Powerful language for educationally marginalised students: Developing a subversive pedagogy for the language and literacy of science

A School of Education seminar presented on March 28th, 2018 by Dr Helen Harper

Gaining control of subject-specific language, or ‘power language’, is fundamental to successful learning at school. The term ‘subversive’ in my title is drawn from linguist Jim Martin’s interpretation of Bernstein’s educational sociology. It refers to the intention to challenge the social order by making powerful language and knowledge explicit to those who would not otherwise be able to access this knowledge and language.

In this seminar I will present a project to develop a pedagogic framework for teaching the language and literacy of science. Two important elements of this framework are: (i) systematically using teacher-designed focus texts as a pivotal tool to guide the scope and sequence of the teaching; and (ii) developing a scaffolded teaching sequence for integrating language and literacy into the science lessons.

The research was carried out in collaboration with Bronwyn Parkin, from the University of Adelaide, and was supported by a grant from the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia (PETAA). I will illustrate my discussion with material from a series of lessons about lunar eclipses that we devised in the course of the project, working with two expert teachers and a class of Year 7 EAL/D students.


PowerPoint presentation