Literacy as social practice: Using inquiry-based methods with marginalized learners
Latona, Susan A.
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Language arts instructional practice provides a powerful classroom context for learning and can exert a profound effect on students’ development of language and literacy skills. The literacy achievement gap creates a much needed urgency for developing pedagogical repertoires to improve access to literacy and language skills. There is a need for research that provides insights about the funds of knowledge and discourses that youths can draw from, to better assist teachers in constructing classroom spaces that connect in- and out of school literacies. In this qualitative research study, I attempted to understand and describe what happened with the implementation of a program pilot, designed to relate and integrate language arts content with practices that promote dialogic interactions in student-centered, socially situated applications. In particular, I explored how a dialogical and inquiry-based pedagogy, impacted both language learning and relationships with students having experienced significant life traumas and academic disenfranchisement. Finally, I wanted to observe language interactions in the context of social relationships and how that bears upon learning. Theories on the sociocultural aspects of literacy and learning (Kramsch, 2009; Kostogris, 2002, Ivanic, 2004; Behizadeh, 2014), including dialogism (Bakhtin, 1981; Alexander, 2005) and inquiry-based learning (Towns & Sweetland, 2008; Darling-Hammond, 2008), guided the design and methodology for this study. This study was conducted over a 12 month period in a rural elementary school. The site was a BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) 6:1:1 classroom setting. There were six students in the classroom; three were the focus of this case study methodology. The classroom teacher was also a part of the case study analysis. Data for this study were collected through weekly classroom visits that were recorded and transcribed, field notes, interviews and student artifacts that related to the program implementation. The data was analyzed through qualitative coding that included a domain and taxonomic analysis (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Spradley, 1980) in order to identify emergent themes and categories. As became evident early in the study, and increasingly so as data collection and analysis progressed, was the significance identity and affiliative relationships had on student responses to learning initiatives. The data revealed several factors. Of significance to student responses to language actions (reading, writing, speaking, listening etc.) were practices that involved identity reflection and exploration, affiliative relationships and connecting academic instruction to relevant and purposeful social learning experiences. The study resulted in the development of a model for a dialogic pedagogy that situates language and literacy as relational, and mediated through social experiences. Several implications for curriculum design, instructional relationships, instructional method and assessment were drawn from the findings of this study.