Critical literacy and critically reflective writing : navigating gender and sexual diversity

Govender, Navan (2019) Critical literacy and critically reflective writing : navigating gender and sexual diversity. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 18 (3). pp. 351-364. ISSN 1175-8708

[img]
Preview
Text (Govender-ETPC-2019-Critical-literacy-and-critically-reflective-writing)
Govender_ETPC_2019_Critical_literacy_and_critically_reflective_writing.pdf
Accepted Author Manuscript

Download (430kB)| Preview

    Abstract

    Purpose: In this article, the author draws on Janks’ territory beyond reason as well as literature on (critically) reflective writing. The purpose of this paper is to explore how a space for personal, affective writing in the classroom might enable teachers, students and learners to 1) come to terms with gender as a social practice, 2) locate themselves in the relations of power, marginalisation and subversion being explored and 3) negotiate the internal contradictions that come with personal and social transformation. The author presents and unpacks how second-year undergraduate Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) students at a prominent university in Johannesburg, South Africa, unpacked issues of gender and sexual diversity in a critical literacy course. This paper focuses on students’ completion of a reflective writing task but is situated in a broader study on critical literacy and gender and sexual diversity. The findings suggest the need for sustained critically reflective writing in the classroom and continued research on critical literacy as both a rationalist and affective project. Furthermore, the findings suggest ways in which critically reflective writing was used to create a space where students could place themselves into the content and relations of power being studied and identify and unpack the ways in which discourses of power have informed their own identities over time, with the intent to develop the capacity to position themselves in more socially conscious ways. This study, therefore, illustrates only a fraction of how students might use reflective writing to come to terms with controversial topics, place themselves in the systems of power, explore marginalisation or subversion and negotiate the internal contradictions of transformation. However, the data also suggest that there is potential for this practice to have a greater role in classroom practice, a deeper effect on learners’ understanding of self and society and further research on the impact of critical reflection in the classroom. Design/methodology/approach: In this paper, the author presents and unpacks how second-year undergraduate B.Ed. students at a prominent university in Johannesburg, South Africa, unpacked issues of gender and sexual diversity through reflective writing in a critical literacy course. Findings: The findings suggest the need for sustained critically reflective writing in the classroom and continued research in critical literacy as both a rationalist and affective project. The students who participated in this research revealed the ways in which critically reflective writing might be used to create a space where students place themselves into the content and relations of power being studied, identify and unpack the ways in which discourses of power have informed their own identities over time, and, perhaps, develop the capacity to position themselves in more socially conscious ways. Research limitations/implications: While the findings reveal the need for continued practice and research in the territories beyond a rationalist critical literacy, they are based on a small data set in a single context. Practical implications: Findings from the analysis of the data suggest that there is potential for critically reflective writing to have a greater role in classroom practice, a deeper effect on learners’ understanding of self and society and further research on the impact of critically reflective writing in the classroom. Perhaps a sustained practice of critically reflective writing is what is needed, as well as processes of self and peer evaluations that put that writing up for critical analysis. Social implications: There is scope for further, long-term research in the role of critically reflective writing, critical literacy classrooms and the territory beyond reason across social issues and educational contexts. Existing resources on critically reflective writing are vital for imagining what this prolonged practice might look like in classrooms (Ryan and Ryan, 2013; Lui, 2015; Pennell, 2019). Originality/value: The data presented here are limited and illustrate only a fraction of how students might use reflective writing to come to terms with controversial topics, place themselves in the systems of power/marginalisation/subordination/subversion being explored and negotiate the internal contradictions of transformation. However, these data also suggest that there is potential for this practice to have a greater role in classroom practice, a deeper effect on learners’ understanding of self and society and further research on the impact of critical reflexivity in the classroom.