Contradictions and possibilities : examining the complexities of conferring across three elementary literacy classrooms




Taylor, Laura Ann

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This study explores the enactment of literacy conferences in reading and writing workshop across three classrooms at the same elementary campus, considering how these interactions between teacher and student served as spaces for humanizing literacy practice. To extend existing research on the discursive patterns and roles within literacy conferences, I examined reading and writing conferences from a critical perspective, drawing on theories of humanizing pedagogy and third space to study the circulation of power in these events. The study was guided by two research questions: (1) How do teachers and students co-construct critical humanizing pedagogy within reading and writing conferences?; and (2) How do teachers and students negotiate contradictions that arise in this work? The study is framed as a multiple case study of literacy conferences in three elementary classrooms within one urban elementary school. Using an ethnographic approach to data collection, I observed literacy instruction in first-, second-, and fourth-grade classrooms for five months. Data sources included: video- and audio-recording and field notes of reading and writing conferences; audio-recording and field notes of other components of literacy instruction; multiple teacher interviews; and artifacts of literacy instruction. Two focal teacher-student dyads were selected in each classroom, and eight conferences between each of these dyads were chosen for further analysis (resulting in a total of forty-eight focal conferences). I used a microethnographic approach to discourse analysis to analyze each focal conference, examining how literacy knowledges, practices, and identities were constructed in these interactions through the verbal and nonverbal actions of teacher and student. In the findings, I first detail how humanizing pedagogical discourses expressed by teachers in interviews were enacted in literacy conferences, including how these discourses at times contradicted and conflicted other discourses circulating in the classroom. Then, I consider how teachers strategically used these contradictions to construct moments of third space with students during conferences that produced new understandings of literacy. This analysis suggests that the enactment of humanizing pedagogy within literacy conferences is a necessarily complex social practice, but also one that allows for emancipatory knowledge and identity construction.


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