Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Elaborating the Grounding of the Knowledge Base on Language and Learning for Preservice Literacy Teachers

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Elaborating the Grounding of the Knowledge Base on Language and Learning for Preservice Literacy Teachers

Article excerpt

This purpose of this article is to present a qualitative inquiry into the genesis of sociolinguistics and the contributions of eight sociolinguistic pioneers. This inquiry, based on an historical interpretation of events, reformulates the concept of validation as the social construction of a scientific knowledge base, and explicates three themes that offer a set of sociolinguistic constructs, questions, and propositions that can provide aspiring teachers with a frame of reference and set of guidelines for teaching language and literacy. An implication section, at the end of the article, illustrates sociolinguistic components that can be added to course syllabi in the preservice language and literacy curriculum.

Key Words: Knowledge Base, Sociolinguistics, Preservice Literacy Teachers, and Language and Learning

Introduction

During recent decades educational and linguistic researchers have developed empirical and observation procedures for recording actual events, including classroom spoken and written language text. Researchers who set out to represent teaching and learning in discourse dimensions frequently adopt a sociolinguistic framework across multiple disciplines, for the purpose of theoretical analysis of language as cognitive and social phenomena. In Stockwell's (2002) excerpts, from professional published studies between 1993 and 1998, the point is made that the potential scope for constructing a sociolinguistic framework is enormous. Researchers built their frameworks on the following key constructs:

* All language events consist of a piece of language in social context.

* Every different social context determines the particular form of language.

* The language used in particular situations determines the nature of that social event (Stockwell, 2002, p. 1).

Yet despite the potential contributions of sociolinguistics to education, the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, have frequently empowered legislators to frame literacy standards and texts of accountability in narrower rather than broader curricular terms. Current educational undergraduates are introduced to phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics as the basis of systematic and explicit instruction in language and literacy production and comprehension (American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education [AACTE] 2002); National Board for Professional Teaching Standards [NBPTS] 2002). However, this overemphasis on language structure has frequently failed to recognize linguistic diversity and contextual conditions in studies of language and literacy learning (Fillmore & Snow, 2000).

What continues to elude educators is how language structures work together to create a whole discourse or how the facts of language usage may vary in relation to social class, ethnicity, age, gender, and geographic region (Hargreaves, 2005). Strain (2003) continues this line of argument adding,

   Typically teacher education programs tend to spend too much time on
   acquainting teachers and teacher candidates with strategies for
   teaching basics related to literacy development and too little time
   on helping them understand why the strategies they are taught may
   or may not be useful. (p. 34)

Fairclough (1995) warns that such mainstream language study does not provide resources "to develop the capacities of people for language critique" (p. 259). Mainstream language study frames conventions and practices as objects to be described, in a way that obscures their political and ideological investment.

Shirley Brice Heath (2000) posits that to advance future study of language and learning, educators will need to build on the foundation of language research conducted since the 1960s. Strain (2003) would agree, arguing that a foundation built on the understanding of language in the lives of students begins with a disciplinary grounding and thorough understanding of sociocultural perspectives on language and even on thinking itself (cf. …

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