A Social Practice Analysis of Methods Instructors’ “Disciplinary Discourse”
Social Practices in Higher Education - A Knowledge Framework Approach to Linguistic Research and Teaching - Tammy Slater
Bernard Mohan published his seminal work on integrating language and content in 1986. In his book, he discussed the concept of a social practice, an educational activity that can be considered as action in a frame of meaning, or a “knowledge framework” (KF). These activities, as this book argues, are central to a cluster of educational issues that are being discussed in systemic functional linguistics (SFL), such as multimodality, register, and language development. Mohan’s book introduced an SFL-based heuristic that provides both a theoretical framework for researching the language of human activities and a springboard for organizing pedagogic tasks that can help teachers bring explicit language development into content teaching. This volume brings together the latest research on using Mohan’s SFL-based theory at institutions of higher learning. There is little argument against the idea that language is a critical part of content teaching, as language is the primary medium through which teaching and learning is carried out and assessed (Janzen, 2008; Mohan, Leung, & Slater, 2010; Schleppegrell, 2004). Nor do educators dispute the notion that subject-based literacy development is essential for students to succeed academically and professionally (Gibbons, 2009). Yet often students arrive in higher education from backgrounds that may not have prepared them for study using the academic language and knowledge they need. How can content teachers in higher education help these students succeed in their specialized classes? In other words, how might studies that examine the social practices of higher education add to our understanding of the development of disciplinary literacy from a linguistically informed theoretical perspective? One outcome of this book is to show how a functional approach to language research can be a major tool for research on aspects of the tradition of John Dewey who, as a pragmatist, regarded knowledge functionally “as arising from an active adaptation of the human organism to its environment” (www.iep.utm.edu/dewey). Another outcome is to illustrate the complexity of the role activities/social practices play in education, not only for learners but for teachers and the learning communities in general. This is the first book to empirically examine the linguistic demands of the activities/social practices that occur in and across areas of higher education. It provides empirically grounded examples of how Mohan’s SFL-based work can be and is being implemented in colleges and universities and, through this, adds to the conversations that are occurring around the use of educational activities that are used to teach and describe disciplinary literacy and the integrated development of language and content.