Imagining new imaginings with middle school students: Literacy as imagination

Year: 2016

Author: Drought, Brendan, Woods, Annette, Comber, Barbara

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The constraining features of current classrooms where teachers and students are left to interact under policies of accountability-as-testing and shifts to more highly defined curriculum have been well documented over the past decade. In this paper we investigate what might still be possible in such contexts, when teachers and students focus on a concept such as imagination in a sustained investigation. The context for this collaborative research project is a middle school classroom, within a large state high school in Queensland. The students are enrolled in a voluntary middle school program where they remain in the same class, with the same teacher, for the first three years of their secondary schooling. This provides an ideal environment to shape interactions with a focus on belonging (Comber & Woods, 2016) within the classroom, and as such creates a fertile space for rigorous investigation of concepts and representations.In this case, the teacher and his research partner worked together to plan teaching and learning approaches with a focus on representation of new understandings of imagination. The case is part of a larger research project, the Imagination Project (Comber & Woods, 2016) which reports teacher research about what might be possible when teachers and children imagine worlds of belonging together. Here we present an analysis of the teacher and student work completed to study the concept of imagination through collective dialogue, and individual and shared text production across modes. By drawing on socio-material understandings, and considering the learning events as spaces of negotiation, where interaction between those involved is focused on innovation and new learnings, we consider what and how these young people learnt about imagination and the process of being learners in spaces of collective practice. We investigate the texts produced, the discussions had and the ways that these young people call on people, texts, materials and tools to produce representations of their understandings collectively and individually.