Makerspaces for Teacher Writers and Reclaiming Subject English Discipline Knowledge and Pedagogies.

Year: 2019

Author: Exley, Beryl, Stinson, Madonna, Kitson, Lisbeth, Penn-Edwards, Sorrel, Lennon, Sherilyn, Oats, Megan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This introductory paper sets the scene by exploring the inaugural “Australian Curriculum: English” and its potential to support the development of students’ identities, cultures and societal interconnections. We also consider the professional learning needs of primary and secondary English teachers for supporting their students to “appreciate and enjoy language and develop a sense of its richness and its power to evoke feelings, form and convey ideas, persuade, entertain and argue” and “understand, interpret, reflect on and create an increasingly broad repertoire of spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of settings” (National Curriculum Board, 2009, p. 5). At the time the “Australian Curriculum: English” was being developed, the National Curriculum Board (2008) made reference to teachers’ professional knowledge bases for the new curriculum, in particular dealing “head-on with commonly expressed concerns about ‘the loss of literature in primary English’ and ‘the loss of language and literacy education in secondary English’” (p. 19). Our research work thus explored multi-site face-to-face and virtual makerspaces where primary and secondary English teachers came together over a six-month period to develop creative writing projects, write like a writer, and celebrate their writing achievements in front of a live audience of their peers and other interested guests. Our research focused on two dozen primary and secondary English teachers as they experienced a culture of creating writing and being a writer, as opposed to a culture of being taught how to teach writing via a lock-step approach. Our research explored the affordances and challenges of a dialogic approach to teacher professional learning as it was experienced in these makerspaces. This project produced new findings about face-to-face and virtual professional learning delivery for English teachers and the impact of this professional learning on teachers’ pedagogical practices and students’ learning. We found that teachers’ professional knowledge bases were evoked, shaped and re-shaped and negotiated in and through the discursive sites of the face-to-face and virtual makerspaces and that the teachers drew on their experiences with different levels of intensity according to the demands of their current teaching context. The research highlighted the teachers’ capabilities to reflect on professional learning events to advance their own practice and their students’ learning. The research reinforced that teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge for teaching writing is not a static concept but rather context specific and as such, residing in the teacher.