Getting Out of Deficit: Pedagogies of Reconnection

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English Teaching: Practice and Critique December, 2011, Volume 10, Number 4 http://education.waikato.ac.nz/research/files/etpc/files/2011v10n4art1.pdf pp. 5-22

Changing literacies, changing populations, changing places – English teachers’ work in an age of rampant standardisation1 BARBARA COMBER Queensland University of Technology ABSTRACT: School-age populations in many nations are becoming increasingly diverse (in terms of languages, countries of origin, ethnicity, faith traditions and so on) especially in low socio-economic communities where recent arrivals tend to be accommodated. In Australian classrooms, it is not unusual for a single classroom to include children who speak many different languages. Their family trajectories to their current dwellings and lifeworlds may be very different from each other. Catastrophic weather events and other disasters change the very landscapes in which families and teachers work. At the same time, what constitutes literacy continues to evolve as new technologies and communication media enable different forms of meaningmaking. Yet simultaneously, what counts as literacy is increasingly “fixed” by the normative demands of high-stakes, standardised tests. This paper employs Hilary Janks’ (2010) synthesis model of critical literacy to explore some of the risk and possibilities for innovative and equitable pedagogy inherent in this contemporary demographic, policy and practice mix. KEYWORDS: Critical literacy, access, diversity, dominant discourse, equity, pedagogy, design, standardised testing. INTRODUCTION School-age populations in many nations are becoming increasingly diverse (in terms of languages, ethnicity, faith traditions and so on) especially in low socio-economic communities. In Australian classrooms it is not unusual for a single classroom to include children who speak many different languages. Their family trajectories to their current dwellings and lifeworlds may be very different from each other. At the same time what constitutes literacy continues to evolve as new technologies and communication media enable different forms of meaning-making. Yet simultaneously what counts as literacy is increasingly “fixed” by the normative demands of high-stakes, standardised tests. In this paper, I explore some of the risk and possibilities for innovative and equitable pedagogy inherent in this contemporary demographic, policy and practice mix. In 2006, one in five Australians aged 15-75 spoke English as a second language. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: In the 1960s, 45 per cent of all new settler arrivals were born in the United Kingdom and Ireland. By 2006-07, this had fallen to 17 per cent with settlers and long-term

























































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Paper presented to the International Federation of Teachers of English (IFTE) Conference, University of Auckland, April 18-21. Revised and submitted to English Teaching: Practice and Critique, November 2011.

Copyright © 2011, ISSN 1175 8708

B. Comber

Changing literacies, changing populations, changing places

visitors increasing from countries in the Asia Pacific region, Africa and the Middle East. More than 10 per cent of permanent migrants in 2006-07 came from China, and since 1995, more than 200 000 people have come from Africa and the Middle East.2

The 2006 Australian Census indicated that the most commonly spoken languages in Australia are English, Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic, Mandarin and Vietnamese. In the schools where I research, usually low socio-economic communities, these broad population and linguistic trends are evident in most classrooms, especially in the western and northern suburbs of Adelaide, where cheaper housing attracts a range of families, including long-term residents and people who have recently arrived in South Australia. That place affects educational outcomes is a widespread phenomenon internationally as poverty impacts on...
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