By the Writing For Pleasure Centre: a response to the DfE’s Reading Framework – review and implications for teaching writing

We recommend this thoughtful, well resourced blog post by our friends at the Writing for Pleasure Centre. They begin:

“On the 10th of July 2021, the Department for Education published its non-statutory guidance document entitled ‘The reading framework: Teaching the foundations of literacy’. It purports to provide guidance for schools to meet existing expectations for teaching early reading and writing (p.78).

“The mission of The Writing For Pleasure Centre is to help all young people become passionate and successful writers. As a think tank for exploring what world-class writing is and could be, a crucial part of our work is analysing emerging governmental policy. It is therefore important that we issue a response to what this document has to say.

Overall conclusion

“If commercial scheme writers and schools pursue the recommendations made in this policy paper in any kind of serious way, we run the very real risk of developing the most reluctant, listless and unmotivated writers for a generation. While some of the recommendations within the policy paper are welcome, it remains grossly incomplete. We therefore urge anyone interested in developing world-class writing teaching to read the cited research within this review before making any changes to their writing teaching or commercial offerings.”

We hope you might read the remainder of this thought-provoking article if you are interested in literacy education in primary schools.

‘Home language’, ‘Main Language’ or no language: questions and answers about British Sign Language in the 2011 British censuses (Mark Sebba and Graham Turner)

This fascinating paper is in press in the journal Lingua here (the link is valid until August 7th).

Abstract:

The 2011 census in the UK was the first to ask questions about the use of languages other than the indigenous Celtic languages, Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. The resulting broadened inquiry included asking about the use of British Sign Language (BSL), the acknowledged language of the Deaf signing community in Britain. Official and public attitudes surrounding signing – its relationship with spoken/written language; its linguistic ‘validity’; its territoriality or universality; its association with ideologies of disability – are rarely placed on display as they are via the census process. The formulation of questions, their linguistic expression, and the responses elicited may all be seen as indexical of societal positioning.

In the UK, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each conduct their own census, so the question about sign language was differently phrased in each jurisdiction, and placed alongside a different set of questions about other languages. Thus in each questionnaire the sign language question was contextualized differently, and was open to comparison by respondents with the questions about other, more prominent languages including English. Unsurprisingly, this led to different responses to questions which were ostensibly asking about the same thing.

In this paper we describe how the census questionnaire in each jurisdiction asked about respondents’ principal language, and how British Sign Language was positioned in each. A significant difference in the wording of the question – about ‘home language’ in Scotland and ‘main language’ elsewhere – led to a far larger proportion of respondents mentioning BSL in Scotland. We conclude that while the ‘home language’ question produces a more realistic picture of the extent of BSL use, neither question is sufficient to reveal the complexity of the repertoire of many bi- and multilinguals. More generally, the wording of questions about principal language may crucially affect the responses of users of minority languages.

Dancing with Covid: Choreographing examinations in pandemic times

The European Educational Research Journal has just published this article by our Associate Director Emeritus Professor Mary Hamilton with an international team led by Cristina Alarcón López of the University of Vienna.

Abstract:

In this paper, we explore the improvisations made in examination practices in higher education during the pandemic of 2020. Drawing on STS, we start from the theoretical assumption that examinations constitute an obligatory passage point in universities and colleges: a sacred point which students need to pass if they want to gain recognized qualifications. We base our analysis of higher education examinations on cases from six countries around the world: Australia, Belgium, Chile, India, Sweden and the UK. We use the analytical heuristic of choreography to follow the movements, tensions and resistance of the ‘emergency examinations’ as well as the re-orderings of actors and stages that have inevitably occurred. In our analytical stories we see the interplay between the maintenance of fixed and sacred aspects of examinations and the fluidity of improvisations aimed at meeting threats of spreading Covid-19. These measures have forced the complex network of examinations both to reinforce some conventional actors and to assemble new actors and stages, thus creating radically new choreographies. Although higher education teaching and didactics are being framed as a playground for pedagogical innovation with digital technologies, it is clear from our data that not all educational activities can be so easily replicated.

Book reviews

The current issue of Community Literacy Journal 15(2) features reviews of two books published in series edited at the Literacy Research Centre. Sam Duncan’s book, Oral Literacies: when adults read aloud is reviewed by Jamie Duncan (not related, we promise!) and Jamie’s book, Researching Protest Literacies: Literacy as protest in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro is reviewed by Catherine Compton-Lilly. Jamie’s book has also been reviewed in the Journal of Sociolinguistics by Daniel N. Silva. If you do not have access to that journal and would like to read the review, contact Jamie Duncan (details on our affiliate members page).

If you are working in the area of Literacy Studies and would like to discuss making a proposal for either series, contact Julia Gillen or Uta Papen.

Censoring multilingualism? Language questions in the 2021 Census. New article by Mark Sebba and Wendy Ayres-Bennett

Mark Sebba, Reader Emeritus in Sociolinguistics and Language Contact, at Lancaster University and member of the Literacy Research Centre has published a freely accessible paper “Censoring multilingualism? Language questions in the 2021 Census” with Wendy Ayres-Bennett, Professor of French Philology and Linguistics, University of Cambridge. Their opinion article is in “Languages, Society and Policy” here. They reflect on the inclusion of language questions in the 2021 Census in England.  The authors discuss the shortcomings of the current approach and argue that new and better questions are needed to capture the true extent of England’s multilingualism.