Flexible strategies used to promote student learning include both technologically and non- technologically supported strategies. Investigating the former through the use of a networked scientific writing database designed to improve undergraduate students' writing processes, the features of the university learning context and how they influenced the flexible strategies are discussed. The pedagogy supporting the curriculum, genre-based literacy pedagogy, is described and analysed in the light of the use of the networked scientific writing database. Foregrounded in this analysis is the issue of control over learning and the potential of the flexible strategies to allow negotiation over this control between the participants in the learning process. Finally the impact of the technology on the teaching and learning pedagogical model is analysed and on the basis of this, a more general framework for analysing flexible strategies is suggested.
Superficial flexible strategies for learning are narrow in their conception. They may consider only one aspect of the potential flexibility. For example, the introduction of educational technology into a curriculum may provide choice in the location of where learning takes place, but such an observation ignores other qualities of flexibility.
If this is a superficial analysis, what would a critical analysis be? A critical analysis would be one that allows degrees of flexibility in more areas than just location to be identified in learning. In the field of academic literacy, such an analysis is possible if we draw on pedagogic theory which forms the basis of genre-based literacy pedagogy (Martin, 1999). Critical to this analysis are the tools of framing and classification (Bernstein, 1971:205-6). These tools are also used for the development of a model of social class relations which account for voice and message. However, this paper will foreground their usefulness for identifying important elements of pedagogy.
Careful use of these tools, especially framing, can identify the purpose and extent of the flexible learning initiatives.
Using Bernstein's tools to analyse genre-based literacy pedagogy, framing can be unpacked to identify qualities of flexibility which can be provided by technology. This flexibility can be measured by the extent of control over the selection, organisation, and pacing of knowledge that is to be part of the learning process (Bernstein, 1990:37). Classification can be used to identify the strength of boundaries between discourses which combine to form pedagogy. However, this paper will focus on framing and it will consider the impact of the introduction of a networked scientific writing database into a scientific literacy tutorial in a first year university undergraduate science course. The purpose and extent of the technologically-supported flexible learning processes will be identified within genre-based literacy pedagogy and the framing of the knowledge will be analysed in terms of its selection, organisation and pacing.
The purpose of the texts in the scientific writing database is to support students at different phases of the learning cycle. The texts have an explicit focus on how language works (Rothery, 1996:120) and can be divided into those used to model the desired genre and register of writing, those used for the purpose of feedback during the writing process, texts that address superficial features of writing problems demonstrated by the students and texts that provide answers to modelling exercises. The texts can be accessed in the database in terms of the scientific content that they deal with, or in terms of their linguistic purpose. All are used as resources for the teaching and learning cycle. The teaching and learning model surrounding the pedagogy of these scientific literacy resources is based on a model adopted from "genre-based literacy pedagogy" (Martin, 1999).
Figure 1: A genre-based teaching and learning cycle (Martin, 1999:131)
The teaching and learning process represented by this model is divided into three stages: deconstruction, joint construction and independent construction. Learning within the process can begin at any point dependent on the students' needs. At all stages of this cycle, the social context of the genre and field knowledge required for the writing task are considered and made explicit (Martin, 1999:130). The deconstruction stage of the cycle is a critical analysis of models of the genre under focus. These models can be analysed for content, structure and language features to provide insight about the genre and register to the students. The joint construction stage foregrounds collaboration between the participants of the learning process in preparation of the text, and the individual construction stage focuses on the production of a text by each student.
The above teaching and learning model reflects the importance of access to genres. Applying this model to an academic environment, access to genres means access to the structure, purpose and norms of the language used in particular disciplines. At university, this model can be used to support the development of academic literacy amongst students. By providing the students with access to knowledge of valued genres and registers, they become cognoscente of the discourse competencies which they need to be empowered in the learning process (Martin, 1999). The purpose of the scientific writing database is to provide access to the valued genres of the science that the students study.
Students in PSP meet in a networked tutorial room once a week in addition to a lecture and workshop which they have already attended. The students receive content during the lecture, they have a chance to engage in scientific examination and experimentation in the workshop, and the tutorial gives them a chance to write about and reflect on their learning. The tutorial is also the place in the curriculum in which they use a computer to access the scientific literacy learning resources in a networked database.
The networked database facilitates the students taking control over various stages of the learning process, albeit moderated by the lecturer. Should they choose to do so, they could go through the learning cycle autonomously. In most cases, however, the extent of control they have over the learning cycle is negotiated with the lecturer and dependent upon the extent of successful learning that they reveal. Students who are very successful are encouraged to proceed through the learning cycle at their own discretion, seeking feedback when necessary. Students who require more support throughout the cycle are encouraged to seek more support and feedback from the lecturer and peers and to voice their needs in the tutorial.
The potential for students to progress through the learning cycle at their own pace means that individual students or groups of students can choose when and where to begin the learning cycle. The effect of this during the weekly tutorial is that at any one time, it is possible to have students in the class at different stages of the learning process. So during the tutorial, some students may be at the modelling stage, others might be at the joint construction stage while some may have already reached the individual construction stage. The following analysis of the learning cycle makes allowances for this impact of technology on the teaching and learning cycle.
|(1)The relationship between chromosomes and genes can be revealed through the explanation of a number of facts and propositions. (2)Firstly, chromosomes can be divided along their length into regions called genes and the areas between the genes are called intergenic regions. Genes are linear sequences of nucleotide pairs situated at points along a chromosome. The points are called loci (singular. locus). (3)Secondly, the chromosome theory of heredity proposes that chromosomes are the containers of genes. It suggests the reason certain traits are inherited together is that the genes controlling these traits are on the same chromosome. (4)Finally, genes occur in pairs, as do chromosomes. Genes separate equally into gametes, as do chromosomes. This parallel behaviour of genes and chromosomes led to the suggestion that specific genes reside on specific chromosomes. Proof of this relationship came from experiments with eye colour in Dropsophila carried out by Thomas Morgan in 1910 and Calvin Bridges in 1916. They proved that eye colour was on the X chromosome.||The Structure of the Paragraph:
The structure of the paragraphs in this writing task should generally contain at least the following stages sequenced as:
1. Identify the main idea of the paragraph.
Figure 2 shows one of the database model paragraphs. It discusses some of the features of the genre of a paragraph under the topic of genetics. Students would have received content for this topic during their lecture and workshop, and the writing task for genetics expects them to produce paragraphs similar to this. The purpose of the model is to give students insight into the structure of a well-written paragraph which was produced by one of their peers. The exercise attached to this model is to compare its structure with the structure of a poorly written paragraph which the students have analysed.
|The relationship between chromosomes and genes can be revealed through the explanation of a number of facts and propositions. Firstly, chromosomes can be divided along their length into regions called genes and the areas between the genes are called intergenic regions. Genes are linear sequences of nucleotide pairs situated at points along a chromosome. These points are called loci (singular locus). Secondly, the chromosome theory of heredity proposes that chromosomes are the containers of genes. It suggests the reason certain traits are inherited together is that the genes controlling these traits are on the same chromosome. Finally, genes occur in pairs, as do chromosomes. Genes separate equally into gametes, as do chromosomes. This parallel behaviour of genes and chromosomes led to the suggestion that specific genes reside on specific chromosomes. Proof of this relationship came from experiments with eye colour in Dropsophila carried out by Thomas Morgan in 1910 and Calvin Bridges in 1916. They proved that eye colour was on the X chromosome.||The information at the beginning of the sentences focuses the reader on the important knowledge in the paragraph.
The words highlighted focus the information on the relationship between chromosomes and genes which is the purpose of the paragraph (see your writing task).
Figure 3 is another resource from the database which is used for the modelling stage. It deals with thematic development of the paragraph. Models such as this are used to indicate the register of the language expected from the students. In the topic of genetics, students have other models to choose from which deal with issues of content, text development (theme/rheme), text cohesion (reference), and modality in writing (tenor). The exercise attached to this model is to compare its focus with the focus of a poorly written paragraph which the students have analysed.
Having the texts available to the students and lecturer in the database provides a range of unique strategies for control over the learning process for both the learners and the lecturers. Ideally, this control should be negotiated between the participants in the learning process. Using the topic of genetics as an example, with six model paragraphs dealing with the genre and register of the language, the entire class could do the tasks together during the tutorial or they could proceed through them at their own pace: they could complete all of the tasks or they could choose which ones they felt would be beneficial to them: they could complete them in class or they could complete them before class: and they could choose the order in which they did them or they could follow a sequence determined by the teacher. These choices begin to identify the extent of the flexibility in the learning process which is provided by the database.
The networked database also provides other unique methods of control over learning which can be used by both the students and the lecturer. The software supporting the database provides evidence of the learning pathway and processes that the students have chosen. For each student, the software provides a history of the pages which they have accessed. This information is available to the lecturer who can use it to ascertain which pages and exercises have been accessed by the students and the time spent on them. In addition, with the agreement of the students, group work using the bulletin board provides a history of the learning pathway. This evidence can be used reflectively to identify stages in the learning process and its public nature can prevent the systematic occurrence of groupwork problems such as the free-rider syndrome (O'Donnell and Dansereau, 1995:134).
Writing Task 9:When technology is embedded in the learning process, students have additional choices in the type of the collaborative processes that they may wish to engage in, and partners with whom they are able to work. The networked feature of the database allows students to exchange ideas, drafts and advice to places and at times, and in sequences, that would not otherwise be possible.
Explain the causes of the variations seen in plant and animal species.
In order to ensure successful learning in this phase, should the choices made by the students not produce the desired learning outcomes, the lecturer can support the students more strongly by making only the most relevant text models available to the students in the database, and by restricting the choice of partners. A rationale for restricting the choice of partners may be to increase the amount of lecturer input during joint construction so that the lecturer is the main collaborator for a short period of time, or by choosing writing partners for the students that are most likely to support the particular learning issues faced by the student.
The nature of joint construction during this stage of the learning cycle is developed when the scientific writing database is accessed to provide learning resources. Joint construction can occur by allowing students to contribute to the writing materials in the database. Consider the following database item.
Main body of task 9
The points under "main body" are one suggestion for the structure of the paragraphs in the body of task 9 which deals with plant and animal variation.
Each point would have to be developed into a paragraph.
Asynchronous joint construction amongst students can happen with the creation of writing resources such as 09f.01 shown above. Once the writing resource has been created and moderated by the lecturer, it can become a valuable part of the knowledge shared by the class. In this way, the database is a growing body of knowledge with which it encourages students to identify because they recognise their own work in it. This sense of ownership can contribute to the likelihood of its contents being used. Students who wish their thoughts such as this writing resource to become part of the database allow other students to draw on the knowledge in their own writing processes. In this sense, the database facilitates asynchronous collaboration between students.
Control over the use of communication tools used during the joint construction phase can also be modulated through negotiation by the participants in the learning process. By including the lecturer as moderator in work groups using any of the communication tools such as bulletin boards, email discussion lists or chat rooms, students can be guided as to how to best make the collaboration work. If the group product evident in the communication tool log is providing desirable student learning outcomes, then students can be given full control over this stage of the learning process. If the group product is not providing evidence of desirable student learning outcomes, then control over the mode of communication can be modulated. Students may be required to produce desirable group product during tutorial hours rather than allowing them the flexibility of producing it asynchronously in order to give them more guidance.
When students are at the individual construction stage, control over the depth and breadth of the feedback processes in which they engage can be enhanced by the use of the network database. Control over the feedback processes can be achieved through choice in the learning pathways provided by the database and choice in the extent of feedback sought using the bulletin board. If the student displays successful writing and editing during this stage of learning, they can use as many of the resources in the database as they choose in order to augment the feedback they receive. For students to do this successfully, they would need to be able to distil linguistic knowledge from examples whose content dealt with tangential scientific concepts. For students who required more support during this stage of learning, they could be directed to specific items in the database that dealt specifically with the linguistic issue with which they required help and whose content dealt with the same science as the task. If such an item did not exist in the database, the student and the lecturer could collaborate to create it and it could become part of the shared knowledge of the class. Consider the following database item.
Incomplete passive construction - "called" versus "are called".
Chromosomes can be divided along their length into regions called genes and the areas between the genes called intergenic regions.
The highlighted verb in sentence 1 is incorrectly constructed.
Chromosomes can be divided along their length into regions called genes and the areas between the genes are called intergenic regions.
This sentence has the correct passive construction of the verb.
|Click here if you want to see how the passive voice is formed. Click 1, 2 for other examples using the passive voice||If you want more information on the passive, use these links.|
Figure 5 is an example of one of the writing resources. It has been produced from student writing. The first row contains the labels for the contents underneath. The second row in the left-hand column is an example of student writing and the third row is the correction. The right-hand column explains the contents of the left hand column. The topic of this example is genetics.
The bottom row in the above database item identifies one of the methods used to promote student choice and control over learning. If a student's needs in terms of passive constructions are met by this single item, a simple reminder of passive constructions, then the feedback accessed from the database on this point can end here. If however, the student wishes slightly more information about the passive, s/he can access other items identified in the bottom row.
The extent of the feedback processes sought by the students can be enhanced by the use of the bulletin board and the database in a number of ways. Some students may be directed to database items by others who have found particular ones helpful. Other students, using private fora in the bulletin board grouping two or three writing partners, may choose to attach their texts to their postings to facilitate peer review of drafts. In addition, some students may seek the lecturer's advice on particular points. An important characteristic of all these learning processes is the notion of control.
Framing refers to the degree of control teacher and pupil possess over the selection, organisation, pacing and timing of knowledge transmitted and received in the pedagogical relationship (Bernstein, 1975: 88-89) (Atkinson, 1985:136). Weak framing means that there are more options available to the learners in the transmission and reception of knowledge and strong framing means less options/control are available. Classification refers to the degree of boundary maintenance between contents. It does not refer to what is classified but to the relationships between contents. Strong classification insulates the contents by strong boundaries. Weak classification blurs the boundaries between the contents (Bernstein 1975).
These tools can be used to identify the modality of pedagogic discourse. Selecting framing and placing it on a continuum that represents weak and strong framing, the relationship to student and teacher control is clarified. Consider figure 6 below.
Figure 6: A continuum of weak and strong framing
In terms of control over learning processes, when framing weakens, students exercise more control over learning: and when framing strengthens, the teacher is more in control. Within the genre-based teaching and learning cycle, both double framing and double classification can be identified. Double framing and double classification refers to the use of both weak and strong framing and weak and strong classification as deemed appropriate by the participants during the teaching and learning process. These are characteristics of the flexible nature of genre-based literacy. Table 1 maps this discourse of pedagogy onto the above model.
|Stage of the model||The nature of classification and framing at each stage|
|weak classification and framing occurs as teachers find ways of starting where students are at in order to open up the field and context of the genre|
|framing and classification values strengthen when a model text is introduced|
|weak classification and framing occur as students open up a new field|
|framing and classification values strengthen when teacher guides the students into organising the material|
|framing values split according to field (content offered by students) and genre (structure guided by teacher)|
|weak classification and framing occur as students open up a new field|
|weak framing but relatively strong classification since students are aiming for a specific genre as they write a text on their own|
The flexible nature of the teaching and learning cycle is apparent in Table 1 as changes in the control over learning between the participants in the learning process are tracked. In each of the stages of the learning process, the flexible nature of the pedagogy can be captured by noting the weakening and strengthening of the framing and classification of the pedagogy.
Table 1 could have represented the above learning context had the networked scientific writing database not been included. However, once the networked scientific writing database is introduced into the model, there is the potential to examine its impact on flexibility in more delicate ways if we unpack the notion of framing into the selection, organization and pacing of knowledge passed on during learning processes.
Consider two technologies introduced into table 1: one tool being a database which contains knowledge about the genre and register of texts specific to a particular academic discipline or subject, and the other tool being a communication tool capable of introducing asynchronous communication into the learning context. An example of the latter is a bulletin board. The introduction of these tools has a significant impact on the framing potential of the teaching and learning model identified in figure 1. If framing is unpacked to foreground the selection, organisation and pacing of knowledge (Bernstein, 1990:37) then the extent and purpose of the impact of technology on the potential control that can be given to students over learning can be shown to be extended. Table 2 shows how flexibility in the amount of control given to students using technology in the teaching and learning cycle can be analysed using framing.
|Phase||Weak Framing||Qualities of Framing||Strong Framing|
|Modelling/deconstruction using the database and face-to-face and asynchronous communication||choice of models during modelling stage as students search for entry into genre||selection||foreground specific models as entry point|
|selection||strengthen framing when specific genre is modelled|
|Joint construction using the database and face-to-face and asynchronous communication||choice of collaborative processes and partners||selection||foreground particular collaborative processes or identify partners|
|choice of learning pathways in the database||selection||foreground particular pathways in the database|
|Individual construction using the database and face-to-face and asynchronous communication||choices of editing resources||selection||foreground particular editing resources|
|choices of sources of feedback||selection||foreground particular sources of feedback|
Table 2 is a generative framework that can be used to indicate the potential impact of technology on student control over learning. While classification offers some potential for investigating flexibility in learning, framing appears to be a richer sources for investigation and will be foregrounded here. The generative property of the table can be identified by the relationship between the third column, the qualities of framing, to any stage of the teaching and learning cycle, which are identified in terms of weak and strong framing in columns two and four. The three qualities of framing are repeated in this column to indicate that they can come into play during any learning process should either the lecturer or student decide to negotiate them. For example, learning during the modelling phase can require a choice of text models to be used as an entry into the desired genre. This can be framed weakly, by giving students choice, and/or strongly, by the lecturer emphasising particular models. However, control over this stage of the learning process is not simply dichotomised into weak or strong framing (that is, more student control or more teacher guidance) but it is possible to negotiate which aspect of framing would benefit the students if they had control over it. Using technology, negotiation can focus on how much control over each of the qualities of framing is to be given to the students. For example, lecturers may wish to restrict control over the selection of the model texts by the students, but may wish to give them flexibility in the pacing of the amount of time they spend on each model. If the students each have the potential to access the modelling process and any exercises and answers at their own pace using the database, then they can control their pacing. This is an example of how table 2 can be used to generate insight into the potential impact of technology on student control over learning. By teasing out each stage of the learning process, modelling, joint construction, and individual construction in relation to the qualities of framing identified in column 3, the potential flexibility of the networked database on literacy learning cycles is revealed.
By negotiating the level of control over learning given to students using technology such as the scientific writing database, students can choose unique learning pathways through the knowledge. Instead of creating confusion, the different learning pathways chosen can lead to asynchronous collaboration between the students as the product of the learning pathways is captured and integrated into the scientific writing database. Furthermore, the database and its history of student learning pathways can provide important feedback to both the students and the lecturer at all stages of the learning cycle. These strategies coalesce to provide the technologically-supported learning which can be used to promote student-centred learning, an important quality for the development of student autonomy and life-long learning skills.
In order to assess the extent of the flexibility of these strategies, an analytical framework should accompany their implementation. A critical analysis of the extent to which control over flexible literacy learning processes may occur in Plant Science and Physiology can be made by using a framework provided by genre-based literacy pedagogy. If framing is unpacked to show the selection, organisation and pacing of knowledge, then the flexible strategies designed to provide more control over learning can be assessed in terms of these qualities. A critical analysis should assess whether the flexible strategy allows greater control over the selection of the knowledge, whether the flexible strategy allows greater control over the organisation of the knowledge or whether the flexible strategy allows greater control over the pacing of the knowledge transmitted and received in the learning process as well as flexibility in terms of when and where the learning takes place.
Bernstein, B. (1971). Class, Codes and Control 1: Theoretical studies towards a sociology of language. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul (Primary Socialisation, Language and Education). [republished with an Appendix added by Palladin, 1974]
Bernstein, B. (1975). Class, Codes and Control 3: Towards a theory of educational transmissions. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul (Primary Socialisation, Language and Education).
Bernstein, B. (1990). Class, Codes and Control 4: The structuring of pedagogic discourse. London, Routledge.
Bernstein, B. (1996). Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity: Theory, research, critique. London & Bristol, PA, Taylor & Francis (Critical Perspectives on Literacy and Education).
Drury, H. (2000). Short answers in first year undergraduate science writing - what kind of genres are they? Unpublished mimeo. Learning Assistance Centre, University of Sydney.
Drury, H. and Webb, C. (1989). Using text analysis strategies to improve student writing. In H. Edwards and S. Barraclough (Eds), Research and Development in Higher Education, 11:92-99.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1994). An Introduction to Functional Grammar (2nd edition). London, Edward Arnold.
Martin, J. R. (1999). Mentoring semogenesis: 'genre-based' literacy pedagogy. In F Christie (Ed.), Pedagogy and the Shaping of Consciousness: Linguistic and social processes. London: Cassell (Open Linguistics Series). 123-155.
Martin, J. R. & J. Rothery (1988). Classification and framing: double dealing in pedagogic discourse. Paper presented at Post World Reading Congress Symposium on Language and Learning. Mt Gravatt College, Brisbane.
O'Donnell, and Dansereau (1995). Scripted cooperation in student dyads: A method for analysing and enhancing academic learning and performance. In R. Hertz-Lazarowitz and N. Miller (Eds), Interaction in Cooperative Groups: The theoretical anatomy of group learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rothery, J. (1989). Learning about language. In Hasan, R & J R Martin (Eds), Language Development: learning language, learning culture. Norwood, N.J., Ablex (Advances in Discourse Processes 27 - Meaning and Choice in Language: studies for Michael Halliday). 199-256.
Rothery, J. (1996). Making changes: Developing an educational linguistics. In Hasan, R & G Williams (Eds), Literacy in Society. London, Longman (Applied Linguistics and Language Study) 86-123.
|Author: Robert A Ellis, Institute of Teaching and Learning, University of Sydney|
Phone (02) 9351 3781 Fax (02) 9351 4331 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Ellis, R. A. (2001). Flexibility in genre-based literacy pedagogy: Critical assessments of flexibility. In L. Richardson and J. Lidstone (Eds), Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society, 251-262. Proceedings of ASET-HERDSA 2000 Conference, Toowoomba, Qld, 2-5 July 2000. ASET and HERDSA. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/aset-herdsa2000/procs/ellis-r.html