New literacy studies at the end of the world: a ground-controlled approach from Chile.

When I first arrived to Lancaster I felt as a practitioner that needed more tools to improve the communities I was working with as an educational assessor that assessed children’s reading and writing skills. Through my path in the research, I was able to read and meet people that chanSociocultural context

Roberto's drawing

Roberto’s drawing

ged completely my views about assessment and literacy, I thought I had something great to support students and teachers. NLS became a tool to provide solutions around the educational problems that have been haunting the Chilean classrooms for decades.

However, when I landed in Chile, I had a quick encounter with the Chilean reality. I started working in an academic environment where all the discussion should be always contextualized and grounded on teachers’ and schools’ resources and classrooms. This shocked me at the beginning, I was not aware of talking about the concepts and theory in plain language, furthermore, I was not able to talk about it in Spanish.

All the theoretical problems I faced when working on the PhD were now part of a distant past. Here the problem has to be translated into a solution. There is no time to lose, we are creating tools that teachers and students need to use ASAP. It is amazing to know that our work will reach the classroom but in order to produce this transfer from academia to classroom I had to think again about some of the dilemmas that I addressed in the thesis. Although I tried to keep my practitioner’s heart, I was caught in academia and the practical implications I had developed in the thesis needed to be grounded again into practice.

In Chile I was faced with the question of practice instead of implication and I quickly realized that there was such a difference between the two terms. One of the main issues that my thesis addressed is that school literacy practices have to emerge in partnership between families, schools and communities. This slogan challenged my own understanding when I was invited to represent the Research Center for Advanced Research in Education in a stakeholders meeting that aimed at establishing a reviewed public policy on parents’ involvement into the school system. At that meeting I had to transfer the findings of my thesis to support the argument towards certain ways of community participation. It was until this invaluable opportunity that I came to realize that I needed to translate this knowledge that I have acquired, otherwise my PhD and the tools I identified would become irrelevant.

In this ‘ground-controlled approach’ the solution has to land safely at schools and the teachers or students cannot crash with obscure dilemmas that they cannot understand. Transparency is key to achieve impact. I am at that process now, trying to translate this academic piece of writing into practices that I can teach to teachers and transfer to students.

Margarita Calderón

Lecturer in childhood literacy at Universidad de Chile

Research Assistant at Centro de Investigación Avanzada en Educación, Universidad de Chile (Center for Advanced Research in Education).

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