Successful school subject literacies within the context of disadvantage

Year: 1994

Author: Atweh, Bill, Bleicher, Robert, Christensen, Clare, Lankshear, Colin

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Research into literacy and school subject performance focuses overwhelmingly on identifying and addressing risk factors associated with under-achievement. Strenuous efforts are devoted to diagnosing the "causes" of literacy failure that is pattered by ethnicity, social class, gender and other variables. This paper explores the possibility that equal or even greater insights into and potential benefit for school attainment may be achieved by investigating instances of successful school literacies practices within context officially designated as "disadvantaged".

It is a preliminary report which deals with six case studies comprising clusters built around successful students in English, science, physics, home economics, mathematics and economics at a secondary school in Brisbane. Each of the clusters consists of a student identified by their teacher as highly competent in the literacy of a given subject, one of their teachers and one of the students' caregivers. Interviews with all cluster members, classroom observations and journal-keeping by students are the main data collection techniques employed. The aim of the study is to develop contextualised theories to explain phenomena of success in disadvantaged settings and to identify social and pedagogical factors associated with success. This paper will report the findings of the present study, and comment on how they compare with those international studies of scholastic success in contexts of disadvantage.