Stavroula Kontovourki, Κριτικός γραμματισμός στο κυπριακό σχολείο: Απόψεις, πρακτικές και στάσεις εκπαιδευτικών, Προσχολική & Σχολική Εκπαίδευση, 1|2013, 82-107

This paper explores the understandings, teaching practices and attitudes of public school teachers regarding the introduction of new curricula for the teaching of Greek language arts (GLA) in Cyprus. The introduction of new curricula constituted part of the comprehensive reform of the educational system toward the ideal of democratic and humane education; an ideal that was introduced at the onset of the reform effort in 2004 and guided related acts thereafter. The new GLA curriculum differed from previous ones in its emphasis on critical literacy pedagogy and the adaptation of genre literacy principles. It was introduced to schools and teachers during the year 2010-2011 and was partially implemented in 2011-2012; a move that aimed at easing transition from old to new curricula. The purpose of this study is to present and discuss teachers’ understandings, practices, and attitudes regarding the theoretical grounding and enactment of the new curriculum during the year of partial implementation. The study is theoretically grounded in perspectives on language, ideology, and power that allow the interpretation of teachers’ perspectives as situated and constructed within particular socio-historical contexts. Semi-structured interviewing with 78 public school teachers, identified through purposeful and convenient sampling, constituted the primary method of data collection. Thematic analysis allowed the identification of categories and themes that fell under the three axes of the study (understandings, practices, and attitudes), while the theoretical grounding of the study in perspectives of language, ideology, and power served as its interpretive lens. The analysis and interpretation of interviews highlighted the multiple meanings attributed to critical and genre literacy by teachers during the first year of the new curriculum’s implementation. Teachers also reported diverse ways in which they attempted to implement (or not) the new curriculum in their classrooms. These included the design of critically-oriented learning experiences, the re-structuring of existing instructional materials, and the development of critically-based thematic units in collaboration with their students. Based on teachers’ responses, the support of others, whom they considered experts on the matter (e.g., subject area counselors), was pivotal for their decision to engage in and proceed with the implementation of the new curriculum. Teachers positioned themselves positively in relation to the new curriculum, while also expressing concerns over its philosophy, the time required for its implementation and for designing instruction, the ability of students to take up new roles, and the lack of structured teaching materials—concerns that were reflected in teachers’ reports of their needs. Findings from this study suggest that teachers are meaning makers, whose understandings are shaped by personal characteristics, as well as their positioning in the educational system. Their understandings, practices, and attitudes can thus be interpreted as situated responses to the new curriculum and to the process of curricular change, in general. Hence, these are read as products of teachers’ ideologies and habitual engagement in particular (linguistic) practices, and questions are raised regarding the possibilities for change in the teaching of language arts without the concurrent redefinition of institutional structures.

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