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Popular culture as curriculum : adolescent literacy practices and secondary English
The study is informed by theoretical positions and prior research into popular culture and secondary English. I use these perspectives to re-frame English curriculum and pedagogy in terms of the kinds of social relationships and networks that students develop beyond school, particularly in their engagement with popular culture. The literacy practices that students engage in beyond school provide challenges to dominant understandings of English curriculum and pedagogy. Research exploring the interface between adolescents’ out of school literacy practices and the English classroom suggest that conventional conceptions of literacy are outdated and limiting vis-s-vis the diversity of literacy practices students engage with in their everyday lives.
Informed by these perspectives my research focused on examining ways in which students in my English classrooms could draw on their out of school literacy practices when undertaking conventional tasks. I sought to understand how they used such literacy practices to create understanding and meaning while fulfilling the requirements of the English curriculum. I examined student work samples produced in these classrooms, describing the contexts in which they were produced and the significance of each text. At the same time, I describe my professional learning as I set about exploring the semiotic potential of popular culture in my classroom, reviewing my existing practices as an English teacher, and reconceptualising the role of English within the curriculum and the lives of my students.
The study finds that students’ uses of their out of school literacy practices provide a means of reconceptualising subject English as grounded in the social and cultural networks and relationships that student are engaged in, and where knowledge and meaning are socially constructed. It demonstrates an alternative pedagogy where teacher and student are co-learners and co-constructors of knowledge.