DEC Scan Journal : February 2013
Volume 32, February 2013 23 Contents Editorial Currents Teaching & learning Research Curriculum support Share this Resource reviews generic capabilities worked up in the acquisition phase of literacy learning, from about the first three or four years of school. Learning, teaching, and assessing literacy Put simply, students may be acquiring generic literacy skills adequately enough, but they are not acquiring the more particular demands that are put to heavy duty from about the fifth year of schooling onward. The effects on curriculum progress and motivation for these students can be serious, because struggling with literacy through that period, when the curriculum areas become more consequentially distinct in their reading and writing demands, can lead to shortfalls in critical domains of knowledge and understanding and in the ability to participate in classroom work activities. So what may begin as unattended literacy difficulties come to be presented as difficulties in aptitude, knowledge, or motivation. Seen in this light, to ask what does good at literacy mean? is to ask: universally applicable set of capabilities. This view might suit a society with limited levels of work and knowledge specialisation, technological development, and/or civic or political engagement. But this is not the society that surrounds our students, here and now. Instead, what will confront them later, as they become citizens and workers, is a literacy-dependent and literacy- saturated society and the complex world of specialisations that such a society affords. At school, in the here and now, what confronts them, most evidently from the upper primary school years onward, are different curriculum domains that put the resources of literacy to work in increasingly different ways. It is those generally unremarked curriculum-specific literacy demands that constitute the main bases of how they will be assessed over the years; perhaps more than a little paradoxically, it is the ways in which they must deal with these demands that have been less thoroughly researched than the more the kinds of uses these people need to bring about, have all changed over the millennia. These changes have impacted on, and been intensified by, the extent and complexity of social structures that are supported, maintained, and grown by literacy. That is, changes in the uses and spread of literacy do not, of themselves, increase social complexity, knowledge specialisation, or technological advances; neither do these latter developments, of themselves, cause changes in the literacy characteristics of a society. Rather, both developments intensify – deepen, accelerate, expand, inhibit – one another. With all that in mind, we can reconsider literacy teaching and learning in our schools, here and now. What are the key educational features of the changes that contemporary societies are experiencing, and what do these changes imply for literacy education? One aspect is this: a scan of the research and professional development literature on literacy education shows us that often we have thought about literacy in generic terms, that we have taken literacy to represent a common, Rosetta stone, British Museum, London by Ian Muttoo This means that passing on the capabilities of reading and making texts, and the dispositions to use and value them, has called for a significant effort on the part of one generation for the next. These capabilities and dispositions have, in turn, become part of what determines how deeply and broadly individuals and communities are geared into their experiences. The uses of texts, the number and kind of people who need to use them, and ... different curriculum domains that put the resources of literacy to work in increasingly different ways. The uses of texts, the number and kind of people who need to use them, and the kinds of uses these people need to bring about, have all changed over the millennia.