This section began with a consideration of two different perspectives on literacy: literacy as cognitive skill or autonomous and literacy as social practice or ideological. Using the PDF articles written by Olson, Street, and Carrington and Luke, we discussed how these two perspectives informed conceptions of the nature and significance of becoming literate, and approaches to literacy education. We then focused in more detail on work emerging from New Literacy Studies, what it means to talk of literacy as a social practice and the cultural capital of literacy. We considered the usefulness or otherwise of the term literacies.
The next readings, by Wallace and by Gregory and Williams, formed the basis for a consideration of the implications of different perspectives on literacy for teaching English as a global language, and for the education of children from diverse social backgrounds in mainstream schools. Wallace argued for the need to teach ‘literate English’ alongside critical literacy. The possibility of a basis for educational practice which attempts to teach the literacy demands of formal institutions of education alongside critical literacy was then considered, looking at the work of Wray in the secondary level classroom and the more general literacy programme outlined by the New London Group project.
We then examined the ways in which literacy is represented in various current discourses, and the implications these might have for researchers. We concluded this section with a focus on ways of researching and analysing written texts and literacy practices and in considering what it means to observe literacy events.