Manford, Penelope Ann
Literacy at transition : an exploration of the continuities and discontinuities in literacy practices across secondary transfer and their implications for literacy development.
The Open University.
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Literacy at Transition, an interpretative study adopting the sociocultural perspective of literacy as a situated social practice, offers an “experiential” (Murdoch, 1986) examination of commonalities and differences in cross-phase literacy practices. Designed as a small ethnographic case study set in four multiethnic inner city schools, it draws on the research traditions of sociolinguistics and classroom literacy research to look qualitatively at literacy practices in Years 6 and 7 (for pupils aged 10-1 1 and 11-12, hereafter Y6 and Y7). Data collection methods include observation and interview, with data recorded in open-ended fieldnotes and research journal. Progressive focusing and content analysis are used to identify themes and develop a new analytical framework.
Eight key characteristics of the literacy practices are identified. Literacy is an “autonomous” and “ideological” models (Street, 1984), and fulfils an important function as meaning maker. In Y6 literacy is at the centre of the curriculum as an object of study, whereas in Y7 its value is as a tool to “get something done”. Pedagogical approaches differ but in both phases teacher literacy occupies the dominant position within the classroom literacy practices.
Contributing to the fields of classroom literacy research, primary-secondary school transition and research methodology, this study fulfils a research need for a study which examines the teaching and learning experiences of pupils at the stage of transition from primary to secondary school (DfEE, 1999a). Its description of particular literacy practices adds to the collection of studies of classroom literacy practices. Its analytic framework foregrounds What is literacy?, Whose literacy? and How is literacy developed?, discussing issues of subject positions, literacy and power, and the relationship between teacher understanding and beliefs about literacy and the pedagogical approaches adopted. In addition the study provides a synthesis of the literature relevant to school literacy practices at the stage of primary-secondary transition. Issues of reactivity to changing researcher status and the value of informant contributions are also highlighted.
Further experiential studies of aspects of primary-secondary literacy practices and implications for practice are suggested, including the need for enhanced teacher understanding and experience of cross-phase literacy practices; literacy training for secondary subject teachers; valuing and building on pupils’ existing literacy skills; explicit explanation of cross-phase differences to pupils; “planned discontinuity”, and greater recognition and responsiveness to the multiple literacies operating within the educational arena.
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