Literacy Pedagogies of a Reception Class in England: An Ethnographic Case Study

Firat, Kubra (2021) Literacy Pedagogies of a Reception Class in England: An Ethnographic Case Study. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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In recent years England’s education system has experienced interventionist, neo-liberal educational reforms focused on the everyday literacy pedagogies of early years teaching staff. These reforms, which have included high-stakes accountability measures, have given rise to contentious political debates regarding their impact on values and practice in primary schools. This study focuses on exploring these debated practices through an in-depth exploration of the literacy pedagogies in one reception class within a maintained primary school in order to answer the research question: ‘what matters in shaping literacy pedagogies in a reception class in England?’.

Embracing socio-cultural approaches and understandings of literacies and literacy pedagogies, the ethnographic case study is developed from the data collected from over nine months of participant observations, interviews with teaching staff, six children and their parents and a play-like attitude scale with children in the class. Cultural-historical Activity Theory is utilised as the analytical framework to represent the coded data.

The study found that a shared purpose determined the nature of the literacy pedagogies in the reception class. The teaching staff set an object of reaching the ‘expected’ level for literacy in the EYFS for all children, and for as many as possible to achieve beyond the EYFS Framework. The object was formed by the need to meet the demands of people and organisations outside the class. This finding signalled the invisibility of the class members (teaching staff, children and parents) in the formation of the shared object and therefore in the literacy pedagogies that eventuated from it.

The prioritisation of the children deemed ‘high ability’ in the object had implications for the workforce and the application of literacy pedagogies. The more expert teaching staff taught these ‘high ability’ children in the schooled literacy skills the school valued most highly. The teacher was mainly responsible for all types of assessment, and the teaching assistants were primarily concerned with the specifics of teaching schooled literacy, thereby establishing the assumption that assessment requires higher expertise than teaching schooled literacy. The study analyses the hierarchies, values and assumptions underpinning these literacy pedagogies and argues that a ‘delivery’ model of schooled literacy skills was established, which substantially inhibited the recognition and integration of children’s funds of knowledge and identities into the literacy pedagogies of the class and which made parents accountable to the teaching staff in conducting activities that were intended to enhance children’s systematic synthetic phonics skills in particular. Moreover, even though it was the teaching staff who created and presented the literacy pedagogies each day, their pedagogical practices were generally in conflict with the staff’s own views and values. The study therefore illustrates the powerful impact of interventionist and neo-liberal educational reforms on the day-to-day teaching experience of all members of the class. The implications of the study for educational research, policy and practice are suggested, for England and for other countries tempted by globalised, neo-liberal assumptions to enact similar reforms on their education systems.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Medwell, Jane
Gripton, Catherine
Keywords: literacy pedagogies, early years education, assessments
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC 65 Social aspects of education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 65544
Depositing User: FIRAT, KUBRA
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2021 07:13
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 07:37

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