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CEE Position Statement

What Is English Education?

Beliefs Statement

The field of English education encompasses three dimensions: (1) the teaching and learning of English, broadly and inclusively defined; (2) the preparation and continuing professional support of teachers of English at all levels of education; and (3) systematic inquiry into the teaching and learning of English. To accomplish this important work, English educators conduct interdisciplinary inquiry by drawing on English studies, education, the scientific study of human behavior, and related fields. They transform theory and research in these fields into pedagogical-content questions as a basis for enhancing the understanding of the teaching and learning of English in all of its manifestations.

Central to the task of English educators is the preparation and support of teachers who, in turn, prepare learners to be creative, literate individuals; contributors to the cultural, social, and economic health of their communities; and fully participating and critically aware citizens of our democracy in a complex, diverse, and increasingly globalized world.

What follows is a brief explication of these three dimensions of English education, along with a listing of associated core values.

The field of English education is concerned with the teaching and learning of English, broadly and inclusively defined.

English educators are deeply interested in educational theory and research; however, as English educators, they are equally engaged with the discipline of English studies, particularly as it translates to K-16 settings. The subject of English consists of that area of the curriculum responsible for preparing students, at any age, in the effective production and reception of the range of possible textual representations of human experience—in short, to become sophisticated writers and readers, broadly conceived. The ultimate goal of all literacy learning and experience is to foster an understanding of self and others through engagements in the wider world mediated by language. English educators understand that to meet this goal, they must conceive of English studies as encompassing a wide range of intellectual content, a wide variety of communicative genres and literacy practices, pluralistic and inclusive approaches to literacy use and instruction, and diverse ideological perspectives. English educators value this intellectual diversity, and they strive to introduce pre- and in-service teachers to the complexity and richness of the field.

Associated Core Values:

  • English educators promote the understanding among pre- and in-service teachers that language is used for multiple purposes within multiple meaning-making and communicative contexts.
  • English educators model and strive to foster in K-16 students the mastery of personal, civic, and cultural literacies. Personal literacy includes engagement with reading, writing, and popular media that will bring students personal satisfaction, foster a sense of connection with themselves and those around them, and promote lifelong learning; civic literacy involves working with ideas and information that students will need to be mature, productive, and responsible citizens, and cultural literacy involves familiarity with stories, plays, poems, speeches, essays, and similar texts that will help students identify with their culture and empathetically understand the cultures of others.
  • English educators encourage pre- and in-service teachers to connect K-16 students’ personal and intellectual needs to specific literacy and language practices through the appropriate selection of instructional materials and assignments.
  • English educators promote and facilitate ways of teaching literacy that rely on the latest research in communication and language use. Committed to the fact that literacy involves active meaning making on the part of all participants, English educators encourage pre- and in-service teachers to foster language competence in a variety of genres, contexts and situations as they are continuously mediated by a plurality of social, cultural, and ideological factors.
  • English educators are committed to promoting and facilitating the effective teaching of reading, viewing, and authoring of various types and genres of texts by and about individuals of both genders and representing diverse groups in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, and class.
  • English educators strive to provide access for pre- and in-service teachers to the intellectual traditions and debates that inform English and education.
  • English educators resolve to teach pre- and in-service teachers how to recognize the creative and critical literacy achievement of students of all backgrounds and abilities and to foster within them a sense of agency and critical engagement with the world, while also being able to identify, diagnose and address K-16 students’ difficulties with literacy learning.
  • English educators recognize the value of communication technologies for pedagogical and research purposes, including emerging digital media and various other technologies that facilitate and enable the use of multiple forms and genres of literate communication. They assist pre- and in-service teachers in effectively integrating these technologies in their classrooms.
  • English educators recognize and seek to convey to pre- and in-service teachers that English studies is a contested subject that encompasses multiple fields of inquiry and ideological perspectives.
  • English as a subject encompasses culture and cultural literacy; therefore, English educators encourage the teaching of classic literary texts when appropriate, in addition to other valued literary genres, including young adult literature; creative nonfiction; contemporary popular fiction; web-based texts and media productions; film; written, spoken or scripted texts, and the variety of aural and visual media configurations constantly being invented.

The field of English education seeks to prepare and support teachers of English language arts.

English educators encourage and value English language arts teachers at all levels of education who inquire into, critically assess, reflect on, and adjust their own teaching practice and the curricula, standards, and current practices in their field. Therefore, English educators as teacher educators instruct and mentor pre- and in-service teachers as they gain pedagogical expertise, become content area experts, and create (and re-create) their professional identities. As reflective practitioners themselves, English educators exemplify and sponsor teaching practices that promote social justice in the classroom and entail the active use of language to construct, examine, and communicate knowledge in a world of diverse and often contested ideas and values.

Associated Core Values:

  • English educators strive to teach in ways that are informed by their own practice in the field, their deep understanding of seminal research and theory, and the intellectual traditions and debates in the English language arts.
  • English educators promote and value awareness of the ethnic, racial, linguistic, and cultural diversity in K-16 schools and are able to provide the knowledge and resources for pre- and in-service teachers to effectively teach in such diverse settings.
  • English educators promote the professional development of pre- and in-service teachers through a variety of means, including university courses, mentoring, and such related professional venues as internships, in-service workshops, field experiences, partnership development with schools, conference presentations, and professional organizations.
  • English educators encourage pre- and in-service teachers to engage in ongoing self-renewal as professionals.
  • English educators endeavor to assume roles as leaders, heighten their political awareness, and become increasingly active in the consideration and making of educational policy, and they encourage pre- and in-service teachers to do so as well.
  • Working with colleagues at the local, state, and national levels, English educators act as advocates to shape public educational policy and secure resources that will support effective K-16 English language arts teaching.
  • English educators understand the tensions and contradictions inherent in teaching within educational systems that reflect sometimes competing interests and ideologies and work to foster a sophisticated and nuanced sense of these tensions and contradictions in the teachers with whom they work.
  • English educators promote an awareness of the complexities of teaching and learning so that they can help pre- and in-service teachers learn to negotiate between the learner and content within complex and sometimes competing institutional, cultural, political, and ideological contexts.
  • English educators resolve to act as liaisons between higher education and the K-12 schools.

The field of English education is built upon knowledge gained from systematic and multi-modal inquiry into the teaching and learning of English.

English education is built upon the knowledge of diverse intellectual fields of inquiry, including, but not limited to, education, literary studies, linguistics, composition studies, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and sociology. However, English education also has its own intellectual traditions and unique knowledge base, which support its research, scholarship, and pedagogy. This knowledge base forms the academic foundation for most undergraduate and graduate English education programs. In constituting their vital, animated field, English educators regularly engage in various types of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method research seeking to answer questions and create theories instrumental in improving the teaching and learning of all aspects of English language arts, in particular, K-16 English teaching. Similarly, English educators encourage pre- and in-service teachers to engage in classroom-based inquiry to improve their practice, and they often collaborate in such research endeavors.

Associated Core Values:

  • English educators are dedicated to contributing to the making of knowledge about English language arts learning and teaching. They know, contribute to, and continue to develop generative intellectual, moral, and aesthetic theories of literacy and language teaching, learning, and development.
  • English educators are committed to conducting, publishing, and providing access to research for pre- and in-service teachers about the learning and teaching of English. Through doctoral level education, English educators strive to prepare and mentor the English education professoriate.
  • English educators value and foster collaborative inquiry, including action research among all stakeholders, especially K-16 teachers.
  • English educators resolve to exemplify the reciprocity of ongoing inquiry characteristic of reflective practice; they continue to learn from their own students as they foster learning for those same students.

This document was created in part as a result of the 2005 Conference on English Education Leadership and Policy Summit, Suzanne Miller, CEE Chair, and Dana L. Fox, CEE Leadership and Policy Summit Chair.

Participants and authors in the “What is English Education?” thematic strand group of the CEE Summit included:

  • Co-Conveners: Janet Alsup and Robert Yagelski
  • Janet Alsup, Purdue University
  • Lynne Alvine, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • Sheridan Blau, University of California at Santa Barbara
  • Rebecca Calder, Georgia State University
  • Gina DeBlase, Wayne State University
  • Todd DeStigter, University of Illinois at Chicago *
  • Janet Emig, Emerita, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Ken Kantor, National-Louis University
  • Michael Moore, Georgia Southern University
  • Ben Nelms, Emeritus, Universities of Florida and Missouri
  • Robert Petrone, Michigan State University
  • Gordon Pradl, New York University
  • Mary Sawyer, State University of New York, New Paltz
  • Robert Tremmel, Iowa State University
  • Robert Yagelski, University at Albany, State University of New York

* Did not attend the CEE Summit but participated in online discussions.

If you wish to send a response to this CEE belief statement, please email and specify which statement you are commenting on in the Subject of your email.

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