Literacy Research Discussion Group Programme Archive

Summer Term 2018 

Date & Location Speaker(s) & Affiliation  Title and Abstract
Wednesday, 25 April

D72, County South


Ellen Vea Rosnes, VID Specialized University, Stavanger The Norwegian Mission’s Literacy Work in Colonial and Independent Madagascar

This research focuses on the literacy work of the Norwegian Lutheran mission in Madagascar, and how it related to political power and other missions, with an emphasis on two periods: mid-colonisation in the 1920s and the independence period (1951-1966). It provides an analysis of the purposes of teaching reading and writing skills to Malagasy children and youth and of literacy practices facilitated and experienced in mission schools. It is based on archival materials from Norway, Madagascar and France, as well as qualitative interviews with former Norwegian teaching-missionaries and former Malagasy teachers and pupils.

1st May

C89, County South

Euline Cutrim Schmid, University of Education Schwaebisch Gmuend The impact of pluralistic approaches to EFL education on language learning processes and learners’ identity construction

Research focusing on the relationship between language, identity and power has shown that the meaning potential of multilingual learners is frequently constrained by the exercise of institutional power in educational settings (Potts, 2017; Norton, 2013; Stille & Cummins, 2013). Studies indicate that schools in many parts of the world often place limits on FL learners’ use of their plurilingual resources, who internalize “rules” on when and how their linguistic and cultural resources can be used. Several authors (e.g. Stille & Cummins, 2013; Potts, 2017) have thus pointed towards the importance of a) respecting and validating students’ plurilingual identities and b) creating FL classroom cultures in which multilingual learners are positioned as experts, knowledge producers, and change makers. These recommendations have stimulated a call for the development and evaluation of innovative pedagogical proposals and effective FL teaching practices that recognize synergies among languages, cultures and identities. Some of these approaches have been grouped together under the general umbrella of “pluralistic approaches to foreign language education” (Candelier, 2008). Despite the increasing use of these approaches, there is relatively little research having been carried out in EFL classrooms in order to gain insights into the everyday practices of using pluralistic approaches over an extended period of time.

This paper presentation discusses research findings of a qualitative study that responded to this call. The research is located at the intersection between teacher education and pedagogical innovation. The study can be broken down into two main phases. The first phase focused on the design and evaluation of a course module for EFL pre-service teacher education. The second phase concentrated on a classroom-based research of pluralistic approaches to EFL education. It involved the collaboration between pre- and in-service teachers for the design, implementation and evaluation of pluralistic EFL lessons. Five case studies were carried out in four primary schools and one secondary school in the south of Germany. The project aimed at examining 1) the underlying beliefs towards plurilingualism that shape teachers’ and learners’ behaviour 2) the pedagogical gaps that need to be addressed in language teacher education and 3) the impact of pluralistic approaches to EFL education on language learning processes and learners’ identity construction. The research approach adopted in order to answer these questions has been mainly qualitative and based on the analysis of classroom interaction data and the views of a range of participants. Research data were collected via a variety of ethnographic research instruments namely classroom observations and field notes, video recording of school lessons, in-depth interviews with pre- and in-service teachers, pre-service teachers’ reflective journals, anonymous questionnaires, and focus group interviews with learners. Drawing upon Norton’s (2013) concept of investment and Welsch’s (1999) concept of transculturality, the paper discusses how the use of pluralistic EFL activities created space for validating learners’ plurilingual repertoires as legitimate linguistic and cultural resources in the EFL classroom.


Candelier, M. (2008) Awakening to languages and language policy. In J. Cenoz and N. Hornberger (eds) Encyclopedia of Language and Education: Knowledge about Language (pp. 219-32). Berlin: Springer.

Norton, B. (2013) Identity and Language Learning: Extending the Conversation, 2 ed. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Potts, D. (2017) Critical praxis, design and reflection literacy: A lesson in multimodality. In R. Harman (ed.) Bilingual Learners and Social Equity (pp. 201-223). Springer.

Stille, S. and Cummins, J. (2013) Foundation for learning: Engaging plurilingual students’linguistic repertoires in the elementary classroom. TESOL Quarterly 47 (3), 630-638.

Welsch, W. (1999) “Transculturality – the puzzling form of cultures today.” In Featherstone, M. & Lash, S. (eds) Spaces of Culture: City, Nation, World (pp. 194-213). London: Sage.

15 May

C89, County South

Diane Potts and Bunya Suzuki Japanese Students’ Agency in Constructing NEST-led Classes: A Case Study

With the aim of better understanding the dynamics of privilege and marginalization in the TESOL profession, recent research has gone beyond the categories of NEST/NNEST and studied individual teachers’ negotiation of translinguistic and transcultural identities (Aneja, 2016; Rudolph, Selvi & Yazan, 2015; Selvi, 2014). However, there is still very little classroom-based research that examines how teachers’ identities are constructed in interaction with students. In this presentation, we draw on data from a qualitative case study of four NEST classrooms to explore how task design and the NEST’s substantial focus on enhancing student initiative weakened the traditional hierarchal relations of Japanese classrooms. This weakening was accompanied by shifts in peer-peer interaction, and by a rise of students’ agentive acts in discussions with peers. Student interview data shows that students described social relations, not language proficiency, as the primary difference between NEST/NNEST-led classrooms in their high school. Nonetheless, the NEST/NNEST dichotomy was maintained by students’ perceptions of difference, and reinforced by their subsequent actions in the classroom. Data for study includes classroom observations with fieldnotes and video/audio recordings, student questionnaires, semi-structured interviews with two NESTs and four focal students, and teaching materials. We conclude with a discussion on the interrelationship between learner agency and the co-construction of teacher identity in language-mediated interaction. But we also add our personal reflections as Japanese high school teacher and teacher-educator on what this research has meant in our personal and professional lives.

This presentation may be of particular interest to current MA-ALT students, as it draws on data from Bunya Suzuki’s MA dissertation.

22 May

D72, County South

Murat Oztok, Lancaster University The Hidden Curriculum of Online Learning: Discourses of Whiteness, Social Absence, and Inequity

Local and federal governments, public school boards, and higher education institutions have been promoting online courses in their commitment to accommodating public needs, widening access to materials, sharing intellectual resources, and reducing costs. However, researchers of education needs to consider the often ignored yet important issues of equity. My work, therefore, investigates the issues of social justice and equity in online education. 

I argue that equity is situated between the tensions of various social structures in a broader cultural context and can be thought of as a fair distribution of opportunities to participate. This understanding is built upon the idea that individuals have different values, goals, and interests; nevertheless, the online learning context may not provide fair opportunities for individuals to follow their own learning trajectories. Particularly, online learning environments can reproduce inequitable learning conditions when the context requires certain individuals to assimilate mainstream beliefs and values at the expense of their own identities. Since identifications have certain social and political consequences, individuals may try to be identified in line with culturally-hegemonic perspectives in order to legitimize their learning experiences. 

In this ethnographic study, I conceptualize online courses within their broader socio-historical context and analyze how macro-level social structures, namely the concept of whiteness, can reproduce inequity in micro-level online learning practices. By questioning who has control over the conditions for the production of knowledge, values, and identification, I investigate how socially accepted bodies of thoughts, beliefs, values, and feelings that give meaning to individuals’ daily-practices may create inequitable learning conditions in day-to-day online learning practices. In specific, I analyze how those who are identified as non-white experience “double-bind” with respect to stereotypification on one hand, anonymity on the other. Building on this analysis, I illustrate how those who are identified as non-white have to constantly negotiate their legitimacy and right to be in the online environment. The findings of my research can have an important impact on the literature of online education by sparking thought, controversy, debate, and further research on this topic. 

Lent Term 2018

Date & Location Speaker(s) & Affiliation Title and Abstract
13 February, B59, County South


Denise de Pauw  ‘Adventure Time’ in the work club! Looking for a job online

Since 2012, the UK government has been moving employment services online. At the same time, job centres have become places for processing job seeker benefits while the service of helping people to find work- the ‘Work Programme’- has been outsourced to private providers who are paid by results. In consequence, the long term unemployed have found themselves faced with not only exclusion from the job market, but also exclusion from help through job centres. In recognition of this, the last two governments have encouraged the setting up of self-funding volunteer-run work clubs.This talk will be about my research into the experience of migrant jobseekers using a work club to look for work online, as they are mandated to do by job centres. I will describe my initial observations of a work club as a community of practice, give an outline of my study and how I think various theories can be related to what goes on there.

20 February, C89, County South


Sharon McCulloch, Lancaster University  What do academics do all day?

This talk draws on findings from an ESRC-funded project based in the Lancaster Literacy Research Centre exploring the writing practices of academics in three different disciplines and institutions in England. The talk will discuss academics’ own accounts of the wide range of writing they engage in on a day-to-day basis, and how they manage these in light of sometimes conflicting value systems and priorities. The talk offers an insight into the realities of the academic writing life.




 NB Some event dates have been changed owing to the UCU strike.
 20 March

C89 County South

 Sandra Wearden

Associate Member of Centre for Higher Education Research and Evaluation, Lancaster University

How are Programme Guides Involved in the Perpetuation of Degree Ceremonies?

Degree ceremonies are symbolic events widely associated with higher education.  They incorporate diverse social actors, distinctive material artefacts, and ritualistic processes, some of which can be traced back to medieval universities in Europe.  My research is focused on how these remarkably resilient ceremonial occasions are being constructed and perpetuated at a time of significant global growth in higher education.

Despite having the capacity to transmit culture and power through social and material actors in public spaces, there have been surprisingly few academic studies about degree ceremonies, particularly contemporary ones.  Most recent studies have emanated from, and focused on, the assemblage of large scale ceremonies held in the USA, and the wearisome effects they often produce.  These accounts also allude to the agentive effects of material features included in degree ceremonies but provide little explanation.

Resting on a constructionist theory of knowledge and drawing on basic theoretical devices used in actor-network theory, I have aimed to foreground these matters through my recently completed doctoral studies.  For the purposes of this session, I will be focusing specifically on data collected about programme guides which are provided for students, guests and officials at many degree ceremonies.

The aim is to demonstrate how programme guides contribute to the assemblage and perpetuation of degree ceremonies over time and space, and how they have capacity to enact and reflect global, and local forces of change in higher education.

If you happen to have any degree ceremony programme guides of your own, then please bring them along!

Michaelmas Term 2017

Date & Location Speaker(s) & Affliation Title and Abstract
10 October, County Main, SR 4 David Barton, Karin Tusting, & Sharon McCulloch, Lancaster University I’m really Rubbish with email: How academics talk about email in their working lives

Academics’ everyday professional writing practices are very extensively mediated through email.  In our recently completed ESRC-funded research project, The Dynamics of Knowledge Creation, email was by far the most commonly mentioned digital platform for writing across our 75 interviewees.  As one of them told us, “Everything is done by email now.”  Given this ubiquity of email in the ecology of academics’ communication, and particularly given that email has been a feature of the academy for at least 20 years, we might assume that established expectations and patterns around working with emails would have developed by now.  However, our research reveals an enormous diversity in practices and attitudes around email.  This paper explores specific aspects of this diversity in the way interviewees in our data discussed their engagements with email.  In particular, we will explore people’s affective responses to email, and the evaluative stances they adopt (“I email far, far too much”); the range of metaphors our participants used to describe email (“this spectre that hangs over academic life”); and their ascription of agency, responsibility and guilt around email communication (often individualising a problem which clearly has more systemic roots). Systematic analysis of how people talk about email can provide important insights into the implicit understandings and cultural expectations around emails which are prevalent in academic life.  Identifying and clarifying diversity in expectations and practices can address some of the unspoken reasons why email can be such a problematic feature of many academics’ professional lives and can provide a point of comparison with other digital resources.  Implications can also be drawn more widely for other professional contexts in which email communication is significant.

17 October, County Main, SR 4 Annika Norlund Shaswar, Umeå University Spaces for translanguaging and everyday digital practices in basic literacy education: The case of Swedish for immigrants

“I have learned three thousand questions by heart” says Ahmad when he describes his efforts to pass the theoretical part of his driving test in Sweden. He has recently immigrated to Sweden from Syria and is presently taking part in the language programme Swedish for immigrants (sfi). In the sfi classroom he meets the challenge of simultaneously learning Swedish as a second language and taking part in basic literacy learning for pre-literate adults. However, Ahmad’s most important goal right now is to pass his driving test, and to achieve this goal he strives to learn how to read and write in Arabic so that he can study the driving theory in his first language. Every day after coming home from sfi school, he spends many hours working on his computer in order to prepare for the driving test.

I performed three interviews with Ahmad in the context of my ongoing project Digital literacy practices in everyday life and in basic literacy education. Classroom observations and interviews with sfi teachers and students were performed in order to answer the following research question: How can the linguistic resources and the everyday digital practices of adult second language learners be mobilised in order to enhance their literacy learning in the educational domain of Swedish for immigrants? My understanding of literacy and linguistic resources is influenced by the research fields New Literacy Studies and Critical Literacy and by a meeting of the fields of sociculturally grounded literacy research with research on translanguaging. The analysis starts outs from Critical Discourse Analysis.

7 November, County Main, SR 4 Dima Atanasova, Lancaster University Discoursal construction of identity in personal and professional obesity blogs

In 2016, Healthline (one of the largest providers of consumer health information on the web) published a ranking of 14 ‘must-follow’ obesity blogs. This included a mix of personal blogs authored by individuals with lived experiences of obesity and professional blogs written by medical experts. When I started analysing a sub-sample of the most active among these blogs, my main goal was to compare lay and professional conceptualisations of obesity. I approached this comparison through the analysis of metaphor – a device that aids discussions of sensitive and complex issues, of which obesity is an example. Using Charteris-Black’s (2004) Critical Metaphor Analysis to examine 343 posts, I found that (1) Journey was the preferred source domain of metaphors in both personal and professional blogs and (2) in personal blogs, Journey metaphors were employed to present the blog authors as travellers; in professional blogs, as guides. Drawing on the understanding that most written language has to compensate for the temporal and spatial separation between interlocutors (e.g. blog authors and readers), I then looked at the addressivity strategies employed by blog authors in the instances of metaphor use. While there was a wide range of addressivity strategies in personal blogs, professionals consistently preferred the impersonal ‘you’ – associated with projecting distance and objectivity. I relate these findings about metaphor use and addressivity strategies to issues of writing and identity and specifically, writing as an act of identity (Ivanic, 1998).
21 November, Bowland Nth SR 21 Johann Unger and George Green, Lancaster University Creative writing practices and national identity construction

How people talk and write about national identity, as well as national narratives and myths, has long been a focus of critical discourse studies (e.g. in the work of Wodak, van Leeuwen and others). At the same time, the role of national identity in creative fiction has generated a huge amount of scholarship, not least in the context of globalised, post-colonial world (e.g. following Spivak’s seminal work in this area). The former body of work, largely associated with linguistics, has primarily focussed on detailed analysis of linguistic/discursive strategies in elite texts (political speeches, media texts) but has also incorporated voices “from below” via focus groups with ordinary people. It has however not generally dealt with creative texts. The work from a cultural studies/literary perspective, on the other hand, has tended to identify broader themes relating to national identity and has made explicit links to the biography and lived experience of authors and also the subjects of fiction.

What has been left relatively unexplored, however, are the practices of writers themselves in including indicators of national identity in their writing. In this LRDG talk we will show how we are attempting to address this gap, and will present some initial results from an investigation into the practices of student creative writers in the UK and Lithuania. We will introduce the multi-level methodology we have developed in our initial study, which comprised asking participants to carry out a rewriting task and written reflection and then take part in a focus-group. The data generated at each stage are analysed for specific linguistic/discursive phenomena used to construct national identity and to locate a story in a particular place and imbue it with “nation-ness”. The outcome is not only a greater understanding of how exactly national identity is handled by writers, but also how creative writing learning and teaching practices can be adapted as a result.

28 November, Bowland Nth SR 27 James Butler, Lancaster University Game-Space Interface: Exploring Environmental Humanities through Videogames with the Lakescraft Project

This paper will discuss recent work undertaken with adapting material from the Corpus of Lake District Writing into a Minecraft recreation of the national park region to create an educational resource that teaches on a wide range of subjects relating to the environmental humanities. The literary components cover metaphoric techniques, poetic vs. technical description, name-based semantics, focal aims of the travel writing genre, and mapping of settings, with a core trio of lessons using Ransome’s Swallows & Amazons as a basis.  Following the successful launch design of the project, funding was secured for a series of impact studies to examine secondary pupil’s awareness of – and engagement with – the Lake District, at both a regional (covering Cumbria and Lancashire) and national level. The methodology and findings of these studies, which highlight clear student preferences and developmental considerations for future work in the field, will be discussed, alongside how research projects can engage with the growing role of interactive resources in the classroom and gain wider recognition outside core academic audiences.

12 December, Bowland Nth SR 21


Julia Gillen, Lancaster University Reading session on Prain, V., & Hand, B. (2016). Coming to Know More Through and From Writing. Educational Researcher, 45(7), 430-434.