Transforming pedagogy: building linguistic and pedagogical knowledge in primary classrooms

Year: 2016

Author: Faulkner, Julie, Kirkby, Jane, Scull, Janet, Nicolazzo, Marian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Transformation, or a marked change in form or nature, is often implied in both curriculum change as well as the rhetoric of educational discourse. However, deep change is strongly implicated in a range of complex and embedded factors which militate against any simple notion of ‘transformation’. Change can be mandated as policy but this fails to ensure that altered teacher practice will unproblematically follow. The introduction of the language strand in the Australian curriculum represents an imposed curriculum change. It is also exemplifies a significant shift for teachers who have little or no prior experience of grammar. Teachers, in this case mostly at the early career stage, are working to establish their teacher identities while taking up new knowledge, related in our study to metalanguage. The weight of curriculum and professional expectation exerts its own pressure on the teachers’ engagement with language and writing and, in turn, their capacity to engage primary-aged students with the practices of writing. We explore, as an example of this process, the trajectory of our collaboration with a cohort of primary teachers around language and writing pedagogies. Our study investigates the role of planning and support for teachers taking on elements of curriculum and pedagogical change. Using a range of professional learning processes, teachers were encouraged to critique their existing approaches to teaching, examine a range of pedagogical practices to enhance learning opportunities for students, while building their own linguistic content knowledge. Working in year level teams, teachers evaluated the affordances of approaches implemented for their particular students. In this paper, we examine the tensions which sit around professional identity, literacy knowledge and pedagogy. We ask further questions in relation to the place of engagement and skill development in young writers, and explore how teachers might be best positioned to encourage rich language practice in primary classrooms.