English in Education

Issue 55:2 (April 2021) is now published online.

 Secondary Shakespeare in the UK: Velda Elliott asks teachers what governs their choice of Shakespeare plays

“Acting a Play Helped Me”: Caroline Powell works with year 8 pupils on A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Teaching Self-critical Empathy: Omri Cohen’s IB students study The Tortilla Curtain and Half of a Yellow Sun

Three Readers of Ibsen: students discuss A Doll’s House as undergraduates and seven years after their university study

Howling at the Scrabble-Board: a trainee teacher’s “autistic lens” gives her reading a strong affective component

Literary Theory across Genre Chains: Robert LeBlanc shows how a senior high school student develops her understanding of literary theory over three weeks in relation to her study of Albert Camus’ short story The Guest

Experiencing Fictional Worlds : Jessica Mason explores recent research on reading fiction and cognition

Taking on the work of Margaret Meek Spencer: call for papers for a special issue in summer 2022

Print copies of this issue will reach NATE members and international subscribers early next month. To join NATE, follow links on the right of the screen or contact Director@nate.org.uk

Write for English in Education: upcoming special issues

Next year (2022) English in Education will feature two special issues:  Poetry (Issue 1, February) and Margaret Meek Spencer (Issue 3, August).    We invite contributions for both, as well as for the general issues in May and November.  Please read on for details of both issues and how you can contribute.

Issue 1: Poetry

Edited by Gary Snapper and Julie Blake

We invite contributors to submit papers for a special edition of English in Education focusing on the teaching of poetry and its role in the curriculum and beyond.

We encourage both academics and classroom practitioners to submit papers, and hope to feature a range of approaches to researching and teaching poetry, including exploration of:

  • texts and pedagogies which are associated with successful and inspirational practice
  • continuing debates about the nature of poetry’s place in and beyond the curriculum
  • historical perspectives on the teaching of poetry

Some of the questions we hope that this edition of the journal might touch upon include:

* What kinds of poetry pedagogy – texts and approaches – are effective?

*What do we hope to achieve through the teaching of poetry?

* What are the implications of recent approaches to poetry focused on memory and performance, and how can these be successfully deployed?

* To what extent does our poetry curriculum allow for diverse and multicultural approaches, and encompass the broader popular culture worlds of verse, rhythm and song?

*  What kind of ‘knowledge about poetry’ do we need to teach?

* How do we allow teachers to develop the specialised knowledge of and enthusiasm for poetry which is needed to teach it effectively?

* What is the role of ‘personal response’ in students’ work on poetry?

* To what extent are perceptions of poetry as beneficial in times of crisis helpful?

* Do we have the right balance between creative and critical approaches to poetry?

* To what extent is the view that poetry is a problematic element of the curriculum helpful?

* How do we evaluate the privileged place accorded to poetry in an English curriculum which has radically de-privileged aspects such as literary non-fiction, film and media study, and ‘knowledge about language’?

* What is the relationship between poetry, examinations, and assessment?

* How has poetry fared in the growing high stakes assessment culture?

Please prepare your submission in line with the journal’s guidelines for authors, available here:  http://bit.ly/EIE-author-guide.   Submissions should be made via our ScholarOne site,  https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/eie,  by 7 May 2021.   Please select the correct ‘Special Issue’ as the Manuscript Type.  To discuss a possible contribution, please email jb917@cam.ac.uk or gary@gabrielsnapper.co.uk

Issue 3: Margaret Meek Spencer

Edited by Judith Graham and Colin Mills

Our retrospective on Margaret Meek (English in Education 54:3) reflected on her writing and lecturing from 1948 until 2013 and her extraordinary influence on learning in English and literacy. For this special issue, we invite articles that are prospective, reporting on research and/or practice or critiquing work in the field of literacy and English teaching and learning.  What does her work offer today, in a very different context of schooling and teacher training (a word she resisted)?  We use the term ‘taking her work on’ in a double sense of arguing with or against her ideas.  ‘Am I right?’ is a question she’d often ask in lectures or tutorials. Also, ‘taking on’ covers the sense of developing her ideas to meet challenges that she could not have imagined, or which came after her time.

Articles might address some of the themes that Margaret worked on throughout her life:

  • the learning and teaching of reading and writing
  • literature for children and the power of texts
  • information books – what she resisted calling ‘non-fiction’
  • ‘cultural’ and multicultural perspectives on literacy and new literacies
  • teachers’ learning, both professional and personal

Papers may start with pieces that she wrote, contributors re-reading these in the light of today’s challenges. The concept of ‘redescription’ was one close to her heart. We don’t want to (and here we quote Margaret) ‘trammel what you want to do by the language we use to describe what we’d like to see’. But, we will, if you wish, suggest a paper, chapter or book of Margaret’s, from which to start, develop, ‘redescribe’.We’d be happy to receive draft completed articles (between 4,000 and 6,000 words) by 31st January 2022.  We want the process to be as inclusive as possible and will give full and constructive feedback.

The FINAL date for submissions will be 31st March 2022.   Submissions should be made via our ScholarOne site: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/eie. Please select the correct ‘Special Issue’ as the Manuscript Type.  Please prepare your submission in line with the journal’s guidelines for authors, available here: http://bit.ly/EIE-author-guide.  All submissions will be anonymously peer-reviewed.   Please contact us at any time: colin.mills@manchester.ac.uk.

Sociable English

Photograph: Hermione Hodgson

The Spring issue of English in Education – shortly be published online at http://bit.ly/EIE-current – reminds us of the sociability that is at the heart of English.  

The primary school students in Tom Dobson’s study of collaborative writing produce a publishable fiction text for their imagined ideal reader, a person of their own age.  

Sue Wilson explores the way 10 and 11 year olds in Australian schools discuss picture-books about social, cultural and environmental issues.

Ghazal Kazim Syed and Amanda Naylor set up an online reading community of students in the UK and Norway.   The students discovered ways in which different cultural contexts affected their reading of shared novels.

Lucinda Knight’s paper “Since Feeling is First” describes an experiential workshop approach in which students learn to write paragraphs collaboratively without immediate recourse to formulaic models.

Of course, isolation and silence are also part of student experience.  In his poem “Silent Rambling in an Examination Hall”, Debasish Mishra acutely and ironically observes what is commonly taken to be, in more than one sense, the end of education: terminal examination.  

Shannon Wells and Brian Moon present an analytical model to examine the content of classroom textbooks.  They find that the predominant emphasis is on language and rhetoric, but ethical and social analysis often impinges upon rhetorical study.

In the Reviews section of this issue, Velda Elliott celebrates the multitudinous nature of English Language studies, while I find joy in John Richmond’s compilation of writings by Harold Rosen, who claimed that the social context is the drama of life. 

Do get in touch if you have ideas for an article or poem about teaching English. 

John Hodgson


Catching up with English in Education

The road to publication

English in Education is running out of space. We’ve had so many good articles, poems and reviews over recent months that the print edition is lagging behind online publication. Fortunately, the next three issues will accommodate most of the backlog.  If you want to write for English in Education, remember that brevity is the soul of it.  

The autumn 2020 issue focuses on student and teacher experience of English Education in the UK, South Africa, Australia and USA.

Francis Hult’s poem Perseverance will resonate with committed teachers everywhere. 

In the research articles:

Rebecca Lefroy finds that English students prefer audio to written feedback

Edward Collyer and colleagues discover the advantages of collaborative lesson planning

Peter Misiri and Ansurie Pillay check teachers’ grammar

Jim Hill helps pre-service teachers cope with conflicts between theory and practice

Margaret Merga asks Australian teachers how they work with struggling students

Call for papers:

Julie Blake and Gary Snapper invite articles and poems for a special edition on poetry.

To view the latest articles, go to https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/reie20/current.

Expertise in English teaching – Summer 2020 special issue of English in Education

Margaret Meek SpencerMargaret Meek Spencer at the Institute of Education in 1988.   Photo by Sally Greenhill

Colin Mills and Judith Graham’s tribute to Margaret Meek Spencer heads the forthcoming special issue of English in Education on English Teaching and Teacher Expertise. Edited by Andy Goodwyn, the special issue also includes:

A comparative study of the experience of teachers in Australia and England by Andy Goodwyn and Kerry O’Sullivan

Bethan Marshall and Simon Gibbons’ account of the practices and constraints of English teachers in Ontario compared to those of teachers in England

A striking report by Sue Pinnick on the experience of English teachers as mentors

A major survey of Australian teachers’ strategies for supporting struggling literacy learners, by Margaret Merga and colleagues

Laura Thomas’ account of an intervention in a London school to improve the knowledge and writing of SEND students

A visionary exploration of reading in the post-digital age: the future of literature in secondary classrooms, by Larissa McClean Davies and colleagues

John Hodgson’s review of How to Teach Grammar, by Bas Aarts, Ian Cushing & Dick Hudson

Several of the articles are already published online at http://bit.ly/EIE-latest. Members will receive the print copy of the journal in the post within the next few weeks.


English in Education May 2020 (issue 2)


All the articles in this issue relate to reading: reading the world and the word.  They explore the meaning of authentic reading and experience. 

Theresa Gooda’s poem Question Time evokes an authentic classroom experience. The teacher’s challenge ”Well?” attempts to assert her authority and to open an exchange of ideas, but the word hangs in the air and the students “drown collectively in the silence”.

Claire Lawrence examines trainee teachers’ internal conflict between the value of “authentic” reading and the demands of external assessment. She presents a case study of their responses to a exemplar poetry lesson that attempts to encourage an authentic rather than manufactured response.  

Ian Cushing discusses a way of exploring literary texts by means of a grammar that builds upon what students already know about the world.  Readers’ responses to the text are authentic but shaped by their growing understanding of the language of the text, and anchored to this understanding.  

Louise Chapman investigates the reading lives of 23 female students at a single sex school in the south-east of England.  Many of her respondents regard print novels as boring, but in their reading logs they extend the concept of reading to include social media including video bloggers.

Mark Dressman and Dingxin Rao examine three theoretical formulations of reading. They give examples of teaching and learning situations where none of the three traditional paradigms is adequate to the interpretive work required. A savvy reader, the authors conclude, will find the stories both in and of texts.  

Chin Ee Loh, Baoqi Sun and Shaheen Majid conduct a large study of the reading preferences of nearly 5000 Singaporean students. They find that gendered differences in enjoyment of such genres as horror, science fiction and fantasy are quite small; student enjoyment and quantity of reading are related most importantly to socio-economic background.  

Alexa Muse asks Turkish and international students of English in a school in Ankara to explore the contexts of their learning by means of several pieces of autobiographical writing and a photography project.   The students gain critical awareness of the worlds both around them and within them. 

Finally, Simon Gibbons’ review of Paul Tarpey’s book Developing Professional Memory: A Case Study of London English Teaching 1965–1975 reminds us of the years of rich development in theory and practice that formed the basis of much of the work recorded in the 57 year history of this journal.

Members of NATE have free access to the online journal.  The print edition is suspended at present.  If you have any difficulties or queries, contact me at john.hodgson@uwe.ac.uk.

Multilingualism & English education

As Rachael Gilmour writes in her editorial to the first issue this year of English in Education (54/1), multilingual English is not a new phenomenon. The ‘standard language’ of English has always operated alongside other languages and other varieties of English; this is more than ever the case in our super-diverse present. This issue offers insights into contemporary multilingual English teaching at every level, with a strong emphasis on creativity.

In their article Los pájaros are feliz and are dreaming about gwiazdy, Karina Lickorish Quinn and Catherine Barbour discuss a translingual creative writing project with lower key stage two children in a London school.

In The Art of Belonging, Sarah Hirsch and Vicky MacIeroy describe a spoken world and digital storytelling project involving students in a multilingual London secondary school. Emphasising the need to begin from students’ own linguistic and social worlds they discuss the difficulties they encountered the difference between their own linguistic, social and cultural perspectives on those of their students.

Meghan Kuckelman and Sylvia Dobkowska turn to EFL teaching, showing how English poetry can be taught in Japan through the interpretive practices of Butо̄, a contemporary Japanese form of dance and visual art.

In Multilingual Communication under the Radar, Christina Fashanu, Elizabeth Wood and Mark Payne demonstrate ways in which young children in a primary school in the north of England experiment with their own agency to employ different kinds of language, and learn – notably, from one another – about the rules and stakes of linguistic conformity.

This issue contains further articles and reviews. It is is now online and members should have received their print edition earlier this month.

Sabisky, Eugenics, and Me

This post by Disappointed Idealist joins some of the dots that have been preoccupying me recently. I’ve been working with colleagues on a paper about why many students are turning away from English studies, which used to be one of the most popular subjects on the curriculum. Part of the reason for this, as the following post shows, is the view of education, students and “ability” which makes school itself an unhappy place for many students – and their teachers

The Teaching of English in England

Newbolt’s report, published in 1921, gave birth to subject English as it has been taught over the last 100 years. How does it look today?

Sir Henry John Newbolt by George Charles Beresford (courtesy National Portait Gallery)

It’s only a century since English Language and Literature became central to the official school curriculum.  In 1919, Sir Henry Newbolt was commissioned by the government to report on The Teaching of English in England.  His committee’s report, published in 1921, constructed the subject in terms of a national language and literature that would bring the people together after the destruction of the First World War.

Reading the report today shows how powerfully many of Newbolt’s ideas have influenced English teaching over the last century. The report emphasised the importance of a common culture and a common basis for humane values: thus the central study should be English Language and Literature, rather than the language and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. It advocated the teaching of standard English to provide a common means of communication, but it also valued regional dialects within the English speaking community. Children, the report insisted, should not only read literature but write their own; they should perform as well as study drama and poetry. Critically, children’s enjoyment and appreciation of English should not be deadened by inappropriate kinds of textual analysis.

The legacy of Newbolt informs the curriculum today, but his committee would have been disturbed by some recent developments. “There is a danger,” they wrote, “that a true instinct for humanism may be smothered by the demand for measurable results, especially the passing of examinations in a variety of subjects.” In the age of the “Knowledge-based Curriculum”, it is salutary to be reminded by Newbolt that knowledge is not the same as information. “It is not the storing of compartments in the mind, but the development and training of faculties already existing… It is, in a word, guidance in the acquiring of experience.” We are not so far from the concept of “growth through English” that focused John Dixon’s report on the Dartmouth conference 45 years after Newbolt.

Newbolt’s view of the teaching of Literature was similarly progressive. Literature was not merely linguistic or aesthetic knowledge to be gained but a means of realising our own impressions and communicating them to our fellows.

The common discipline and enjoyment of English, pronounced Newbolt, would form a new element of national unity and bring together “the mental life of all classes”. The anxiety of a government-appointed committee to avoid the more extreme expressions of disunity (such as recent events in Russia) is evident. Clearly this was a purpose of social control, but it was also a democratic aspiration.

A century after Newbolt formed his committee, the autumn 2019 special issue of English in Education, edited by David Aldridge and Andrew Green, will offer reflections on Newbolt’s construction of subject English. Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert contends that we have much to learn from Newbolt’s commitment to a democratic vision of education. Reflecting on the Newbolt report from an ITE perspective, Rachel Roberts argues for the relevance of the report for beginner teachers considering the purposes of English education. Jackie Manuel considers Newbolt’s report in a global context, demonstrating the influence of the Australian New Education movement on a wider intellectual milieu that spanned England, Australia and the US. John Perry identifies some important limitations of the report but argues that, rather than privileging a conservative literary canon, it challenges currently popular models of literary knowledge. Lorna Smith similarly evaluates the current national curriculum in the light of the report and makes a strong case for a historical understanding of the subject and the humanistic ideals that shaped it.

To find these articles online, go to http://bit.ly/EIE-latest. The print version of the journal will reach NATE members during October.

To join NATE, or to enquire about the Association and its journals, please see information to the right.

The two views of literacy

Photo by Hermione Hodgson

Basically there are two views of literacy, and most English teachers probably support both of them at different times. According to one view, a literate person is someone one who has achieved a certain minimal competence in reading and writing. This meaning derives from the late middle ages. According to Clanchy’s From Memory to Written Record, the term litteratus originally meant ‘a person of erudition’; but during the fourteenth century laymen realised that the ability to read a prescribed verse from the Psalter in Latin would gain them benefit of clergy and protect them from the death penalty. A litteratus thus had a competence that can be taught and tested. Brian Street calls this the ‘autonomous’ view.

The other view of ‘literacy’ also has a long history, and it retains some of the original meaning of erudition. Paulo Freire spoke of ‘reading the world and reading the word’ as a not merely personal but social activity. Supporters of this view are often critical of the limited view of literacy as competence. William Lovett, one of the leading nineteenth-century Chartists, wanted to replace ‘the mere teaching of ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ with ‘a closer connection of words and things’. More recent thinkers see literacies as multiple, involving not only written text but also visual, aural, digital and other modes. We now use not one ‘standard English’ but multiple languages and Englishes that cross cultural, community, and national boundaries. Research into these multiple ways of ‘reading the world and reading the word’ is sometimes termed New Literacy Studies.

Strangely enough, these two views share an acronym: NLS. In 1997, the UK government introduced a National Literacy Stategy that would ensure that ‘all children leaving primary schools … will have reached a reading age of at least eleven’. (The government apparently didn’t regard a child’s ‘reading age’ as related to an average below which a number of children of that chronological age must statistically fall.) Brian Street coined the term ‘New Literacy Studies’ in 1984, and it has lasted longer than the National Literary Strategy.

A longer discussion of literacy, with research papers from Australia, Canada, Pakistan and the USA and a review of a new book from the UK on English, place and identity, will be published in the forthcoming summer 2019 issue of English in Education. Members of NATE have online access to the journal via a token they will have received by email from the publishers, Routledge / Taylor and Francis. They will also receive a printed copy towards the end of next month.