During one of my final practicum visits, I (Cathy) was excited to see one of my student teachers had created an audit trail. When I mentioned this to her, she replied, “I thought it was just a bulletin board.” But it was far more than ‘just a bulletin board’. The student work Melissa had beautifully displayed represented an entire science unit of learning from pre-diagnosis to final summaries.
Audit trails were popularized by Dr. Vivian Vasquez, in her ground breaking critical literacy work with 3-5 year olds. Vasquez says, An audit trail or learning wall, as my three to five year old students called it, is a public display of artifacts gathered together by a teacher and their students that represents their thinking about different issues and topics. This strategy is useful for creating spaces for students to re-visit, reread, analyze, and re-imagine various topics or issues. It is also a powerful tool for connecting past projects or areas of study to newer projects or areas of study. Further, it can be used as a tool for building curriculum as it visibly lays out the journey of the group’s thinking and learning over a period of time.
I (Pooja) am currently re-reading Negotiating critical literacies with teachers: Theoretical foundations and pedagogical resources for pre-service and in-service contexts (Vasquez, V.M., Tate, S.L, & Harste, J.C., 2013). This book suggests a theoretical framework, provides insightful examples, and offers pedagogical resources when incorporating critical literacy practices into pre-service and in-service teacher education.
I share some moments in the book which really stood out for me during my second reading:
1. Vasquez et al. suggest this book fills a gap in the literature about critical literacy and teacher education. Specifically,
This book speaks to what Dozier et al. (2006) observe as a profession that has not publicly articulated the nature of the alignment between our expectations for our [teacher educators’] own literate lives and our expectations for our students as literacy learners.
2. As I was more closely re-reading the final chapter of this text, a section on “Dealing with Accountability and Standards” really stood out for me. This section dealt what our critical literacy participants in our SSHRC study have expressed to be a tension in their work. Vasquez et al. (2013) take the following stance on dealing with accountability and standards as teacher educators,
A question that often arises for us is how to get beyond the hurdles of incorporating a critical stance when we live in a world of accountability and standards….we have found that these difficulties become easier with teachers who have a concrete philosophy about their pedagogy and can demonstrate how this type of pedagogy has changed their own academic and personal lives as well as that of their students.
3. They go on to provide insights into how best practice critical literacy in teacher education,
We have also found that you cannot do this work alone. Having other to think with and reflect with, even if they are not in your workplace makes all the difference in whether you continue to create more and more spaces for critical literacy in your setting or whether you throw in the towel.
I (Pooja) recently finished reading Negotiating critical literacies with teachers: Theoretical foundations and pedagogical resources for pre-service and in-service contexts (Vasquez, V.M., Tate, S.L, & Harste, J.C., 2013). This book provides a theoretical framework, insightful examples, and pedagogical resources for ways to incorporate critical literacy practices into pre-service and in-service teacher education. The final chapter of this text entitled “Teaching and living critical literacies” especially interested me. This concluding chapter focused on the narratives of the authors who are all teacher educators. They shared early childhood memories, classroom teaching experiences, and turning points (e.g. being the first in the family to attend college; protesting the Viet Nam War). Much of what the book’s authors shared in their written narratives reflected closely what many of our critical literacy participants in our SSHRC study have expressed. Many can identify turning points and life events in their early childhood, which contributed significantly to their philosophy and stance towards teaching and learning. Maya from our study identified being placed in a low-track after immigrating to the U.S. as a defining moment. This has influenced her practice because she now focuses on having her student teachers understand multiple perspectives and interrogate their assumptions of students, curriculum, and schooling. Providing a specific example of this pedagogical stance, Maya told us about how she conducts an entire lecture in Spanish, locating student teachers as second language learners.
This final chapter reinforced how meaningful it is to create space for the voices of literacy teacher educators. The narratives of our participants are rich with experiences that influence their practices in the classroom. Stacie L. Tate, book author and teacher educator, articulates this well: “When people ask how I decided to become a teacher and researcher, I always reply, “I was groomed for this.” (p. 99).