Rethinking literacy in culturally diverse classrooms

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Abstract

Literate demands on our youth today have become increasingly more complex due to a technological revolution, increased local diversity and a stronger connectedness with our global neighbours (New London Group, 1996). Contemporary classrooms are characterised by a diverse range of learners that come from different places, with different life world experiences and preferred ways of learning and knowing. Texts are no longer confined to print and comprehending texts involves understanding how different modes such as the audio, visual and spatial integrate to make meaning. Despite this, schools continue to measure and describe student's literacy in relation to their ability to encode and decode print. The recent Program for International Student Assessment results (OECD, 2006) show that Australia has dropped from 5th ranking to 6th in the world in terms of reading literacy. More disturbing is the fact that this assessment showed a continuing widening gap in academic achievement between Australia's Indigenous and non Indigenous students with very little improvement since 2000. Similarly in the United States recent literacy results show that despite some gains in the achievements of minority groups, there has been little narrowing in the gap between white students and minority students (Lee, Grigg et al., 2007). This chapter adopts a socio-cultural view of literacy and calls for a rethinking of what might count as literacy in school. It reports on a study which documented the literacy practices valued in the home community, community school and urban high school of seven Aboriginal students as they moved from Year 7 in their community school to Year 8 in their new urban high school (Rennie, Wallace et al. 2004). It discusses theoretical ideas related to a multiliteracies framework (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000), literacy as an act of translation (Somerville, 2006) and Aboriginal world views and knowledge (Martin, 2008) as a means to explore ways we might rethink the teaching of literacy in diverse and culturally rich classrooms. © 2010, IGI Global.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMultiliteracies and Technology Enhanced Education: Social Practice and the Global Classroom
EditorsDarren L Pullen, David R Cole
Place of PublicationUnited States of America
PublisherInformation Science Publishing
Pages83 - 99
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781605666730
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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