Changing Approaches to Literacies Pedagogy Within Australian Education
Like any other aspect of life, learning has been changing over the years as people seek to cater for changes in the society as well as global dynamics. As such, the previous mentality of treating students as passive participants when teaching literacy has been challenged and thus given way to other styles of learning that view learners as essential people with views and some prior knowledge that ought to be acknowledged by teachers. Moreover, the appreciation that many teachers utilize teaching styles or principles that have been developed over the years is critical in analyzing the various pedagogies used in the literacy learning process. That is more so while appreciating that some of these pedagogies have advantages as well as disadvantages, especially regarding their mode of utilization. In this token, this work seeks to base its discussion on the Australian education system as it explores the changing approaches to literacies pedagogy. These include the didactic pedagogy, authentic pedagogy, functional pedagogy, and the critical pedagogy. Importantly, the discussion proceeds by depicting how the Australian literacy pedagogy has changed over time starting from didactic approach up to the critical pedagogy. Moreover, this work also seeks to describe how each of the four pedagogies historical link, advantages, limitations, as well as how they may be applied in the twenty-first-century and future classroom to make literacy education more profitable.
To begin with, Kalantzis et al. (2016) reiterate that the didactic pedagogy is the oldest approach to be utilized in teaching and learning literacy amongst the four discussed in here. As such, scholars point out that the pedagogy started being used since the sixteenth-century until the nineteenth-century when it was actively challenged and thus gradually replaced by other pedagogies. In this respect, the didactic pedagogy was, and still is, characterized by the teacher-centered learning scenario. That way, the teacher reads literacy content from a textbook to the learners who then repeat after him or her. Furthermore, the act of repeating after the teacher helped students to memorize the textbook content without assisting them to derive meaning. As a result, many scholars have referred this paradigm as a one that treated students as passive learners who were only to receive directives from the teacher without them having to be heard or given room to internalize the content. Moreover, Zembylas (2014) maintains that teachers utilizing the didactic pedagogy used to teach from the front of the class using textbooks while reading the content to the students who would then put down the information in the books without much collaboration. Such attributes thus when applied in literacy learning are further said by Todhunter (2015) to have converted the whole learning process into an explicit instruction process that significantly challenged students’ comprehension ability. Moreover, Zembylas (2014) reinstates that this paradigm never aimed at helping learners conceptualize literacy aspects such as verbs, nouns, among others, as it purely sought to help students cram terms read to them by teachers.
Despite the various issues that the didactic pedagogy is said to have had, some literacy scholars have come to appreciate it regarding some key concerns such as aiding challenged students. These include Rupley, Blair and Nichols (2009) who argue that the direct instructions utilized by the didactic paradigm significantly assist in the learning and conceptualization of grammatical terms and concepts when applied to young as well as less able learners. Moreover, the three reaffirm that direct instructions, such as the one employed by the said pedagogy, is profoundly beneficial in conceptualizing with literacy theories. That is because they help students to capture the basics of reading and writing that in turn help them in further levels of literacy learning. As well, Zembylas (2014) notes that teaching phonics, spellings and grammar to young students using the didactic pedagogy is paramount. Such is because that entails exposing the young learners to a wholly new and emergent stage of development in reading as well as writing skills, and that may require precise direction and some level of command (Zembylas, 2014). Notwithstanding, Skourdoumbis and Gale (2013) also argue that the fact that the didactic pedagogy demands that all students be treated uniformly is key during the young age learning. That is because it gives both the fast and slow learners the ability to move together before they can take advantage of the other pedagogies later in their education life to diversify their learning experience. However, Wingate and Tribble (2012) warn that the didactic pedagogy contains scores of critical issues that significantly disable learning. Such is mainly based on the aspect of direct vocabulary instruction and its inability to help students develop the meaning of what they learn through memorization and copying. That way, the idea of emphasizing on teacher’s instructions, and the paradigm’s lack of constructiveness, as well as inability to promote students’ innovativeness, and problem-solving skills that made (and still makes) it weak as reiterated by Porcaro (2011). As such, it is such weaknesses that forced literacy learning specialists to look for an alternative pedagogy that assisted in meaning-making. That way, the authentic pedagogy was then developed with its main aim being to avoid the use of synthetic aspects of learning as well as eradicate the teacher-centered issue in the literacy learning (Atherton & Nutbrown, 2016).
The authentic pedagogies existed as a counter to the earlier discussed pedagogy as the developers sought to improve the manner in which literacy was being taught and learned. As such, this is a twentieth-century development and mainly aims to introduce meaning into the literacy learning. Moreover, the authentic pedagogy is believed to have been developed by some scholars who included the American philosopher, John Dewey, and the Italian scholar, Maria Montessori (Kalantzis et al., 2016). Consequently, the two believed that literacy learning would have more meaning to learners if it were made to mainly focus on real human experience as well as be encapsulated within encountered social life. Moreover, the developers further believed that students had some prior knowledge regarding literacy and that they would as well be able to teach themselves when put under the right conditions and environment (Goldman et al. 2016). In this respect, such believe then meant that teachers were no longer the center of literacy learning, but rather assistants to the students in the learning process. Kalantzis et al. (2016) cheer the new paradigm by reiterating that it allows students to view literacy learning as an ordinary life experience that puts no much pressure on them. That way, learners can readily make meaning of what they learn in class by relating it to the real-life context and physical environment, thus satisfying their interests as well as perspectives. Moreover, Cross (2016) says that the issue of incorporating contextual aspects in learning also helps students to develop better skills of reading and writing compared to the former pedagogy, that is the didactic paradigm. In the same token, Cross reiterates that the fact that authentic literacy activities are developed through the identification of themes and ideas that are specific to students’ conversations helps in establishing a friendly and flexible curriculum. Such is opposed to the dictating learning approach enforced by the didactic pedagogy.
Most importantly, the authentic pedagogy attains its goals by utilizing a set of three approaches. These include the self-directed reading, process writing, and the whole language style of reading. As such, the self-directed reading aids students to own what they are learning as opposed to cramming content material as dictated by the teacher. That way, this approach allows learners to choose the topics and themes that they are interested in learning, which in turn promote their focus and interest towards literacy. As a result, Wingate and Tribble (2012) reiterate that such students are further able to understand the covered knowledge in a better manner as they are not only depending on the teacher as the source of information since peer discussion is also possible with this paradigm. On the other hand, the process writing approach is vital in establishing learning friendly classrooms where students form the center of the learning process as opposed to the teacher-centered concept (Henderson, 2011). Consequently, teachers simply assist students in conceiving meaning of what they learn and write about. This aspect further offers students more time to write and read on their own, as well as engage fellow learners and students in discussions while they try to develop the diversified meaning of what they learn (Kalantzis et al., 2016). Notwithstanding, the whole language approach to literacy learning focusses on meaning-searching while reading. As such, it is promoted by the authentic pedagogy’s use of analytic phonics, coupled with the additional aspect of understanding the word first instead of the particular sounds that each letter make individually (Kalantzis et al., 2016). Such is reiterated by Stordy (2015) to be the most appropriate method of assisting students to develop fluency as well as view language as an ordinary tool of expression with meaning, other than a set of rules that need to be crammed and joined only when one is communicating to others. Despite the provided strengths regarding the authentic pedagogy, Stordy (2015) reiterates that it contains weaknesses that need to be corrected. Such include the issue of giving students from the highly literate families undue advantage over those from families that do not appreciate education and literacy learning. It is thus because of such weaknesses that scholars were forced to develop other literacy pedagogies such as the functionality paradigm.
As such, the Functionality pedagogy was developed in the latter part of the twentieth-century, most precisely in the 1970s. It sought to seal the potholes in the previous literacy pedagogy, that is the didactic and authentic pedagogy, by offering direction to literacy learners, as well as making literacy more social by showing students how to apply it in daily activities (Kalantzis et al., 2016). Moreover, the developers of this pedagogy were much concerned by the way in which literacy students could excel well in schools but fail to utilize literacy knowledge in real life settings. That way, the functionality pedagogy aims at assisting students to appreciate the purpose of literacy texts, as well as help them organize similar texts to solve their daily needs. Consequently, while the authentic paradigm was only concerned with meaning-making, the functional pedagogy goes miles ahead to offer both the meaning and applicability (social purpose) of literary texts to students (Dempsey & Arthur-Kelly, 2007). Furthermore, Dempsey and Arthur-Kelly reiterate that the functional pedagogy beets the other two in that it helps students to develop meaning after applying their knowledge of the language in social matters. Notwithstanding, Kalantzis et al. (2016) say that the functionality pedagogy follows a set of steps to assist students to internalize the importance of language and literacy texts. These involve the process of first examining a text from a broad perspective before narrowing it down to a specific viewpoint. Moreover, the students are further encouraged by this pedagogy to also analyze texts and their purposes before appreciating its context and macro-structure. Finally, the functionality pedagogy requires learners to, after passing through the earlier mentioned steps, examine the texts’ microstructure, that is sentence type and words, to come up with the actual meaning and the real function of a literacy text.
To help students appreciate the different types of texts as well as their meanings, the functionality pedagogy incorporates the aspect of genres. Such genres are specific to particular social needs and further help students to appreciate the distinction of text types as well as their purposes as reiterated by Kalantzis et al. (2016). Similarly, Tompkins et al. (2015) cheer the functionality pedagogy by maintaining that its ability to help students use a variety of texts across various subjects is a robust approach to wholesome learning. Consequently, these genres include report writing, narratives, essays, and argumentative essays, all of which significantly promote students’ understanding of texts and their applicability (Tompkins et al. 2015). That way, Marsh (2010) reinstates that literacy learners can efficiently link what they have learned in class with what is required of them in the real-life settings, hence making literacy education more meaningful. However, despite the much benefits that the functionality pedagogy is shown to have by the above discussion, Yang and Kim (2014) reiterates that its use of conventions and rules significantly makes it more similar to the didactic pedagogy and thus needs to be amended. As well, Foreman (2011) says that something needs to be done to the functionality pedagogy to make it multicultural, and further suitable for the digital era. Consequently, it is because of such shortcoming that scholars had to come up with the critical pedagogy that allows students to develop and use hybrid texts that have dominated the modern-day internet times (Tompkins et al., 2015).
Lastly, the critical pedagogy differs from the above three in that it appreciates the increasing complexities of language use and literacies during the media era that profoundly make use of digital content. As such, this pedagogy was advanced by various scholars including the Brazilian philosopher, Paulo Freire, around the same period when the functionality pedagogy was developed, that is in the 1970s (Benavot, 2015). Consequently, the paradigm aims at teaching students to become critical by being able to identify as well as recall literacy information. It also helps them to deduce meaning, apply strategies and skills, analyze texts and disintegrate them into small parts, after which they evaluate it based on values, and then create new content (Woolfolk & Margetts, 2013). Moreover, the critical pedagogy further aims at developing learners into agents and authors with an adequate command of literacy texts, voices, and experience. Such is key in developing, analyzing as well as evaluating the multimodal texts, sounds, and images that dominate the digital platforms which form a significant channel of communication in the twenty-first century as reiterated by Kalantzis et al. (2016). In the same token, Kalantzis et al. maintain that the critical pedagogy reflects the dynamics in the current and future societies as it acknowledges changes in societal values and views. In classroom settings, Kalantzis et al. (2016) argue that the critical pedagogy assists students to learn based on what they already know, which gives them the ability to analyze the content critically, and further to apply the literacy content creatively. Such, the scholars maintain is vital in the present days learning as it not only caters for the past time’s concerns but instead focusses on the present and future literacy issues.
In conclusion, this work maintains that each of the above-discussed literacy pedagogy offers significant benefits that are essential in the modern days’ classroom. As such, the utilization of didactic pedagogy is critical in teaching necessary literacy skills to struggling learners, and thus ought not to be wholly done away with. Moreover, the authentic literacy paradigm gives learners the opportunity to develop their internal motivation towards literacy by allowing them the chance to choose topics and themes that interest them. Notwithstanding, the functional pedagogy further aids learners in meaning making and also introduces them to genres that dominate the real-life communication and interaction hence promoting the value of literacy education. Lastly, the critical pedagogy has also been shown to be crucial to the twenty-first-century students and general population due to its involvement of hybrid texts. Furthermore, the critical paradigm also aids students to boost their logical and essential sense of evaluating issues which are also vital in the digital era where many internet texts shape students lived experiences. As a result, this work recommends that teachers continue using and building upon the various pedagogical practices to attain a balanced teaching and learning approach that benefits all students.
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