Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teachers as critical text analysts (2008)

Gebhard, M., Demers, J., Castill-Rosenthal, Z.C. (2008). Teachers as critical text analysts: L2 literacies and teachers’ work in the context of high-stakes school reform. Journal of Second Language Writing, 17, 274-291.

"In regard to the connection between literacy practices and social change, the first author asks teachers to think about how the construction of classroom contexts and accompanying school identities is not simply a matter of common sense (Fairclough, 1992). Rather, she asks them to consider how the nature of U.S. schooling practices, and therefore academic literacy practices, have their origins as well as possible trajectories in the unpredictable convergence of past, present, and future political and economic struggles. For example, analysts of the transformation of educational practices in the United States have made convincing arguments that the nature of schooling today can be traced to the amalgamated forces of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration during the early 1900s (Bowles & Gintis, 1976; Fass, 1989; Hargreaves, 1994; Tyack, 1974). A sample of some of the enduring reforms that resulted from the merging of these three powerful forces include the conversion of the one-room schoolhouse into what we now associate with a modern public schooling system. This system typically strives for efficiency by grouping students by age or perceived ability; apprenticing students to differentiated literacy practices to prepare them to enter a differentiated workforce; and reinforcing curricular, instructional, and assessment practices based on modernist assumptions of language, learning, and what counts as evidence of knowing.

A full treatment of how these now commonplace innovations to compulsory education and commonsense ways of teaching ELLs have outlived their utility in a post-modern, information driven economyis beyond the scope of this paper and has been treated by others inmore detail (e.g., Cope & Kalantzis, 1993; Gebhard, 2004, 2005; Gee,Hull,&Lankshear, 1996; New London Group, 1996). However, many analysts believe that in a post-industrial, technology-driven, and globalized economy, schooling must be reconceived to prepare non-dominant students to participate more fully in a very different kind of economic order than the one that existed when manufacturing jobs were plentiful. Namely, these analysts argue that for linguistically and culturally diverse students to negotiate their way through a post-industrial world of work, they must be able to engage strategically and fluidly in the symbolic work of positioning and repositioning themselves through their use of multimodal texts (e.g., New London Group, 1996). These students are better able to accomplish this task when they are in command of many, often hybrid, literacy practices and associated ways of being (e.g., Dyson, 1993, 2003; Gebhard, 2005; Gee et al., 1996; Gutierrez, Rymes, & Larson, 1995; New London Group, 1996; Solsken, Willett, & Wilson-Keenan, 2000). Moreover, students are more likely to engage in this kind of strategic semiotic work if they have been in classrooms with teachers who have a critical awareness of language and know how to apprentice students to using high-stakes genres to accomplish cognitive, social, and political work they care about (Dyson, 1993; Gebhard et al., 2007)." (p. 277)

In this article, they described how two teachers "decoded" and "translated" a first grade student's writing from something that looked like remedial work into a more autonomous narrative gave Jan and Zoe insights into the kind of instruction teachers need to provide to students like Sara.

Sara's story (translated): "There was a music teacher named Mrs. Catto. The music teacher went to a new school. There were two girls who did not know how to do music because they were fooling around all the time. Then the music teacher cried and cried a lot and a lot. Then the music teacher had an idea. She called her friend. Her friend put a rat in a bag and scared the kids. The kids cried and cried. Then Ms. Catto rescued the kids and they all celebrated music."

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