2.3 Drawing on research to offer an integrated approach to literacy pedagogy

Increasingly, researchers are seeking to offer an approach to pedagogy which draws on understandings that have emerged from the broad range of literacy research. A key interest is to develop an approach which enables both student induction into, and critical awareness of, the literacy practices associated with formal education. This position is illustrated in the context of secondary schooling in the work of David Wray (2001) which is summarised in Table 1.

Activity 3 A map of literacy requirements

Timing: Allow about 2 hours

Look at the framework in Table 1 constructed by David Wray drawing on the work of Freebody and Luke (1990). The table reflects an attempt to outline the ways in which the literacy requirements of several school subject areas can be taught (see, e.g., ‘code-breaking’, ‘meaning-making’ and ‘text-using’) while also teaching critical analysis of texts (see ‘text-analysing’).

As you look at Wray’s framework, consider the following:

  1. To what extent do you think Wray’s mapping of literacy requirements of three areas of the school curriculum alongside critical analysis is successful?
  2. If you have relevant experience of teaching English or the other subjects mentioned, try to match each example with an activity you have actually carried out with a class. Does this give you any insights into your own views of the nature of literacy development, or how it may best be encouraged?
  3. If you are familiar with any literacy programme – for example the UK National Literacy Strategy which Wray mentions in the table – consider the ways in which Wray’s framework reflects the programme’s stated goals.

Table 1 Literacy requirements in English, mathematics and science

We return to the question of ‘critical literacy’ in section 3. For the moment we wish simply to emphasise that many teachers and researchers are aiming to find a way of teaching the established conventions of language and literacy required by formal schooling, whilst allowing a space for critiquing them. In addition, researchers and teachers are seeking ways in which to combine what have often been construed as distinct teaching methods: for example developing the ‘whole language’ approach advocated by Goodman and Goodman (1979), where immersion in real communication activities is emphasised, alongside the explicit focusing on features of language.

The New London Group of researchers (so-called because the ideas generated by the group emerged after a week-long meeting in the town of New London, New Hampshire, USA), also sometimes referred to as The Multiliteracies Project, have emphasised four elements which they consider to be essential for a meaningful literacy programme for the future. In many ways, these elements amount to a framework for teaching literacy which integrates pedagogical approaches which have previously been construed as distinct. These elements are outlined in Table 2.

Table 2 A theory of literacy pedagogy

Situated Practice Students being immersed in a range of literacy practices
Overt Instruction Students being taught explicit and systematic ways of analysing texts
Critical Framing Examining critically the texts they are reading / writing / designing
Transformed Practice Development of new ways of meaning or ‘designs’
Based on New London Group, 2000, p.35

As the headings indicate, this approach involves students learning how to ‘do’ particular ways with language and literacy, learning how to identify the particular features which constitute these ways of doing, and, finally, learning how to engage in a critique of language and literacy in order to construct or ‘design’ new ways of meaning. The notion of ‘design’ is central to the work of the New London Group, and will be discussed in section 4.

2.2.4 Literacy, diversity and access

2.4 The discourses of literacy