Critical language awareness in the first year of study in a preservice teacher education program: Shaking the foundations of life and re- shaping the world

Year: 1994

Author: Wilson, Eric A.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The development of socially and critically aware citizens appears to be possible and, for many, ideologically desirable. Societal dependence on teachers as protagonists, expected to lay the foundations for this deconstructivist proposition, is dependent on those teachers supporting pedagogical practice that encourages such outcomes. The research in progress involves the monitoring and reporting of a program which develops training in this area and student reactions to it.

Declarations supporting the fundamental principles of social justice and equity are part of the raison d'Otre or mission statements of most educational institutions in Australia. This, together with the need to "filter" an ever-expanding deluge of textual material, has led to the embracing of a theory of critical language awareness as one possible means for the realisation of both. The empowerment that potentially lies within the social critical theory model must be made available to future generations through pedagogical practices learned by students in preservice education programs.

First-year Education students at James Cook University study Language in Education which introduces the students to social critical language theory, usually for the first time. This subject challenges the notion of language as a value-free instrument and instead shows it as the powerful social positioning and hegemonic agent it is. Student reaction to this challenge is varied; a common reaction-that language will never be seen the same way again-is emancipatory in the extreme for some and extremely threatening for others. A questionnaire to document student reaction to this subject and its influence on various aspects of their commitment to teaching is being distributed and will inform this research.