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Research in the Teaching of English, Vol. 49, No. 4, May 2015

Cover Art for Research in the Teaching of English, Vol. 49, No. 4, May 2015

Table of Contents

  • Editors’ Introduction: Decolonizing Research in the Teaching of English(es) [FREE ACCESS]

    Ellen Cushman, Mary Juzwik, Kati Macaluso, and Esther Milu

  • Toward a Critical ASD Pedagogy of Insight: Teaching, Researching, and Valuing the Social Literacies of Neurodiverse Students [FREE ACCESS]

    Shannon Walters

    Abstract: In this article, I report on the results of a case study of two students with self-identified Asperger Syndrome (AS) in first-year university writing courses. After exploring existing conversations that tend to ignore the voices of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), I propose a methodology based on the concept of ASD as insight, rooted in critical disability studies, in which the perspectives of neurodiverse students are prioritized. My findings reveal the neurotypical assumptions of some traditional writing pedagogies, such as those based on a process model and the understanding of writing as a social activity. These approaches often do not value the critical literacies and social activities involved in writing done by neurodiverse students outside the classroom. Drawing from my participants’ insights, I explore the potentials of critical pedagogy for valuing the neurodiverse social literacies of ASD students. I demonstrate how a critical pedagogy better attuned to neurodiversity can support the alternative social literacies of neurodiverse students and resist stereotypes of ASD writers as asocial.

  • Beyond the Language Barrier: Opening Spaces for ELL/Non-ELL Interaction

    Anny Fritzen Case

    Abstract: Cultivating interaction among English Language Learners (ELLs) and their non-ELL peers remains a desirable, yet often elusive, goal. While existing literature documents the challenges of ELL/non-ELL interaction and proposes strategies for overcoming them, there is little research examining concrete episodes of interaction from both the ELL and non-ELL perspectives. In response, I explore how a group of refugee and immigrant high school students (ELLs and non-ELLs) negotiated their interaction while collaboratively creating a digital video. In particular, I consider the role of the “language barrier” and how the participants interacted through and despite language. In the tradition of humanities-oriented educational research, I draw on Levinasian philosophy to reflect on the relational and ethical aspects of ELL/non-ELL interaction. Findings suggest that while language played a key role, communication obstacles tended to defy simple and strategic anticipation and resolution. Negotiation of meaning was often a creative, situated, and multidirectional process. Most importantly, interaction seemed to be ultimately about people in relationship—uncertain and at times uncomfortable, but also full of promise and opportunities for ethical response. I propose opening spaces as a new approach to ELL/non-ELL interaction that foregrounds human and ethical dimensions. Such reframing dislodges the issue from common assumptions which may unwittingly reduce ELLs to a “language problem,” and it honors the potential of participants creatively working out the interaction for themselves. By pursuing insights from both ELLs and non-ELLs, this study offers an important perspective rarely explored in the literature.

  • “It’s Like a Script”: Long-Term English Learners’ Experiences with and Ideas about Academic Reading

    Maneka Deanna Brooks

    Abstract: This article presents a multifaceted representation of the in-school reading experiences and ideas about academic reading shared by five adolescent Latina long-term English learners (LTELs). It uses data collected during ethnographic observations of the five focal students’ biology and English language arts classrooms and in-depth qualitative interviews with these students and selected teachers to contextualize their standardized reading test scores. The findings of this yearlong multiple case study illustrate that the focal students’ everyday experience of in-school reading focused on constructing meaning with texts orally in a group. During these classroom reading activities, the teacher played a primary role in facilitating comprehension. On the other hand, the standardized tests that were used to determine their English proficiency required reading to be a silent and independent activity. Moreover, the ideas about academic reading that these students shared reflected their daily experiences with oral reading. By calling attention to the distinction between academic reading on tests and in the classroom, this research documents that what constitutes academic reading is not static across all contexts. These findings contribute to existing work that moves away from seeing academic literacy as a set of decontextualized language skills; this research highlights the socially situated nature of reading. Additionally, these findings problematize the exclusive attribution, without further investigation, of standardized reading test scores to LTELs’ English proficiency. This work speaks to the importance of a more holistic understanding of the literacy development of students who are considered to be LTELs.

  • “It’s Pretty Much White”: Challenges and Opportunities of an Antiracist Approach to Literature Instruction in a Multilayered White Context

    Carlin Borsheim-Black

    Abstract: Because many commonly taught novels, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and others, evoke the topic of racism during literature study, many secondary English teachers must negotiate challenges of whether, how, and to what extent to address racism with their students, often with little training and scant research to guide their practice. Moreover, existing research at the intersection of English education, antiracist pedagogy, and Critical Whiteness Studies indicates that antiracist pedagogy is notoriously difficult, especially with White students. Recent scholarship has called for nuanced explorations of Whiteness that might contribute to more effective antiracist pedagogies. Thus, this qualitative case study explored challenges and opportunities one White English teacher encountered as she applied an antiracist approach to teaching To Kill a Mockingbird in a predominantly White context. Findings revealed that Whiteness was both reinforced and interrupted—sometimes simultaneously—on individual, institutional, societal, and epistemological levels. This study not only illustrates ways Whiteness operates on multiple levels, presenting myriad challenges for English teachers to negotiate as they merge antiracist pedagogy with literature instruction in White contexts, it also points to pedagogical opportunities for interrupting Whiteness at each of those levels.

  • Forum: Moving, Feeling, Desiring, Teaching

    Gail Boldt, Cynthia Lewis, and Kevin M. Leander

    Abstract: In this set of essays, the authors argue for the importance of affect and emotion in literacy education, teacher education, and classroom life. In the introduction, Boldt describes the authors’ shared belief in learning as happening within a landscape of relationships and emergent life in classrooms and beyond. The introduction makes clear that while the authors are writing from different intellectual traditions, they share a sense of anger about the fetishization of standardization, testing, and methods at the expense of ambiguity, improvisation, and unexpected, disruptive, and enlivening classroom relationships. In the first essay, Lewis demonstrates how emotion is regulated in a secondary English classroom and yet can never be fully regulated, giving rise to discomfort and to unexpected transformations of signs. In the second essay, Leander argues for a more emergent vision of lesson planning that begins with the body and its expression of energies and potentials in the present. In the final essay, Boldt urges that teachers be provided with opportunities to openly examine their negative emotional responses—including anxiety and, at times, aggression—to mismatches between children and what is required in a high-stakes environment. Throughout the essays, the authors enact rather than describe a Deleuzo-Guattarian perspective, laying their differences and their shared commitments side-by-side in the hope of creating for themselves and their readers new sets of relations and possibilities and, with those, the condition of potential for imagination and desire.

  • Announcements

  • Guest Reviewers

  • Indexes

  • Abstracts in French

  • Abstracts in Hindi

  • Abstracts in Korean

  • Abstracts in Mandarin

  • Abstracts in Russian

  • Abstracts in Spanish

* Journal articles are provided in PDF format and can be opened using the free Adobe® Reader® program or a comparable viewer. Click here to download and install the most recent version of Adobe Reader.

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