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Adolescent Literacies  

Donna E. Alvermann and William Terrell Wright

Naming is a curious practice. It entails rudiments, now mostly taken for granted, that serve to categorize everyday literacy practices across fields as diverse as cultural anthropology and the management of multiple Git profiles. As a term unto itself, adolescent literacies is not immune to the vagaries of naming. In fact, it serves as an excellent example of how commonly named concepts in education embed the field’s histories, debates, pedagogies, and policies writ large. Conceptualizing literacy in its plural form raised eyebrows among academics, researchers, practitioners, publishers, and indexers concerned with the noun–verb agreement in phrases such as “adolescent literacies is a subfield” of adolescence. For some, the very notion of literacy extending beyond reading and writing is still debatable. With each passing day, however, it becomes noticeably more evident that multimodal forms of communication—images, sounds, bodily performances, to name but a few ways of expressing oneself—are competing quite well in the marketplace of ideas that flow globally with or without a linguistic component attached to them. Aside from the naming process and its attendant political overtones, the practice of treating youth between roughly the ages of 12 and 17 as a monolithic group has been common in the United States. Largely traceable to a time in which developmental psychology dominated the field of literacy instruction (in the early to late 20th century), designating youth as adolescents equated to viewing them as some a normative group devoid of racial, class, gender, and any number of other identity markers. Even with the sociocultural turn in early 21st century and its abundance of studies reifying the socially constructed nature of adolescents, the term persists. Its adhesive-like attraction to literacies, however, may be weakening in light of research that points to youth who are agentic and dynamic game changers when it comes to participating in a world grown more attuned to the need for collaboration based not on hierarchical standing but instead on working through commonplace tensions too complex for any one solution.

Article

Classroom Discussions  

P. Karen Murphy, Carla M. Firetto, Gwendolyn M. Lloyd, Liwei Wei, and Sara E. Baszczewski

Classroom discussions are a common pedagogical approach that involve verbal exchanges of information between teachers and students. Given their importance to teaching and learning, classroom discussions have been the focus of extensive curricular mandates and, to a lesser extent, research over the last several decades. In traditional classroom discussions, the teacher tends to be situated at the center of the discussion. This type of discussion model is commonly referred to as a transmissionary model, where the teacher transmits knowledge and understandings and often leads the discussion by posing factual questions and responding to students’ answers by giving evaluative feedback. However, productive classroom discussions are better characterized by a dialogic model with students at the center of the discussion. When students are encouraged to ask thoughtful questions, give reflective responses, and challenge each other using reasoned arguments within classroom discussions, they are more likely to become builders and owners of their knowledge. Indeed, productive classroom discussions tend to ignite students’ engagement, thinking, and understanding of knowledge across academic content areas. When adopting a dialogic model, classroom discussions can advance students’ learning by promoting their basic and high-level comprehension of literary text, reasoning, and argumentation during mathematical sense-making, scientific reasoning, and model building and even second-language proficiency and communicative competence. While the overarching aim of classroom discussions is to enhance student learning across content areas (e.g., language arts, mathematics, science, or second-language learning), the various roles that teachers assume in each of the content areas may have different emphases that align with various content learning expectations. Optimizing classroom discussions requires specific considerations of the content-focused goal, teacher knowledge of content and discourse orchestration, student instruction on classroom talk, and context of content learning. Importantly, the potential and promise of productive classroom discussions can be realized by supporting teachers’ content-specific discussion practices through sustained professional development and by supporting students through explicit instruction about discussion.

Article

Creative Writers as Arts Educators  

Teresa Cremin and Debra Myhill

In the field of writing in education two strong, even common-sense, views exist, drawing largely on everyday logic rather than evidenced justification: first, that to teach writing effectively teachers must be writers themselves and second, that professional writers, those who are writers themselves, have a valuable role to play in supporting young writers. But rarely have these views been brought together to explore what teachers can learn about being a writer from those who are writers. Nor are these perspectives unquestioned. The positioning of teachers as writers within and beyond the classroom has been the subject of intense academic and practitioner debate for decades. For years professional writers have visited schools to talk about their work and have run workshops and led residencies. However relatively few peer-reviewed studies exist into the value of their engagement in education, and those that do, in a manner similar to the studies examining teachers as writers, tend to rely upon self-reports without observational evidence to triangulate the perspectives offered. Furthermore, the evidence base with regard to the impact on student outcomes of teachers’ positioning themselves as writers in the classroom is scant. Nor is there a body of evidence documenting the impact of professional writers on student outcomes.Historically, these two foci - teachers as writers and professional writers in education - have been researched separately; in this article we draw them together. Predominantly professional writers in education work directly with students as visiting artists, and have been positioned and positioned themselves as offering enrichment opportunities to students. They have not therefore been able to make a sustained impact on the teaching of writing. Moreover, while writers’ published texts are read, studied, and analyzed in school (as examples for young people to emulate), their compositional processes receive little attention, and the craft knowledge on which writers draw is rarely foregrounded. In addition, writing is often viewed as the most marginalized creative art, in part due to its inclusion within English, which itself has been sidelined in the arts debate. Notwithstanding these challenges, research and development studies have begun to create new opportunities for collaboration, with teachers and professional writers sharing their expertise as pedagogues and as writers in order to support students’ development as creative writers. In such work the challenges, constraints, and consequences of students and teachers identifying themselves as writers in school has been evidenced. In addition, research has sought to document the practices of professional writers, analyzing for example their reading histories, composing practices, and craft knowledge in order to feedforward new insights into classroom practice. It is thus gradually becoming recognized that professional writers’ knowledge and understanding of the art and craft of writing deserves increased practitioner attention for their educative possibilities; they have the potential to support teachers’ understanding of being a writer and of how they teach writing. This in turn may impact upon students’ own identities as writers, their understanding of what it means to be a writer, and their attitudes to and outcomes in writing.

Article

Ethnography and the Study of Los Saberes Docentes (Teaching Knowledge) in Latin American Countries  

Ruth Mercado and Epifanio Espinosa

A specific comparative framework that incorporates an interpretive process dedicated to developing a more complex understanding of teaching knowledge incorporates the specific local contexts in which studies on teaching knowledge are conducted. Research on teaching knowledge within the region grew and diversified from the 1980s and 1990s. There are two key thematic contributions of this body of research: the nature of teaching knowledge and pedagogical approaches to teaching specific curricular content focusing on early literacy. Points of comparison between the different contributions of studies addressing teaching knowledge can be found. Additionally, institutional and social inequalities are manifested in schools and education in Latin American countries. Teaching knowledge, which teachers produce in and adapt to different social spaces (in other words, through practice), is crucial for fostering the development and learning of the students who attend school under the challenging conditions of the schools in these countries.

Article

The History of the National Writing Project  

Anne Elrod Whitney and Yamil Sarraga-Lopez

The National Writing Project (NWP) is a network of professional development sites focusing on the improvement of writing across schools and communities. Its origins as the Bay Area Writing Project led to a professional development model of teachers teaching teachers, a concept that hinges upon recognition of teachers’ knowledge and their capacity to become leaders within their professional community. In the ensuing years, with early financial support from the US government in the form of an initial grant and an eventual direct federal line item, the NWP expanded from one location to over 200 local sites across the USA’s 50 states and territories as well as international sites. These US and international sites, created in partnership with local universities or colleges, offer localized support to teachers of writing. The project’s model involves an intensive summer institute in which teachers spend their time writing, reading, and sharing their knowledge about writing practices and teaching. While its focus is on the teaching of writing across all levels and disciplines, the project has become a model example of a professional learning and development network. As such, the NWP has created a legacy in teacher learning and development that many within the field of teacher professional development wish to emulate. An examination of this history, highlighting the project’s beginnings within the Bay Area Writing Project and its eventual expansion, speaks to the vision that has driven its success.

Article

Systemic Functional Linguistics in Teacher Education  

Luciana C. de Oliveira and Sharon L. Smith

Systemic functional linguistics (SFL), a meaning-based theory of language, has been used throughout the world as a discourse analytic approach and, more recently, as a framework for implementing pedagogy in the classroom. SFL has much to offer teachers as a pedagogical approach. The integration of SFL into teacher education and continuing professional learning has been shown to have a positive impact on developing teachers’ knowledge about language, their ability to instruct students by focusing on language and literacy development, and their focus on critical components of language for diverse learners. SFL theory does not provide teacher educators with a developed curriculum for implementation; therefore, the ways in which it has been used across teacher education have varied depending on teachers’ level of instruction (elementary, secondary, or tertiary), familiarity with SFL concepts, and preservice or in-service status. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to SFL inclusion in teacher education, but some principles derived from SFL in teacher education literature may enable teacher educators to consider how this theory of language and pedagogical framework can be used in teacher education programs.

Article

Traditions, Research, and Practice Supporting Academically Productive Classroom Discourse  

Jie Park, Sarah Michaels, Renee Affolter, and Catherine O'Connor

This article focuses on both research and practice relating to academically productive classroom discourse. We seek to “expand the conversation” to include newcomers to the field of classroom talk, as well as practitioners and youth researchers who want to contribute to knowledge building in this area. We first explore a variety of traditions, questions, and methods that have been prominent in work on classroom talk. We also summarize some key findings that have emerged over the past several decades: • Finding 1: Certain kinds of talk promote robust learning for ALL students. • Finding 2: The field lacks shared conceptualizations of what productive talk is and how best to characterize it. • Finding 3: Dialogic discourse is exceedingly rare in classrooms, at all grade levels and across all domains. • Finding 4: A helpful way forward: conceptualizing talk moves as tools. Following the presentation of each research finding we provide a set of commentaries—explicating and in some cases problematizing the findings. Finally, we provide some promising approaches that presume cultural and linguistic assets among both students and teachers, including curricular programs, teacher education, professional development programs, teacher research, and intergenerational communities of inquiry. In all of this, we try to make our own assumptions, traditions, and governing gazes explicit, as a multi-generational and multi-role group of authors, to encourage greater transparency among all who work in this important and potentially transformative field of study.