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E801: Action 1.6: Socio cultural and new literacy perspectives

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Action 1.6: Literacy difficulties: socio-cultural and new literacy perspectives

  • Ways in which issues raised by these authors highlight barriers to literacy acquisition which you encounter in your own professional contexts

I have encountered quite a lot of work based on Vygotsky's ideas. I am especially interested in Engeström's work on contradictions and how these stimulate major advances in learning. After reading this paper I was in total agreement with Green & Kosogriz's ideas but I am having problems trying to work out how to apply them in practice. I home educated my three children and it was relatively easy to personalise approaches to learning, treat them as individuals and value their previous experiences. I encouraged their learning to extend their zone of proximal development and this was so easy with the knowledge I had of their lives and learning. My daughter was deaf and I knew her experiences intimately so I knew when I had to explain words when she had not encountered the concept before. I cannot work out how this is possible with a group of 35-40 in my colleague's reception class.

Regarding LD as deviations from a norm - this struck a chord with me - models are useful to formulate generalised teaching plans but surely we should be moving away from 'one size fits all' teaching to inclusive teaching. It reminded me of Sfard's comments on using metaphors for learning:

'A metaphor that has been given hegemony serves as an exclusive basis for deciding what should count as "normal" and what is "anomolous"...'

Sfard, A. (1998) 'On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one', Educational Researcher, vol.27, no.2, pp.4-13.

I have been doing some notetaking for a student who has been studying how language sustains attitude to gender and I could see many similarities. Our language sets a standard for what we believe and how we act and we need to be aware of this when designing course material.

  • What the implications are of a socio-cultural view of literacy difficulties for the ways we think about pedagogy and practice

Regarding literacy as a practice that is embedded in social and cultural life, results in a complete change of ideas as how to approach teaching and learning. As social and cultural practices vary, so do literacies. We cannot discuss a single literacy and so we have to abandon the idea of a 'norm' with which to compare learners and also abandon the idea of a single strategy for teaching reading. Each learner requires strategies that fit with their social and cultural situation and these strategies should be implemented within their community or social network.

The community provides the scaffolding needed to site the literacy skills. People require different skills depending on their social life and culture. The skills are much easier to achieve when motivation is high and this motivation can be achieved when the literacy tasks are relevant to a person's life.


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