Extended Notions of Subject Literacy
Abstract: The notion of 'literacy' was originally used to designate the ability to read and write, but its meaning was gradually extended. For example, UNESCO used a wider definition and the concept was later redefined by the PISA Consortium (2006, focusing on scientific literacy) to introduce the idea of knowledge use and transfer, of applying it to life situations, trying to solve problems with the help of that knowledge and to influence decision-making processes as an indispensable part of subject competence. This knowledge application is not limited to subject-internal questions and not even to school-related issues, but extends to any future problem in life and any new learning situation. In terms of text and task understanding, it thus includes certain operational aspects like reading between the lines, drawing the necessary inferences or dealing with hidden implications, just like in real life demands.
In 2006 the understanding of (scientific) literacy was once more widened, now also including attitudes, e.g. the readiness to get interested in subject-matter issues and to question positions, to engage critically in the development of a specific field and to follow it life-long: 'Scientific literacy is an evolving combination of the science-related attitudes, skills, and knowledge students need to develop inquiry, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities, to become lifelong learners, and to maintain a sense of wonder about the world around them.' (Canadian definition, based on PISA 2006; cf. OECD, 2007, also PISA-Konsortium Deutschland, 2007).
Thus the modern versions of this concept can be interpreted as a path towards preparing for social participation. In concrete terms, subject literacy is comprised of at least three different levels of competences, namely 1) knowledge (linked to language and epistemological competence), 2) action (in terms of learning competence, procedural, communicative and social competence) and 3) reflection/evaluation (aesthetic and ethical/moral competence). In that perspective, different subject literacies become part of an individual’s identity and can be drawn upon in nourishing what is called “Bildung” of a person: subject literacies and what is acquired alongside with them (e.g. general thinking skills) are the basis for further knowledge building and personal development, they can be linked, applied and used in many different ways (Abraham et al., in preparation).
The specific role of L1 as the dominant language of schooling and as a school subject of its own is to lay the ground for the unfolding of cognitive-linguistic tools needed by each learner (some call this academic language use and proficiency). It also has to foster an understanding of genre(s) and functions, to prepare for varieties in human expression, that is for different types of discourse in speaking and writing and it should support the linguistic as well as mental repertoires needed for dealing with different subject matter in a flexible way. This does not mean simply to serve other purposes only (e.g. those of subject learning and teaching), but indeed to accompany the acquisition and mastery of content in linguistic and cognitive terms. L1 teachers also have an exquisite responsibility in bringing (subject) teachers together and reflecting on or even trying to coordinate the language development of different groups of learners (if possible, as much as possible; cf. Vollmer, 2015).
The generalized notion of subject literacies can help us understand the wide scope of what is meant by 'quality education' and particularly the role of language as a constitutive part of learner identity and of subject competence. Subject literacy is both functional and general, it is a useful concept for describing the broader goals of education and the role of L1, L2 or L3 as well as other language repertoires in it. It means to get acquainted with and feel at home in ways of thinking and communicating within the respective discourse communities, to become members and social participants in them (e.g. as a young physicist, biologist, artist, musician, historian, foreign language expert etc.). But is also means to become more and more secure and autonomous (as life-long learners) as one engages into socio-scientific debates and learns to find one’s own stance in handling public issues (like gene manipulation or other forms of economic dominance, bureaucratic patterns of behavior, misuse of power or money etc.), at least to some extent.
Keywords: Understanding, talking, writing (a) subject; "Science"-related attitudes, skills, forms of communication; Initiation into discourse communities; Supporting role of L1; Socio-scientific engagement (as future citizens); Personal human development.
Abraham, U./Bayrhuber, H./Frederking, V./Jank, W./Rothgangel, M. & Vollmer, H. J. (in preparation). Auf dem Wege zu einer Allgemeinen Fachdidaktik. [Towards a general notion of teaching and learning in subjects]. Münster: Waxmann. To appear.
OECD (2007). PISA 2006. Science Competencies for Tomorrow’s World. Volume 1 & 2. Paris: OECD.
PISA-Konsortium Deutschland (eds.) (2007). PISA 2006. Die Ergebnisse der dritten internationalen Vergleichsstudie. Münster: Waxmann.
Vollmer, H. J. (co-author) (2015). Language Education in all Subjects. A Handbook. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
Stepping into and out of digital spaces - a way of designing new learning environments. (dididi.fi/english)
Abstract: The overall aim of the project Didactical Dimensions in Digital learning is to study, discover and distribute the learning potentials which new and modern digital technology can imply for teaching and methodological development in school, teacher training, research and in-service training. It has a range of subprojects and during the poster presentation we will present some of them. DiDiDi is part of Åbo Akademi University (Finland) and led by professor Ria Heilä-Ylikallio.
Charlotta Hilli’s doctoral thesis is a hermeneutical study of high school students’ perspectives on a distance course in Social studies where a constructivist course design was adopted. Virtual tools such as Second Life, Google+ and Wikibooks were used to support collaborative learning and synchronous dialogue online. Key concepts in Hilli's analysis are self-regulated learning, dialogue and learning through collaborative writing. The aim is to gain deeper understanding about learning and motivation in virtual learning environments.
Sigrid Ekholm is in the early stages of her doctoral thesis with an etnographic research study on changes in learning environments from teachers’ perspective. Her study focuses on teaching processes in general and literacy teaching in particular. Anders Westerlund’s research interest is digital resources in literature education.
Hannah Kaihovirta presents results from a research and development project (2014) where 1/1-touch pads have been embedded in classroom practice as a tool for art based and multimodal learning on students belonging and identity performances in primary school context. The study reveals that 1/1-touch pads as tools in art-based classroom practice generate possibilities for students to work with identity and belonging within several modes simultaneously. The modes are often cohesive and synchronous. This implicates possibilities for students to play with layered expression of identities and belonging instead of linear. This layered learning in school context indicates possible new strategies for multi-literacies in education and curriculum planning in the future.
Keywords: digital learning, collaborative writing, virtual learning environments, literacy teaching, multimodal learning, art based learning
Essayistic elements in the writing in upper secondary school
Abstract: The main purpose of my thesis is to examine different aspects of essay writing in upper secondary school in Finland, by combining theoretical perspectives from comparative literature and writing pedagogy. In the writing culture of the school in general, the essay is a very heterogeneous genre. The aspects I am examining are not the essay as an artistically elaborated form, but the combination of reflection and writing as represented by the tradition from Montaigne.
According to Good (1988) the essay preserves "the process of thinking", thus dealing with the individual’s self-experience. Atkins (2005) similarly sees the essay as "reflection upon experience". In writing pedagogy this perspective primarily corresponds to a cognitive approach. The six discourses of writing that Ivanič (2004) describes are also a helpful instrument in the analysis of the functions of the essay.
The empirical data consists of different kinds of student texts (essays in a broad sense) and textbooks.
The thesis will consist of four articles and a comprehensive summary. The first article will be an analysis of the notion of essay in textbooks; is the essay presented as an object belonging to the history of literature or as a genre with relevance for the students’ own writing? The second examines how students use essayistic elements in describing a picture. A third article analyses how students in the central national Matriculation Examination in history use essayistic strategies when facts first of all should be emphasized. The last article studies how students use the potential of reflection and ambiguity, two central aspects of the essay according to Adorno (1991).
Keywords: writing pedagogy, qualitative text analysis, essay, textbook
Adorno, Theodor W. (1991) Notes to Literature. Vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press.
Atkins, G. Douglas (2005), Tracing the Essay. Through Experience to Truth. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
Good, Graham (1988), The Observing Self. Rediscovering the Essay. London: Routledge.
Ivanič, Roz (2004), Discourses of writing and learning to write. Language and education Vol 18:3 s. 220–245
“School? You go because you have to”. The conceptualization of school in Polish and American Youth Speech: Cognitive and Educational perspectives
Abstract: This project analyzes the unofficial linguistic register of youth speech (a variety of native language, L1) in Poland and the United States as evidenced by online, internet communication with the aim of identifying and comparing the students’ discursive construal of school. This is in part motivated by the results of two recent surveys. In Poland, 73% of students claimed they did not see any sense in school (despite Polish schools being rated best in the European Union and 14th in the world, PISA 2012). This is in sharp contrast to the United States (ranked 24 worldwide by PISA) in which 55% of fifth to twelfth graders identify themselves as actively engaged in school (Gallup, 2014). While neither statistic is particularly positive, the discrepancy between Polish and American students is significant.
According to the Contemporary Theory of Metaphor (CMT) and approaches in Cognitive Linguistics (cf. Lakoff & Johnson 1980, Langacker, 2001, Kövecses, 2000), as well as theories of social linguistics (cf. Grabias 2003, Skudrzyk &Warchala 2012), language can be viewed as an expression of conceptualiztion (Langacker 2008) and metaphors as expressions of conceptual mappings which influence and even guide the way in which we reason about and respond to a wide variety of concepts (Lakoff 1991). Thus, there is reason to expect the metaphoric expressions used by students from the two countries in talking about school to differ in ways that would signal different conceptual mappings.
It is from this theoretical basis that we approach examples of youth speech made available through online blogs and forums and supplemented by online dictionaries of youth slang (cf. Chaciński 2007).
Previous analysis of Polish youth speech in L1 (Wileczek, 2011) has identified conceptual metaphors such as:
SCHOOL IS A BATTLEGROUND,
SCHOOL IS A DEPERSONALIZED PLACE,
SCHOOL IS A CAGE, PRISION,
SCHOOL IS A COMMUNITY OF “COOL” PEOPLE.
These perceptions disqualify school as an educational institution, construing it rather as a place of force. However, school can be a positive experience if taken outside its educational purpose and construed as a social group of amiable classmates and teachers.
There is good reason to believe that comparison of these conceptualizations of school among Polish youth with the ways in which Americans from the same age group describe their experience will not only provide insight into the many ways in which young people can perceive and reason about school, but also may help to understand the discrepancies between the two nations.
Thus, we hope to achieve three main aims: to increase understanding of the ways in which youth view their time in the classroom, to provide a comparative analysis that will shed light on cultural differences in the conceptualization of school and its linguistic expression, and to highlight examples of metaphors that value school and the educational process so that these conceptual mappings can receive more emphasis in both countries.
Keywords: Polish and American Youth Speech;The conceptualization of school; Cognitive metaphor
Chaciński B. (2007). Totalny słownik najmłodszej polszczyzny. Kraków: Znak.
Gallup. (2014, April 10). Not Enough Students Are Success-Ready. (B. Journal, Ed.) Retrieved from www.gallup.com/businessjournal/168242/not-enough-students-success-ready.aspx
Grabias, S. (2003). Język w zachowaniach społecznych. Lublin: UMCS.
Kövecses, Z. (2000). Metaphor and Emotion: Language, Culture, and Body in Human Feeling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lakoff, G. ( 2006). “The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor”. In D. Geeraerts (Ed.), Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 185-238.
Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Langacker, R. W. (2001). “Discourse in Cognitive Grammar”. Cognitive Linguistics, 12(2), pp. 143-188.
PISA 2012. Results in Focus. What 15-year-olds know and what they can do with what they know, [online:], http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results-overview.pdf.
Skudrzyk A. & Warchala J. (2012). Literacy of the Young generation in a diglossing environment. Katowice: US.
Wileczek (2011). „Czy szkoła „zdanża”? Językowy obraz szkoły w socjolekcie młodzieżowym”. In: M. Bajan, S. J. Żurek (ed), Etyka nauczyciela. Lublin: KUL, pp. 153-169.
In search of excellence in literature teaching: Teacher and student perceptions of the qualities of an excellent literature teacher
Abstract: Keywords: teaching standards, professional development, literature teaching
Meta-analyses, for example that by Hattie (2009), reveal that the teacher is the decisive factor in the education process. As a result, teacher quality is high on the political agenda. Since the 1990s, governments all over the world have sought, but with little success, to promote the continuous professional development of teachers and monitor their quality through a register programme based on general teaching standards. Kennedy (2014), Day and Sachs (2004) and many other specialists believe that the failure of governmental regulation is linked to the low level of teacher control and participation. Sachs (2011) advocated a shift away from governmental direction and control of teaching standards towards development and management by the profession itself.
Against this background, we developed domain-specific teaching standards for the teaching of literature in upper secondary school (grades 10-12). To ensure that teachers would be able to identify with the standards, we decided to give them a say in determining which key competences an excellent literature teacher should possess. Six fields of competences in literature teaching that could be measured using reliable scales were identified. There was a moderate to high correlation between all the scales and all correlations are significant (p<.01), indicating that the dimensions are strongly related and are likely to point to an underlying concept of what constitutes an excellent literature teacher.
We agree with Hattie (2009) that teachers need to be aware of the visibility of learning from the student perspective in order to better understand the students’ experience of learning. Therefore, we also investigated the pupil perception of what constitutes an excellent literature teacher. Here we also found six reliable scales which correlated strongly with each other.
The twelve scales correspond to and complement each other. This allows us to develop domain-specific standards for literature teaching. Our eventual goal is to develop a model for teacher-organized professional development. By bringing together individual scores on the standards from across the country, it is possible to identify developmental benchmarks and to gain insight into teacher needs regarding professionalization. Teacher training institutes can use these to tailor their programmes. With this approach, we hope to create new momentum in the professional development of teachers.
Day, C. & Sachs, J. (2004). Professionalism, performativity and empowerment: Discourses in the politics, policies and purposes of continuing professional development. In: C. Day & J. Sachs (eds) (2004). International Handbook on the Continuing Professional Development of Teachers (pp. 3-32). Maidenhead: Open University Press, McCraw-Hill International.
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning. A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-analyses Relating to Achievement. London and New York: Routledge.
Kennedy (2014). Models of Continuing Professional Development: a framework for analysis. Professional Development in Education, 40, 3, 336-351.
Sachs, J. (2011). Accountability, standards and teacher activism: an unholy trinity or the way for the profession to shape the future. Paper presented at the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) Conference. April 18‐20, 2011. Wellington, New Zealand.
IMEN revisited: Comparing Mother Tongue Education in pre-academic education (grades 10-12)
Abstract: Since their foundation in 1983 the IMEN (International Mother Tongue Education Network) carries out international comparative research on mother tongue education (e.g. Herlitz, Ongstad, Van de Ven, 2007). Comparing mother tongue teaching will enable educationalists to break through the limitation imposed on their judgement by national traditions and political interests, to look to their own, familiar, culture-specific mother tongue education system from a distance. This distance is required during the development or revision of the curriculum.
At this time, in the Netherlands, the minister of education started a national debate about the curriculum of the future: #Education 2032. This of course also includes, a new curriculum for mother tongue education. We1) are closely involved in this discussion. Key discussion points include the function of grammar and literature in the curriculum, the need for more Bildung, language awareness, the connection between the school subject and academic discipline, etc. However, our debate and reflections on our experiences hardly crosses the borders of our boundaries.
An international discussion will enable educationalists to consider and evaluate developments and innovations abroad within their cultural and institutional context. An international discussion could create also insight into the interdependence of the teaching of the mother tongue, and in general tendencies. The IAIMTE-website is proposed to monitor on a global scale (ca 1000 words) the debate, contents and variation within the secondary school subject of mother tongue education. In this round table we will discuss a format by which we can describe and compare curricula of the mother tongue for a certain school type. We will start with upper secondary, pre-academic education (grades 10-12 in the Netherlands) and are looking for participants.
Herlitz, W., Ongstadt, S. & Van de Ven, P-H (Eds.) (2007). Research on mother tongue education in a comparative international perspective. Theoretical and methodological issues. Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication 20. Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi B.V.
1) Peter-Arno Coppen (Radboud University, Nijmegen), Kees de Glopper (University of Groningen), Erwin Mantingh (University Utrecht), Jaap van Marle (Open University, Heerlen), Anneke Neijt (Radboud University, Nijmegen), Jan Oosterholt (Open University, Heerlen), Theo Witte (University of Groningen).