"You Got a Quest, Not a Question": Millennial Students and Their English Teachers Take a New Literacies Stance Against Standardization
Pastore-Capuana, Kristen A.
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ABSTRACT Large scale, national reform movements, referred to as top-down reform in recent scholarship, and localized pushes for increased standardization have left many teachers and students pressured to define learning through the contexts of high stakes national assessments and narrow definitions of literacy that promote traditional teaching focused on transmission models of instruction (Anyon, 1980; Applebee, 1993; Freire, 1970; Hillocks, 2002). Classroom-based research is needed on educators who, despite national and local reform contexts, still continue to enact innovative instructional approaches that honor 21 st century literacy practices. With this context in mind, this multi-case study examined two mid-career high school English teachers in a first-ring suburban school and their tenth and twelfth grade students as they engaged in work drawing from New Literacies and dialogic approaches to learning. The study was guided by four research questions: 1. In what ways, if any, do teachers with a New Literacies stance respond to teaching the Common Core Learning Standards in a 10 th and 12 th grade English class in a working class, first-ring suburban school? 2. In what ways do these teachers characterize and sustain their professional identities within the school and larger educational community? 3. In what ways does the use of digital technologies in these classes support students achieving the Common Core Standards? 4. How do students develop literacy identities in the context of these classes? Using qualitative methods, this study relied on a series of interviews with teachers and students, classroom observations, audio recordings, and multimodal literacy artifacts. The researcher engaged in a recurring analysis of all data types, taking note of emergent themes, and coding across all data sets. Findings suggest that although teachers expressed pressures and constraints with the shift to Common Core Learning Standards, mobilizing a New Literacies stance enabled them to continue to innovate curriculum that met—and even went beyond- standards. Within this framework, students were able to take up new literacy identities as critical readers, writers, and thinkers who made meaning across multiple modes on topics that had curricular and universal resonance. Implications include recommendations on how teachers can conceptualize this stance in secondary English language arts classrooms as well as how to navigate the tensions that emerge when implementing it within the context of local, state, and national mandates.