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Monday, July 30, 2012

No success like failure 



Over the last fifteen years literacy education has been marked by two contradictory influences. On the one hand attempts to conceptualise significant social changes have led to an opening out of what we mean when we refer to literacy and literate behaviour, and on the other attempts to implement wide-reaching education reforms based upon simple and measurable pupil performance have led to a narrowing down of what constitutes schooled literacy. Of the first, the work of educational theorists and researchers with a sociolinguistic orientation has been particularly significant, whereas in the second the influence of neo-liberal politicians has been notable and often notorious. At its most extreme the former move has led some to question whether literacy itself might have ceased to become a useful term to describe sophisticated acts of meaning-making, as its boundaries with other semiotic practices begin to fray, whereas the latter may have reached its apogee in the idea that pupil progress can be successfully measured by a ‘non-word’ reading test administered to children at the end of their first year of compulsory schooling. There has, of course, been much useful negotiation between these two extremes, witnessed in the accounts of creative and innovative teachers and close studies of the literacy practices of children and young people. But such discrepancies in the ways in which we see literate students throw definitions of success and failure into disarray......

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