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Multi-disciplinary Approaches to Literacy: Models, Correlations and Causality Bryan Maddox, School of Development Studies, UEA.

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Presentation on theme: "Multi-disciplinary Approaches to Literacy: Models, Correlations and Causality Bryan Maddox, School of Development Studies, UEA."— Presentation transcript:

1 Multi-disciplinary Approaches to Literacy: Models, Correlations and Causality Bryan Maddox, School of Development Studies, UEA.

2 The Language of Causality The law of causality, I believe, is a relic of bygone age, surviving like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harmThe law of causality, I believe, is a relic of bygone age, surviving like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm (Bertrand Russell, cited in Pearl, The Art and Science of Cause and Effect 2000:337)

3 Spurious Correlations the definitive result of these researches on the instruction of prisoners reveals that 67 out of 100 are able neither to read or write. What stronger proof could there be that ignorance, like idleness, is the mother of all vices? (Porter 1986:28, citing Taillandier 1928).the definitive result of these researches on the instruction of prisoners reveals that 67 out of 100 are able neither to read or write. What stronger proof could there be that ignorance, like idleness, is the mother of all vices? (Porter 1986:28, citing Taillandier 1928).

4 Unpacking Causality … choosing a topic to investigate means not only that one runs the danger of inflating its importance but, worse, of being seen as believing that human affairs are determined by a single factor. Some writers even appear to assume that what is meant by causal relations are those determined in this way – that is, situations that have one cause, everywhere, all the time (Goody 1986: xv).

5 Barton and Hamilton (2000) on Literacy Practices Literacy is best understood as a set of social practices; these can be inferred from events which are mediated by written texts. Literacy is best understood as a set of social practices; these can be inferred from events which are mediated by written texts. There are different literacies associated with different domains of life. There are different literacies associated with different domains of life. Literacy practices are patterned by social institutions and power relationships, and some literacies are more dominant visible and influential than others. Literacy practices are patterned by social institutions and power relationships, and some literacies are more dominant visible and influential than others.

6 Literacy practices are purposeful and embedded in broader social goals and cultural practices. Literacy practices are purposeful and embedded in broader social goals and cultural practices. Literacy is historically situated. Literacy is historically situated. Literacy practices change and new ones are frequently acquired though processes of informal learning and sense making. Literacy practices change and new ones are frequently acquired though processes of informal learning and sense making. Barton and Hamilton, in Barton, Hamilton and Ivanic (eds) Situated Literacies: Reading and Writing in Context (2000, p8)

7 Ethnography and Causality Current theory, then, tells us that literacy in itself does not promote cognitive advance, social mobility or progress: Literacy practices are specific to the political and ideological context and their consequences vary situationally (Street 1995:24);Current theory, then, tells us that literacy in itself does not promote cognitive advance, social mobility or progress: Literacy practices are specific to the political and ideological context and their consequences vary situationally (Street 1995:24); Social consequences are assumed to follow from literacy, such as modernisation, progress and economic rationality to name a few. Recent research, however has challenged this autonomous view (Street 1996:2). Social consequences are assumed to follow from literacy, such as modernisation, progress and economic rationality to name a few. Recent research, however has challenged this autonomous view (Street 1996:2).

8 Models of Literacy Use: Basu, Foster and Subramanian (2000)..The government circulates an order intimating the availability of social assistance to physically handicapped people, widows and accident victims. Agricultural extension workers disseminate printed information on new technology relating to irrigation and high yielding crop varieties, Leaflets are distributed by a non-governmental organisation voluntary agency advising rural people of their specific rights to information.

9 The village money lender doctors the statements of his borrowers liabilities to his own advantage. The public health office puts out a simple printed bulletin on the advantages of oral rehydration. In every one of these cases, an illiterate person is poorly placed in the matter of availing himself of useful information, or resisting misinformation From Basu, Foster and Subramanian (2000).Isolated and Proximate Illiteracy. Economic and Political Weekly. Vol. 35, January 8-14,

10 Factors and Variables a) Types of Literacy Practices: How do people use literacy in particular contexts, the roles that such practices have within institutions and practices, and the approaches that people adopt in engaging with such practices b) Identity and Categories of Person: How do peoples identities, or categories of person influences their access to literacy skills and practices, and the types of literacy practices and literacies that they engage ? c) Literacy Values: How do systems of value influence peoples access and uses of literacy and influence peoples view about what counts, and doesnt count as literacy?

11 Causality Model 1. Direct Instrumental Causality: Where a persons uses of literacy have direct instrumental benefits (for them, or others who benefit from literacy sharing). Causality Model 2. Indirect Instrumental Causality: Where a persons literacy influences peoples lives, but is not in-itself the direct cause of social gain. Causality Model 3. Impact of Unseen Factors: Where a 3rd factor (omitted variables) influence both peoples access and uses of literacy, and other factors that may be misread as being the direct impact of literacy.

12 THANK YOU Further Correspondence To


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