Research in the Teaching of English
RTE is the flagship research journal of NCTE.
Research in the Teaching of English
Vol. 53, No. 4, May 2019
Gerald Campano, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Amy Stornaiuolo, and Emily Rose Schwab
Vaughn W. M. Watson and Alecia Beymer
We analyze the interplay of youth enacting multiliteracies across three contexts of spaces and places: youths’ journal writing; the social and physical setting of Community Music School, where the after-school Verses Project took place; and the social and geographical setting of the city of Detroit. We construct a framework built on theoretical perspectives situating youths’ multiliteracies activities as social practices. Participants were emboldened to draw upon their pasts toward present and future action-taking, by writing across a genre we call praisesongs of place. Our data sources included observations, ethnographic field notes, curriculum-planning meeting notes, transcribed focus-group interviews, researcher memos, and multimodal artifacts including participants’ songs and writing notebooks. Our analysis involved contextualizing youths’ community-based multiliteracies practices as extending meanings of spaces and places across two themes inviting contemporary meanings of praisesongs of place: youth constructing tributes to their city, and youth envisioning strengths in communities. Our findings support English teachers and others in designing curriculum and teaching practices toward the ongoing work of envisioning teaching and learning as extending within and beyond classrooms.
Michele Eodice, Anne Ellen Geller, and Neal Lerner
In our research study, the Meaningful Writing Project, over one third of our 707 respondents indicated that a writing project was meaningful when they were able to make what we describe as a personal connection. Based on analysis of this subset of responses, we offer a student-driven construct of what makes writing meaningful to undergraduates: Meaningful writing assignments allow students to make and extend personal connections to their experiences or histories, their social relationships, and/or subjects and topics for writing. We agree with other researchers that writing instruction in higher education has been dominated by assignment of transactional tasks in service to the mastery of academic discourse. We suggest embracing an orientation to student writing and the processes of writing that would truly capitalize on the experiences, beliefs, and aspirations students bring to their learning. By valuing the personal connections students make through writing, and designing instruction that makes such connections possible, we can engage an expansive frame for learning and writing that invites and sustains undergraduate students’ agency and identity in higher education.
Not enough is known about whether and how English teachers learn from and apply their professional development (PD). Yet, pressed to improve student writing performance and inadequately prepared, English teachers rely on literacy PD to improve the quality of their writing instruction. Disciplinary literacy scholars promote apprenticeship as an effective instructional model for teacher learning. PD scholars endorse elements of effective PD design. Viewed from teachers’ perspectives, this study illuminates why those positions are insufficient. It showcases the complicated experiences of two urban high school English teachers who participated in Reading Apprenticeship, a well established disciplinary literacy PD program. Taking an interactional ethnographic approach, it describes how their PD interactions opened and foreclosed opportunities to apply their learning. Though they both encountered conceptual conflicts they had to reconcile in order to adapt their learning for their classroom contexts, one was successful and the other unsuccessful. The teacher whose frameworks for teaching and writing aligned with those she encountered during PD was able to effectively resolve her conflicts and improve her writing instruction. Without alignment, the other teacher could not resolve conflicts and adapt what she learned; what she took back to her classroom did not improve her writing instruction. This study highlights the importance of including support for framework conflict negotiation in the design and facilitation of PD, and of future research that studies how these efforts might yield writing-specific frameworks that aid teachers in applying their learning in diverse classroom and school contexts.
Scholars have for many years presented increasingly convincing and cogent calls for expanded discussions of what post-structural literacy development looks like and does in the classroom. Indeed, in the contexts in which literacy learning takes place, an understanding of the multiple ways learners engage with language arts—approaches that recognize multiplicity and openness to the assembled worlds of learners—is required. In this article, I map the emergence of a classroom-based research project in which a critical posthuman assemblage approach to language arts pedagogy was engaged. With its recognition of the material-discursive configuration of learning spaces—that is, the entanglement of bodies, events, practices, and objects—an assemblage approach to language arts seeks to provide students with opportunities to engage in imaginative, critical, and sustainable practices of literacy. This particular project involved fifth-grade students with practices of comedic composing. In this case study, I focus on one particular child, 10-year old Almina, and her small-group composing assemblage within the unfolding comedy project. Findings from the study demonstrate ways intra-actions of the human and more-than-human in Almina’s literacy learning assemblage provided new openings for her to engage with matters of ethics and experience transformation in her composing of social commentary. Studies such as this may hold great potential for (re)producing language arts pedagogies.
Essays by Jill M. Hermann-Wilmarth and Caitlin L. Ryan; Timothy San Pedro; and Jen Scott Curwood
In this issue’s In Dialogue, our featured contributors reflect on what it means to do ethical literacy research. Each author explores ethics as defined not just by traditional, institutional standards, but by standards informed by their specific contexts and broader definitions of justice. Together, these pieces provide direction for any researcher concerned with producing work that nourishes communities beyond research institutions. We begin with an interrogation by Jill M. Hermann-Wilmarth and Caitlin L. Ryan of what “risk” entails when conducting research in pursuit of justice for LGBTQ youth and communities. Timothy San Pedro continues the conversation with a call to reframe the roles of researcher and participant, highlighting the possibilities of seeing participants as partners in all aspects of research. We end with Jen Scott Curwood, who offers essential questions for researchers collecting data from online forums.
María Paula Ghiso, Rob Simon, and Cristina Guerrero