Writing – special issue of English in Education, Spring 2019

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from the Editorial by Jenifer Smith and Mari Cruice:

Attempting to understand how a teacher enables a student to transform thoughts into words on a page – in different genres, styles and tones – is a complex enough endeavour in its own right. Trying to develop excellent writing pedagogy in a system dominated by standardised, politicised assessments makes the task even more challenging.

In 1989, Michael Armstrong judged the conceptualisation of writing and its assessment in England’s new National Curriculum to be a gross betrayal of children’s intellectual interests. Tests, he argued, ‘measure no more than the shadow of achievement.’

Armstrong was speaking out against the possible perils of the assessment tail wagging the curriculum dog. However, the version of the National Curriculum that he was talking about still recognised the language that children brought with them to school, accepted the importance of attending to what children have to say and acknowledged the multifaceted nature of writing.  It insisted on the primacy of meaning and recognised that not everything that is of value can be measured:

The best writing is vigorous, committed, honest and interesting. We have not included these qualities in our attainment targets because they cannot be mapped onto levels. (DES 1989)

The National Curriculum working party may not have foretold the consequences of their removal of such vital elements of writing from assessment.

Thirty years on, these themes – the importance of meaning; the perils of reductive writing pedagogy in the face of high stakes tests – echo through the contributions to this Special Edition. Gordon Pradl celebrates the life and work of David Holbrook and James Britton, who, following active duty in the Second World War, were fearless advocates of an expansive view of English. Both had the clear aim of helping students to make sense of their subjective experiences. Helena Thomas writes powerfully of the role that the imagination can and should play in the teaching of writing, arriving at a philosophical standpoint that defines the teacher as artist both in terms of pedagogy and in terms of reading and writing themselves.

Myra Barrs turns her attention to current practice. She carefully analyses the possible causes of ‘bad writing’ in schools and explores the circumstances that disempower teachers, locking them into a metaphor of delivery rather than artistry. Simon Gibbons also looks at questionable practice as he describes the ubiquity of ‘PEEL’ paragraphs. He glances backwards to gain some perspective and sounds a note of optimism that English teachers are collectively capable of loosening the stranglehold of formulaic pedagogy.

To do this, as Whitney et al. argue in Coaching Teacher-Writers (reviewed in this issue), we need activists to write about poor policy and practice. We need to build on and publicise the substantial knowledge base that already exists to support the teaching of writing. When teachers write reflectively and write together, they develop an understanding of what it means to write – the difficulty of it, the vulnerability it brings and ultimately the clarity, the empowerment and satisfaction it engenders. Nikki Aharonion and Pauline McNamee reflect insightfully on this. The vignettes of children’s writing and Emma Exelby’s letter to a Year 11 student are reminders of the young people with whom we work and of observation as a professional practice. The artist teacher, for whom improvisation is a vital skill (see Holbrook, Thompson) stands back, looks carefully, and – drawing on personal knowledge of teaching, learning and writing – is then able to think about how to respond.

Perhaps, in the absence of clear lines of communication into policymakers, English teachers are increasingly putting their energy into and drawing inspiration from what Kevin McDermott calls ‘the margins’. Writing flourishes beyond the school walls. In 2018, the Foyle Young Poet competition received almost 11,000 poems. Theresa Gooda’s article explores and exemplifies writing outside the classroom; Kevin McDermott describes the enlivening approaches to teaching writing he used in Dublin schools as a writer in residence, freed from the obligation to meet targets.

Meanwhile, back in mainstream classrooms, the dead weight of a prescriptive and reductionist viewpoint is hard to shift. And yet individuals, especially amongst the young, have learned somewhere that writing is a vital human activity and that it works for us in many different ways. It has a moral and humane heft, it underpins criticality, it is inventive and visionary, it can anchor us. Of course, writing resists ‘mapping onto levels’, but the failure to take writing seriously as a fundamental element of human growth has become a failure to take responsibility for children’s intellectual growth and moral becoming.

Collectively, we would do well to remember the words of Harold Rosen:

[English is]nothing less than a different model of education: knowledge to be made, not given; knowledge comprising more than can be discursively stated; learning as a diverse range of processes, including affective ones; educational processes to be embarked on with outcomes unpredictable; students’ perceptions, experiences, imaginings and unsystematically acquired knowledge admitted as legitimate curricular content. (in Eaglestone, 2000)

Rosen and his generation defended the discipline of English bravely and eloquently. Beyond the classroom walls, echoes of their ideas are getting louder.

References

Armstrong, M (1989) Popular Education and the National Curriculum. Forum Vol 30, No 3. pp 74 -76.

DES (1989) English for ages 5 – 11. London: Department of Education and Science and the Welsh Office.

Eaglestone, R. (2000) Doing English: A Guide for Literature Students. London: Routledge.

jenifersmith1967@gmail.com

mari.cruice@roehampton.ac.uk

This special issue of English in Education will be published online and in print early this year.   Members of NATE will have online access and receive print copies.   To join NATE, please see links to the right. 

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Publish your work in English in Education

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Following the last post, here is more information about English in Education journal and how to write for it.  English in Education provides a research forum for the subject community to explore the philosophy and practice of English teaching.   The journal complements the Association’s professional journal Teaching English and supports NATE’s work in sharing and advocating good practice at all levels from early years to higher education.  We want as many people as possible to get involved so the whole community is represented: teachers, learners, researchers, consultants and everyone who wants to support and improve English education.   Please see the journal’s Aims & Scope for more information.

English in Education accepts research papers, review articles and creative writing (usually poems) related to the teaching of English.  We occasionally publish extended articles to explore complex matters in more depth.  One or more issues per year is devoted to a current or emerging aspect of English education that requires special attention.   Once your paper has been assessed for suitability by the editor, it will be double blind peer reviewed by independent, anonymous expert referees.

Guidance for Authors

Please follow the following guidance as closely as possible, to ensure your paper matches the journal’s requirements. For general guidance on the publication process at Taylor & Francis please visit the Author Services website.   For fuller, detailed guidance on all aspects of publishing in the journal, please see Instructions for Authors.

Preparing your Paper

Research papers should normally be between 4000 and 6000 words, including the abstract (approx. 200 words), tables, references and captions.  Please use the Chicago Author-Date system of referencing and keep endnotes to a minimum.   An EndNote output style is also available to assist you. You should include between 3 and 6 keywords to help make your article more discoverable

Extended papers should be as above but may contain between 7000 and 15000 words.

Review articles will usually be between 600 and 2000 words, but there is flexibility here to allow for longer treatment of particularly significant books or topics.

Poems will normally be up to 40 lines in length, but again some flexibility is allowed.

Style Guidelines

Please refer to these quick style guidelines when preparing your paper.  Use British (-ise) spelling style and double quotation marks, except where “a quotation is ‘within’ a quotation”.  Long quotations should be indented without quotation marks.

Formatting and templates

Papers may be submitted in Word format. Figures should be saved separately from the text. To assist you in preparing your paper, we provide Word formatting templates.

Submitting Your Paper

This journal uses ScholarOne Manuscripts to manage the peer-review process. If you haven’t submitted a paper to this journal before, you will need to create an account in ScholarOne. Please read the guidelines above and then submit your paper in the relevant Author Centre, where you will find user guides and a helpdesk.

Please note that English in Education uses Crossref™ to screen papers for unoriginal material. By submitting your paper to English in Education you are agreeing to originality checks during the peer-review and production processes.

On acceptance, we recommend that you keep a copy of your Accepted Manuscript. Find out more about sharing your work.

Writing for English in Education

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John Hodgson (Editor) and Catherine Phipps (Publication Manager) at the journal relaunch

More than 40 international teachers and researchers attended the relaunch of English in Education under its new publisher at the June NATE/IFTE conference in Birmingham.  The relaunched journal will be a hub of quality research, opinion and creative writing by and for the whole English subject community.  It will appear four times a year from 2020: this will allow us to produce more special issues on topical and emerging concerns.   The Editorial Board feel that such matters as the nature of subject English, English and multilingualism, and social media and English education are among current issues that demand attention.  We welcome your suggestions for other topics and your contributions: the autumn issue will include Calls for Papers for Autumn 2019, Newbolt and the Construction of Subject English, and Spring 2020, Multilingualism and English Education.

The Spring 2019 issue on Writing, edited by Jeni Smith and Mari Cruice, is in preparation.  It will present research into the practice and teaching of writing and demonstrate the creativity that is released amongst both teachers and students when writing is nurtured in the classroom to augment personal and social meaning, and indeed pleasure.   The initiative of the previous editor, Sue Dymoke, who instituted a regular “place for poetry”, established a deep connection in the journal between creativity and English education; this forthcoming special issue, edited by members of NATE’s UK National Writing Project, will develop this connection in exciting ways.

Recent debate on Twitter has suggested that the journal’s academic style and long lead-in times are unwelcoming.  We make no apology for insisting on quality reflection and research, but writing for the journal need not involve a long academic haul of interminable peer reviews.   The Editor is happy to discuss your proposed paper before submission, and to comment on a draft if that is helpful.  Formal submission can be made via the EIE website at https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/eie.  You will be invited to create an account if you don’t already have one.  If you are submitting a research paper, this should normally comprise between 4000 and 6000 words including references, although this requirement is flexible to allow for differing topics and approaches.  Please add an abstract of about 150 words; figures, illustrations and other visual material are welcome.

The forthcoming issue (Autumn 2018) is distinct in both the range and the quality of its research.   Ann Harris and Marie Helks offer a critical consideration of the debates in England and Wales around grammar and grammatical terminology.   Mary Juswik and her colleagues use student essays to compare different approaches to argumentative writing, revealing the possibilities and benefits of engaging students in a broader social conversation.  Todd Reynolds and Bethany Townsend examine transcripts of whole class discussions led by English teachers with differing views of the teacher role in such discussions.  Yvette Murdoch and Alin Kang examine the connections between teachers’ learning and use of students’ names and student experience and outcomes within the English as a Medium of Instruction classroom.  Poetry is not forgotten: Ian McEwen’s Poetry is Not for Kids makes a spirited riposte to the UK Secretary of State for Education’s withdrawal of the A-level (senior secondary) qualification in Creative Writing:

            Poetry is not for kids.

They might decide to write it!

– while Stewart Manley, a lecturer in Trust Law, shows that students’ and teachers’ “home-made poetry” can aid learning of other disciplines and increase authenticity in the classroom.

Books reviewed in this issue include Melanie Shoffner’s exploration of the representation of teachers in fiction and film, appraised by Ann Harris, and two edited collections on the teaching of literature that, in the words of Victoria Elliott, posit English as a conversation between students, texts and teachers – albeit not an unproblematic conversation, given its current social and political contexts.

Your response to our plans for the journal is welcome, as are ideas and contributions for future issues.   Please contact me at the address below.

John Hodgson (Editor)

john.hodgson@uwe.ac.uk

Summer issue of English in Education

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Jo Carrington’s poem ‘Let the learning begin’ strikes the keynote for the summer issue of English in Education.   The poem parodies the insistent interventions of a teacher who tries to improve a student’s performance as a writer of poetry. The student is desperate to speak their voice against the directed ‘improvements’ that will gain marks. The emphasis is on instruction rather than dialogue.

Performativity is the zeitgeist. Owing to the assessment imperative that overhangs virtually all teaching and learning acts, the contemporary classroom has become a crucible of performativity.   This educational paradigm differs fundamentally from that of fifty years ago, as recorded in the early issues of the journal.  Simon Gibbons’ English and its Teachers, reviewed in this issue by Sue Dymoke, charts the history of English teaching over the last half-century.

Valerie Coultas reflects on those pioneering days and their assertion of the importance of classroom talk and of the ‘power of the personal’ in teaching English. She demonstrates ways in which learners’ experience and expression have been valued for themselves as well as for their value as preparation for literary and academic writing.

Furzeen Ahmed’s linguistic ethnographic study shows how students in an ethnically diverse East Midlands (UK) school used classroom talk and short story writing to interpret a literary text (Romeo and Juliet) that came from what was for many a different cultural and temporal space.

Linda Enow and Andy Goodwyn’s paper confronts the difficulty of analysing the expertise of the English teacher. What appears as the spontaneous performance of the expert teacher depends on a long and continuous process of reflective development that can be understood and used to share and develop expertise.

Clare Chambers considers the teaching of ‘comprehension’ and ‘knowledge of the world’. Learning about the world, she argues, is a social process, and teachers could develop learning opportunities from children’s everyday literacies, reframing ‘comprehension’ to connect their students with multiple texts and diverse forms of knowledge.

Rebecca Lefroy took year seven (aged 11-12) students to an art museum in order to develop their understanding of symbolism, narrative perspective and style.  They enjoyed the opportunity to develop their interpretations: in the words of one, ‘We weren’t just told things like in the classroom’.

Gail Loane’s Developing Young Writers in the Classroom: I’ve got something to say argues that the writing of non-fiction, principally the personal and the immediate, is the foundation for all writing.  Jeni Smith’s review suggests how children can develop as writers beyond the performativity of the classroom.

Members of NATE can access the English in Education website and receive printed copies of the journal.   For more information and to join NATE, see links to the right.

 

English in Education special issue 2019: Writing

Edited by  Jenifer Smith and Mari Cruice

Reynolds, Frances, c.1729-1807; Hannah More (1745-1833)
Hannah More, 1745-1833

idea-thinking

Call for papers

Writing might be seen as the most dangerous part of the English curriculum, where individual students can express themselves in ways that are their own – and which may not conform to adults’ expectations. In the 1790s, Hannah More, an influential figure in the establishment of Sunday schools for British working class children, insisted that pupils should not be taught to write. It was not until the twentieth century that “composition” was considered appropriate in the secondary school curriculum, and then at first only for older pupils. This issue comes at a time when the notion of creative writing as a discipline is seriously contested: a high stakes testing regime in several English-speaking countries challenges the validity of subjective judgment, and the UK government recently closed down a new national course for A level (senior secondary) students as insufficiently rigorous. At the same time, undergraduate courses in creative writing flourish. How can the committed teacher and writer best respond to these new times?

We say “teacher and writer” because many believe that a successful teacher of writing should have confidence in and be conscious of their own writing practices. In the UK, NZ and the US, National Writing Projects related to English subject associations hold regular workshops and courses where teachers can explore and experience the process of writing. Such workshops open numerous questions for organisers and participants. Where does writing come from? How far does it depend on unconscious processes of language, and what is the place of explicit instruction? How do we learn from other writers? How do young writers come to understand how writing can work for them and what role does assessment play in that? What is the relationship between the critical writing about other writers’ texts required of students in English (and other subjects) and their own production? How far does the critical/creative binary support good practice? Such questions will doubtless be discussed by contributors to this special issue. In the spirit of such work, we invite submissions of poetry and prose with or without accompanying meta-cognitive reflection.

We hope, even in present circumstances, that this issue will confront and celebrate writing and the teaching of writing as it is now, discovering and rediscovering the possibilities of what writing may be; reclaiming this territory as a vital creative and enlivening human activity. We welcome submissions which engage with the ways in which writing is learned from the earliest years; with writing pedagogies; the affordances of writing; the nature of composition and of writing and thought. We welcome writing (reflective, creative, or both) from teachers at all stages of education and in all circumstances. We particularly welcome contributions from those to whom, for whatever reason, writing remains a challenging, indeed dangerous, aspect of their work.

Please prepare your submission in line with the journal’s guidelines for authors. Submissions should be made via our ScholarOne site by 7 May 2018. Please select the correct ‘Special Issue’ as the Manuscript Type.

To discuss potential submissions, please contact:

Jenifer Smith

Mari Cruice