Pedagogy and Politics/ the politics of Pedagogy
Developing A Culture of Reading at Paddington Academy (Emma Hayward and Amy Walters)
It is well documented that reading widely for pleasure is linked to higher academic attainment (Clark and DeZoya, 2011; OECD, 2010). As well as obvious benefits to literacy skills, research led by Sullivan and Brown (2015) shows that reading for enjoyment is also linked to an enhanced ability to learn across the curriculum. However, students from low socio-economic backgrounds are significantly less likely to read for pleasure than students from more privileged socio-economic backgrounds (Clark and Akerman, 2006).
Research conducted by Doug Lemov (2016) revealed that students in schools across New York City were reading an average of only 17 minutes per hour in English/reading classes, and even less elsewhere. Typically, students would spend 20 minutes per day reading and almost 40% of students did not read at all. For students who come from low socio-economic backgrounds, where reading is less likely to be practiced habitually at home, limited reading time in school will have severe, long-term detrimental effects on their ability to read for both pleasure and information.
In response to this research, teachers at Paddington Academy have developed and implemented a series of reading strategies designed to ‘normalise’ reading across the curriculum, ensuring that it becomes a daily habit. Located in central London, Paddington Academy is a non-selective secondary school which serves a predominantly disadvantaged community (66% of pupils eligible for Free School Meals in the past six years and 91% of pupils come from families whose first language is not English). In this paper, we will discuss the pedagogical strategies deployed by teachers to address the socio-economic barriers that prevent students from reading regularly and independently both for pleasure and information. We will also reflect on the initial impact of these strategies, as well outlining the next stages of the project.
“Oh Captain! My Captain!” Where are all of the linguists? A Causal Layered Analysis on the decline of students choosing English Literature A-Level (Haili Hughes)
The steady decline in students opting to study English A-Level has been reported widely, with take up for English Literature plummeting by 3,500 students on last year’s figures (Ofqual, 2019). Academics and teachers who are looking for answers as to why this is happening have cited various reasons, such as incorrect beliefs about English graduates’ value on the job market (Eaglestone, 2019), or the perceived pointlessness of an English degree (Shaw, 2018).
However, many of the worries about English Literature take-up are rooted in past events, with little research existing on the analysis of different causal factors, which would help identify solutions and build a better educational future on the English landscape.
This paper will utilise Inayatullah’s ‘Causal Layered Analysis’ to identify four different layers of the causes of decline in take-up, so that recommendations can be made which will galvanise English teachers across the secondary, further and higher education sectors, and enable them to make synchronised changes at all levels, encouraging more students to choose English Literature A-Level.
Looking After, Taking Care: Essaying on teaching, creativity and maternal pedagogies (Gail Low)
Who am I when I see my students' faces looking up at me, asking: Tell me how. Show me the way...
I am a teacher, and I am a teacher who wants to think about more recent pedagogical developments at University level, and about seminars and workshops in, especially, creative writing. I want to reflect reflexively on my experience in a manner begun by Roland Barthes' work on the seminar: the institutional contract; teaching practices; spaces to explore; spaces to creatively dialogue, succeed as well as fail. Current management and pedagogical practices have sought to minimize risk, and cast failures as lack only. In putting into a play an aims-and-outcomes knowledge-transfer model of teaching we restrict our students unnecessarily. In response, I ask, in what ways can failures be creative? Especially in humanities teaching today, we worry about a lack of knowledge but we foreclose on enquiry, encouraging an instrumentalising of education and fashioning higher education in the image of the schoolroom. I argue for the importance of risk and challenge as a creative way of learning in the Humanities, and essaying as a malleable and expansive form to inaugurate discovery.
I want to think about essaying and teaching, not only for myself as a teacher, but for myself as who I am, positioned within discourses and circumstances that enable or disable intellectual and affective connections in the space of the classroom. I begin with challenging myself to reflect on with Barthes' triangulation of the seminar as a meeting of three spaces where no one space has precedence: the institutional, where knowledge transfer is promised, and where authority and authorisation (who possesses or gives authority) is hierarchised; the transferential, where teaching relations are both vertical (between teacher and student, and vice versa) and horizontal (between student and student); the textual, whether these take the form of products (writing, articles, research essays) or practices that constitute its own text within the confines of the seminar. I ask, but what if our teaching roles are aligned with maternal pedagogies acknowledging desire, but moving in the direction of care; support; encouragement; provision; direction; and the space to try. I wonder, too, if by aligning such a development in the HE sector with a powerful creative and matrixial urge to nourish, encourage and protect I might rediscover my teaching and learning in a more positive light. Following our earlier collaborative essay work, the paper will "perform" these explorations in the form of a creative essay on teaching experiences.
Even in unfavourable circumstances: On mediating the ‘Govian’ English curriculum (Lilith Johnstone)
I am currently an NQT English teacher at a school in East London. Always keen to improve my research and practice, I am also studying for a MA in English Education. Last year, I completed my PGCE at the Institute of Education, UCL and prior to this I achieved an MLitt in Modern Scottish Writing at the University of Stirling and an MA in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Here, my research focus was on the representation of women in contemporary Scottish fiction written by men, an area of research I remain passionate about. I first became interested in English, teaching, Scottish identity, gender and the intersection of all these things when growing up in Orkney.
My paper will be adapted from the final assignment of my PGCE course and is entitled "Even in unfavourable circumstances: On mediating the ‘Govian’ English curriculum." The paper explores why and how ‘Michael Gove’s’ 2014 English national curriculum can and should be mediated in the classroom. It unpacks the debate around its implications and explores the criticism usually levelled at it from educators, the press, and, in particular academics in education, namely Oliver Belas’ and Nigel Hopkins’ recent essay: ‘Subject English as Citizenship Education’ (2019). It draws upon the author’s own experiences of the Scottish national curriculum and suggests reasons why, in light of this, perhaps, a more positive approach towards Gove’s policy might be required. To do so, it analyses in-depth two moments when I was a (student) teacher of a Year 10 class at Green View Secondary School, a girls’ school in North London and where curriculum
mediation occurred in ways I did not expect. The paper uses these moments to illustrate and argue for ways in which, in contrast to critics like Belas and Hopkins, the mediation of the ‘Govian’ English curriculum is not only possible, but productive and, in fact, essential.