17.08.2009

Holistic view to literacy practices and pedagogies

The results of the project will have both theoretical and practical implications. Compared to previous research done in the Finnish context, this project approaches literacy from a novel, multidisciplinary and holistic point of view. The following summarises the main characteristics of this research project, many of which are unique and innovative:

• both mother tongue and foreign language practices are studied together
• literacy is viewed as a socially constructed phenomenon including values and identities
• both formal (school) and informal (out-of-school) contexts, pedagogical and individual practices are examined
• both teachers’ and pupils’ practices are studied within the above two contexts
• immigrant pupils’ bi-literal practices and identities are studied
• the process of learning, teaching and assessing rather than the outcomes are in research focus
• assessment is considered an integral part of the learning process and literacy practices
• the key factors are combined in the research focus (teachers’ and pupils’ literacy practices both in and out of school, study materials, assessment instruments, curricula, strategy documents)
• technology is not seen as a separate means to an end, but an integral part of literacy pedagogy and multimodal language learning environments.

Methodologically this project will give new insights into literacy research. To capture the multifaceted world of multiliteracies, we have chosen methods and theoretical frameworks that originate in different fields of study.

The project will also benefit those interested in language policy, assessment, language and media education and teaching materials development. It contributes to teacher education and curriculum design by exploring pedagogical approaches and teaching and assessment practices that prepare young people for the contemporary and future literacy practices. It will also offer a solid research basis for teaching and carrying out practical literacy projects in schools and communities – especially with immigrant pupils. It will give teachers and pupils, regardless of their cultural background, tools to construct their identities and promote multicultural understanding through literacy practices.

Data and method

The project takes a multi-dimensional, collaborative and multi-method approach. The data consist of shared data and complementing sub-data concentrating on different aspects of literacy practices. We have planned the collection of data in a way that allows us to analyse, for example, particular literacy events and activities through several methods and frameworks. There are in all three stages in the project. The stages are not linear, but overlapping with each other.

First stage: Overview

Specific type of data

• survey (9th grade pupils and teachers)
• national curricula
• strategies and action plans
• national tests and examinations
• study book in mother tongue and foreign languages

Second stage: Understanding and explaining, capturing processes, evaluating

Specific type of data

• qualitative case studies in schools and out-of school contexts (profiled focus groups)
• teacher-student interviews, narratives, focus group interviews
• video-taped literacy practices
• ethnographic field notes

Third stage: Interventions

Specific type of data

• interventions in the classroom
• special substudy: digital learning resources as systemic innovation (OECD)

The first stage of the project aims at an overview of the current literacy practices in school and out-of-school contexts. We have conducted a large-scale survey among the 9th grade pupils and teachers. Information was  collected on current literacy practices, media and text choices, teaching practices and prevailing attitudes towards literacies. The survey covered ca 100 Finnish-speaking lower secondary schools in Finland. The number of respondents was 1720 pupils and 740 teachers. In addition to the survey, other types of macro level data consist of strategic documents and action plans dealing with language education policy and ICTs, curricula, text books, and national tests and examinations. The data provides the basis for a closer analysis of acknowledged values and attitudes towards literacy and of the current practices of the participants.

The aim of the second stage is to understand and explain the pupils’ and teachers’ practices in more detail. Most of the groups have been profiled and selected on the basis of the survey, and the data are complemented with the sub-studies. The shared data consist of focus group interviews,  video-taped literacy practices and ethnographic field notes. Content and discourse analytic methods, as well as narrative methods, are used in the data analysis.

In the second stage we are also focusing on capturing the learning and teaching practices as processes in which participants construct their knowledge, literacies and identities. The shared data consist  of interviews, observations and ethnographic field notes of literacy practices and activities in multimodal classrooms, video-taped literacy practices, teaching material, exercises, tests, school-specific curricula and study plans. In this process we identify key texts and activities for a closer examination. Content analysis and multimodal discourse analysis will be used for analysing the key texts and activities.

The third stage widens the scope towards an analysis of the future prospects. We examine and evaluate the possibilities of the school to meet the challenges of the knowledge society and of supporting and developing pupils’ out-of-school literacy skills and identities. The shared data consist of interventions where technology and the different media are integrated into literacy practices to help teachers and pupils build their knowledge and skills through various pedagogical activities and textual worlds. One aim of the interventions is to design and plan for future pedagogies to be used also for re-defining the goals of language and mother tongue teacher education.

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