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Using Discourse Study as an Instructional Practice


TABLE 4.1. 2010 U.S. Census


Demographics of the Umted States


Percentage of
U.S. Populauon

Hispanic or Latmo population

African American

Using Discourse Study as

an Instructional Practice

Asian American

Whlte/European American
Nanve American, Alaskan Nauve, other



with Adolescents to Develop

21 st-Century LRerades of

CriticalJy Conscious Citizens

! Margaret C Hagood

as white will no longer make up the American majority (www.census.

gov/2OlOcensus). Part of this shift is due to the fact that the fastestgrowing demographic In the United States is the children of immigrants.
This growth is so substantial that it's projected that by 2028, groups currently identified as racial and ethnic minorities will become a ma]orlty
among adults ages 18-29. It seems that many Americans are also feeling

less inclined to associate with a singular identity group. Unpublished U.S.

Census data show that millions of people shunned singular race categories
such as black or white, preferring to write in their own cultural or indi-

vidually defined identities (Yen, 2012). Another important trend in the

U.S. Census data reveals a blurring of racial identities. By 2060, people
who identify themselves as multiracial are projected to more than triple,
from Z5 million to 26.7 million.


ThB chapter examines the uses of DBcourse study m order to develop the

Diversity cuts across identity categories of race, class, gender, cognitive

hteracles of 21st-century cnhcally conscious clhzens. It covers the follow-

abilities, language, ethmclty, and the body itself. The diversity of the U.S.
population also includes the diversity of their literacles and reflects various


ways of being as seen in language use, beliefs and values, clothing, tradiSituating contemporary hteracJes within a growing and diverse U S

tions, and even pop culture choices. Diversity of hteracles includes reading


and writing, listening and speaking, and viewing and designing of print,
nonprint, and digital texts.
While the demographics of the U.S. population rapidly changes, the
demographic of the teaching field in the United States remains constant.
In 2010 the U.S. Department of Education (2010) reported that 83% of
public school teachers were white, while only 7% were Hispanic or Latino,
7% African American, and fewer than 3% were Pacific Islander, American

Defining Discourse and its importance for understanding hteracles of

self and other

Illustrating Discourse study mstruchon with adolescents
Discussing benefits of Discourse mstruchon for teaching hteracles
Connecting DBcourse instruction to the development of 21st-century

hteracLes defined by pnnoples of the Common Core State Standards,

media hteracy educahon, and parhcpatory culture

Indian, Alaskan Native, or other. It is more critical now than ever before
to ensure that teachers not only understand the connections between diversity, identity, and hteracles but also teach students about these connections.

The United States is more diverse than ever before. Of its more than 315
million people, the 2010 U.S. Census shows a noteworthy breakdown (see
Table 4.1). It is prolected that by 2043, people who identify themselves

In this chapter, I demonstrate how instruction built on analysis of

adolescents' diverse literacies reflective of their identities goes a long
way toward addressing the diversity of literacles in the U.S. population
and in the development of 21st-century hteracles necessary for success in


)5/ J

b/,'\ / ,



adulthood. I discuss how teachers can use the concept of Discourse as an

instructional strategy to analyze both the structures of hteracles and the

Discourse Study as an Instructional Practice


Primary and Secondary Discourses are also interwoven. Sometimes

they match; sometimes they clash. When Primary and Secondary Dis-

shifting relations of those structures to acknowledge and value adolescents'

courses match, people move from one Discourse community to another [g i

diverse hteracxes. I argue that instruction that explicitly examines adolescents' contemporary literacies is not only beneficial but also is critical for
meeting the goal of adolescents' facilities with 21st-century hteracles as
responsible citizens.

without much thought about the associated identity kits. Related to htera- ; 5

cies, the identity kits are the same across Discourses, or are similar enough i: " :

that people don't consciously think about shifting or changing the literacies of their identities in the ways they read, write, speak, dress, or value
certain ideas. Matches between Primary and Secondary Discourses reflect . 1"


Discourse can be examined in a lot of ways. Sometimes it is defined as lan-

guage exchange. But for the purposes of this chapter, I draw on structural
and poststructural theories to describe Discourse as a structure that frames
a social or cultural group's habits of interpretation and their related hteracles. Defined in this way, a Discourse organizes and constrains thoughts,
words, and actions. Each Discourse has its own sets of rules and procedures to determine what counts as meaningful (or not). Discourses are also
interwoven; sometimes they match, sometimes they clash. While Discourse
as a structure might seem rigid and stable, another structure of another
Discourse may work to destabilize it.

In SoczaI L,mgustzcs and Lteracws, Gee (1990) outhned a theory of

Discourse (with a capital D to differentiate from other kinds of discourse
described above as language exchange), hlghlightlng the comprehensive
social and situated contextuahzed hteracies connected to identity. Gee lik-

ened Discourse to a personal ldentlty kit that people have at their disposal
and includes language, behavior, and social expectations of self and others
related to beliefs, values, and actions accepted within the Discourse.

-/.[O People develop these identity kitsDiscoursesin their home context

j -': first. A person's first learning of these hteracies IS referred to as a Primary

. 7/5


Discourse (Gee, 1996). Primary Discourses Inculcate people into commu-

nlty membership. For example, family members teach children their own
beliefs and values about how to dress, act, behave, think, speak, listen, read,
and write. These Discourses are acquired mostly through tacit inculcation,

and they create and shape children's identities before they enter school.
People take their Primary Discourse identity kits into Secondary Discourses. That is, people take their acquired home language, beliefs and val-

ues, style m clothing, views of the world that make up their literacles with
them into Discourses outside the home (Gee, 1996). School, for example,
i is considered a Secondary Discourse. Secondary Discourses have their own

associated identity kits that include behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, values, and
practices about how to be a member in the group and to interact
with others. As distinct from Primary Discourses, Secondary Discourses
/,+ !;%are learned (rather than acquired).

at least some portions of the identity kits acquired in Primary Discourses.

So, for some people, the hteracies taught in the Secondary Discourse of
schooling reflect those implicitly taught in the Primary Discourse of home.
The interwoven structures of the Discourses are seamless enough, and free
movement from one Discourse to the other often means taken-for-granted,

assumed literacies. ,:
For some people, interwoven structures of Primary and Secondary ,
Discourses don't match. When this happens, movement from one Discourse /
community to another requires explicit thought and attention to the dif-. u
ferences in identity kits--and with the associated hteracies--needed for
success in the different communities. Secondary Discourses are learned, i; ""
not acquired. For example, sometimes the hteracles of an identity kit from ,.

a Primary Discourse aren't reflected in the hteracies valued in the identity j; )P

kits of the Secondary Discourse. Going back to schooling as a Second- "
ary Discourse, such examples are apparent when students bring Primary

Discourses of language, culture, values, and beliefs to school that differ

from the Secondary Discourse identity kits valued and taught at school. If
a person's home language and literacies per se differ from the language and
literacies of the identity kit valued and taught in the Secondary Discourse
of school (e.g., Spanish vs. English; slang vs. academic language), then a
mismatch in the structures and in identities occurs. When the structures
of Primary and Secondary Discourse identity kits aren't aligned, students
perceive the shifts, either explicitly or tacitly.
In the case of mismatches of interwoven identity kits in Discourses,
individuals have several options:(1) assume the identity kit of the Secondary
Discourse, (2) relect the identity kit of the Secondary Discourse, (3) acquire
enough information about an identity kit of the Secondary Dlscourseits
structureto get by, or (4) assert Primary Discourse hteracies such that
the structure of the Secondary Discourse must acknowledge the working
of the Primary Discourse, and in doing so make room for the diversity of
individuals' literacies and identities, which ultimately causes shifts in the
Secondary Discourse itself.
Indeed, each of these options related to mismatches in Discourse produces different outcomes. In the case of the first choice, sometimes people
feel that when they learn a Secondary Discourse they must put aside their
Primary Discourse identity kits and the related literacies. They learn a new




Using Discourse Study as an Instructional Practice

identity and literacles in school and then resume their acquired identity

Rogers's [2002] Discourse analysis of family literacy, Sheehy's [2002]

and hteracms when at home. In this case both Primary and Secondary Discourses remain intact, one not influencing the other.
In the second option, when the identity kit associated with a Second-

ary Discourse is wholly refuted, the person has difficulty succeeding in that
Secondary Discourse because there is no acknowledgment of any shared

Discourse analysis of construcnvlsm in a middle grades classroom, and

Wohlwend's [2009] Discourse analysis of young girls' identities and Disney

princesses, all of which demonstrate the workings of the structures of Discourse affected by pop culture, social norms, and contextual beliefs.)
But very few studies have applied Gee's concept of Discourse as an

structure. In this case, the person either chooses not to learn the Secondary Discourse or the person doesn't understand how to learn the Discourse
because acquisition of the Discourse is not explicitly taught. As in the first
option, nothing changes between the Primary and Secondary Discourses.

instructional strategy w,th students to deepen their hteracms and their

power and agency to shape the identity kits within both Primary and Secondary Discourses. The following examples illustrate how explicit instruc-

The third option refers to what Gee (1990) calls "mushfake." This

ciated hteracies serves as a useful framework for acknowledging diverse

approach to Discourse mismatch requires the partial acquisition through

meta-knowledge and tactical uses of the Secondary Discourse--just enough
of the associated hteracles--to create an identity kit to make do within the

literacles--reflecnve of the shifting demographics in the United States--

Discourse. The person learns the structure of the Secondary Discourse to

work within and to navigate it, but doesn't really buy into it. Such learnmg of Secondary Discourse is a means for getting by, not for making any

tion w,th adolescents about structures of Secondary Discourses and asso-

and for influencing shifts in the structures of the Discourses.


changes to the structure of the Discourse itself. When this happens, folks
are fine with getting along in that way.
The fourth choice, however, opens up possibilities for acknowledgement, growth, and change related to diversity of hteracms found in Secondary Discourses. This choice recognizes the power of the person and the

identity kits that used African American Vernacular English (AAVE), they

this work agVborderland discourse. A borderland discourse is a commumty discourse wherein members of different Secondary Discourses through

incorporated contrastive analysis instruction to explicitly teach students

to influence the hteracles of both Discourses. Of all the choices, this one
allows for most movement and change within the structures of Discourses

via attention to different and diverse hteracms of the identity kits of the
Discourses. Borderland discourses have the potennal to transform both
Discourses. Borderland discourses have been documented in the literacles

Discourses. Acknowledging students' Primary Discourses constructed from

power of thee, lscourse, each to influence the other. Gee (1999) described

mutual recognition identify the dlsparmes between their Secondary Discourse and use meta-knowledge of both Discourse group's identity kits

In their work with 91 African American high school students, Fisher and
Lapp (2013) employed Discourse instruction to teach students how to identify, deconstruct, and use language appropriate within different Secondary

of diverse ethnic groups of urban middle and high school students in a common outdoor space during break from school (Gee, 1999) and in Alsup's
(2006) study of preservice teachers' identity formation. In both cases, the
groups' cognitive dissonance of their understanding and uses of Secondary Discourses influenced the others' hteracles. The Secondary Discourse

structures of both groups shifted so as to open up new spaces for identities

and related hteracms.
Invariably, al! people experience matches and mismatches between
Discourses that affect their hteracles and learning. Research over the past
decade about Discourses of various groups has documented matches and
mismatches between their hteracles associated with their identities and
has revealed outcomes reflected in the choices described above. (See, e.g.,

the differences between different home (Primary) and school (Secondary)

language patterns. As students learned to analyze differences, they developed metacogmtlve skills that allowed them the power to choose different
literacy practices appropriate for different Discourses.
Instruction occurred for at least 15 minutes (and up to 85 minutes)
4 days a week during English class over 2 years to develop their language
skills (for reading, writing, speaking, and listening) across Discourses at
the word, phrase, and sentence level. Careful to acknowledge the validity
of Primary and Secondary Discourses, Fisher and Lapp designed several
activities. Students learned how to compare the identity kits of home/Pri-

mary and school/Secondary Discourse by identifying different audiences,

the purpose of communication, and the best word use for sharing informa-

tion with a specified recipient.

Beyond teacher modeling of academic English, contrastlve analysis and
situationally appropriate language instruction over the 2 years included the
1. Study of five different forms of language and students' self-reflection
of their uses of these five forms.
2. Analysis of language patterns in a children's book that uses AAVE



Using Discourse Study as an Instructional Practice


and academic English, which revealed to students that different

uses Ebomcs. The adolescents discussed at length the relationship between

Discourses make for richer understandings of self and others.

3. Research project of students' analysis of YouTube videos to dem-

their uses of Gaybomcs as borderland discourses in response to Secondary

Discourses of standard English and heterosexual associated identities of the

onstrate different perspectives about using academic English, and

youth who engage these Secondary Discourses.

student-created PhotoBooth presentations of their findings compar4. Identification, transcription, and analysis of written and spoken

As they worked on the dictionary at The Attic, Blackburn learned how

the adolescents identified, defined, and performed the words. Through indepth discussions about different language use in different secondary Dis-

language patterns of prominent African Americans (e.g., Barack

courses, she examined with participants how they acquired and learned

Obama, Langston Hughes, Shukar, Zora Neale Hurston), and then

Gaybonics vocabulary through both observation and overt teaching. Sh%iI j.d';l
also helped participants make sense of the multiple meanings the words }
conveyed and the difference these meanings made to the identities these @gY
participants created for themselves both within and outside the Secondary (Y!
Discourse of The Attic and in the larger Secondary Discourse of LGBTQ. ]J>i "

ing AAVE to academic English.

student rewriting of the language, code switching from the author's

presented language to either Academic English or AAVE.

5. Students' creation of a list of common Academic English language

frames that they posted on their English classroom wall to use in

their writing.

6. Dialogue writing in pairs using Academic Enghsh scaffolded by the

students' generated list of language frames of Academic English
that differed from their AAVE language patterns.
7. Production of videos and participation in debates in which students

Adolescents spent considerable time explicitly discussing the relation- r i,;/

ship between Gaybomcs and power for inclusion and exclusion within a J ,i",;,

Secondary Discourse community. This instruction and exploration at The '@(/

Attic helped them to examine how they used language within discourses
of race and gender to include and exclude different people. Gaybomcs as a

demonstrated their uses of both AAVE and Academic English and

borderland discourse created intimacy among members in the Secondary

evaluation by peers and teachers.

Discourse of The Attic. In this space, the adolescents tried on language

and identities that fit within Gaybomcs as created by the group. Blackburn observed and examined with the adolescents how they practiced with
language in playful and humorous ways. Their creation of a borderland

Careful to respect students' Primary Discourses, Fisher and Lapp pur-

posefully and systematically taught students about situationally appropriate language. As students developed their knowledge, skills, and uses of
multiple language patterns, they became more aware of their agency and
power to choose how they wanted to communicate within different Discourses. From their study, they realized that rejection of certain Secondary Discourses shut them out of conversations, while learning and using
Secondary Discourses yielded more opportunities for mushfakmg and borderland discourses This intervention instruction, undertaken after none of

discourse gave them agency to practice ways to subvert heterosexlst, homophobic, and racist Secondary Discourses and identities.

Through their study of the Secondary Discourses the adolescents at

The Attic learned how to use language to position themselves as agents

with power in order to confront and talk back to other Secondary Dis-!4,
course communities. Blackburn argued that participants developed a meta- 7J',
cognitive awareness of language via their discussions and creation of the

the African American students passed the state standardized English test
required for graduation, yielded a 78% and 97% passing rate in the 2 years

dictionary, which in turn helped them to make purposeful language choices

about what they wanted to achieve. Adolescents recognized that their lan-

of the intervention.

guage use was often associated with pleasures of membership in the Sec-

Blackburn (2005) documented in a 3-year study the explicit exploration
of Secondary Discourses of identity kits of LGBTQ adolescents who frequented an after-school hangout called The Attic. Blackburn worked with

ondary Discourses of The Attic and of a LGBTQ identity. Sometimes this

pleasure was expressed by subversion of oppression and by the retaliation
against the hatred they felt from others in Secondary Discourses whose
identities and literacles disagreed with those who frequented The Attic.
Attention to this awareness helped adolescents tap into their agency of then
making conscious and purposeful choices about which discourse to use in
a particular situation or setting to accomplish a particular goal.

a group of mostly queer African American adolescents as an after-school

facilitator. During her time with these adolescents, they created a dlcnon-

Interestingly, the Gaybomcs dictionary the adolescents wrote and

published ultimately was used only within the Secondary Discourse of
The Attic. Although some members of The Attic who had graduated and

ary of terms deemed Gaybomcs, which they described as gay language that

moved into other communities (e.g., work, college) approached Blackburn




Using Discourse Study as an Instructlonal Practice

to publish the dmtlonary for wider audiences, the members of The Attic felt

literacms--and ultimately the identities--of the other group. Such work

that it could be used against them. In this case, they chose to use the text
only among frequenters of The Attic. In this study, adolescents' discussions

supports the learning of the hteracies of diverse groups, develops more

conscientious citizenship, and holds potential to affect larger changes to

led to cognitive dissonance and created contexts where the study of identi-

Using explicit instruction and a focus on literacIes within Discourses,
the teachers/facihtators in these studies also demonstrated respect for the

ties and hteracles led to action and advocacy for diverse perspectives.

Secondary Discourses important to the adolescents' identities. Utilizing



culturally relevant pedagogles (Ladson-Bilhngs, 1995) the adults struck a

balance, acknowledging the adolescents' literacms of Secondary Discourses

while also explicitly teaching them about other Secondary Discourses that
These two studies exemplify how Discourse juxtaposition of contemporary
print and nonprlnt texts across Discourses helps adolescents develop deeper
knowledge and understandings of their own and others' literacms. Adolescents in these studies drew from the texts important to identity kits created
from Primary and Secondary Discourses. These texts included oral lan-

guage (slang and formal language), digital and pop culture texts (YouTube,
Photobooth, movie creations), and print-based texts (language frames, dictionaries, children's picture books), to name a few.

provided the adolescents alternative perspectives about hteracies for their

consideration and ultimately helped them to navigate the hteracms of Secondary Discourses with which they were unfamiliar. This mutual respect
for the organization and structure of Secondary Discourses aided adolescents' learning of audience, purpose, task, and discipline within a specific




Through explicit instruction about Secondary Discourses, of which

the adolescents initially had tacit knowledge, the adolescents (and, I'd ven-


ture to say, the adults, too) developed a meta-awareness of the workings

of hteracles in different contexts. The adolescents' and adults' analyses of

Three central documents are shaping hteracies instructional practices in

juxtaposed Discourses facilitated the growth of a meta-knowledge of the

the United States: the Common Core State Standards (CCSS; National

Discourses that enabled them to remove themselves enough from the Dis-

Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief

courses so they could talk about them, describe them, and explain how
they get used. In this way, they interrogated not only the Secondary Discourse of which they were a part (i.e., AAVE language use or LGBTQ) but
they also examined the wider Secondary Discourses (i.e., schooling and
homophoblc contexts). This work required the ability to step outside the

State School Officers, 2010), Core Prznczples of Me&a L,teracy Educatmn

(MLE; National Assocmnon for Media Literacy Education, 2007), and
Confrontzng the Challenges of Part, capatory Culture: Me&a Educatmn for
the 21st Century (PC; Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Roblson, & Wmgel,
2006). These documents take into account the teaching and learning of

Discourse, albeit briefly, to see it deeply from another perspective, and then
to analyze and synthesize various members' ideas.
The study of literacles and identities using cognitive dissonance deepened everyone's understandings and uses of competing Discourses and
the associated hteracies. With this recognition came a newfound under-

standing of agency and power that the adolescents and adults could use as

print, nonprint, digital, and media texts for the development of reading,
writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and designing hteracies. The foci of
three areas of these documents overlap: the purposes for learning, qualities
of learners who are 21st-century literate, and approaches of lmplementa-

non (see Table 4.2). This is interesting, because although school systems
across the Umted States are focused on the CCSS, the MLE, and the PC

they saw fit. Certainly, this awareness prompted Independence, but even

documents predate and, as will be shown later, are in some ways more com-

more, it allowed both adolescents and adults to decide how they wanted

prehensive than the CCSS. Also, although not explicitly stated, attention

to engage with various Secondary Discourses. In this sense, they learned

to the literacies of various Discourses runs through all of these documents.

In this section I examine and provide brief explanations of how Discourse

valuable lessons to mushfake in order to get by; but more important, their
conscious efforts and ultimate meta-awareness of the uses of Discourses

study relates to the goals of literacy instruction in the United States as out-

helped them to create borderland discourses such that the literacies of the

lined in these documents.

First, all of the documents aspire to create 21st-century learners who

identity kits of their Secondary Discourse could be more overtly woven into
other Secondary Discourses. In this way, the structures of both Secondary

Discourses could shift and open up as they became more accepting of the

positively contribute to society through their skills and knowledge. The

CCSS state that students who progress through the standards wilt be

Using Discourse Study as an Instructlonal Practice

BLE 4.2. Comparison of Literacy Initiatives in the United States
ommon Core State
andards for English/

nguage arts (2010)a

Core Principles of Media Confronting the Challenges

hteracy Education in the of Participatory Culture

United States (2007)b


Purpose of Learning

effective communicators,
and active citizens in

"To encourage youth

to develop the skills,
knowledge, ethical
frameworks, and selfconfidence needed to
be full parnclpants m

-"reflexively demonstrate

today's world" (http://

contemporary culture"

the cogent reasoning

and use of evidence
that is essennal to both
private deliberation and
responsible citizenship in
a democratic republic"
(p. 3).


(p. 8).

College and career

readiness as a
21st-century literate

To be literate in the
21st century means to

To develop "habits of
inquiry and skills of
expression that they need
to be critical thinkers,


TABLE 4.2. (continued)

5. Recognizes media as

part of culture and

function as agents of
Presents &verse
Examines alternative

. Shares responsibility
with media owners to
facilitate discussion of
media effects (p. 5).
6. Affirms individual
skills, beliefs, and
experiences to construct
own messages

Welcomes different

Values group
discussion and

analyses (p. 5).

Quahnes of learners who have attained the skills outlined

uahnes as college and

Learners exhibit these

qualities through media

areer ready.

literacy education.

.arners exhibit these

1 Active inquiry and

crmcal thinking about
. Respond to varying
messages received and
demands of audience,
created (p. 3).
task, purpose, and
discipline (set purpose and 2. Expands concept of
literacy from reading
appreciate nuance)
and writing to include
Comprehend and cnnque.
all forms of media
Value evidence.
Use digital media and
(p. 3).
technology strategically 3. Builds and reinforces
skills. Skills reqmre
and capably
Understand other
integrated, interactive,
and repeated practice.
perspectives and cultures

(p 7).

* Co-learning

pedagogles (p. 4).

4. Develops informed,
reflective, engaged
cmzens who are

skeptical, value
diverse viewpoints,

and explore (mls)

representation (p. 4).

Learners exhibit these

qualmes in social skills
and cultural competencles
in core media hteracy

1. Play.
2. Performance.
3. Appropriation.

4. Mulntaskmg.
5. Dlsmbuted

Approaches for lmplementanon

What to know, what to
"To know what to teach
teach, but not how to teach, and how to teach it"
(p. 2).

Know what to teach and

gives examples of how to
teach it.

awww corestandards org/ELA-Lzteracy

bhttp.//namle net/pubhcatmns/core-prmctples

chttp //dzgttaIlearnzng.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7EO-A3EO-4B89-AC9C-



6. Collective

Z Judgment.
8. Transmedla
9. Networking.
10. Negotiation--the

ablhty to travel across

diverse commumnes,

discerning and
respecting mulnple
perspecnves, and
grasping and
following alternanve
norms" (p. 4).

college and career ready. To that end, the CCSS intends to produce learn-i
ers who "reflexively demonstrate the cogent reasoning and use of evidence',
that is essennal to both private deliberation and responsible clnzenshlp m ',, .

a democratic repubhc" (p. 3). The other documents hold similar focL The i :
purpose for learning the MLE is to develop acnve cinzens as effecnve com-

municators and crmcal thinkers. Similarly, the purpose of the work of the
PC is to develop youths' ablhnes to be "full participants m contemporary
culture" (p. 8). The purpose of all the documents is to use students' literacy
learning to mold them into responsible and active cmzens who parnclpate
fully as effecnve commumcators and critical thinkers using reasoning and
evidence Because the Umted States continues to become more &verse, an
acnve cmzenry must be aware of the various literacles and related ldennty

kits, which mfluence the structures of Primary and Secondary Discourses


and literacles m people's hves.



The three documents also outline similar and overlapping descriptions

of quahtles that 21st-century literacy learners wi!l acquire (see row 2 of
Table 4.2). For example, the CCSS state that students who have learned
j the skills should be able to "respond to varying demands of au&ence,
task, purpose, and dlsclphne" (p. 7). The MLE mcludes a core principle

to "develop reformed, reflective, engaged citizens who are skeptical, value

&verse vlewpolnts, and explore (mls)representatlons" (p. 4). And the, PC

describes this idea a bit &fferently, stating the value of negotiation: the
ability to travel across &verse communities, . . . grasping and following

alternanve norms" (p. 4). In order to be able to do this work of identifying,



Using Discourse Study as an Instructional Practice


Table 4.3 shows an analysis of the benefits of Discourse study relative to the
purposes for learning, qualities of learners who are 21st-century literate,

and approaches of implementation across the CCSS, MLE, and PC. The
benefits of Discourse study as an instructional strategy maps clearly onto
the core values and principles of three specific areas outlined in these documents: (1) valuing print and nonprint text, (2) developing multiple perspectives, and (3) creating conscientious citizenship.

TABLE 4.3. Analysis of Discourse Study in 21st-Century Literacy

Education Documents


analyzing, and negotlatlng different viewpoints, learners must understand

the perspecnves and hteracles from which they came. Through a study of
Primary and Secondary Discourses, adolescents will have the language to

Discourse study
as instructional

Core Principles
Common Core State of Media Literacy
Standards for English Education in the

use for deeper analyses.

Third, all three documents exphcltly give a content focus on develop-


Language Arts (2010) United States (2007) Culture (2006)

ing multiple perspecnves and valuing of diversity. The CCSS states that

Values hteracies
within print and

students who are college and career ready "understand other perspectives

nonprint text.

Uses "extensive range of "Expands concept of

print and nonprint text literacy from reading
in media forms old and and wrmng to all

and cultures" (p. 7). The MLE values qualities in the learner who knows

new" (p. 4).

respect multiple perspectives (p. 4). Clearly, these documents purport to

understand the diversity among students and to value explicit goals that
will address diversity of hteracies.
The analysis of these documents is more illustrative than exhaustive in

order to make the point that Discourse study is already embedded into the
necessary knowledge and skills needed for developing 21st-century literacy

(p. 3).
Employs explicit
mstructmn to
develop metaawareness.

Develops multiple

skills. I now return to the examples of the two studies to demonstrate how

other perspectives and

"Presents diverse
persp ectlves"

Develop "ethical


(p. 3).



the key components of Discourse study as an instructional strategy could


be overlooked, thus deralhng the potential benefits.


(p. 4).


Fisher and Lapp's (2013) and Blackburn's (2005) studies point to several
benefits of using Discourse study as an instructional strategy to help stu-

Analyzes structures

Citizens who are

of Discourses to

skepncal, value

Identify agency
and power to effect

diverse viewpoints,



dents understand the relationship between structures that define hteracies

and their ablhty to influence those structures to affect change. Across both
studies, the benefits as described earlier included the following:
* Values hteracies within print and nonprmt text.
Employs explicit instruction to develop meta-awareness.
Develops multiple perspectives.
* Analyzes agency and power.
Creates conscientious citizenship.

culture" (p. 8).

forms of media"

how "to present diverse perspectives" and "welcomes different Interpreta-

nons" (p. 4). And the PC hkewtse values students' learning to discern and

the Challenges
of Participatory



and grasping
and following
norms" (p. 4).

and explore (mls)

Recogmzes media as

part of culture and

functmns as agents of


"Responsible citizenship "Informed, reflective, Development

m a democratic
engaged cmzens"
of "ethical
republic" (www.
(p. 2).
corestandards org/
(p. 8).
ELA-L,teracy, para6).



Using Discourse Study as an Instructlonal Practice

However, two benefits specific to instructional pracnces of Discourse

study found in the two studies analyzed don't clearly map onto the devel-

teachers should teach, but not how to teach it. The MLE similarly states
the import of knowing "not only what to teach but also how we teach it"


opment of 21st-century literacy learners as described by these three docu-

(p. 2), but doesn't give specific instructional strategies for the core prin-

ments. These include the following: (1) the use of explicit instruction to

ciples outlined. And while the PC document provides detailed vignettes of

develop a meta-awareness of discourses, and (2) the analysis of structures

to identify agency and power to effect change.

users' facility with the core skills outlined and possible activities, it doesn't

None of the documents state anything about the need for explicit

give instructional strategies for teaching the skills described.

Without specific pedagogy or curricula about how to teach these

instruction m order to develop a working meta-awareness of how language works across settings, contexts, or Discourses. And only the MLE

standards, teachers and curriculum developers must design pedagogy and

instruction for implementation. On one hand, it is refreshing that authors

addresses the larger issue of analysis of structures to identify agency and

of these documents value teachers' expertise and autonomy to create con-

power to affect change. This document encourages instruction to create

"citizens who are skeptical, value diverse viewpoints, and explore (mxs)
representation" and who "recogmze media as part of culture and functions

textually meaningful instruction. But for some teachers, especially those

who haven't explored the nuances of different kinds of hteracles of diverse

groups, this autonomy may be debilitating rather than freeing.

as agents of socialization" (p. 4).

Looking more closely at the CCSS and at the college and career
anchor standards for language further exemplifies the point. College and
Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language of the Common Core
State Standards of secondary students give two standards for teaching the
conventions of standard English. Standards 1 and 2 address students' command of standard Enghsh (grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation,

and spelling) (p. 51). Standard 3 addresses the knowledge of language,

stating that students will "apply knowledge of language to understand
how language funcnons in different contexts, to make effective choices for
meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listenlug" (p. 51).

Although conventions of Discourse structures of standard English

are addressed through knowledge and skills, these Standards do little to
examine how Discourse study points to larger issues of power structures
and students' agency for changing or influencing those structures. Furthermore, the anchor standards say nothing about the development of
meta-awareness of when to use different language or about the abilities

In the case of using Discourse study as an instructional strategy, teachers
must understand how the strategy serves as means to examine not only
the structure of the hteracles within a Discourse, but also how that structure changes as hteracies of different Discourses interact. In short, explicit

Discourse study helps teachers and students learn the difference between
assuming, rejecting, mushfakmg, and creating borderland discourses. Discourse study as an instructional strategy must include analysis of others'
work, but needs also to turn inward, so adolescents learn how to apply
these concepts to their own work, and to their own hteracies and identities.
Through instructional practices that examine Discourses, hteracies, power,

and agency can we actually help to develop the hteracies of adolescents prepared to live successfully as critically conscious citizens in a diverse society.

to analyze how agency and power play into the uses of literacles in Secondary Discourses. Without explicit instruction of Discourse study to the


development of meta-awareness of power structures for acknowledging

1. After teaching students about Primary and Secondary Discourses, have students create a chart reflecting these categories. Have them brainstorm a hst
of the literacms they use at home and ones they use at school. Then have
them subgroup the lists according to var,ous hteracies: texts I read, texts I
write, texts I listen to, texts I speak, texts I produce. Have them bring one
example of text for each Primary and Secondary Discourse to school.

and building on agency, teachers and students might think they are doing
the work of deep analysis to create critically conscious learners but instead

are only reifylng the structures of language already in place. The development of a critically conscious citizenry--of people who understand and
value diverse hteracies--the point of implementing these standards In the
first place--isn't met.
The value of Discourse study as an instructional strategy with ado-

lescents cannot be overstated. Although the three documents define what

hteracIes should look hke for adept 21st-century learners, they don't pres-

ent lnstrucuonal strategies for teaching. The CCSS, for example, explicitly states its purpose as an outline for what learners should know, what

2. Create opportunines for cognitive dissonance: Have students share thmr

text examples in small groups. Have other students guess whether the text
is a Primary or Secondary Discourse text and state why. Then have students
discuss the text lists m small groups. Have each person choose a text from
those brought to class and have them analyze it and create a Primary or
Secondary text from it, based upon their own experiences.



3. Have students analyze how they use Primary and Secondary Discourses to
assume, reject, mushfake, and create borderland crossings in their hves.
4. Have students examine various published works (e.g., favorite blogs, movies, Facebook posts, or language used by characters in literature) to determine the Discourses used. Students can analyze the text by the language and
images used and the identities presented.
5. Invite community members to the class to discuss the importance of understanding and using different Discourses in their work.

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