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English as a site of cultural negotiation and contestation

Turvey, A; Yandell, J; Ali, L; (2012) English as a site of cultural negotiation and contestation. English Teaching: Practice and Critique , 11 (3) pp. 26-44. Green open access

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Abstract

We offer this piece as an essay, a dialogic, many-voiced attempt to represent the tensions and contradictions in our work and the work that goes on in London schools. Locating our work within a polyphonic, narrative-based tradition of inquiry into practice (Burgess & Hardcastle, 1991; Doecke & McClenaghan, 2011; Parr, 2010; van de Ven & Doecke, 2011), we start with two stories arising out of our work as teacher educators. These stories provide insights into the effects of standards-based reforms on the lived experiences of school pupils and their teachers in England. We argue that they show something of the ways in which these changes in schooling are profoundly reshaping social relationships and subjectivities. To chart the effects of these changes is important, in our view. And yet, for all the discursive and institutional power of the standards-based reforms, they fail to provide an adequate account of the complexity of what goes on in English classrooms. The agency of teachers and learners, effaced by the dominant discourse, is continually being reasserted, continually threatening to undermine the false simplicities of the standards. Questions of identity, of how learners and teachers alike are situated – and situate themselves – in history and culture, though absent from the dominant discourse, cannot so easily be dismissed. These questions are ones that we encourage our student teachers to take seriously and to address in their writing. We include in this piece substantial extracts from the writing of one of these students: Leila’s reflexive contribution speaks back to the standards-based reforms, offering a very different account of her own learning and that of her pupils. We do not pretend to offer a neat resolution to these conflicting discourses; what Leila’s account provides, however, is a reason to be hopeful.

Type: Article
Title: English as a site of cultural negotiation and contestation
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Standards-based reforms, teacher identity, narrative-based inquiry, culture, dialogic
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10023302
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