The Reconceptualisation of Classroom Events as Structured Lessons: Documenting and Changing the Teaching of Literacy in the Primary School
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This study examines classroom interaction and its relation to early literacy pedagogy and professional development. Subjects were teachers from the middle primary level of schooling. Data were collected from introductory surveys, transcripts of literacy lessons and teacher interviews in three phases over a period of 18 months. The study drew on Applied Ethnomethodology to reveal 'what counts as literacy instruction' in these classrooms. Results argue that lessons are events that are shaped by teacher-pupil talk and fmdings point to a literacy curriculum that explicates literacy skills, knowledge and attitudes as an approach that optimises accessibility of the teaching and learning focus for all classroom members. The micro-analytic level of classroom interaction was examined in order to document the minute-by-minute evolvement of literacy lessons. Patterns of classroom literacy practices were investigated. Specifically detailed are ways in which literacy lessons in primary school classrooms are structured, ways students and teachers interact, the composition of teacher-student talk and the interrelationship between these factors. Documented are changes teachers demonstrated in literacy practices after closely examining their own lesson transcripts. A collaborative-analytic model for professional development was used in this intervention study. This methodology advances what is available in current literature describing effective professional development. The approach was developed in this study to investigate the use of interactive practices in classrooms as a pivotal point for teacher change. This innovation drew on transcripts of actual practice and rests on the conviction that instruction can be improved by direct feedback concerning the details of interaction. Although, previous research suggests teacher change is often unsustainable and a time consuming and difficult process, findings from this study advance the position of effective and efficient professional development if teachers orient to their own instructional practice, rather than to the content level of curriculum. In their demonstrations, teacher change in instructional practices was evident within significantly short periods of time. Interestingly, in some cases, changes were visible within a period of less than one month. This thesis reports modifications to classroom literacy practices and documents the reconceptualisation of classroom events as structured lessons in literacy. In this research, teacher-student interactions were problematised rather than the content of instructional material. The point of delivery, the talk, was strategically treated as the focal point for change. Findings indicate teachers were not only able to identify categories for change, but were able to recognise the need for change and show it in their practice. As a result of the intervention, transcripts showed how teachers reconstructed their understanding of literacy instruction by expanding the perceptions and knowledge of 'what counts as literacy' in their particular classroom. Teachers could recognise and account for changes in relation to the way they managed and organised the topics for talk and the structural features of lessons in literacy. They attributed changes to the collaborative-analytic intervention. By comparing pre-intervention and post-intervention lessons a new pedagogy of literacy showed that lessons were presented within a systematic framework of instruction that encompassed the explication and maintenance of the literacy agenda. The literacy focus was not compromised in order to attend to logistical matters of behaviour, resources and materials and social organisations. Behaviour management became an integrated concern within a context of literacy learning. Although, teachers recognised it had the. potential to interrupt the lesson flow and the literacy focus, results showed that explicit and systematic instruction led to a decrease in both the length of managerial talk and the frequency in which they occurred. Demonstrated in the findings were teaching and learning contexts established to explicate the intended goals and purposes of the literacy learning event. What was to be newly learned or revised in lessons emerged to be clearly defined and separated from talk about 'everyday cultural experiences and topics'. An explicit lesson focus, rather than the implicit or incidental focus in literacy learning episodes, found prior to the collaborative-analytic intervention, enabled teachers to systematically present the four literacy resources. As a consequence, students were provided with opportunity to systematically learn about specific aspects of the four literacy resources. Talk about 'everyday culturally familiar' topics did not obstruct the focal point of the classroom literacy agenda. Thematic topics derived from units of work and/or texts provided context and content for literacy learning, but did not override the specific literacy learning agenda of lessons. In the 'intervention' findings, what was offered to students as 'new learning' was articulated explicitly, and hearable by students as relating to learning about specific aspects of literacy. Teachers demonstrated changes to the way lessons were structured. Results indicated the provision of specific knowledge about the nature and purpose of learning tasks in lesson beginnings provided a pragmatic way to centre curriculum round teacher-led imperatives and child-partnered pedagogy. Lesson reviews made explicit links between lesson aims and outcomes and this was hearable by the interactive participants of the classroom. Teachers articulated that lesson reviews provided explicit and immediate knowledge about student outcomes. They stated that what was learnt and what needed re-teaching was made immediately visible. Asserted was the position that implementing curriculum within a systematic teaching model student self-assessment, monitoring and evaluation was promoted because of the nature of the professional development methodology used in this study. This ethnomethodological study illustrates literacy practices found in classrooms by detailing the conceptualisation and construction of lessons in literacy at micro-analytic level. Results have implications for teacher education programs at both pre-service and in-service levels. Demonstrated was the importance for educators (training teachers, and those in service), to understand and have a detailed knowledge of the relationship between classroom interaction and effective pedagogy. Results imply the systematic examination of classroom transcripts, in particular teacher's own lessons, are not only beneficial, but instrumental in producing changes in practice that strengthen the relationship between teaching and learning.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
Item Access Status
teaching and learning