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Grounding Our Teaching in Research

When we ground ourselves in the research of teaching our practice begins to grow.The following excerpts come from an article entitled Grounding Our Teaching in Research: Implications from Research in the Teaching of English, 2009–12 in the July issue of English Journal. The article was written by Jessica A. West and Cheri Williams and features their synthesis of the findings of research published in RTE between 2009 and 2012 to support the professional development of preservice and inservice English educators.

The best teachers never stop being students themselves and, in particular, they are students of their field. Knowing the field of English education is essential to being a strong English educator. We cannot hope to transform the discipline without considering what we presently know, and do not yet know, about the teaching and learning of the English language arts…

As part of our efforts to support the professional development of preservice and inservice English educators, we recently examined current research published in RTE. Our goal was to synthesize the findings of that research to help practitioners develop a clearer “reading” of the current state of the field, which could inform their pedagogy and practice…

We organized the major findings into five categories that reflected the most commonly examined topics: identity, writing pedagogy, new literacies, English language learners, and the teaching of literature.

(These are some of the findings West and Williams explore in each topic. Click on the author links to read the full articles that informed these findings. You will need to use your NCTE member login.)

  • Identity: Classroom literacy activities can engage students in reflection related to their social and cultural position and identity in the world and foster compassion for peers’ unique experiences (Camangian; Wilson and Boatright; Wissman).
  • Writing Pedagogy: The ways in which high school students’ talk about model essays that are used to prepare for high-stakes testing takes on a performative function as the students discuss aspects of the essays that they consider to be most important given the ideological context, and that these comments were often clichés. This finding suggests that teachers need to more consciously look at the use of language in writing instruction and not assume that students hold a shared vocabulary for talking about writing (Samuelson).
  • New Literacies: [Participants in social media are using] multimodal composition forms, such as social networking sites, fan-based sites, video production, and Instant Messenger (IM), to create nontraditional compositions to represent ideas in ways not possible with traditional print-based compositions (Black; Bruce; Buck; Haas and Takayoshi; Roozen).
  • English Language Learners: Knowledge of ELL writers’ extra-textual identities, informed by watching a short video of the writer, affected raters’ assessment of their writing, suggesting that knowledge of and interactions with students are likely powerful influences on classroom teachers’ assessments of students’ voice in their writing (Tardy).
  • The Teaching of Literature: Eurocentric and Anglo-centric literature and texts of US origin dominated the curriculums of both US and Canadian schools and did not equally represent the historical and contemporary backgrounds of the students in the schools (Skerrett).

To be strong English educators, we must be engaged in continuous improvement of our craft. Good teaching is dynamic, as is our profession, and we are responsible for staying abreast of current developments in our field. Being aware of current research findings, such as those presented in this article, and the implications of those findings for one’s pedagogy and practice is essential to learning to teach well and to meeting the needs of our students.