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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.