27 SES 09 B, Knowledge and Inclusion
The focus of this paper is on teachers’ metalanguage; how the appropriation of metalanguage is a stepping stone to develop a type of teaching that cater for all students to succeed academically.
This study takes its starting point in the Swedish school context where economic gaps and segregation in housing increase, and together with an introduction of a school voucher system, academic polarization and declining equity has been produced. More students are excluded from higher education and consequently their life choices are restricted. In particular, students from socially disadvantaged groups are losing out. Schooling and teaching have, however, the potential to create equity and compensate for low cultural capital (Bourdieu & Passeron 1990). This requires an understanding of what Bernstein (1999) coined vertical and horizontal discourse. Bernstein claimed that visible pedagogy (Bernstein 1975) - strongly framed, explicit teaching - was essential for students with low cultural capital to succeed in school.
The distinction between horizontal and vertical discourse is found in context embeddedness; horizontal discourse is context embedded and recognized as” everyday” knowledge. Vertical discourse, on the other hand, is not context embedded and requires abilities to use the knowledge” here and beyond”, similar to the key competences coined by OECD (DeSeCo, 2005 s. 3) regarding critical literacy and problem solving. Students, thus, need to obtain the ability of communicating in both discourses. Hence, “[T]he fundamental issue that faces us for pedagogy is how do we make it possible for people to move from horizontal to vertical discourse” (Christie, 2007 p. 41).
One way of looking at horizontal and vertical discourse, is through the lens of Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), a development of both Bernstein’s code theory and Bourdieu’s field theory. LCT introduces a concept where the study of knowledge is focused, and it makes an important distinction between segmented and cumulative knowledge (Maton 2013). Segmented knowledge means that knowledge is added like beads on a string whereas cumulative knowledge entails an ability to make connections between concepts and ideas in different contexts and over time, similar to the vertical discourse.
Along the same lines as Bernstein’s visible pedagogy, the literacy professional development program Reading to Learn (R2L) has been developed (Rose & Martin, 2012). The literacy program focuses on explicit teaching of reading and writing, using model texts, typical for the school subjects at hand. The program has strong links to Bernstein’s code theory and the linguistic theory of Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday, 1994) along with socio-cultural theory of learning. In order to teach according to the R2L pedagogy, teachers need to adopt a particular understanding of texts and a particular understanding of grammar, which, in a Swedish context requires a” resetting” of how teachers view texts and teaching of texts (cf Ivanic, 2004).
This study investigates a two-year professional development program and in particular what part literacy metalanguage plays in tutorial sessions when teachers discuss their teaching and learning to use R2L pedagogy with experts. The research questions are:
- What kind of metalanguage is used in the tutorial sessions?
- How can the tutorial sessions help in understanding appropriation of metalanguage and R2L pedagogy?
In a learning perspective metalanguage is interesting as it is an indication of an ability to verbalize metatalk and metalinguistic discussion, (Chen & Myhill, 2016). How metalanguage is used in context provides insight in how well teachers have appropriated the theoretical foundations of a method, such as R2L, or other methods. Further, teachers’ theoretical understanding, as well as their pedagogic metalanguage, is linked to the success of their students (Myhill, Jones, Lines & Watson, 2011).
This study has adopted the theoretical and methodological toolkit of Legitimation Code Theory (LCT). As mentioned previously, LCT is a development of Bernstein’s and Bourdieu’s theories, focusing knowledge in different contexts. LCT has five dimensions, of which specialization and semantics are most described and applied in research. Specialization deals with knowledge and knowers; what is legitimate knowledge in a field and who is a legitimate knower and how this is enacted in the studied contexts. Semantics has its roots in Bernstein’s theory of vertical and horizontal discourse (Maton, 2014). In LCT theory, vertical discourse is realized by stronger semantic density and weaker semantic gravity, i.e. stronger lexical density and decontextualized meaning. Horizontal discourse involves weaker semantic density and stronger semantic gravity, i.e. weaker lexical density and context-dependent meaning (Maton, 2014; Hood, 2016). In teaching, semantics can be illustrated by the text book, which has stronger semantic density in its subject specific and academic terminology and language use, as it deals with general phenomena. In classroom interaction, teachers unpack the text book contents realizing weaker semantic density by concrete examples and less specialized and technical language, i.e. horizontal discourse (Hipkiss, 2014; Macnaught, Maton, Martin, & Matruglio, 2013; Maton, 2013 and Matruglio, Maton & Martin, 2013). Translated into LCT-terminology, this means that teachers scaffold students from their direct experiences, i.e. stronger semantic gravity and weaker semantic density to generalized understanding, i.e. stronger semantic density and weaker semantic gravity. This scaffolding can be illustrated over time as a wavelike movement, a semantic wave. The greater the range between weaker and stronger semantic density or gravity, over time in the wave, the better illustration of cumulative knowledge and better understanding of contents (Maton, 2013). In this paper, two tutorial sessions, each approximately one hour long, between a R2L-expert and two teachers from year 1 and one teacher from year 2, were recorded, transcribed and analysed, using Semantics. Both semantic density and semantic gravity was analysed in relation to instances in interaction where literacy metalanguage, i.e. both ‘general’ literacy metalanguage and the new R2L metalanguage, was present. The instances were plotted on the semantic plane to visualise the occurrence of different types of metalanguage. Thereafter, the semantic density and gravity plotting was transferred to a graph illustrating the semantic wave that was realized in the two sessions in order to highlight movement and flow.
In year 1, the tutorials are characterized by the expert supporting the teachers in understanding how to apply R2L strategies and on the founding theoretical idea that genres have a social purpose. The expert does most of the talking during the session; explaining and elaborating – surfing the semantic waves between abstract and concrete, by unpacking and repacking R2L metalanguage and explicating R2L methods. In year 2, the teacher does most of the talking and the role of the expert is more to encourage and confirm. The teacher uses the R2L metalanguage and moves relatively independently up and down the waves, when describing her teaching and understanding of the R2L pedagogy. Additionally, the year 2 teacher uses more general literacy metalanguage than the year 1 teachers, suggesting that “fluency” in both metalanguages could be interconnected. Our analysis indicates that the teachers in year 1 need more time to incorporate the R2L metalanguage into their teaching vocabulary, and then to combine the “old” with the “new”. The teacher in year 2 is more fluent in both R2L metalanguage and general literacy metalanguage. Metalangauge is essential for understanding a pedagogical model such as R2L, since it is a strongly framed literacy pedagogy, quite different from traditional pedagogies of teaching, and compared to the more “creative discourse of writing” (cf. Ivanic) that generally has been taught. In lines with Bernstein’s ideas of invisible and visible pedagogies, the choice of R2L would allow for a greater potential to reduce differences in academic success between socially disadvantaged and socially advantaged groups of students. This provided that teachers appropriate an understanding of both theory and practice, which we see happen between tutorials, exemplified by the teachers in year 1 and 2 respectively.
Bernstein, B. (1975). Class, codes and control: theoretical studies towards a sociology of language. New York: Schocken Books. Bernstein, B. (1999). Vertical & Horizontal Discourse. An Essay. British Journal of Sociology of Education. Vol 20, No 2 1999 Bourdieu, P. & Passeron, J. (1990). Reproduction in education, society and culture. (2. ed.) London: Sage. Chen, H & Myhill, C. (2016). Children talking about language: Investigating metalinguistic understanding. Linguistics and Education. 35 (2016). 100-108. Christie, F. & Macken-Horarik, M. ( 2007). Building verticality in subject English. In: Christie, F. & Martin, J.R (ed.). Language, knowledge and pedagogy. Functional lingustics and sociological perspectives. London: Continuum DeSeCo (2005):”The definition and selection of key competencies. Executive summary”. http://www.oecd.org/pisa/35070367.pdf. Halliday, M.A.K. (2004). Halliday's introduction to functional grammar. (4. ed.) Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Hipkiss, A.M. (2014). Klassrummets semiotiska resurser: en språkdidaktisk studie av skolämnena hem- och konsumentkunskap, kemi och biologi. Diss. Umeå : Umeå universitet, 2014. Umeå.Hood, S. (2016). Ethnographies on the move, stories on the rise: methods in the humanities. In: Maton, K, Hood, S & Shay, S (Eds). Knowledge-building: Educational studies in Legitimation Code Theory. London: Routledge. (117-137) Ivanic, R. (2004). Discourses of writing and learning to write. Language and Education, v18 n3 p220-245. Macnaught, L., Maton, K. Martin, R.J. & Matruglio, M.E. (2013). Jointly constructing semantic waves: Implications for teacher training. Linguistics and Education, 24 (1), 50-63. Maton, (2014). Knowledge and knowers. London: Routledge. Maton, K. (2013) “Cumulative and segmented learning: exploring the role of curriculum structures in knowledge building”. I British Journal of Sociology of Education, s 45-46 Maton, K. & Chen, R.T.-H. 2016. LCT in qualitative research. In: Maton, K, Hood, S & Shay, S (Eds). Knowledge-building: Educational studies in Legitimation Code Theory. London: Routledge. (28-48) Maton, K. & Doran, Y.J. (2017). , in Bartlett, T. & O’Grady, G. (eds) The Routledge Systemic Functional Linguistic Handbook. London: Routledge. Matruglio, E. Maton, K. & Martin, J.R. (2013). Time travel: The role of temporality in enabling semantic waves in secondary education. Linguistics and Education. 24 (2013). 38-49. Myhill, D., Jones, S., Lines, H., Watson, A. (2012) Re-thinking grammar: The impact of embedded grammar teaching on students' writing and students' metalinguistic understanding. Open Research Exeter. (https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10036/4479) Rose, D. & Martin, J.R. (2012). Learning to Write, Reading to Learn. Genre, Knowledge and Pedagogy in the Sydney School. Sheffield: Equinox.
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