Recontextualisation as a framework for understanding relationships among literacy research, policy and practice

Year: 2008

Author: Chen, Honglin, Harris, Pauline

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper examines the nexus between literacy research, policy and practice from a Bernsteinian perspective. There has been increasing concern about incongruent relationships among literacy research, policy and practice as evidenced in recent debates about what counts as a legitimate model of literacy pedagogy. Whilst documents such as the Teaching Reading Report have aimed at establishing priorities for literacy teaching and research, the recommendations address only limited aspects of literacy education and do not provide a sufficiently comprehensive basis for policy development and classroom practice. There appears to be little alignment between most research being conducted by the researchers, the policies being proposed by commonwealth and state governments, and what happens in classrooms.

Bernstein's theory of the pedagogic device, and more specifically, his concept of recontextualisation, provides a means of conceptualising the complex relationships among the fields of research, policy and practice. This theoretical framework describes a system of rules that regulate the production and reproduction of knowledge. For Bernstein, the movement of knowledge from one field to another, for example from literacy research, to policy, to practice, occurs through a process of recontextualisation. This process brings about changes in power relations and control over pedagogic discourse. Analysis of underlying recontextualising principles can thus reveal relationships both within and among the fields of literacy research, policy and practice. The usefulness of this framework is then illustrated by analyses of recent debates regarding the use of evidence-based approaches to literacy teaching in Australia. This paper highlights issues concerning building a literacy curriculum that can improve and sustain the literacy attainment of all Australian children.