a task based route to academic literacy n.
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  1. A task-based route to academic literacy Nora Bogaert 1

  2. Two Flemish educational projects • 1991 - 2001: Educational Priorities Policy = enhance academic performance of ethnic minority children and stimulate school effectiveness • 2002 - : Equal Opportunities Policy = enhance academic performance of low SES children and stimulate school effectiveness 1

  3. The Centre for Language and Migration and the Flemish projects assist schools in improving the academic performance of all pupils (low SES and others), through • focusing on development of CALP i.e. the ability to understand cognitively demanding and decontextualized texts (Cummins ‘84) and to use them as a tool for conceptualizing, drawing abstract generalisations and expressing complex relationships (Swain ‘81) 1

  4. adopting a teaching approach which benefits to both at-risk pupils and others: active/constructivist/task-based learning • coaching and assisting teachers and schools in setting priorities and adopting the task-based approach (in-service training - teaching materials) 1

  5. Designing a task-based approach to academic literacy • An early start in kindergarten: by offering a rich array of stories, picture books, verses, and all sorts of written messages, to make toddlers feel motivated to learn how to read and to understand aspects of written language • Developing language and literacy skills in a systematic way across all curriculum, in all subject areas 1

  6. 1. 'tasks' • create a situation of functional reading: sets a goal that cannot be reached without the reading of (a) particular ‘academic’ text(s) • introduce appealing subjects and interesting, challenging problems • function as a ‘zone of proximal development’ (= gap between acquired and required proficiency) 1

  7. (tasks) • are accomplished through learner-learner or learner-teacher cooperation (meaningful interaction as the locus for signalling problems to a more knowledgeable partner and for resolving them in cooperation with others) • are embedded in a positive (safe and stimulating) environment 1

  8. 2. The sequencing of tasks Parameters for 'task complexity': • the ‘world’ represented in the task • cognitive demands of information processing • text characteristics/linguistic input features 1

  9. Worldsimple  complex contextual embeddedness here-and-now world  there-and-then world  world of abstractions perspective individualizing  generalizing/abstracting prior knowledge indispensable prior knowledge is expressed (verbally and/or visually)  not expressed 1

  10. Cognitive demandssimple  complex information processing knowledge telling  knowledge transforming (restructuring, evaluating) output modality non-verbal  verbal but limited  verbal and extensive 1

  11. Textsimple  complex vocabulary frequent  specialized/figurative syntax simple clauses  subordination coherence explicitly marked (chrono)logical structure  no (marked) structure cohesion explicitly expressed  implicitly expressed redundancy information expressed in different verbal ways (paraphrase, synonymy, …)  high information density length 1

  12. Complexity parameters: why? • for task developers allow a better tuning into (general) level of target group (young learners, (non-)educated absolute beginners, learners with a lower than required proficiency level, …) • for teachers • mediation • 'stepping stones' (when the gap is not ‘bridgeable’) 1

  13. Mediation (1) - pre-task • check on indispensable prior knowledge, activating or creating it if necessary • increase motivational power of the task: ‘attention catchers’ - expression of high expectations of learners’ performance - expression of own curiosity/enthusiasm in relation to task • provide more elaborated/detailed/step-by-step instructions 1

  14. Mediation (2) - during task interactional support to overcome learners’ 'stagnations': through eliciting questions stimulate learners to identify and solve their problems themselves - activate/feed their mental activity • What is the problem? Is there something you do not understand? … • What could x mean? Doesn’t the text provide clues which may help you out? ..... Doesn’t the text say that ...? 1

  15. Mediation (3) - post-task • ‘(re)construction’ of the process: Which steps did you follow in order to find the solution/answer? What information was (not) relevant/useful? Where did you find information x? (…) • (construction of knowledge) Is there anything you found particularly interesting in the text / you did not know / you want to remember? (= about the world, about language)? 1

  16. Stepping stones 1

  17. Concluding remarks • The route to academic literacy is a sys-tematic one + involves all subject areas • The quality of the tasks is an essential condition for success • Setting out the route should be done in a very deliberate way, by taking into account well-defined criteria of complexity 1

  18. (concluding remarks) • In the Centre’s approach academic literacy is developed through reading, but also by communicating about the text: by listening to and talking with partners, by writing down information which is useful for or required by the task = increasing opportunities for acquiring CALP 1