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Research in the Teaching of English, Vol. 50, No. 1, August 2015

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Table of Contents

  • Editors’ Introduction: Storying Our Research [FREE ACCESS]

    Kati Macaluso, Mary Juzwik, and Ellen Cushman

  • On the Ascendance of Argument: A Critique of the Assumptions of Academe’s Dominant Form

    Todd DeStigter

    Abstract: For at least the last several decades, argumentative writing has been of central importance in secondary and higher education, and this emphasis has been heightened by argumentation’s designation as a “cornerstone” of the Common Core State Standards. Moreover, this focus on argumentation has been encouraged by extensive scholarship that investigates how argumentation is learned and deployed in various settings and how the teaching of argumentation might be improved. However, far less attention has been paid to determining why so many literacy educators,researchers, and policy makers believe that privileging argumentative writing is justified.Using a methodology that combines ethnographic case study of writing pedagogy in an urban high school with theoretical analysis of scholarly writings that endorse argumentation, in this essay I demonstrate that the prominence of argumentation is underwritten by three commonly held assumptions: (1) that argumentative writing promotes clear and critical thinking, (2) that it provides training in the rational deliberation that is essential for a democratic citizenry, and(3) that it imparts to students a form of cultural capital that facilitates their upward academic and socioeconomic mobility. My findings are that these assumptions are unwarranted and that schools’ overemphasis on argumentation imposes severe limits on what counts as valid thought,legitimate political subjectivity, and a feasible strategy for addressing economic inequality. This study’s implication is that educators should reassess the value of argumentation and revise ELA curricula to include more diverse genres and discursive modes.

  • The Dialogic Interplay of Writing and Teaching Writing: Teacher-Writers’ Talk and Textual Practices across Contexts

    Rebecca Woodard

    Abstract: This study uses dialogic theory to understand teacher-writers’ practices across in- and out-of-school contexts. Using case study methods to closely observe and interview a middle school teacher and a high school teacher, as well as analyze their writing, the study identified similarities in the teachers’ appropriations of language, textual practices, and ideologies across contexts. However,each teacher appropriated distinct practices in discipline-specific ways, with one focused onthe literate practices of creative writers and the other focused on the literate practices of online,networked writers. These contrastive examples highlight ways in which teacher-writers’ literate and instructional activities dialogically inform each other in both similar and distinct ways.Ultimately, I make the argument that dialogic perspectives that attend to teachers’ out-of-school practices provide richer, more complex understandings of instructional practice than currently popular conceptions of “best practices” and “value-added” teaching.

  • #WhoNeedsDiverseBooks?: Preservice Teachers and Religious Neutrality with Children’s Literature [FREE ACCESS]

    Denise Dávila

    Abstract: The social media campaign #WeNeedDiverseBooks has called for more varied works of literature.However, one of the arguments for increasing the visibility of diverse books has not received much attention:  using #WNDB to cultivate religiously pluralistic thinkers. Currently, there is a conflict between the evasion of religious neutrality in English language arts (ELA) instruction and the need to prepare young people to become pluralistic thinkers in a global society. This article examines three lines of inquiry: How likely are preservice teachers to (a) include children’s books with religious diversity in their future classrooms, (b) discuss the religious content of the books with their future students, and/or (c) employ dominant social discourses in interpreting the religious content? Grounded in theories of religious neutrality, social discourses, and cultural superiority,the study analyzes 79 preservice teachers’ responses to the cultural-religious milieu of the renowned picture book memoir In My Family/En Mi Familia (Garza, 1996). The corpus of data, which includes the preservice teachers’ written reflections and responses to a set of open-ended questions,indicates that privileging a nonreligious reading lens and excluding relevant religious perspectives from discussions about diverse works of children’s literature can inadvertently contribute to the defamation of other cultures and religious traditions. The study underscores the responsibility of teacher educators to help preservice teachers take a religiously neutral approach to ELA instruction.

  • The Sociohistorical Mandate for Literacy and Education in the Rural South: A Narrative Perspective

    Amy Johnson Lachuk

    Abstract: This article explores how the sociohistorical context mandates literacy and education for AfricanAmerican persons living in a small community (“Pinesville”) in the rural U.S. South. Applying a sociocultural lens to literacy, the narrative perspective proposed is used to assert that literacy experiences are historically continuous, and rooted in shared cultural beliefs that have existed for African Americans since slavery. Such a perspective also apprehends an individual’s life history narratives as culturally saturated and situated within collective “frames of memory” (Brockmeier,2002, p. 24). Through the presentation of data poems for Miss Sally Harris, I argue that Miss Sally’s literacy experiences reflect a collective, cultural commitment to using literacy for self-determination, creating new opportunities for oneself and others, and preparing persons to use literacy for societal participation. I then link these beliefs to three mandates for literacy and education within Pinesville: (1) using literacy and education to determine one’s life course; (2)forging intellectual and social pathways through literacy and education; and (3) facilitating others’education and preparing persons to use literacy for “the dominating culture’s institutions” (Harris,1992, p. 276). I conclude by asserting the significance of life history and data poems for conducting person-centered literacy research. I contend that within communities like Pinesville, literacy and education exist synergistically and can be useful for addressing issues of equity and access.

  • Forum: The Popularization of High School Poetry Instruction, 1920–1940

    Jonna Perrillo

    Abstract: This essay examines high school poetry instruction in the 1920s and 1930s in light of the influence of Hughes Mearns, a teacher who wrote about and lectured on his experiences in teaching what he coined “creative writing” and who played a major role in reconceiving how teachers taught students to read and write poetry. Rather than focusing on memorization and recitation,Hughes enacted an experiential and “emotional” method of teaching students poetry. This student-centered approach reflected major thoughts in pedagogical progressivism of the period at the same time that it conflicted with the education tracking and standardization that also took shape under the name of progressivism. The innovative work of Mearns and teachers who embraced his philosophies is especially important to revisit given the analogies to our own period,where spoken-word programs, for example, exist alongside school standardization measures that often devalue poetry. Understanding the arguments Mearns and other teachers made for the unique value of poetry, as well as some of the shortcomings in their thought, can help educators to better articulate the need for K–12 poetry instruction now.

  • Announcements

  • Abstracts in French

  • Abstracts in Korean

  • Abstracts in Mandarin

  • Abstracts in Russian

* 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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