Monday, November 24, 2008
A question of compliance
I’m beginning to work my way through a modest pile of assignments written by student teachers. What really strikes me is the way in which they negotiate the official literacy practices of higher education, grappling with new concepts and trying to match them up to their own experience of life in and out of school settings. This process reminds me of how Anne Haas Dyson describes the interplay between official and unofficial literacies in her study of young children’s writing; the only difference is that these older students mostly play the game and the unofficial is only subtly signaled or perhaps half-silenced. But also they have to take a stance on another official discourse, that of the school curriculum. And then they have to make some guesses about what level of compliance or critique is expected by their higher education tutors who, after all, hold the power by grading their work. These students grapple with a potentially perplexing set of multiples. The words multimedia, multimodal and multiliteracies (which they easily confuse) often appear in their work, and sometimes these terms interweave with multi-sensory approaches and even multiple intelligences in interesting unorthodox or non-standard ways. Broadly they stick to the idea of 'doing what the documentation says', conferring the power of an imagined common sense on curriculum documents; but occasionally it appears as if they are persuaded to try something different as a result of what they’ve read; but then you can never really be sure that they haven’t just got very good at playing their own official literacy game. I guess to have come this far they are in some sense or another expert at compliance.