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Academic Literacy Practices in the Context of High-Stakes School Reform: An SFL Perspective Dr. Meg Gebhard with the ACCELA Alliance University of Massachusetts.

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Presentation on theme: "Academic Literacy Practices in the Context of High-Stakes School Reform: An SFL Perspective Dr. Meg Gebhard with the ACCELA Alliance University of Massachusetts."— Presentation transcript:

1 Academic Literacy Practices in the Context of High-Stakes School Reform: An SFL Perspective Dr. Meg Gebhard with the ACCELA Alliance University of Massachusetts Amherst TESOL, 2009 Denver, Colorado

2 Academic literacy and high-stakes school reform in the United States Demographic changes Policy shifts aimed at standardization and accountability –No Child Left Behind legislation High-stakes testing practices State curriculum frameworks Mandated textbooks and scripted instructional practices –English-only mandates in many states New demands on all teachers and teacher educators, not just ESL teachers and teacher educators in TESOL and Applied Linguistics

3 New questions: How can teachers support all students in using disciplinary language (and passing mandated high-stakes exams), but do so in ways that maintain spaces for reading and writing about topics students and local communities care about? How can teachers and researchers track changes in students’ academic literacy practices over time in ways that inform instruction and equitable school reform?

4 ACCELA UMass/urban district partnership designed to support professional development of stakeholders engaged in critical educational reform –Federally funded (Title I and II) –Courses offered on-site in the districts –Courses are inquiry-based and research driven Bachelor’s Degree of General Studies for 20 bilingual paraprofessionals (Theresa Austin) Master’s Degree and State ESL/Reading License for 65 teachers (Jerri Willett & Meg Gebhard) Fellowships for 15 school- and district-level administrators working with ACCELA teachers (Pat Paugh) Fellowships for 15 doctoral students who work with ACCELA participants and UMass faculty in designing and conducting longitudinal case studies of classroom literacy practices See http://www.umass.edu/accela/ for referenceshttp://www.umass.edu/accela/

5 Jennie’s 4th grade Ethnographic study of literacy practices in Amy’s fourth-grade class City: “Milltown” –Former industrial midsize city in New England “Parker Elementary School” –441 students in grades K-5 –Nearly all eligible for free or reduced lunch –Nearly all Latino –Nearly half report their home language is not English –Nearly all struggle to pass the state’s high-stakes exams in a language they are still acquiring 44% of students “failed” and 46% scored “needs improvement” on the English Language Arts state exam

6 Focus teacher: Amy –ACCELA courses completed prior to the case study Practitioner Research Principles of Second Language Acquisition Supporting L1 and L2 Literacy Development Spanish for Educators (I and II) –Completed during the case study year Teaching Content for Language Development Multicultural Education with a Focus on Puerto Rican Children’s Literature Systemic Functional Linguistics –Completed after the case study year Language Assessment Language Development and Reading Diagnosing Reading Difficulties ELL Practicum Consulting Teacher of Reading Reading Practicum (optional) Focus student: “Eloy” –Reports speaking only Spanish at home –Received bilingual instruction in grades K-3 –“Mainstreamed” for grade 4 as a result of English-only mandate

7 Data: Samples of Eloy’s narratives in October and May

8 ACCELA’s conceptual framework Based on Halliday and the work of Australian educational linguists: –Halliday; Christie; Cope & Kalatzis; Derewianka; Gibbons;Hasan & Williams; Kress; Luke; Martin; Thompson (see Hyland, 2003; Schleppegrell, 2004, review) Focuses on analyzing the linguistic choices that ELLs learn to use to accomplish cognitive, academic, social, and political work in and out of schools: –Not drill and practice in decontextualized rules of “correctness” –Not “natural development” that will happen in due course, but a function of socialization into communities of practice Heightens awareness of the array of complex contexts in which ELLs participate in and out school and the types of linguistic choices they need to make to: –Enact relationships with peers, family members, and teachers (interpersonal function of language) –Construct everyday and school knowledge (ideational function of language) –Communicate through face-to-face, computer-mediated, and print modes (textual function of language).

9 ACCELA’s conceptual framework Analyze high-stakes disciplinary genres that ELLs are expected to read and write in school: –narrating an event, providing definition, writing description, describing a process, providing an explanation, making an argument or critique Focus on linguistic choices that operate at the phonological, word, clause, and organizational levels in students’ texts and reflect the degree to which students have been socialized into and wish to align themselves with valued ways of knowing and being in school –Differences are even greater and more significance as students are required to read and write about unfamiliar topics using technical language and drawing upon meaning-making resources that differ from the language practices used at home or valued by their peers Support students in becoming meta-linguistically and politically aware of the differences between everyday and content-based language practices and support teachers in critically apprenticing students to using academic language to accomplish academic, social, and political work in schools

10 Competing ideologies regarding the schooling of ELLs in the U.S. Context(s) of culture/Disciplinary, grade-level genre practices Context(s) of situation/Register expectations regarding disciplinary literacy practices in local contexts Text/Context dynamics shaping Amy’s teaching and Eloy’s writing Student’s textual practices

11 Findings: Changes in Amy’s teaching practices A movement away from “ventriloquating” the voices of the authors of the teacher’s manual to authoring her own curriculum and instruction (Bakhtin, 1981, p.299) A greater ability to negotiate state and federal policies by adapting mandated curriculum to meet the needs of local ELLs –A greater use of Puerto Rican children’s literature (e.g., My Name is Maria Isabel, Grandma’s Records) –Writing projects designed for wider and more specific purposes and audiences A greater understanding of the genre and register features of written narratives and of SFL pedagogy (e.g., explicitly teaching ELLs to notice and appropriate the genre and register features used by more expert Puerto Rican authors; greater use of scaffolding techniques) –“Kids CAN analyze text”

12 Changes in Eloy’s texts Produced narratives for a broader range of functions –To comply with institutional demands, to please Amy and his mother, to entertain himself, to compete with and gain recognition from male peers Produced narratives to enact a broader range of relationships and roles within and outside of the classroom –Good student, competent writer, entertainer Exhibited greater use of words and phrases to signal specific genre moves found in written narratives (e.g., use of lexical items and phrases that signal the orientation, sequence of events, resolution, and coda) –Greater Use of “temporal connectives” to communicate the sequences of events (e.g., one day, next, then, suddenly, in the end) –Use of “logical connectives” to express the purposes, causes, or effects of actions (e.g., because, although, so)

13 Changes in Eloy’s texts Texts shifted from an oral to written register –Fewer clauses initiated with “and” –Use of “and” as a conjunction –Greater use of narrative past –Greater and more varied use of punctuation marks (e.g., periods, exclamation marks, quotation marks) to support readers in pausing between clauses and reading with intonation –Predominance of declarative S V O sentence pattern, but a greater use of adjectival and adverbial clauses –Fewer unconventional spellings

14 Implications Potential of SFL in the United States to support the praxis of teacher education, critical literacy research, and critical school reform The praxis of documenting and analyzing transformations in teaching practices and transformations in students’ textual practices The praxis of engaging in sustained, collaborative research and professional development with urban classroom teachers to support critical school reform K-12 teacher education and SFL Brisk (Boston College); de Oliveira (Purdue), Harman (University of Georgia); Ramirez (Rhode Island College); Shin (SUNY Brockport)


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