Digested read 6. Burgess In 'Writing, English Teachers and the New Professionalism' NATE 2002, Tony Burgess, reader at the IoE, explores some of the tensions between different purposes for writing. Eight years later, teachers are still experiencing a tension between balancing the demands for children to attend to the grammars of text types (broadly standards and accountability) and a proper professional reflection on the psychological and anthropological affordances of writing (broadly Every Child Matters). Burgess traces three important directions of English teaching in the last 50/60 years: 1) personcentred, psychologically oriented concentration of language's role in learning; 2) culturecentred attention to diversity; and 3) linguisticallycentred changes in forms of language. 1) can be traced back to Vygotsky and James Britton a focus on language acquisition and the development of the mind through language. By this direction writing, accompanied by other ways of thinking, helps the learner develop their identity. The emphasis is on the learner, his/her voice and intention, shuttling between different audiences and purposes for language as well as different modes of talk, reading and writing. One might add film, media and online networking to this list. Britton's enquiry focused on the closed and open options available to school children. Did these have equal value in learning? Was the importance of expressive first drafts adequately recognised or was it subordinated to writing organised for external consumption eg exams? (cf John Foggin's distinction in 'Real Writing' 1992) Following the US writer/philosopher James Moffett, Britton emphasised the reflective, speculative and deductive forms of language as critical to the development of pupils' thinking. This, coupled with Graves and Calkins work on the psycholinguistic writing processes of conferencing and re drafting, informed the US National Writing Project in the 1970s and the UK NWP in the 1980s. 2) began with the work of US anthropologist and sociolinguist, Dell Hymes, in the 1970s and Shirley Brice Heath in the 1980s. This direction sees diverse literacies and their traditions as not just
individualistic but social and cultural, reflecting as they do complex social relationships and struggles which are far from homogeneous. Again, the focus is on the learner acquiring different literacies. This line was taken further in the UK through the work of Brian Street, Hilary Minns, Eve Gregory and others. Narrow schooled literacy had to be put into perspective with wider community literacies. The width of pupils' developing repertoires had to be acknowledged, especially as technology began to change practices and relationships. (In fact the amount of online writing on mobiles, emails and networking sites, probably outstrips children's (and adults'?) writing on paper in the same way as children probably spend more time reading electronically produced film, games and messages than they do with traditional books. In any case there has been a significant shift in the last 20 years and this needs to be reflected in our practices in school. SW) 3) is expressed largely through the work of MAK Halliday who observed a shift in linguistics from concentrating in the 1960s mainly on the system of language its nature, varieties, registers and functions to acknowledging in the 1980s the importance of the grammars of texts. The focus here is more on the text which has rather different pedagogical implications to the other two directions. The Kingman report on the Teaching of English Language (HMSO 1988) focused largely on the 'forms' of language (and, broadly, the Strategy inherits this direction), whereas NATE, at the time and now, emphasised the centrality of 'making and understanding of meaning and significance', together with 'language acquisition and development'. LINC (Language in the National Curriculum 19891992) centred on text, producers and audiences with ideological and institutional systems of society and culture at the margin. Burgess argues for a synthesis. Teachers need to understand what drives young people, what they want to say and which contexts best promote their writing. Focus on genre and text can complement rather than oppose that. However, there has been too much emphasis on teachers 'delivering' the findings of reasearch or the prescriptions of the Strategy, rather than on critically mediating it and refining it in the culture of their own classrooms and, in so doing, creating something new in which the teachers are acknowledged agents, not mere technicians. Of the more centralised intervention of Ofsted and the National Strategies he writes: " (this) has not just given politicians the
levers and controls they wanted to drive up standards. It has also re described the professionalism of teachers, curbing aspirations to autonomy and selfregulation, within an externally evaluative and regulated sytem, driven by an active centre, setting national priorities for performance and development." It is in this climate that NWP aims to restore to teachers the status of autonomous and authoritative researchers, applying and reflecting on methods in their own classrooms, mindful of traditions of responding to pupils' changing cultures as well as to prescribed national policy. New times require new standards, and we cannot afford to override with old standards, the views of young people about their developing world. SW Burgess proposes " a longerterm project, motivated from within the English teaching world ... to construct a new professionalism within the changed conditions of teachers' work ... There is a need for ownership from inside English teaching of public requirements for transparency of practice and for accountability, together with responsiveness to equality agendas and to democratic values ... Research is needed into the development of teachers' skills and values and understandings. As well as national directions, there is need for the interpretation of government initiatives with as well as to communities, and for developments at local level." Burgess sums up what NWP (nwp.org.uk) is now attempting to do.
Published on Oct 5, 2011
Digested read 6. Burgess 2) began with the work of US anthropologist and sociolinguist, Dell Hymes, in the 1970s and Shirley Brice Heath in...