Academic Essay

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Introduction. We are taught to ?do' Language through our experiences in various social and cultural communities. Language is learned, acquired and developed through social interaction and formal education experiences. As we age we continue to learn and experience different socio-cultural disco

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Academic Essay

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1. Academic Essay Mark Collier

2. Introduction We are taught to ‘do’ Language through our experiences in various social and cultural communities. Language is learned, acquired and developed through social interaction and formal education experiences. As we age we continue to learn and experience different socio-cultural discourse communities, thus developing the understanding of language constantly through life. Using language applications in the context of the schooling environment are important factors that will be discussed in this essay.

3. Discourse Communities A discourse community ‘refers to a group of people who share the same beliefs and values, which are reflected to a certain extent in their various meaning-making systems’ (BUILT, Unit 1A, screens 13-19). A discourse community could more simply described as the general actions, views and language patterns that are indicative of a specific group. Of course, we don’t just belong to one discourse community but a combination of many overlapping discourses. We learn through interaction with a variety of discourse communities.

4. Acquisition & Learning Language is learned not only through direct, structured teaching but also from what is known as ‘acquisition’. Acquisition refers to ‘ a process of obtaining knowledge subconsciously by exposure to models and a process of trial and error, without a process of formal teaching’ .(Krashen, 1982,1985; Krashen & Terrell, 1983). Acquisition is used in the learning process of the schooling environment equally as much as the more systematic learning techniques.

5. Stereotyping Often a discourse community is stereotyped due to the general behaviour of the discourse, lexicon used and the fundamental views shared by the discourse. It is important that teachers are aware of stereotyping and do not assume that all those in a particular discourse community are the same. The social contexts and behaviours are among the forces that help shape perceptions of discourse communities

6. Primary Discourses The primary discourse refers to the family or the ‘primary socialisation group as defined by the culture’ (Gee 1991p.7). We learn a considerable amount about language as we develop through interaction with our primary discourse. Most of the information we learn about language through our primary discourse is acquired subconsciously. The acquisition of literacy that occurs in different primary discourses can be better understood by looking at an example of a primary discourse. A recall (Pennel 1991) of an elementary education student showed that she belonged to a primary discourse of whom her two parents were teachers in a community of farmers and factory workers, and how this impacted on her viewpoint being a little different to most other children’s. She tells how the reason behind her being an academic is because literacy was regarded in her family environment.

7. Secondary Discourses The secondary discourse refers to all other social and cultural discourses outside the primary discourse. The secondary discourse can also involve families, which are regarded as a primary discourse The teacher many achieve a deeper understanding of why students aren’t good in certain areas in the schooling discourse. A reason for this is if the student lacks dominant secondary discourses. In the teaching of PD/H/PE, the teacher would be engaging the student as part of one of his or her secondary discourses.

8. Zone of Proximal Development Vygotsky synthesised a theory of how we learn language through social interaction. Vzygotski’s theory, known as the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD), involves moving a learner from not understanding a skill, to where they are able to apply the skill. ‘Children's social interaction with more skilled adults and peers is indispensable in advancing cognitive development’ (Santrock 2004 p.35). Structured teaching methods such as scaffolding and modelling aid in moving the learner through this proximal development. An 'outsider refers to a person who is unfamiliar with or untutored in the subject matter and the specific vocabulary and language patterns used by members in a discourse community'. (BUILT, Unit 1A, screens 16-19). When the students first start the learning process they do not understand much and are classed as ‘outsiders’ to that particular discourse community, when they acquire the relevant information they are classed as ‘insiders’. Vygotski’s theory of the ZPD is dependent on techniques such as modelling and scaffolding to assist the learner through the proximal development.

9. Context of Schooling In the teaching of PD/H/PE, the teacher would be engaging the student as part of one of his or her secondary discourses. The acquisition of literacy that occurs in different primary discourses can be better understood by looking at an example of a primary discourse. A recall (Pennel 1991) of an elementary education student showed that she belonged to a primary discourse of whom her two parents were teachers in a community of farmers and factory workers, and how this impacted on her viewpoint being a little different to most other children’s. She tells how the reason behind her being an academic is because literacy was regarded in her family environment. It is through the teachers application of techniques such modelling and scaffolding that the students progress through the ZPD in the schooling discourse. sing cognitive thought to bring to consciousness an understanding of what they have acquired is more important in the context of the schooling environment. Being able to analyse and interpret information is important to achieve a successful mark in PD/H/PE.

10. References Halliday, M., 1994, An Introduction to Functional Grammar, Edward Arnold, London Gee, J., What is Literacy, in Mitchell, C., Wesler, K., (1991), Rewriting Literacy, Beigin & Ganey, New York Krashen, S, What is Literacy, in Mitchell, C., Wesler, K., (1991), Rewriting Literacy, Beigin & Ganey, New York Love, K., Pigdon, K., Baker, G., Hamston, J. BUILT: Building Understandings In Literacy and Teaching (2nd ed) CD-Rom, University of Melbourne, Melbourne Pennell, A., 1999, A Personal Discourse Theory, updated 25/1/1999, viewed 29/5/04 <http://www1.appstate.edu/~moormang/wwwboard2/messages/39.html> Santrock, J., 2004, Child Development (10th ed), McGraw-Hill, New York

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