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Modern theories about literacy Essay

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Updated: Feb 7th, 2019

There are many modern theories about literacy and ways of constructing it through the personal hands-in experiences, the connection of learning materials to the actual social reality in which learners exist, and the alignment of students’ and teachers’ identities through social interactions. Such innovative techniques enable to weld the learning process in the social reality and make the learner less detached from the actual body of knowledge they obtain.

The articles of Darville (2009), Atwood (2007) and Hamilton (2009) provide the practical and theoretical evidence to support the efficiency of these new approaches to literacy; due to the accounts given by authors, one can estimate the true value of these practices and design the curriculum and pattern of studies suiting him/her as a learner or an educator.

The article of Darville (2009) offers an additional insight into how literacy represents a social construct. The author argues that teaching literacy should be aligned learners’ practices and involves embodying, giving voice to the text learned. It is also important to note that the mechanics of learning has to be learned through participative practices because students often feel detached from the material being learned, which gives them additional challenges in covering it (Darville, 2009).

The experience-telling model of taught material, with easy instructions and the accessibility for learners, is estimated as the most effective learning tool. The institutional genres are thought to be exclusive for learners because of the absence of background knowledge implied in the text, so the author suggests that the innovative, inclusive genres of texts for learners should be created to enhance the educational process (Darville, 2009).

This idea of the necessity to tie the texts learned to the immediate, practical reality in which learners exist and upon which they may reflect, is a truly useful finding for the present educational practice.

It is a real challenge for the learner to align the learning material with the student’s perception because of his/her lack of understanding of the material’s relevance. As soon as the gap between learning and the learner’s life is bridged, the activity gains additional motivation from the learner and the internal incentives become the powerful drive for knowledge acquisition.

The example can be wonderfully supported by the analysis of Hamilton (2009) who assessed the value of Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) in the formation of adult literacy – only once the teacher is able to act as a mediator between the student’s aspirations and demands, and the system’s requirements, adequately adjusting the flow of learning to the individual needs of learners, the success in obtaining literacy can be achieved.

This fact is also supported by the account of the participation in the Nunavit education program Somebody’s Daughter by Atwood (2007). The author indicates how hard it is to initiate learning in the women from the indigenous people from the north of Canada, used to living in severe conditions and lacking the fundamentals of literacy.

The aggravating effect is the unpleasant, shocking experience of ruinous practices conducted by the Canadian government for the major part of the 20th century, with the compulsory separation of indigenous families, humiliating education in the residential schools and deprivation of the traditional experience that indigenous peoples were used to acquiring in their local settings (Atwood, 2007). The women who hardly achieved a possibility to learn their traditions in sewing could not realize the need for literacy.

Nonetheless, the volunteers managed to find a thread from their traditions to learning writing, and they managed to raise the Nunavit women’s self-esteem, and to help them overcome fear and shyness cultivated by mandatory practices of the government (Atwood, 2007). Only after finding the connection with the lively experience of women and the need to learn to write, they managed to overcome the barrier and enter a new stage of self-awareness.

Hence, the hypothesis about the close connection existing between becoming literacy and looking at the educational process through the prism of one’s social background can be proven. There is no pure knowledge, and no educational plan may allow full detachment from the reality; literacy is taught through the continuous connection of experiences of the learner and the material learned.


Atwood, M. (2007). The Alphabet of Hope. Writers for Literacy. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Darville, R. (2009). Literacy as practices, teaching as alignment: A message in a bottle. Literacies, No. 10, pp. 14-18.

Hamilton, M. (2009). Putting words in their mouths: the alignment of identities with system goals through the use of Individual Learning Plans. British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 221–242.

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