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Critical Research Can Help Us To Identify Quality Teaching In Literacy Education

By Author: Arsenalo
Total Articles: 116

In response to our most recent literacy crisis, the U.S. government and professional collaborative such as the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000) and the National Research Council (2005) have called for more scientific research in literacy education. That is, policymakers and certain members of our field feel as though the only valuable research is conducted via randomized experiments that tell us, essentially, how certain curricular reforms affect aggregate achievement as measured by the same sorts of problematic standardized outcomes or by scores on artificial assessments designed by teams of university researchers.

Although standardized measures provide an important perspective on the performance of young people in schools, it is only one perspective, and taken out of context this perspective can be extremely problematic--both in how it positions certain groups of students and in how it limits the discussion GHD MK4 of possible alternatives to traditional classroom literacy practices (Pressley, 2001). In the end, we are still left with very few images of the powerful literacy classroom to help us understand the challenges that teachers and students face and the conditions that turn tragedies into triumphs.

In essence, research in K-12 literacy education needs to elucidate life in classrooms for the poor and for members of historically marginalized groups, and it needs to shed light on what is happening in powerful learning spaces for students--when literacy instruction is both identity affirming and academically enriching. I argue for a specific conception of research, what I and others call critical research, as an example of the kind of work that needs to be undertaken in our field if we are going to be able to provide information to teachers, teacher educators, and policymakers that will lead to changes in practice and outcome that eliminate the education opportunity gap. By education opportunity gap, which I distinguish from achievement gap, I am referring to the work of Asa Hilliard (2003), who argued for a shift in perception of the achievement gap away from searching for deficiencies in student intelligence toward questioning the measures of achievement and the actual opportunities to learn that have been provided for students. In other words, the challenge is ours, as a field, to figure out how to better educate students. Regardless of terminology, Hilliard contended that higher quality teaching is needed to produce excellence in classrooms for students that have been historically underserved.

Quite simply, these students need to achieve higher forms of excellence if they are to exist as powerfully informed and affirmed GHD MK5 humans. Hilliard, in this vein, was tapping into a long history of African American education that associated literacy learning in schools with the project of human freedom (Anderson, 1988; Perry, 2003). Critical research, I argue, can help us to identify quality teaching in literacy classrooms even as it helps us to refine (or even redefine) our notions of curricula, pedagogy, literacy, and achievement.

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