLS theory in my own practice as a teacher educator. I here want to explore my own treatment of students contribution and engage with that question of ‘how much is the grading of work based not on the value of their ideas but the extent to which they are articulated in conformance with academic conventions’.  This in my view is particularly true of students who speak English as an additional language. They have clearly read and are able to reference their reading but whose approach to weaving these other voices into their text appear at odds with my expectations. 

I suspect there is something here abut professional identity – learning for someone who is ‘established’ as a competent teacher is a challenge because it may in some way undermine their sense of themselves as competent. What they do is accepted if it confirms what they a;ready ‘know’ but rejected if it is felt to challenge or change. This is a dilemma since at the heart of learning is change. This may suggest a view of they have of learning as acquisitive, additive rather then as developmental and broadening: change. This matters because it implicates what & how they write / read. 

This is a broad brush and a tentative ‘opening’. My interest is 3 fold: 

Literacy teachers as literate adults changing and developing their own literacy. This needs to be carefully explained: being challenged to read and write in ways that are unfamiliar to them and have to be learned. Not just in technical terms but broader terms of who I am and how I engage with this material and represent it as part of a my changed sense of who I am. 

Literacy teachers as to qualified professional: what influences and shapes my understanding of myself as a practitioner. How do these experiences of literacy – my lived experienced and the things I learn and write about contribute towards my professional development. Is this a qualification or a learning experience. How motivated am I – what motivates me and what does this motivation lead to. 

Literacy teacher as ‘deliverer’ of skills or facilitator of practices: (I need to check my wording & the model of teaching & literacy it implies). how do these different ideas about literacy shape practice. I am here resistant to seeing this as an extended evaluation. Though I do expect to learn. I am here not constructive a hierarchy and hope to continue to develop my own ideas in progress. I know I need to explore further Roxy Harris and the typology he presented at the RaPAL conference in July 2010 @ Greenwich. The answer to this question may be contained in the assignment learners offer. But it is one that explores their different and changing ideas of literacy to their practice as teachers. 

Methodology – naturally occurring data & interview. I am keen to situate myself in the field. And need to read 

I have the unexpected feeling that someone is making sense. That this process of articulating (for myself|) my thoughts about this subject  having this dispersed across time & space discussion with colleague – leading thinkers – is enabling me to shape and bring into being my own sense of self as an academic – a academic with direction. Not literacy itself – but literacy in this public / private space. A purposeful literacy that each time I engage with it says: my sense of what it means to be an academic. Rather then a research student. 

Clarke, Adele (2005) Situational Analysis: grounded theory after the postmodern turn. Sage: London

Theory is of value in empirical science only to the extent to which it connects fruitfully with the empirical world. Concepts are the only means of establishing such connection.  Blumer (1969:143)



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