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Curriculum Influences: William James and Michel Foucault  

Bernadette Baker and Clare O'Farrell

William James (1841–1910), working primarily out of the United States, and Michel Foucault (1926–1984), working primarily out of France, are two very different figures who both made an impact on current theories of education. Even if the primary focus of their work is not education, their ideas challenge what it is that makes education recognizable as education and takes issue with its very identity as a discipline. William James, who began publishing in the 1870s, is generally described as a philosopher and psychologist. He remains well-known for his work on pragmatism in the wake of Charles Sanders Peirce’s pragmaticism and for his work on religion, ethics, and mind theory, but he also devoted considerable time to the study of parapsychology and gave some attention to teacher education. Foucault has been variously described as a philosopher, historian, historian of ideas, and a social and political theorist. His work addressed an impressive array of fields across the sciences, literature, art, ethics, and institutional, political, and social history, and spanned a wide range of historical periods mainly in European and French history from the 13th century to the 20th century with later excursions into the Ancient Greek and early Christian eras. Foucault’s work has been widely, but selectively, deployed within education studies across the globe, with a strong focus on his notions of power, governmentality, surveillance, subjectivity, discourse, and ethics in their various iterations. James’s work has been relatively less deployed, with emphasis on the application of his version of pragmatism, theories of mind, and talks to teachers. The work of the two thinkers may be considered to overlap in two important ways: first, in their respective approaches to the notion of practice, namely the idea of philosophy as strategic and located in day-to-day concrete experience rather than occupying the rarefied realms of abstraction; and second, their interest in the margins of knowledge – knowledge that has been excluded by mainstream science and accepted ways of thinking. In the case of James, this interest manifests in his long-term studies in the field of parapsychology and in the case of Foucault in his interest in the meandering byways and monstrosities of the history of ideas, of long-forgotten knowledge rejected by the scientific mainstream or formulated on the margins of society.

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.

Article

Reading Comprehension and Culturally Diverse Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand  

Stuart McNaughton, Rebecca Jesson, and Aaron Wilson

It has proven difficult to establish how best to promote valued outcomes in reading comprehension for students in culturally diverse schools. Efforts are constrained by the disparities communities served by these schools often experience in physical, social, economic, and political conditions. However, principles are being developed for the effectiveness of schools, using four perspectives. The first is consideration of reading comprehension as a cognitive, linguistic, and cultural activity, which includes aspects of well-being such as cultural identity. The activity takes different forms, including one new form of digital literacy. Second, principles need to be underpinned by an understanding of how disparities in comprehension develop over time, through adopting a “life course” perspective. Over the life course, channels of socialization are afforded by both family practices and instructional conditions, and features of each are associated with disparities over time. Finally, criteria for what counts as success include enhancing distributions of achievement, promoting and protecting cultural identity, and overcoming system variability. Four principles of note are (a) increasing opportunities for students to learn; (b) providing textual depth and breadth; (c) making discourse and culture central to intervention designs; and (d) design-based research partnerships that can change practices at scale. However, achieving successful educational outcomes for students using these and other principles depends on considerable commitment, resourcing, and time, including reconfiguring of the role and responsibilities of researchers.

Article

Interpreting and Using Basil Bernstein’s Sociology of Education  

Henry Kwok and Parlo Singh

For four decades, Basil Bernstein developed a distinct and original contribution to the sociology of education. Despite his death in 2000, Bernstein’s theories still attract attention, not just in the United Kingdom, but all over the world, beyond Anglophone academic circuits. Yet, his work is sometimes regarded as too theoretical with minor significance to current educational issues and problems. Is Bernstein’s sociological theory relevant to the challenges of the 21st century? How should his work and research approach be understood and better utilized? While not claiming an orthodox interpretation, we do suggest that three crucial principles should underpin any engagement with t Bernstein’s theory for educational research. First, the researcher’s encounter with a specific problem in empirical reality is pivotal. Concepts which carry sociological sensibilities should be assembled around the problem. Second, while Bernstein has developed a bewildering array of concepts, it is better to use them lightly, for the sake of a more accurate description of complex, open, dynamic social systems such as education and schooling. Third, the gaze of Bernstein’s sociological theory is relational not only towards the object of inquiry but also to other theoretical frameworks. This relational gaze means that the theory can be used to dialogue with other theories as well as open dynamic social systems. Such relational capacities enable the theory to grow through the refinement and extension of existing concepts and the introduction of additional concepts. Three examples of research drawing upon these principles are provided as an illustration.

Article

Critical Literacy  

Vivian Maria Vasquez

Changing student demographics, globalization, and flows of people resulting in classrooms where students have variable linguistic repertoire, in combination with new technologies, has resulted in new definitions of what it means to be literate and how to teach literacy. Today, more than ever, we need frameworks for literacy teaching and learning that can withstand such shifting conditions across time, space, place, and circumstance, and thrive in challenging conditions. Critical literacy is a theoretical and practical framework that can readily take on such challenges creating spaces for literacy work that can contribute to creating a more critically informed and just world. It begins with the roots of critical literacy and the Frankfurt School from the 1920s along with the work of Paulo Freire in the late 1940s (McLaren, 1999; Morrell, 2008) and ends with new directions in the field of critical literacy including finding new ways to engage with multimodalities and new technologies, engaging with spatiality- and place-based pedagogies, and working across the curriculum in the content areas in multilingual settings. Theoretical orientations and critical literacy practices are used around the globe along with models that have been adopted in various state jurisdictions such as Ontario, in Canada, and Queensland, in Australia.