Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Samoan Students Documenting Their Out-of-School Literacies: An Insider View of Conflicting Values

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Samoan Students Documenting Their Out-of-School Literacies: An Insider View of Conflicting Values

Article excerpt

Literacy as social practice

Studies of literacy as social practice emphasise individuals' interactions with other people in their communities of practice (Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Heath, 1983; Street, 1984). Learning is situated in different educative sites and mediated by different teachers. The settings and relationships reveal the significance of the identities that people construct as they operate in different sites each of which may have its own values.

Teachers need to be aware of how the curricula, values and literacy practices may be different in the various sites. These sites represent what Wenger (2006) describes as 'communities of practice', which include people's homes, work, school and other places with communities that each have their own values and requirements. As students are involved in different practices it can mean that the individual student may have to reconcile the differing values of the sites. Wenger gives the example of different communities requiring different responses for the same circumstances and what is acceptable in one community may be 'inappropriate, incomprehensible, or even offensive in another community' (p. 160). Knowledge of these differences is particularly useful to teachers because it helps them to understand how their students are finding their pathway through two (or more) cultures to make their own way in the world. In this study culture is interpreted as 'the way of life of a discrete group of people, including its body of accumulated knowledge and understandings, skills, beliefs and values' (Thaman, 1993, p. 249).

By building on students' out-of-school literacies, teachers can make effective connections to school literacy and thus improve learning for these students. This can be achieved through what McNaughton (2002) describes as 'incorporation' (p. 27) when the class program incorporates features in which the student has developed expertise in out-of-school settings. Students come to school with 'funds-of-knowledge' which include social and cultural resources from their home settings. Teacher awareness of these helps them to 'formulate a pedagogy that is specific to their situations and that builds strategically on the social relations and cultural resources of their school's community' (Moll & Gonzalez, 2004, p. 702).

The theoretical framework for this study using Cremin (1976) and Rogoff (1995) is consistent with the view of literacy as social and cultural practice. Cremin asserts that education takes place in many institutions in different sites which do not exist in isolation from each other but which operate in configurations. Sites in a configuration may have mutually supportive values and pedagogies but at times they differ--Cremin describes this as conflict, an interpretation that is used in this paper. The framework reveals the students' sites and uses for literacy as well as the teachers and curriculum of the sites. This informs teachers' understanding of how their students' learning is mediated and how students negotiate their individual pathways between cultures. The study incorporates a sociocultural perspective (Vygotsky, 1978) which considers that literacy is always embedded within social and cultural practices and has different meanings for different groups of people in society.

Knowledge of the sites and the interpersonal and community planes in particular can reveal how learners are apprenticed into the values and practices of those sites where there may be issues of conflict. Literacy practices are linked to identity (Pahl & Rowsell, 2005), and awareness of identity and knowledge of the multiple identities of learners adds to our understanding as learners are viewed through Rogoff's planes of analysis. For example, their uses of popular culture and its associated conflicting and consonant relationships within the configuration of sites illustrate the complexity of the paths they choose.

Cultural impact

The issue of out-of-school literacies becomes even more complex as well as compelling for immigrant and cultural groups that differ from that of the mainstream or dominant school culture. …

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