Teaching Reading: Education Policy and Responsible Pedagogy

Year: 2016

Author: Carter, Jenni

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Over the past few decades the politicisation of reading pedagogy has been a feature of education policy reform in Australia and internationally. Such reforms have focused on making claims about the ‘right’ way to teach reading. Debates such as those that oppose a ‘phonics’ approach to a ‘whole language’ approach have long histories with the advancement of phonics as a preferred methodology being advanced within education policy and the media. At the same time there is an increasing emphasis on the testing of young children in the first years of schooling, as in the ‘phonics check’ in the UK and the proposed Year 1 test recently announced in Australia. Such testing provides data for large scale testing regimes that provide the basis for judgements children and young people, teachers and schools. The justification of such initiatives has relied on an alliance of the polity, media and selected researchers. The force of these alliances has been significant while Ellis and Moss point to the ethical concerns of the ways in which research is taken up to support policy. From a commitment to socially justice pedagogies, this paper will examine the politicisation of pedagogy, particularly that concerned with teaching reading, by successive neoliberal governments in Australia. Challenging the formulaic pedagogical approaches advanced in policy and through mandated practices such as mass standardized testing a concept of responsible pedagogy is proposed. Drawing on the work of Derrida, particularly his aporetic understandings of justice and hospitality, responsibility is considered as political, ethical and juridical. A responsible pedagogy takes seriously the undecidability of singularity where a pedagogy for justice is necessarily and positively a risk. Within the aporetic conditions of justice, a responsible pedagogy for teaching reading will provide for an engagement with the complexity of the conditions and context, the multiple ways of knowing about learning to reading, and the ethical, political and juridical responsibilities of educators, researchers, policy makers and the media. References Comber, B 2012, 'Mandated literacy assessment and the reorganisation of teachers’ work: federal policy, local effects', Critical Studies in Education, vol. 53, no. 2, 2012/06/01, pp. 119-136.Derrida, J 1992, 'Force of Law: The "Mystical Foundation of Authority"', in D Cornell, M Rosenfeld & DG Carlson (eds), Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, Routledge, New York and London.Derrida, J 1999, 'Hospitality, Justice and Responsibility: a dialogue with Jacques Derrida', in R Kearney & M Dooley (eds), Questioning Ethics, Routledge, London and New York.Ellis, S & Moss, G 2014, 'Ethics, education policy, and research: the phonics question reconsidered', British Educational Research Journal, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 241-260.Green, B, Hodgens, J & Luke, A 1997, 'Debating Literacy in Australia: History Lessons and Popular F(r)ictions', Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, vol. 20.Hamilton, M, Maddox, B & Addey, C (eds) 2015, Literacy as Numbers Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.