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2011 May RTE, v45.4

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2011 May RTE, v45.4

Level(s): College

ISBN/ISSN: 0034-527X


Research in the Teaching of English
Volume 45, Number 4, May 2011

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Table of Contents

Editors’ Introduction: Generalizability or a Thousand Points of Light? The Promises and Dilemmas of Qualitative Literacy Research
Mark Dressman, Sarah McCarthey, and Paul Prior

Making Grammar Instruction More Empowering: An Exploratory Case Study of Corpus Use in the Learning/Teaching of Grammar
Dilin Liu

Abstract: Despite a long debate and the accompanying call for changes in the past few decades, grammar instruction in college English classes, according to some scholars, has remained largely “disempowering,”“decontextualized,” and “remedial” (Micciche, 2004, p. 718). To search for more effective and empowering grammar teaching, this study explores the use of corpora for problem-based learning/teaching of lexicogrammar in a college English grammar course. This pedagogy was motivated by research findings that (1) corpora are a very useful source and tool for language research and for active discovery learning of second/foreign languages, and (2) problem-based learning (PBL) is an effective and motivating instructional approach. The data collected and analyzed include students’ individual and group corpus research projects, reflection papers on corpus use, and responses to a post-study survey consisting of both open-ended and Likert questions.The analysis of the data found the following four themes in students’ use of, and reflections about, corpus study: (1) critical understanding about lexicogrammatical and broader language use issues, (2) awareness of the dynamic nature of language, (3) appreciation for the context/register-appropriate use of lexicogrammar, and (4) grasping of the nuances of lexicogrammatical usages. The paper also discusses the challenges involved in incorporating corpus use into English classes and offers suggestions for further research.

Young People’s Everyday Literacies: The Language Features of Instant Messaging
Christina Haas and Pamela Takayoshi, with Brandon Carr, Kimberley Hudson, and Ross Pollock

Abstract: In this article, we examine writing in the context of new communication technologies as a kind of everyday literacy. Using an inductive approach developed from grounded theory, we analyzed a 32,000-word corpus of college students’ Instant Messaging (IM) exchanges. Through our analysis of this corpus, we identify a fifteen-item taxonomy of IM language features and frequency patterns which provide a detailed, data-rich picture of writers working within the technological and situational constraints of IM contexts to creatively inscribe into their written conversations important paralinguistic information. We argue that the written features of IM function paralinguistically to provide readers with cues as to how the writing is to be understood. By writing into the language paralinguistic cues, the participants in our study work to clarify, or more precisely disambiguate, meaning. Through a discussion of four of these features—eye dialect, slang, emoticons, and meta-markings—we suggest how the paralinguistic is inscribed in IM’s language features.

“Rise Up!”: Literacies, Lived Experiences, and Identities within an In-School “Other Space”
Kelly K. Wissman

Abstract: In this article, I consider the literacy practices that emerged in an in-school elective course centered in the literacy tradition of African American women. Drawing from spatial perspectives (Leander& Sheehy, 2004), I explore what it means to consider this course an “Other space” (Foucault,1986), as a space created without the constraints of a mandated curriculum or standardized test pressures and as a space informed by an understanding of the connections among literacies,lived experiences, and identities. Through the presentation and analysis of five vignettes, I consider how the students shaped the course to their own ends and pursued agentive literacy work resonant with the epistemologies in the literacy tradition of African American women. While I situate these contributions and literacy practices within Black feminist and postpositivist realist theories of identities, I contend their full measure cannot be understood without a look at the physical aspects of the space, the travel of texts into and out of it, and its relational and affective dimensions. I conclude with considerations for pursuing literacy pedagogies attentive to social identities and for creating “Other spaces” within a time of standardization and testing.

Featured Methodological Article: Analyzing Literacy Practice: Grounded Theory to Model
Victoria Purcell-Gates, Kristen H. Perry, and Adriana Briseño

Abstract: In this methodological and theoretical article, we address the need for more cross-case work on studies of literacy in use within different social and cultural contexts. The Cultural Practices of Literacy Study (CPLS) project has been working on a methodology for cross-case analyses that are principled in that the qualitative nature of each case, with its layers of context and interpretive meaning making by the researcher, is maintained while still allowing for data aggregation across cases. We present a model of a literacy practice that emerged from this work as one that may contribute to the work of other literacy researchers who are looking for theoretically driven ways to analyze and interpret ethnographic accounts of literacy practice on a larger scale and to answer questions about literacy practice across studies. We describe our theoretically based coding scheme,as well as the development of a large ethnographic database of literacy practices data and the technical aspects of lifting ethnographic data into a large database. We also provide a description of a pilot cross-case analysis as an example of the promise of such qualitative cross-case databases.

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