Project in brief

The purpose of the project

The purpose of the research project is to explore and interpret mother tongue and foreign language literacy practices in school and out-of-school contexts from the viewpoint of 9th grade Finnish and immigrant students and their foreign language and mother tongue teachers in Finland. The study also aims to evaluate the extent to which literacy practices in schools and communities meet and overlap, and whether school is able to meet the challenges of the knowledge society. Issues about media choices, ways of using and producing texts, assessment practices, curriculum planning, and teacher education are discussed in order to shape literacy theories and pedagogies that dynamically respond to social, cultural and technological change.

The main research questions are:
• What are the literacy practices that pupils and teachers engage in both in school and out-of-school contexts?
• What conceptions and values of literacy are embedded in curricula, teaching materials and teaching and assessment practices in language classrooms?
• What are the relationships between traditional print-based school literacy and the variety of multiliteracies in teachers’ and pupils’ everyday life?
• What kinds of learning environments exist and are created in schools in order to expand the scope of (multi)literacy practices?
• How do different participants (e.g. immigrant pupils) construct and manifest their authorship, ownership and expertise in their literacy practices?


The approach

The project adapts a multidisciplinary and multi-method approach where literacy is examined from various perspectives: constructivist, sociocultural and computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL) theories, (new) literacy studies, and systemic-functional linguistics. Both quantitative and qualitative methods (content analysis, ethnography and discourse analysis) are used.

To get an overall picture of the literacy practices, media-uses and prevailing attitudes a large-scale survey will be conducted among 9th grade students and teachers. In addition, other type of macro level data to be gathered consist of various documents and teaching materials, such as national and school specific curricula, text books, and national tests and examinations. The qualitative data consist of case studies on different participants in literacy events in classrooms and communities. The purpose of micro level qualitative data is to understand and explain processes of current literacy practices and events, prevailing values and attitudes, and the differences and similarities in the two domains. The data consist of interviews, diaries, observations and ethnographic field notes, videotaped lessons and teaching materials and tests used in the classrooms.


The results (so far...)


To get an overall picture of the literacy practices, a survey based on a representative sample of 9th grade pupils (15-year-olds) and their language teachers was conducted. Information was collected on current literacy practices, media and text choices, teaching practices and prevailing attitudes towards literacy. The survey replies were received from 1720 pupils from a hundred Finnish-speaking lower secondary schools and 741 mother tongue and foreign language teachers. The design of the survey allows the results to be generalisable to all 9th graders and their language teachers.

In order to understand and explain processes of current literacy practices and events, values and attitudes, several qualitative case studies were conducted on different participants in literacy events. The data consisted of interviews, diaries, observations and field notes, videotaped lessons and teaching materials used in the classrooms.

The results show that there is a growing gap between the practices in school and the way in which pupils use the various media in their free time for informal learning and for social existence. It seems that textbooks and other print-based materials dominate at school, whereas a quite dynamic and multilayered digital world is the reality for pupils outside school.

Despite the fact that texts have become more and more multimodal and screen-based and that our literacy practices have become more varied, education policy, curricula, texts books, assessment practices and even the teaching practices still continue to promote a linguistic, monomodal view of literacy. This means that the school literacies and teenagers’ out-of-school-literacies and texts worlds are not connected. Therefore it is possible that, for many pupils, the traditional literacy practices in school do not serve their needs and interests out-of-school nor take into account or even benefit from the expertise the pupils might have in using (new)media texts.

The results of this project will benefit those interested in language policy, assessment, language and media education and developing new teaching materials. It contributes to teacher training and curriculum design by exploring pedagogical approaches and teaching and assessment practices that prepare youngsters for the contemporary literacy practices. In addition, it will offer a solid research basis for teaching and carrying out practical literacy projects in schools and communities.



The significance of the project

The significance of this research project lies in its aim to explore an area that is largely unexplored in the Finnish and also in the international context. Theoretically and methodologically this project approaches literacy from a novel, multidisciplinary and holistic point of view. It explores both teachers’ and pupils’ practices in two contexts, and the mother tongue and foreign language practices as well as immigrant pupils’ bi-literacies are studied together. Moreover, assessment and the use of technology are seen as an integral part of literacy pedagogies. The project has also social relevance as it contributes to curriculum design and teacher training by exploring and expanding pedagogical approaches and making recommendations and concrete proposals for the future.

Read more about the framework 1/4   2/4   3/4   4/4