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School of Education
July 9, 2014

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Clement T. M. Lambert and Lorna Down

Jamaican policy makers have prioritized literacy improvement as a matter of urgency within the educational milieu. This has become even more intense during the past decade with initiatives being mandated and implemented to promote this cause. One such initiative is the establishment of literacy research and development centres in two teacher-training colleges with a prime mandate to prepare a special group of teachers to extend literacy improvement efforts in Jamaican schools. While there has been some degree of controversy over the official title of these teachers in training, the name “literacy specialists” has been commonly used to describe the trainees. Studies have been commissioned within the Jamaican context to look at literacy and the Jamaican literacy milieu (e.g., Bryan and Mitchell 1998). However, a study to create a coherent profile of the literacy specialist has not been undertaken. This article is seen as an initial step in providing this profile. Its purpose is fourfold: it explores the literature on literacy specialists; attempts to create a profile of these specialists for Jamaican schools based on the views of selected stakeholders; seeks to position the literacy specialists within the context of the literature and the realities of the Jamaican situation; and explores the implication of such a profile for literacy programmes in Jamaican teachers’ colleges and literacy centres. This presentation will also include a discussion on the origins of the literacy specialist programmes in Jamaica.

Beverley Carter


The barrage of new trends and new foci in language teaching and learning can create a sense of unease among language educators, pulling them in many directions, as linguistic, cultural, technical, and educational considerations compete for time and space in their conceptual frameworks. It is a feeling shared by all those who are engaged in second language acquisition (SLA). Indeed, the burgeoning of knowledge in this discipline has made the field “virtually impossible to ‘manage’ ” (Brown, 2000: ix), as the profession tries to integrate findings from testing, bilingual education, discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, pragmatics, and intercultural communication—just to name a few of the sub-disciplines that enrich SLA.

A second issue that arises when we focus on trends in the field is the question of whether it is all a matter of bandwagons, fads, and crusades: all promising, but not always delivering, greater efficacy in classroom-based learning. A clear consequence of this is that a fair degree of scepticism attends new claims for instructional effectiveness. Kumaravadivelu (1994) suggests however, that the profession’s resolve to move beyond the search for a panacea has led to a new dynamic which he labels the “post-method” condition, namely, the choice of principled eclecticism over any single method. Brown’s contention that, “our research miscarriages are fewer as we have collectively learned how to conceive the right questions” (2000:ix) also addresses the field’s concern with adopting more critical approaches to research and application in foreign language education.

Reviewing the trends in foreign language education promises to be a rather complex matter. In order to keep the discussion to manageable proportions, this article has opted to examine three areas that are among the most discussed in the literature: the integration of technology, the role of affect, and the role of metacognition in language learning. Although the article devotes considerable attention to the literature on technology in foreign language education, technology is but one trend deserving of our attention. No review of current trends and issues can fail to address the place of technology in the current foreign language education curriculum. The article argues, however, that as we try to keep pace with new research and curricular innovations, adopting a stance of principled electism requires us to look at some other trends and issues likely to impact on classroom practice. While the article will look at technology, affect and metacognition as separate strands in enhancing student learning, it is their incorporation in an approach to language learning premised on learner autonomy that is ultimately advocated.


Emerging concepts from the neuroscientific study of brain function both support and are supported by psycholinguistic research on the reading process. These concepts challenge the claim that brain imaging studies have demonstrated the primacy of phonological processing in reading. While such studies do indeed show that brain imaging technology is sensitive enough to detect sites of increased neural activity during phonological processing, this finding is consistent with both phonics and meaning based models. This is because both models recognize that phonological processing is part of the reading process. Unfortunately, subjects in the various brain imaging studies have not been given phonological processing tasks embedded in a context that requires meaning construction. So while this kind of study could, in principle, distinguish between the two models, it remains to be carried out. In order to better understand how contemporary neuroscience bears on models of the reading process, we therefore turned from neuroimaging studies to current research on how the cortical, “thinking” areas of the brain interact with the brain’s deeper, sensory processing structures. The emerging concepts from this research clearly indicate that the higher cortical structures control the transmission of
information from the deeper structures. This interpretation is contrary to the classical teaching, in which deeper sensory relay stations determine what will eventually reach the cortex. The emerging view has profound implications for psychological models of mental life. Whereas the classical neuroanatomic view is most consistent with a bottom-up, information processing model, the emerging view supports an interactive, constructivist model. The cortex either promotes or inhibits the very input being transmitted to it from the eyes, ears, and other sensory receptors. The psychological interpretation of this neuroanatomic arrangement is that the cortex selects evidence to confirm or disconfirm its predictions. It anticipates what will be seen and heard using knowledge stored in memory. Both this new neuroanatomical view and its psychological reflection are consistent with a transactional sociopsycholinguistic model of reading. Drawing on extensive comparisons of expected and observed responses from oral reading miscue studies, this model of reading emphasizes the fundamental importance of effective and efficient prediction and confirmation in the construction of meaning. Eye movement analysis, a widely used reading research tool for over a century, simultaneously supports the
emerging neuroscientific view of cortical control and the meaning construction model of reading. Since the most conspicuous motor behavior in silent reading is eye movement, studying it allows us to “see” the silent reading process. When combined with miscue analysis from oral reading, it is clear that cortical instructions tell the eyes where to look for cues from the signal, lexico-grammatical, and semantic levels of language. We conclude that emerging neuroscience provides evidence for the meaningconstruction view of reading, and that the ransactional socio-psycholinguistic character of reading is an instantiation of the memory-prediction model of brain function.

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Christopher Clarke
January 21, 2007

Clarke (2007) conducted a multi-case ethnographic study that examined the gender beliefs of thirty (30) boys between the age of 8 and 10 years, two teachers and twelve parents. This research aimed to answer the following questions: 1) What are boys‟ perception of their gender identity? 2) What beliefs do teachers hold about gender? and 3) What beliefs do parents hold about gender? Through observation, interviews, and focus group discussions Clarke found that “boys identify strongly and early with the dominance of masculinity and the subordination of women” (p. 16). Boys‟ gender identity was defined by the avoidance of feminine behaviours and “less by what they do”. The study found that boys did not want to be girls and policed the behaviours of their peers by informing those in breach that they “act like a girl” (p. 17).

Based on self report, the teachers either had a gender equitable treatment approach, which facilitated more opportunities for an „at risk‟ group or an equal treatment approach, which ensured that students receive the same opportunities for access and participation”. Regardless of the philosophy regarding gender in the classroom, teachers were rougher on boys, tended to describe boys more negatively and did not accommodate the male learning style in their lesson activities though they acknowledged a difference by gender.

Parents tended to have traditional beliefs concerning gender (except for career choice), which was evident in their male privileging socialization practices. The author notes that though parents had high expectations of their sons, the socialization practices were incongruous with ensuring that boys did well in school.

To address the issue of differential treatment and achievement of boys, Clarke makes the following recommendations: 1) a clearly enunciated gender policy for each level of the education system 2) the re-examination of teacher education programmes with a view to deal with gender issues and the inclusion of “a standalone course on Gender in the Classroom” 3) the examination of ways in which popular culture can be engaged to change the current image of manliness and 4) a national discussion concerning the nexus of gender/ masculinity, academic achievement and hard work.

Wayne Martino
April 22, 2008

Martino (2008) observed that not all boys are underachieving or „at-risk‟, and maintained that “educators and policy makers need to address the question of which boys require help becoming literate and what kind of help educators need to provide” (Martino, 2008, p.1). He rejects the belief that learning styles are influenced by gender and that employing more male teachers will improve boys‟ academic performance, but that good pedagogical approaches and respectful relationships had greater influence on raising achievement among boys. Martino highlights the conclusion of Warrington , Younger and Baerne (2006) that schools that were able to raise the performance of boys used “strategies which work to reduce constructions of gender difference” (Warrington , Younger and Baerne, 2006, cited in Martino, 2008, p.3). He advises that educators need to get boys to think about what being a boy involves by:
1) “developing a critical literacy approach that encourages boys to question taken-for-granted / common – sense notions of what it means to be a boy
2) “using texts in the language arts classroom to raise questions about the effects of stereotypes”
3) “having an understanding of the social

Geoff Lindsay and Daniel Muijs
January 1, 2006

Lindsay and Muijs (2006) identified primary and secondary schools that were successful in overcoming underachievement in black Caribbean, black African and white UK born boys. The research findings, which are based on interviews with head-teachers, teachers, and pupils, found that there was no singular successful approach. However, the approach taken by schools either emphasized the insistence on equally high standards for every student (whole school) or targeting underperforming groups for interventions (targeted). Six factors that have been noted as positive influences are related to: the curriculum, performance monitoring, high expectations, staffing, inclusive ethos and parental involvement. With regards to the curriculum, the strategy of successful primary schools was to “optimize interest” and emphasize the importance of “relevance and connectedness”. “Talk and chalk” was avoided and the use of ICT was found to motivate boys in all schools involved in the study. One teacher noted that computers may be perceived a “non-judgmental”, which made students more willing to risk making mistakes as they would not fear criticism. Another curriculum based intervention that was deemed useful is literacy programmes that target boys with low levels of literacy upon entry to school. The use of data was prioritized in all schools, and performance data and other indicators were used to develop individually tailored intervention and indentify challenging yet realistic targets for underperforming boys. Additionally, research carried out by some schools facilitated decision making. One school collected data from parents/ caregivers on factors like reading habits, which countered previously held assumptions and helped in the development of more relevant, and likely effective approaches. The schools generally had high expectations for all students. It is noted that achievement is “celebrated through displays and rewards” and there is a strong emphasis on behaviour management where “genuine concern and caring for pupils” along with “strong discipline” is expressed and reinforced. The research found that schools emphasized that sanctions need to be clear and fairly applied.

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