Critical Literacy in the Classroom: The Art of the Possible

Critical Literacy in the Classroom: The Art of the Possible

Critical Literacy in the Classroom: The Art of the Possible

Critical Literacy in the Classroom: The Art of the Possible

Synopsis

Morgan investigates how forms of knowledge, and the power they bring, are created in language and taken up by those who use texts, asking how language might be put to more equitable uses, and how texts might be recreated to tell a different story.

Excerpt

[P]ractice, not theory, is the larger notion, . . . while theory and knowledge can help us criticise and develop practice, they must always be criticised finally in terms of practice.

(Warnock 1996: 31)

In much talk about education and educational research a chasm has been created between theory and practice. This book refuses to accept such a binary. Practices - of teaching and learning, reading and listening, writing and speaking - are always already theorised by those who carry them out, even if the theories are of the ‘folk’. And theory is always acts of theorising: a practice of intellectual work.

But books about critical literacy or critical pedagogy have so far had more to say about theory-for-practice (the state of society, the nature of literacy, the institutions and practices of schooling, a vision for another, more just order) than they have about theory-in-practice - the mundane, often muddied interactions among critical literacy teachers and students in schools. Most teachers, however knowledgeable, would be dismayed to be told, for example, that ‘the [all-purpose] teacher must call on recent discussions of discourse analysis to develop a terminology adequate to the complexity of signifying systems’ (Berlin 1993: 264). Much more - or less - is needed than a sophisticated, esoteric terminology. Just how can teaching for learning be effected in critical literacy classrooms?

This book attempts to redress the balance between theory and practice and to address that question. It looks closely at the work of a number of secondary school teachers who aim to implement a critical literacy in their classrooms: at their planning of curricula and the principles that inform it; at the conversations that go on in lessons; and at their framing of assessment tasks and responses to student papers. It follows them in their conversations and those of students, as they engage with the concepts of critical literacy and the issues that arise when these are ‘translated’ into teaching practice. Here is ‘the art of the possible’.

This book is inevitably of its time and place and may be none the worse for that. The place: Australia, in suburban schools. The time: a period when

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