The dynamics of literacy lessons an introduction to In Teachers' Hands: effective literacy teaching practices in the early years of schooling.Some decades ago, the daily work of teachers in classrooms was almost the last topic any serious, self-respecting educational researcher would elect to pursue. Effort and resources were channelled largely into curriculum development, demographics, leadership training, and assessment and testing. Input-output studies showed how strongly (or otherwise) these facets of the educational effort were inter-related, and the mundane realities of the classroom remained the black box in the network--either everybody knew about classroom activity so primordially that its documentation was regarded as banal or indulgent, or no theoretical or methodological apparatus available at the time could or would want to do justice to its arcane messiness.
That time has passed and for some years now teachers have become accustomed to requests that they allow themselves to be wired for sound and watched intently from the back of the room, their every move laid open to a fastidious fas·tid·i·ous
1. Possessing or displaying careful, meticulous attention to detail.
2. Difficult to please; exacting.
3. Having complex nutritional requirements. Used of microorganisms. scrutiny that would once have been the stuff of professional nightmare. Some teachers I have worked with over the years who took my advice and taped their lessons to play back in the car on their way home have written to me explaining that they gave this up out of respect for the safety of their fellow motorists.
But the title of this study of teachers' daily work, In Teachers' Hands: Effective Literacy Teaching Practices in the Early Years of Schooling, indicates how centrally the work of teachers has come to be viewed in educational theory and research and how intricate and valuable is its documentation. Louden and colleagues make good on the claim that classroom life, familiar though it may feel, is indeed so rich and consequential that it warrants sophisticated combinations of quantitative and qualitative approaches, and a mix of close attention to detail and to the sweep of statistical patterns.
By way of briefly introducing the piece I highlight points that I believe are central to the significance of the project: the importance of non-cognitive features of early education, and an appreciation of classroom teaching and learning as social-phenomena-in-motion rather than as static blocks of 'good' or 'bad' practice.
Arising from his encyclopaedic Adj. 1. encyclopaedic - broad in scope or content; "encyclopedic knowledge"
comprehensive - including all or everything; "comprehensive coverage"; "a comprehensive history of the revolution"; "a comprehensive survey"; "a comprehensive education" overview of the economic aspects of human skills formation, Nobel Prize Nobel Prize, award given for outstanding achievement in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, peace, or literature. The awards were established by the will of Alfred Nobel, who left a fund to provide annual prizes in the five areas listed above. winning economist James Heckman James Joseph "Jim" Heckman (born April 19, 1944) is an economist at the University of Chicago. He shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2000 with Daniel McFadden for his pioneering work in econometrics and microeconomics. made the following observation:
Current policies regarding education and job training are based in fundamental misconceptions about the way socially useful skills embodied in persons are produced ... they exclude the critical importance of social skills, social adaptability and motivation ... caus[ing] a serious bias in the evaluation of many human capital interventions. (Heckman, 2000, p. 2)
Much of Heckman's work (e.g., 2005) has led him to the conclusion that investment in very young children is crucial in large part because of the effects of such educational work on the non-cognitive aspects of human learning. Literacy is a particularly key area of learning for Heckman, being a 'skill that begets many other skills' (an index of 'self-productivity', as he calls it, because it is a key part of our capacity to increase our capacity), and the non-cognitive, social aspects of learning literacy are a point of focus. One notable feature of the study reported here is its attention to non-cognitive aspects of this learning. Teacher variables that inform the research include participation, support, differentiation and respect, a much richer framing of the issue than we have witnessed in more conventional curricular or psychological studies of classrooms. Communication skills, especially those associated with literacy in its varied forms, have been shown to be critical for individuals' long-term life pathways: cultural cohesion, economic productivity, and short- and long-term employment; failure has been directly associated with the acceleration of inter-generational exclusion and alienation (Brine brine
a salt solution used in the curing of meat. Standard ingredients are sodium chloride (15 to 30%) and sodium nitrate (0.15 to 1.50%) but many other ingredients may be added for special effects.
see artemia. , 2001; Bynner & Parsons, 2001). The argument is that the social aspects of early education are not just about facilitating students' learning then and there, smoothing and motivating the consolidation of cognitive capacities of, in our case, literacy. Rather, a strong case could be made for reversing the salience sa·li·ence also sa·li·en·cy
n. pl. sa·li·en·ces also sa·li·en·cies
1. The quality or condition of being salient.
2. A pronounced feature or part; a highlight.
Noun 1. of these: that literacy may be a useful delivery vehicle, but the learnings that will grip, sustain, and inform the course of life pathways will relate to flexibility, adaptability, confidence, collaboration, and so on.
A second point for discussion arises from the current study's important conclusions about the importance of breadth of teaching repertoire. Much research on teacher effectiveness has a 'factory-machine' feeling to it--looking for the right construct or package to install. Even when students' diverse needs are recognised there is nonetheless a sense that it is merely different bits of machinery that are called for. When a teacher engages a pedagogy--in the terms of this report, brings an activity to life with a set of practices--the teacher is settling, however consciously or explicitly, on a particular compromise, one that goes at least some way to balancing a number of imperatives: managing the props and students' bodies and attention, 'delivering' the syllabus, allowing for self-expression, protecting all individuals physically and emotionally, catering to individual differences, monitoring learning and achievement, motivating students to learn, and all the rest. Effective teachers may well be those that have at their disposal a variety of ways of performing this balancing act (Fraatz's 'tight-rope walk', 1987). But they may further appreciate that it is the movement back and forth between and among activities and practices that adds texture and portability to learning, the import and export of new ideas about reading and writing back and forth, and the recontextualising and reconfiguring that these movements offer students. This leads us to thinking not only about the variety of activities and practices we see in a teacher's repertoire, but also about the sequencing of transitions between these elements, and the explicitness with which the new knowledge is shown to be portable, flexible and transferable. Here we can begin to ask questions about the repertoire that address the purposefulness of its various deployments and sequences, and that can lead us as researchers to document whole 'units' or 'terms' of planning as our basic units of analysis, rather than lessons or fragments. Thinking like this about teaching repertoire might suggest that it is what teachers can do when the knowledge and repertoire are 'in their hands', and that it is the artfulness art·ful
1. Exhibiting art or skill: "The furniture is an artful blend of antiques and reproductions" Michael W. Robbins.
2. of the dynamics that really reveals their professional sophistication so·phis·ti·cate
v. so·phis·ti·cat·ed, so·phis·ti·cat·ing, so·phis·ti·cates
1. To cause to become less natural, especially to make less naive and more worldly.
A study as multi-faceted as the one reported here opens questions such as these, but it provides as well much to react to, and against. The magnitude of the sample compared to the magnitude of the conclusions is a good contender for the first point of debate, and the conceptual bases of the selected observational variables will also draw important critical attention. Also, as Anyon (2005) has documented, much that goes on around and about schools matters immensely for those who depend most heavily on schools for their life opportunity structures; but this research reminds us that the understandings and agency of teachers can and should be documented and discussed, on site, where it matters most.
Anyon, J. (2005). Radical Possibilities: Public Policy, Urban Education, and a New Social Movement. New York/London: Routledge.
Brine, J. (2001). Education, social exclusion social exclusion
Sociol the failure of society to provide certain people with those rights normally available to its members, such as employment, health care, education, etc. and the supranational Supranational
An international organization, or union, whereby member states transcend national boundaries
or interests to share in the decision-making and vote on issues pertaining to the wider grouping. state. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 5, 119-131.
Bynner, J. & Parsons, S. (2001). Qualifications, basic skills and accelerating social exclusion. Journal of Education and Work, 14, 279-291.
Fraatz, J.M. (1987). The Politics of Reading: Power, Opportunity, and Prospects for Change in America's Public Schools. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Teachers College Press.
Heckman, J.J. (2000). Invest in the Very Young. Working Paper, Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, at www.HarrisSchool.uchicago.edu.
Heckman, J.J. (2005). Lessons from the Technology of Skills Formation. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper #1142, Feb, 2005.
SCHOOL OF EDUCATION, THE UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND The University of Queensland (UQ) is the longest-established university in the state of Queensland, Australia, a member of Australia's Group of Eight, and the Sandstone Universities. It is also a founding member of the international Universitas 21 organisation.
Peter Freebody is Professor of Education at The University of Queensland. His research and teaching interests are literacy education, classroom interaction and quantitative and qualitative research Qualitative research
Traditional analysis of firm-specific prospects for future earnings. It may be based on data collected by the analysts, there is no formal quantitative framework used to generate projections. methods. His recent books include Schooling the Child: The Making of Students in Classrooms (Routledge-Falmer, with Austin and Dwyer), Qualitative Research in Education: Interaction and Practice (Sage), Australian Literacies: Informing National Policy on Literacy Education (Language Australia, with Lo Bianco) and Difference, Silence, and Textual Practice: Studies in Critical Literacy Critical literacy is an instructional approach that advocates the adoption of critical perspectives toward text. Critical literacy encourages readers to actively analyze texts and it offers strategies for uncovering underlying messages. (Hampton, with Muspratt and Luke). He is currently the Academic Advisor to the Queensland Minister of Education and the Arts and an academic consultant on the Le@rning Federation's national online literacy program.