LearningTogether4OslopaperGenresandIndigenouslearners.doc

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Learning Genres, Learning About Genres and Learning Through Genres: Educating Indigenous Learners Ian G. Malcolm Edith Cowan University Paper presented to the international conference on “Genres and Discourses in Education, Work and Cultural Life: Encounters of Academic Disciplines on Theories and Practices,” Oslo College, 13 th -16 th May, 2001
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Genres and Schooling Among the many ways of approaching genres, the one which has had most influence on schooling in Australia in recent times has been that which developed in Sydney among such linguists and educators as Martin (1990, 1997), Rothery (1990), Derewianka (1990) and others. Although the conceptualization of the genre which is entailed in this approach is underlain by a complex application of systemic-functional linguistic theory (Martin 1997), it has often been briefly summed up in the description: “staged, goal- oriented social processes” (Martin 1997:13; Rothery 1990:43; Hardy and Klarwein 1990:2 (citing Martin and Rothery)). The way in which this approach to genre has been interpreted in schools has been to emphasize the purpose-related alternative forms of staging of texts, often supporting such teaching with “scaffolding” (Rose, Gray and Cowey 1999) or boxes in which the successive stages of the text can be drafted (Thwaite 1998; Education Department of W.A. 1994). Watkins (1999:131) has pointed out that approaches like this, which she calls “structuralist”, have been adopted in all state English syllabus documents in Australia. She sees them, however, as having an unfortunate effect on pedagogy, and quotes with approval Kress’s remarks that: “The Martin/Rothery account necessarily tends towards a firmer view of generic structure, a greater tendency towards reification of types, and an emphasis on the linguistic system as an inventory of types. With such a tendency goes the corresponding tendency pedagogically towards an emphasis on the matter of form, and a tendency towards authoritarian modes of transmission” (p. 130) Watkins (1999), in analysing the discourse of a teacher in a year 3/ 4 class in Sydney, notes that this teacher’s efforts to implement a “structuralist” curriculum lead her to treat a narrative text in such a way as to underestimate the importance of features other than the linear stages by which the curriculum defines the genre, and to be oblivious to student comments which respond to other features of the text. Thwaite (1998) observing the use of the genre approach in a Western Australian setting, also observed the potential dangers of an over-emphasis on formal features of text types, which, in her view, Martin and Rothery would not endorse (Thwaite, pers. comm.) and of limiting the focus of instruction to the genres for which structural frameworks are given in resource materials. Freedman (1995:75), writing from within the rhetorical genre tradition, has argued that, in view of the “highly contextualized and interactive nature of specific genres” the kind of explicit teaching of genres advocated by the Sydney school is probably a futile endeavour.
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  • Winter '08
  • Amos,Y
  • The Land, Indigenous Australians, Aboriginal Students, Ian G. Malcolm

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