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2014 May RTE, v48.4

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Level(s): College, Elementary, Middle, Secondary

ISBN/ISSN: 0034-527X


Research in the Teaching of English
Volume 48, Number 4, May 2014

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Editors’ Introduction: Power and the Schooling of English: Ideologies, Embodiments, and Ethical Relationships
Mary M. Juzwik and Ellen Cushman
Abstract: In this issue, a group of emerging scholars take up diverse and timely questions about language ideologies, literate embodiments, and the ethically consequential relationships that come to be constructed, reflected, and contested at the scenes of written communication.

“Words That You Said Got Bigger”: English Language Learners’ Lived Experiences of Deficit Discourse
Shawna Shapiro
Abstract: In recent decades, academic outcomes for English Language Learners (ELLs) have become a major focal point of research in English education. Much of the scholarly discourse on this topic reinforces a deficit orientation toward ELLs, constructing them as an educational “problem” rather than an asset (e.g., Crumpler, Handsfield, & Dean, 2011; Gutiérrez & Orellana, 2006; Mitchell, 2013). This article examines how ELLs at one high school in New England perceived and resisted this deficit discourse by analyzing statements these students made during public protest and personal interviews. I employ Critical Race Theory (Kubota & Lin, 2006; Ladson-Billings, 1998; Solórzano & Yosso, 2002) as a framework for understanding how these students—all Black, former refugees from African countries—experienced the effects of deficit discourse in their lived experience at school and in the community. Focusing on four themes—Essentialization, Educational Deficit, Intellectual Inferiority, and Resistance—I show how students came to link deficit discourse with limited educational opportunity, and how particular schooling practices—such as language/literacy testing and academic tracking into low-level English classes—came to be seen by students as an outgrowth and reinforcement of deficit discourse. In the discussion of findings, I highlight alternative forms of representation (i.e., “counter-stories”) that were put forth by the students, and outline a number of implications of this study for teaching, research, and advocacy in English education.

Speak: The Effect of Literary Instruction on Adolescents’ Rape Myth Acceptance
Victor Malo-Juvera
Abstract: While grand claims have been made for the power of literature, there is a dearth of experimental research in English education examining the effects of reading literature—and specifically young adult literature—on students’ attitudes and moral development. Little work of any kind has been done on the efficacy of literary interventions in reducing adolescents’ rape myth acceptance. In response, this study examined the capacity of a dialogically organized, reader response–based literary unit focused on the young adult novel Speak to reduce adolescents’ rape myth acceptance. An experimental design was used with eighth-grade English language arts students in seven classes that were randomly assigned to treatment or control. Rape myth acceptance was measured using the Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (Burt, 1980) and a researcher-created scale, the Adolescent Rape Myth Scale (ARMS). Results revealed that girls had significantly lower levels of pretest rape myth acceptance than boys, that intervention significantly lowered participants’ rape myth acceptance, and that there was no backlash to treatment. Factor analysis revealed a two-component solution for the ARMS representing common rape myths; further analysis found that treatment was more effective in reducing the component She Wanted It than the component She Lied. The results demonstrate the instructional value of young adult literature, support the use of reader response–based dialogic instruction, and show it is possible to effectively address topics such as rape at the middle school level. I argue that future research should examine whether similar literary units can affect attitudinal constructs such as homophobia, tolerance of bullying, and attitudes toward disabilities. The potential marginalization of this type of literary instruction due to current educational reforms is also discussed.

Embodied Composition in Real Virtualities: Adolescents’ Literacy Practices and Felt Experiences Moving with Digital, Mobile Devices in School
Christian Ehret and Ty Hollett
Abstract: English educators are contending with the proliferation of mobile devices in students’ lives, and with the imminent integration of mobile devices into classrooms. Concurrently, literacy researchers using social semiotic theories of multimodality to investigate adolescents’ digital composing have focused on screens, paying scant attention to the bodies moving with them. Responding to recent critiques of multimodality that have centered on a lack of attention to embodiment and affect, this article leverages the concept of real virtualities to avoid artificially bifurcating screen and body, and to contribute a beginning theorization of the embodied experience of composing with mobile devices, which includes feeling-histories, affective atmospheres, and the felt experience of time. The data analyzed in this article come from a 12-week enrichment course in which five adolescents composed digital narratives with iPods. The overarching analysis describes all literacy practices with mobile devices in the course, and the microanalysis, using multimodal interaction analysis, compares two students with contrasting histories of mobile device use. Findings show these students’ literacies as more body-centered than techno-centered, and evince tensions between institutionalized learning environments and adolescents’ affective, cultural histories of being mobile while engaged in literacy. Further, findings describe how the feeling of tools and semiotic material influenced the trajectories of students’ bodies and narratives. Theories of digital composition should continue expanding to account for connections between mobility and affect, and the pedagogical importance of motility. The changing nature of literacy in the milieu of mobile computing compels researchers to consider the role of the moving, feeling body in literacy with more scrutiny.

On the Instability of Disciplinary Style: Common and Conflicting Metaphors and Practices in Text, Talk, and Gesture
Andrea R. Olinger
Abstract: This article explores how three writers in ecology understand and enact a disciplinary writing style. To accomplish this, it draws on theoretical approaches to style from sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, as well as analyses of drafts of coauthored texts and video-recorded literacy history and discourse-based interviews. This study finds that metaphor and embodied actions such as gestures are valuable sites for comparing writers’ stylistic understandings and practices. The three writers expressed broad agreement when describing the qualities of good scientific writing, using similar verbal and gestural metaphors, such as Communication as Journey and entailments of the Conduit Metaphor. Yet in discourse-based interviews, specific stylistic choices provoked conflicting preferences not only between writers but even within them over time, as they sometimes changed their minds about what they had preferred over a year earlier. These conflicting and changing views, and the writers’ arguments for them, complicate popular notions of writing style: that a particular discipline has a style uniformly shared among experts and that experts’ mastery of their own style is stable and absolute. The finding that stylistic disagreements are undergirded by similar metaphors in language and gesture highlights the ways our stylistic understandings are tied to life histories and are also deeply embodied. Working from a sociocultural perspective, I provide a richer, more complex empirical and theoretical understanding of what it means to command a particular disciplinary style.


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