Skip navigation

Landscapes of specific literacies in contemporary society: exploring a social model of literacy

Landscapes of specific literacies in contemporary society: exploring a social model of literacy

Duckworth, Vicky and Ade-Ojo, Gordon ORCID: 0000-0002-1098-0765 (eds.) (2014) Landscapes of specific literacies in contemporary society: exploring a social model of literacy. Routledge Research in Education, 1 . Routledge, London, UK. ISBN 9780415741248

Full text not available from this repository.


The book is proposed to have a scholarly/ theoretical overview with potential for practical applicability. In essence, the various sections of the book will draw on theoretical arguments to offer different perspectives on how literacy can be repositioned as a curriculum area in the context of contemporary globalised society.

One of the more consistent conclusions arrived at in the contemporary discourse on literacy is the recognition of different models, particularly, a social model or approach to adult literacy (Hamilton, 2006, Barton, 1974, Gee et al, 1996, Street, 1984, 1996, Ade-Ojo, 2009, 2011). Perhaps even more constant, however, is the consensus that one model, variously referred to as cognitive, traditional, is dominant and informs both policy and practice. Writers and practitioners have consistently challenged this so-called dominance in two ways. One way is through what might be seen as a deficit model which highlights the limitations of this approach to literacy both in theory and practice. The other, which we shall label an enhancement model, has consistently used the principles embedded in the sociological approach to literacy to offer pedagogical and theoretical standpoints.

In spite of these interventions, however, the so-called dominance has persisted. A crucial question, therefore is; why is this so? Scholars like Street (1996, 2003, 2008) have long argued that the dominance of the cognitive model is anchored upon the fact that it has been able to generate a range of instruments, agents and organs, which allow it to dominate because they are more functionally available to educators and policy makers. Similarly, Gee and his associates (1996) have emphasised the ability of a dominant cognitive model of the literacy curriculum to enforce a ‘new working order’.

Drawing from this, therefore, we offer the argument that the curriculum is the driver for this edited book. We contend that the so- called dominance has been promoted mostly by the readily available curriculum available for its use. In essence, therefore, this collection is a call for a repositioning of literacy curriculum. The key question in this context is; does the social model of literacy offer curricula that reflects its underpinning ideology and which is capable of selling its world view in practice? Sadly, the answer is no. This, in spite of several individualised contributions by different authors on the strength of a socially motivated curriculum which synergises with the principles of the social model of literacy.

The underpinning argument that drives this book, therefore, is a call for the recognition of literacy curricula for specific purposes. In tandem with the recognition of the fact that literacy should be seen as reflecting distinct social practices, this book argues for distinct literacy curricula for distinct social practices.

The ongoing immediately evokes the age long philosophical debate and dichotomy between the Aristotelian concept of curriculum which pits Plato’s art of the dialectician that involves ‘holding together both the one and the many’ against the Aristotelian view which emphasises the necessity of ‘eliminating contradictions by choosing whether a person has a characteristic or not’ (Whitehead, 1999). The philosophical essence of the contemporary literacy curriculum renders it a complication along the Platonic construct and, therefore, enables it to dominate other potential constructs. The focus of this book is to show that proponents of the social model of literacy must like Aristotle embrace a non-contradictory construct by developing specific curricula for specific practices such that they are able to foreground the social characteristics of literacy.

The engagement with distinction of literacy curricula immediately evokes Hirst’s dated but highly relevance engagement with disciplinary knowledge. Hirst’s discipline thesis in curriculum theory argues that knowledge must come in ‘form’ which is ‘a distinct way in which our experience becomes structured round the use of accepted public symbols’ (1974: 38). Developing from this, the notion of literacy for specific purposes which this book is designed to advocate argues for a disciplinary development of literacy curricula such that each discipline, together with the vocation and profession aligned to it is seen as a social practice.

Without such a disciplinary distinction, literacy practice has been dominated by the curriculum of a single social practice and this has effectively led to the much decried dominance. So, although there has been much outcries by the proponents of the sociological approach to literacy, its have remained more of ‘literacy in theory and less of literacy in practice’. The result is the dominance of the cognitive model leading to what Gee, Hull and Lankshear (1996: Xiii) famously referred to as ‘creating new social identities or new kinds of people’. What this book hopes to achieve is to draw on the principle of creating new identities to create ‘new literate people’. The underpinning argument being that if literacy curricula are shaped around specific disciplines and, therefore, specific social practices that many within society are socially aligned to, opportunity for creating new socially literate society will emerge. Therefore, this book aims to map out a theoretical framework for utilising the principles of a sociocultural approach to literacy in curriculum development by focusing on disciplinary characteristics. The salient question in this respect is; how can we make literacy social in practice?

Ade-Ojo’s chapter will set the scene for socialising literacy practice in disciplines through the development of specific literacy curricula. Ade-Ojo will argue that different subjects, vocational and professional areas are to be seen as social learning areas, and as such will require specific social literacies for their practices. He will draw on sociological, psychological, educational and learning, as well as linguistic theories to make a case for developing literacy curricula for specific social purposes. Other chapters will provide illustrations of how this principle can be, and has been utilised in different social learning areas. Ultimately, the expectation is that the book will make a strong case for policy makers, awarding bodies and curriculum developers to re-think their approach to literacy practice in the learning context.

Item Type: Edited Book
Additional Information: © 2015 – Routledge
Uncontrolled Keywords: Adult literacy; LSP; Policy; Learners; Transformational learning; Digital literacy; Academic literacy; Literacy by numbers
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
L Education > L Education (General)
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Education (EDU)
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2021 21:33

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item