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Gender and geography: literacy pedagogy and curriculum politics

Lee, Alison (1992) Gender and geography: literacy pedagogy and curriculum politics. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis is an investigation into processes of gendered subject production in literate practices in school settings. Focusing on student writing in geography, the study explores gender differences in written texts with a view to asking what is differently at stake for girls and for boys in 'becoming literate' in school geography.

The study is an ethnographic case study of a geography classroom, focusing in particular on contexts for the production of two texts which are subject to close textual analysis. Drawing on a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives: curriculum studies, linguistics and feminist theory, the thesis argue that classrooms are sites of multiple and competing discourses. Student texts are oriented discursively and generically in different ways. These orientations both reflect and produce wider discursive alignments within the discipline of geography and elsewhere. The thesis investigates the politics of these differences.

Part I builds a detailed account of the Year 11 geography classroom as a set of curriculum contexts within which students' literate practices are located. Readings are produced of the official curriculum resources, focusing in particular on the syllabus and the classroom textbook material. The spoken language dynamics of the classroom are investigated in terms of the materiality of processes of speaker positioning along gender lines in the production and negotiation of geographical meanings.

Part II produces detailed readings of two student essays: one by a girl, one by a boy. Differences between the two are investigated, drawing links between the texts and the discursive contexts of their production and reception. The argument is made that the two texts enact a significant gender difference in and through different geographies.

Part III discusses the consequences of the thesis findings for contemporary debates about literacy pedagogy. This includes a critique of one dominant framework within which the notion of 'critical literacy' is being engaged: that of educational linguistics. Finally, the argument is made that existing accounts of 'subject-specific literacy' need to be expanded to engage two senses of the word 'subject': both the specificity and multiplicity of the discourses of subject-disciplines and the concomitant production of different human subject positions through textual practice. To investigate the implications of this, theories of literacy pedagogy, it is argued, need to engage more substantially with available theories of the subject, such as feminist theories, while at the same time engaging sophisticated analytics for the exposure of the material workings of discursive practices in school-literate productions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Humanities
Supervisor(s): Green, Bill and UNSPECIFIED
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