WHAT NO “RUG TIME” SHARING MEANS: REVISIONING CHILDREN’S OPPORTUNITY TO ENACT LITERATE IDENTITIES THROUGH THE LENS OF POSITIONING THEORY

O QUE A NÃO PARTICIPAÇÃO NA “RODINHA” SIGNIFICA: REVENDO OPORTUNIDADES PARA DEMONSTRAR IDENTIDADES LETRADAS A PARTIR DA TEORIZAÇÃO DOS POSICIONAMENTOS

Pauline Harris About the author

ABSTRACT

This paper provides a telling case account of how a child called Charlie was positioned and (re)positioned himself within and across different situational types of classroom literacy encounters in his first-grade classroom. This telling case is based on a re-analysis of an originating study conducted by the author (HARRIS, 1989HARRIS, P. (1989). First grade children’s constructs of teacher-assigned reading tasks in a whole language classroom. Doctoral Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.); and is founded on a history of research based on revisioning archived data records as new theories develop. Providing a profile of different ways in which a child positions self and is positioned by the teacher, the system and peers, this telling case presents a research approach for understanding positioning processes and their consequences for children as they develop literacy processes and identities. To make transparent how the telling case study led to new theoretical insights, this paper makes visible multiple levels of analytic scale and angles of analysis of positioning (ANDERSON, 2009ANDERSON, K.T. (2009). Applying positioning theory to the analysis of classroom interactions: Mediating micro-identities, macro-kinds, and ideologies of knowing, Linguistics and Education, 20(4), 291-310. ) that were undertaken to make visible the dynamic nature of positioning as understood through Positioning Theory (HARRÉ & LANGENHOVE, 1999HARRÉ, R. and VAN LANGENHOVE, L. (1999).Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action . Oxford: Blackwell .; HARRÉ, 2012HARRÉ, R. (2012). Positioning theory: moral dimensions of social-cultural psychology. In J. Valsiner (ed.)The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University, pp. 191-206.). This telling case study, therefore, builds a foundation for developing theoretical understandings of the fluid and dynamic nature of positioning in classrooms, and influences of positioning on children’s opportunities to enact and demonstrate their literate identities and capabilities.

Keywords:
literacy; literate identities; positioning theory

RESUMO

Esse artigo reporta um estudo de caso sobre como uma criança chamada Charlie foi posicionada e reposicionou-se dentre e através de diferentes tipos de encontros de letramentos escolares em sua sala de aula do primeiro ano do ensino fundamental. Esse estudo de caso é baseado na reanálise de um estudo originalmente conduzido pela autora (HARRIS, 1989HARRIS, P. (1989). First grade children’s constructs of teacher-assigned reading tasks in a whole language classroom. Doctoral Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.); e fundamenta-se em uma história de pesquisa baseada em revisar bancos de dados arquivados à medida que novas teorias se desenvolvem.

Ao fornecer um perfil de diferentes formas através das quais uma criança se posiciona e é posicionada pela professora, o sistema e os/as colegas, esse estudo de caso apresenta uma abordagem de pesquisa para compreender processos de posicionamento e suas consequências para crianças no processo de desenvolvimento de letramentos e identidades. Para deixar claro como o estudo de caso levou a novas interpretações, o artigo foca nos múltiplos níveis de escala analítica e ângulos de análise de posicionamentos (ANDERSON, 2009ANDERSON, K.T. (2009). Applying positioning theory to the analysis of classroom interactions: Mediating micro-identities, macro-kinds, and ideologies of knowing, Linguistics and Education, 20(4), 291-310. ) que foram selecionados para tornar visível a natureza dinâmica do posicionamento a luz da Teoria do Posicionamento (HARRÉ & LANGENHOVE, 1999HARRÉ, R. and VAN LANGENHOVE, L. (1999).Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action . Oxford: Blackwell .; HARRÉ, 2012HARRÉ, R. (2012). Positioning theory: moral dimensions of social-cultural psychology. In J. Valsiner (ed.)The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University, pp. 191-206.). Esse estudo de caso constrói, portanto, inteligibilidade teórica para compreensão da natureza fluida e dinâmica do posicionamento em sala de aula, assim como das influências do posicionamento nas oportunidades para a criança agir e demonstrar suas identidades e capacidades letradas.

Palavras-chave:
letramento; identidades letradas; teoria do posicionamento

INTRODUCTION

In the last three decades, researchers focusing on language and literacy processes in classrooms have begun to (re)enter archives of records collected in earlier studies in order to develop deeper understandings of the phenomena of study by drawing on theories that developed in the period after their original analyses of classroom processes and practices (e.g., BARNES & TODD, 1995BARNES, D. & TODD, F. (1995). Communication and learning revisited: Making meaning through talk. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/​Cook Publishers.; ALVERMANN, 1999ALVERMANN, D. (1999). Vulnerable subjects: Students’ literacy perspectives and the cultural politics of interpretive research. In T. Shanahan & F. Rodriguez Brown (Eds.), Forty-eighth yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 39-55). Chicago: National Reading Conference.; BARONE, 2011BARONE, D. (2011). Revisioning: New perspectives of literacy with positioning theory. In C. Brock, M. McVee & J. Glazier (Eds.) Sociocultural positioning in literacy: Exploring culture, discourse, narrative and power in diverse educational contexts. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. 49-72. ; GREEN, BROCK, BAKER & HARRISGREEN, J., BROCK, C., BAKER, D. & HARRIS, P. (2020, in press). Positioning theory for learning in discourse, in N.S Nasir, C. Lee, R. Pea & M. McKinney (Eds.) The Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning. London: Taylor & Francis. , in press). In this paper, I present a telling case study (MITCHELL, 1984MCVEE, M. B., BROCK, C. H., & GLAZIER, J. A. (Eds.). (2011). Sociocultural positioning in literacy: Exploring culture, discourse, narrative, and power in diverse educational contexts. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press . ; SHERIDAN, STREET & BLOOME, 2000BOMER, R. & LAMAN, T. (2004). Positioning in a primary writing workshop: Joint action in the discursive production of writing subjects, Research in the Teaching of English, 38(4), 420-46. ) of the analytic approach that I developed to (re)enter the archive of the literacy processes that shaped the literate identities, not identity, of Charlie, a six-year old-student. This telling case study approach, and the selection of positioning theory, were guided by my growing interest in deepening my previous understandings of Charlie’s processes and interactions. The goal of this (re)analysis is framed in the following argument by Alvermann (1999)ALVERMANN, D. (1999). Vulnerable subjects: Students’ literacy perspectives and the cultural politics of interpretive research. In T. Shanahan & F. Rodriguez Brown (Eds.), Forty-eighth yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 39-55). Chicago: National Reading Conference.

Attending to the rememories and rereading of [three previous studies] made it possible to connect with those whom I had studied in ways I might not otherwise have imagined (ALVERMANN, 1999ALVERMANN, D. (1999). Vulnerable subjects: Students’ literacy perspectives and the cultural politics of interpretive research. In T. Shanahan & F. Rodriguez Brown (Eds.), Forty-eighth yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 39-55). Chicago: National Reading Conference., cited in BARONE, 2011BARONE, D. (2011). Revisioning: New perspectives of literacy with positioning theory. In C. Brock, M. McVee & J. Glazier (Eds.) Sociocultural positioning in literacy: Exploring culture, discourse, narrative and power in diverse educational contexts. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. 49-72. , p. 23).

Through my (re)analysis of Charlie’s opportunities for engaging in literacy processes and practices and his participation in, or resistance to these events, in his class, I construct this telling case study to explore in more depth the interactions and practices that shaped opportunities for Charlie to make visible and to develop his literate identities.

1. QUESTIONS FRAMING THE TELLING CASE STUDY

To construct this telling case study, I (re)analyzed records from the originating study (HARRIS, 1989HARRÉ, R. & MOGHADDAM, F. (2003). The self and others in traditional psychology and in positioning theory. In R. Harré & F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The self and others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. London: Praeger.) to re-envision and further theorize how the range of literacy opportunities Charlie experienced in his class/school contexts supported, and constrained, opportunities he had develop and enact literate identities as well as how these identities were, or were not, visible to others in the class (e.g., teacher, other students, remedial reading instructor). The following questions guided the analysis that frames this telling case study:

- How is Charlie positioned and how does he (re)position himself within and across different situational types of classroom literacy encounters?

- What are the implications of how Charlie is positioned and (re)positions himself for opportunities for him to enact and demonstrate his agentic literate identities and capabilities?

2. FRAMING THE (RE)ANALYSIS PROCESS

The (re)analysis undertaken in this study involved levels of (re)analysis of archived records as well as the adoption of positioning theory as a basis for theorizing patterns of action and interactions that my originating study made visible in terms of different forms of literate identities constructed by and for students. Telling case studies are based in an anthropological perspective as defined by Mitchell’s (1984)MCVEE, M. B., BROCK, C. H., & GLAZIER, J. A. (Eds.). (2011). Sociocultural positioning in literacy: Exploring culture, discourse, narrative, and power in diverse educational contexts. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press . , who argued that a telling case study is

…the detailed presentation of ethnographic data related to some sequence of events from which the analyst seeks to make some theoretical inference. The events themselves may relate to any level of social organization: a whole society, some section of a community, a family or an individual. (p. 238).

In this definition, Mitchell frames the basis for tracing Charlie across particular sequences of events. As I will demonstrate, through multiple levels of analyses guided by positioning theory as an explanatory theory of identified patterns, I construct warranted accounts and deeper understandings of how literate processes and identities that Charlie experienced shaped, and were shaped by, local and situated actions, and interactions in particular events in his classroom. The originating study focused on exploring literacy processes in a first grade classroom wherein the teacher was initiating a whole language design to develop an actively engaged community of literacy learners in the classroom. The records collected over a four-month period formed the archive for this (re)analysis (HARRIS, 1989HARRÉ, R. & MOGHADDAM, F. (2003). The self and others in traditional psychology and in positioning theory. In R. Harré & F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The self and others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. London: Praeger.).

To gain deeper understandings of concepts of positions and agency, conceptual perspectives guiding the analyses in the originating study, I drew on advances in theoretical work on positioning theory (HARRÉ & LANGENHOVE, 1999HARRÉ, R. (2012). Positioning theory: moral dimensions of social-cultural psychology. In J. Valsiner (ed.)The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University, pp. 191-206.; HARRÉ, 2012GREEN, J., BROCK, C., BAKER, D. & HARRIS, P. (2020, in press). Positioning theory for learning in discourse, in N.S Nasir, C. Lee, R. Pea & M. McKinney (Eds.) The Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning. London: Taylor & Francis. ; MCVEE et al, 2004KENDRICK, M. & MCKAY, R. (2004). Uncovering literacy narratives through children’s drawings, Canadian Journal of Education, 27(1), 45-60, 2011, 2019), a theoretical perspective that was developed in the period following my originating study. By grounding (re)analysis in theoretical developments of positioning theory, I provide evidence of how this positioning theory, when applied to the analysis of literacy processes in this class, affords a deep basis for theorizing the fluid and dynamic nature of positioning, identity constructions, and literacy processes that children construct, or are constructed for them by others, in particular moments as well as across times, encounters, and contexts in their classrooms and school.

3. CONTEXTUALIZING THE PROBLEM OF THIS TELLING CASE STUDY: MEETING CHARLIE

To introduce my understanding of position and agency from my originating study, in Table 1, I (re)construct my first meeting with Charlie in 1989 to make visible the basis for selecting Charlie as the focus of the (re)analysis in this telling case study. Through this reconstruction of our meeting and my early observations of Charlie and class activities, I provide evidence of why Charlie, as a tracer unit, was selected to explore further ways of understanding how literate identities that he constructed and/or were afforded to him by different actors (teacher, other students in his group, the school) and how these opportunities were taken up or purposefully resisted by Charlie.

Table 1
(Re)constructing initial interactions with Charlie: Roots of the problem

Table 1 makes visible why, after this tour and a subsequent talk with Charlie’s teacher, I developed a sense of tension about the school’s assessment of Charlie as a remedial reader. For during my interactions with Charlie on his tour, where he had displayed himself to me as a literate person, knowledgeable about my home nation, Australia, Charlie made visible his considerable general knowledge and literacies capabilities. As indicated in Table 1, I learned from the teacher that he had been identified as a remedial reader by his school and a disruptive classroom participant by his teacher.

The contrast between my experiences with Charlie and the school’s assessment presented in Table 1 provides evidence of why I elected to use Charlie’s engagements with literacy in different contexts to examine the conceptual framework of positioning theory. Through this telling case study, therefore, I present a series of (re)analyses that led to opportunities to theorize in more depth how underlying literacy processes and patterns of interaction shaped both Charlie’s self-construction of literate identity and provided further understanding of both the peer group’s actions that shaped Charlie’s identity within that collective space, and the teacher’s assessment of Charlie as a disruptive person with limited literacy processes.

4. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND LITERATURE REVIEW

In this section, I present the literature that grounds the construction of this telling case study and explicates the particular theoretical arguments guiding both the originating study and my (re)analyses of the study of literate identities as social constructions in and across times, spaces and configurations of participants in and out of schooling contexts.

4.1 Key Concepts Guiding the Originating Study

The discursive construction of understandings of literacy tasks and individual functioning in these tasks was, as indicated previously, the focus of my originating archived study (Harris, 1989HARRÉ, R. & MOGHADDAM, F. (2003). The self and others in traditional psychology and in positioning theory. In R. Harré & F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The self and others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. London: Praeger.) on which this paper’s telling case is based. In the originating study to analyze particular literacy events, I drew on Erickson’s (1982)DAVIES, B. & HARRÉ, R. (1999). Positioning and personhood. In R. Harré & L. van Langenhove (Eds.) Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action, Oxford: Blackwell. notion of the teaching/learning encounter. Erickson framed social structures and academic content as mutually constitutive, with the individual functioning in the moment and across time. More specifically, Erickson argued that social structures include participant structures, status sets and roles, and classroom procedures; whereas academic content includes subject matter, materials, instructional goals, task formats (such as steps and templates), and prior knowledge and experiences.

I grounded my analysis in these categories in the originating study to analyze literacy encounters in Charlie’s classroom. This approach, as Erickson (1982 p. 149)DAVIES, B. & HARRÉ, R. (1999). Positioning and personhood. In R. Harré & L. van Langenhove (Eds.) Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action, Oxford: Blackwell. stated, forms a basis for constructing “analytically descriptive narrative accounts of the reflexive calibration between teacher and learners as they construct learning environments for each other.”

In this mutual construction of learning environments, issues of a teacher’s and students’ agendas and positioning come into play, and so the originating study also drew on agenda theory to explain patterns of mutual construction that I identified at that time.

4.2 Agenda Theory and positioning

The theoretical perspective on positioning in the originating study was grounded in Gearing’s (1984)ERICKSON, F. (1982). Taught cognitive learning in its immediate environments: A neglected topic in the Anthropology of Education, Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 13(2), 149-180. notion of agenda defined as expectations of how an encounter will unfold. According to Gearing (1984)GEARING, F.O. (1984). Toward a general theory of cultural transmission, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 15(1), 29-37. , agenda is one amongst four areas of content that individuals bring to their encounters with others. The other three areas are: individuals’ sense of the setting where the encounter occurs; knowledge of the world and perceptions of categories and the logic that connects things; and social identity, including roles, relationships and power brought to the encounter. Gearing argues that by constructing mappings of these four content areas that individuals bring to an encounter, and various ways individuals might construe one another and the focus at hand in the encounter, multiple meanings may and do arise in an encounter. Thus individuals in the encounter may find greater or lesser degrees of equivalence amongst what Gearing framed as their mappings with other participants.

Gearing placed particular emphasis on agenda, explaining agenda in terms of “personal operationalization: What do I want? How important is that to me? What does he want and how badly? What are his options? My options?” (GEARING,1984ERICKSON, F. (1982). Taught cognitive learning in its immediate environments: A neglected topic in the Anthropology of Education, Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 13(2), 149-180., p.30-31). Individuals position themselves accordingly with such questions; and it is these positioning efforts that “constitute one of the messages, and are often the principal message [of the encounter], whatever the interchange nominally may be about” (GEARING, 1984, p. 32).

In light of Gearing’s perspective, I sought in my originating study to understand messages children were detecting and constructing in how they were positioned, and positioned themselves, in their classroom literacy encounters. To accomplish this goal, I directly observed, audio-recorded and transcribed children’s actions and interactions during a selection of these encounters. From transcripts I annotated with my observational fieldnotes, I analyzed children’s positioning. I then related this positioning to my analyses of social structures and academic content of each literacy task that I mapped according to Erickson’s categories previously explained.

4.3 Positioning theory as a guiding perspective for analytic induction

Analyses conducted in the originating study yielded patterns that I subsequently theorized through positioning theory (PT) (HARRÉ & LANGENHOVE, 1999HARRÉ, R. (2012). Positioning theory: moral dimensions of social-cultural psychology. In J. Valsiner (ed.)The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University, pp. 191-206.; HARRÉ, 2012GREEN, J., BROCK, C., BAKER, D. & HARRIS, P. (2020, in press). Positioning theory for learning in discourse, in N.S Nasir, C. Lee, R. Pea & M. McKinney (Eds.) The Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning. London: Taylor & Francis. ) some thirty years later for this current telling case. More specifically, I examined how positioning impinges on an individual’s opportunities to enact and display their literate identities and capabilities through rights, duties and obligations assigned to that individual.

Whilst Gearing’s notion of agenda resonates with PT, PT yields additional insights into access to rights, duties and obligations - with the following qualifier that “not everyone involved in a social episode has equal access to rights and duties to perform particular kinds of meaningful actions at that moment and with those people” (HARRÉ, 2012GREEN, J., BROCK, C., BAKER, D. & HARRIS, P. (2020, in press). Positioning theory for learning in discourse, in N.S Nasir, C. Lee, R. Pea & M. McKinney (Eds.) The Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning. London: Taylor & Francis. , p. 193). Problematizing access strikes at the heart of Charlie’s telling case in this telling case study, which I first noted when I realized that he did not have access to Rug Time in his classroom (as previously noted; see also Table 1). Positioning theory, therefore, provided a basis for illuminating how assignment of rights, duties and obligations positions individuals, as captured below

Inherent in access to and the assignment of rights, duties and obligations is power: “… for one to be positioned as powerful, others must be positioned as powerless … People can and sometimes are offered the opportunity to acquiesce in such an assignment, contest it or subvert it.” (HARRÉ & VAN LANGENHOVE, 1999HARRÉ, R. (2012). Positioning theory: moral dimensions of social-cultural psychology. In J. Valsiner (ed.)The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University, pp. 191-206., p. 1-2)

This notion of power is more dynamic than the concept of status in Erickson’s 1982DAVIES, B. & HARRÉ, R. (1999). Positioning and personhood. In R. Harré & L. van Langenhove (Eds.) Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action, Oxford: Blackwell. model (BOMER & LAMAN, 2004BOMER, R. & LAMAN, T. (2004). Positioning in a primary writing workshop: Joint action in the discursive production of writing subjects, Research in the Teaching of English, 38(4), 420-46. ), and is central to PT as positioning and its associated balances of power can shift from moment to moment and across time and place (ANDERSON, 2009ANDERSON, K.T. (2009). Applying positioning theory to the analysis of classroom interactions: Mediating micro-identities, macro-kinds, and ideologies of knowing, Linguistics and Education, 20(4), 291-310. ).

Most compellingly, positioning theorists assert that “positioning has direct moral implications, such as some person or group being located as ‘trusted’ or ‘distrusted’, ‘with us’ or ‘against us’, ‘to be saved’ or ‘to be wiped out’ … it is with words that we ascribe rights and claim them for ourselves and place duties on others” (MOGHADDAM & HARRÉ, 2010MOGHADDAM, F. and HARRÉ, R. (2010). Words, conflicts and political processes. In F. Moghaddam and R. Harré (eds)Words of Conflict, Words of War: How the language we use in political processes sparks fighting. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger., p. 2-3). Labelling individuals thus is a form of indirect or presumptive positioning - for example, “Positioning someone as stupid is, at the same time, to deny that person the right to correct one’s cognitive performances” (HARRÉ & MOGHADDAM, 2003, p. 6). One might well ask, then, what are the moral implications of assigning a child such as Charlie to the category of “remedial reader”?

These implications, as framed in PT, may or may not be long-lasting, for individuals continue to be (re)constituted through the various discursive practices in which they engage (DAVIES & HARRÉ, 1999HARRÉ, R. (2012). Positioning theory: moral dimensions of social-cultural psychology. In J. Valsiner (ed.)The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University, pp. 191-206.). Moreover, a person will not necessarily accept the way s/he is positioned and may engage in meta-positioning whereby s/he resists or challenges how s/he is being positioned (MOGHADDAM & HARRÉ, 2010MCVEE, M. B., SILVESTRI, K. N., BARRETT, S., & HAQ, K. S. (2019). Positioning theory. In D. E. Alvermann, N. J. Unrau, M. Sailors, and R. B. Ruddell (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of literacy (pp. 381-400). New York, NY: Routledge., p.7). This argument, therefore, provides a theoretical basis for exploring positioning and its implications for identity constructions in particular contexts in classrooms and in schooling systems.

4.4 Harré’s positioning theory in literacy studies

Positioning theory has continued to be developed by scholars in various contexts that include literacy education (MCVEE, BROCK & GLAZIER, 2011MCVEE, M.B., BALDASSARRE & BAILEY (2004). Positioning theory as lens to explore teachers’ beliefs about literacy and culture, in (Eds.) Worthy, J., Maloch, B., Hoffman, J.V., Schallert, D.F. & Fairbanks, C.M., 53rd yearbook of the National Reading Conference Yearbook , . Oak, Creek, WI: National Reading Conference, Inc. Https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267974759_Positioning_Theory_as_Lens_to_Explore_Teachers’_Beliefs_about_Literacy_and_Culture_THE_NECESSITY_FOR_LITERACY_TEACHERS_TO_EXPLORE_CULTURE
Https://www.researchgate.net/publication...
; MCVEE, SILVESTRI, BARRETT & HAQ, 2019MCVEE, M. B., BROCK, C. H., & GLAZIER, J. A. (Eds.). (2011). Sociocultural positioning in literacy: Exploring culture, discourse, narrative, and power in diverse educational contexts. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press . ). Studies of how children are positioned and position themselves vis-à-vis self and other in classrooms have significantly contributed to knowledge about the dynamic, fluid manner in which positioning occurs across moments, time and space (e.g., ANDERSON, 2009ANDERSON, K.T. (2009). Applying positioning theory to the analysis of classroom interactions: Mediating micro-identities, macro-kinds, and ideologies of knowing, Linguistics and Education, 20(4), 291-310. ); and the impact of positioning on children’s uptake or re-positioning and, ultimately, children’s opportunities to learn in their classrooms (GREEN, BROCK, BAKER & HARRIS, 2020GREEN, J., BROCK, C., BAKER, D. & HARRIS, P. (2020, in press). Positioning theory for learning in discourse, in N.S Nasir, C. Lee, R. Pea & M. McKinney (Eds.) The Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning. London: Taylor & Francis. , in press).

Whilst literacy researchers have used Harré’s positioning theory in studies of teacher education and professional development (e.g., BROCK, ROBERTSON, BORTI, & GILLIS, 2019BROCK, C.H., ROBERTSON, D.A., BORTI, A, & GILLIS, V. (2019). Evolving Identities: exploring leaders’ positioning in the birth of a professional literacy collaboration. Professional Development in Education. Published online: https://doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2019.16477551
https://doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2019.16...
; MCVEE, BALDASSARRE & BAILEY, 2004KENDRICK, M. & MCKAY, R. (2004). Uncovering literacy narratives through children’s drawings, Canadian Journal of Education, 27(1), 45-60; HUNT & HANDSFIELD, 2013HARRIS, P. (1989). First grade children’s constructs of teacher-assigned reading tasks in a whole language classroom. Doctoral Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.), and in studies of older elementary school children (e.g., ANDERSON, 2009ANDERSON, K.T. (2009). Applying positioning theory to the analysis of classroom interactions: Mediating micro-identities, macro-kinds, and ideologies of knowing, Linguistics and Education, 20(4), 291-310. ), there is a paucity of literacy studies that have used positioning theory as a framework of conceptualization and analysis to examine young children’s positioning in early childhood (early grade) classrooms.

There have been, however, some important contributions made from early year literacy studies - for example, Kendrick & McKay (2004)HUNT, C.S. & HANDSFIELD, L.J. (2013). The emotional landscapes of literacy coaching: Issues of identity, power, and positioning, Journal of Literacy Research, 45(1), 47-86.’s study of what children learn about positioning themselves as people with recognizable social identities from negotiating and engaging in various literacy contexts over time; and Bomer & Laman (2004)BOMER, R. & LAMAN, T. (2004). Positioning in a primary writing workshop: Joint action in the discursive production of writing subjects, Research in the Teaching of English, 38(4), 420-46. ’s study of the impact of an individual’s feelings and desires, tied to an individual’s sense of belonging and who s/he is and is becoming, on augmenting positioning as a particularly potent concern for individuals.

A particularly ground-breaking early years literacy study using Harré’s positioning theory, and one that has been influential for this paper, has been Barone’s re-analysis of her earlier archived study (2011)BARONE, D. (2011). Revisioning: New perspectives of literacy with positioning theory. In C. Brock, M. McVee & J. Glazier (Eds.) Sociocultural positioning in literacy: Exploring culture, discourse, narrative and power in diverse educational contexts. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. 49-72. . Barone’s re-analyzed study generated new insights into learning and those taking part in learning over time, with significant implications for researchers vis-à-vis the power of attending to “rememories” for re-imagining what and whom a researcher has studied in ways not previously conceived.

5. CONSTRUCTING A LOGIC-OF-ANALYSES: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC PERSPECTIVE

Motivated by an identified need to interrogate further the insights gained from the originating study, I have continued to develop Charlie as a telling case of identity constructions in classrooms more fully (see also, GREEN ET AL, 2020GREEN, J., BROCK, C., BAKER, D. & HARRIS, P. (2020, in press). Positioning theory for learning in discourse, in N.S Nasir, C. Lee, R. Pea & M. McKinney (Eds.) The Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning. London: Taylor & Francis. , in press). In so doing, I applied processes that Anderson (2009)ANDERSON, K.T. (2009). Applying positioning theory to the analysis of classroom interactions: Mediating micro-identities, macro-kinds, and ideologies of knowing, Linguistics and Education, 20(4), 291-310. provided for an ethnographer to use PT to analyze data across four specific scales to understand Charlie’s participation and positioning as a literate person in his classroom. To frame this logic-of-analysis, I present a brief overview of the application of this process to construct Charlie’s telling case study.

In this section, I overview the multiple levels of analyses I undertook across scales of social practice (ANDERSON, 2009ANDERSON, K.T. (2009). Applying positioning theory to the analysis of classroom interactions: Mediating micro-identities, macro-kinds, and ideologies of knowing, Linguistics and Education, 20(4), 291-310. ): i.e., what was said and done in the moment, theorizing patterns identified across time and encounters, and contexts in Charlie’s literacy encounters that shaped his opportunities to enact and demonstrate his literate identities. My first analysis constituted the micro-level analysis of moment-to-moment practices, where I examined Charlie’s and his peers’ actions and interactions as they engaged with literacies tasks, texts, one another and their teacher, which I documented through audio-recording transcripts and observational fieldnotes.

My second micro-level analysis explored Charlie’s and other participants’ characterizations of participation in and across their moment-by-moment interactions. This process of analysis was undertaken to make visible the meanings participants gave to their moment-to-moment practices; and the intertextual recurrence of these meanings across encounters. These characterizations were analyzed as they unfolded during the encounter. These characterizations were then brought together in a summary statement that captured the overall characterization of participation for each encounter. Through these multiple micro analytic processes, I constructed accounts of what Charlie saw, and believed to be salient, not only in terms of his own personal preferences and priorities, but also in relation to what he construed to be moral rights and duties inherent in participation in and across encounters.

Following the micro level of analyses, I then undertook a meso-level analysis of patterns of participation to theorize how meaning was being constructed in particular types of situations. The previous micro-level analyses of characterization by participants paved the way for this meso level analysis of inter-contextual (BLOOME ET AL, 2005) patterns of participation in and across the documented encounters. Through this process, I extrapolated recurring patterns from the data and related these patterns to contextual variables inherent in each encounter in terms of its social structures and academic content (ERICKSON, 1982DAVIES, B. & HARRÉ, R. (1999). Positioning and personhood. In R. Harré & L. van Langenhove (Eds.) Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action, Oxford: Blackwell.).

Finally, a macro-level analysis focused on examination of encounters and contexts over time to identify acts of positioning. This macro-analysis was made possible through the previous micro and meso level analyses of patterns, from which I extrapolated how Charlie was positioned and positioned himself in and across these literacies encounters in his classroom - and how this positioning was influenced by both the social structures and academic content of each encounter. This macro- level analysis, therefore, led to the identification of a range of categories of positioning acts that Charlie enacted. I further interrogated these categories in terms of their consequences for Charlie’s enactment of his literate identities and demonstration of his literacies capabilities.

6. ANALYSES AND FINDINGS OF CHARLIE’S LITERACY ENCOUNTERS IN HIS CLASSROOM

Having framed the logic-of-analyses that I developed for this telling case study of how literacy identities are socially constructed in particular encounters in a class across time and events, I now present the analyses and findings for four literacy encounters in Charlie’s classroom that constituted the data set I constructed from four sets of audio-recording transcripts annotated with my on-the-spot observational fieldnotes in my originating study:

- A Free Choice Reading and Writing encounter at Charlie’s classroom desk.

- A Read-Aloud to an Adult encounter at Charlie’s desk.

- “Favorite Pat Hutchins Book” encounter at Station 3 (a literature-based learning center in the classroom, at which heterogeneous groups worked as they rotated around five different learning centers during the morning session).

- “Making a Group Story Map” encounter at Station 3.

7. MICRO-ANALYSES OF THE FREE CHOICE READING AND WRITING ENCOUNTER

As part of this telling case, I drew on a data set to trace Charlie as a reader and writer in a solitary, independent situation across four months. This data set comprised audio-recording transcripts and observational fieldnotes from my archive that documented Charlie’s actions in selecting free reading books and writing about a topic of his choice, an opportunity that the teacher afforded students each day in the name of “Free Choice Reading” (15 minutes) and “Free Choice Writing” (30 minutes).

This data set was based on my analysis of Free Choice Reading and Writing in the originating study, which showed that this class activity generally involved children choosing their own books from the class library to read alone, followed by children writing about a topic of their choice. Charlie’s documented actions and interactions in one such Free Choice Reading and Writing encounter was selected to examine Charlie’s moment-to-moment practices and his characterization of participation in this encounter. The transcript of this encounter that formed the text for analysis is presented in Table 2.

Table 2
"Free Choice Reading and Writing" encounter: Analysis of moment-to-moment practices and characterization of participation

As indicated in Table 2’s micro-analysis of the moment-to-moment practices in this Free Choice Reading and Writing encounter, Charlie initiated this particular encounter by choosing an information book about marine life to read (column 1, row 1 in Table 2). Analysis of this action and what followed as (re)presented in Column 1, Table 2, indicated that Charlie engrossed himself in this sophisticated information book that would have been deemed by his school to be well above his reading level, given his placement in the remedial reading program, as noted in my analysis in the originating study (HARRIS, 1989HARRÉ, R. & MOGHADDAM, F. (2003). The self and others in traditional psychology and in positioning theory. In R. Harré & F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The self and others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. London: Praeger.).

Furthermore, as indicated in Column 1, Row 1, Researcher’s note, Charlie’s pattern of action noted in the analysis of this Free Choice Reading encounter was a repeated pattern across similar encounters in the four months of my originating study. Additionally, in my audio-recorded and transcribed dialogues with Charlie on a one-to-one basis (HARRIS, 1989HARRÉ, R. & MOGHADDAM, F. (2003). The self and others in traditional psychology and in positioning theory. In R. Harré & F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The self and others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. London: Praeger.), Charlie told me that he enjoyed reading, whether alone or with another child. He also said he liked times when the teacher read to the class. He said, “I think it’s nice to hear new ideas that other people have in their brains and nice to know new friends.”

Further analysis of Charlie’s actions showed that when sitting at a table, Charlie quietly began to read his book of choice (column 1, row 2). As he did so, he engaged in a full range of reading strategies that included: skimming, scanning and sampling visual and written text (column 1, rows 3-5, 7-11, 12-14); self-vocalizing about what he was noticing and learning as he reads (column 1, rows 6, 11, 15); and showing interest in words and decoding words that he did not recognize (column 1, row10). He ended the session with the closing of his book (column 1, row 16), then seamlessly segued into free choice writing. He chose to write about marine life, thereby connecting his writing with his reading. He first made a blank book (column 1, row 17, then wrote its title (column 1, row 18), and drew and labelled pictures, referring to words in the book he has just read (column 1, row 19).

I now turn to a micro-analysis of Charlie’s characterization of participation in this Free Choice Reading and Writing encounter . Charlie characterized Free Choice Reading as reading what he genuinely wanted to read and what matched his interests and aspirations, as evidenced in his actions and interactions represented in Table 2. Throughout his moment-to-moment practices, Charlie characterized his identity and agency as an active and focused reader in terms of transacting with text, making meaning, and reflecting on what he was learning. In so doing, Charlie participated in a full range of reading strategies that served to make meaning and advance his interests in and knowledge of the subject matter at hand. Charlie similarly participated as an intent, focused learner during Free Choice Activities, such as when he spent a half-hour sketching a stegosaurus from a 3D model, erasing and fine-tuning details as he went (as noted in column 2 next to cells 3-6 in Table 2).

In interview conversations with me, Charlie characterized his participation in Free Choice Writing in terms of reading-writing connections he made as he crafted his own book. As noted in column 2 next to rows 17-19 in Table 2, Charlie commented that “Writing can be a hard assignment but I like it. I like writing my own books.”

Thus he characterized writing as effortful, but this portrayal did not detract from his enjoyment of reading or writing. As significantly noted in column 2 at the end of Table 2, I often observed Charlie making books in which he made reading/writing connections. However, he did not have access to opportunity to share the books he made with the class because such sharing occurred during “Rug time” when Charlie was withdrawn from the classroom for remedial reading instruction.

8. MICRO-ANALYSES OF THE READ-ALOUD TO AN ADULT ENCOUNTER

The next micro-analyses of the archived records focuses on an encounter where Charlie read aloud to me. This reanalysis is designed to support further exploration of Charlie’s reading capabilities and how he positioned himself in this situation to enact his identity as a reader. Documented observations from the originating study (HARRIS, 1989HARRÉ, R. & MOGHADDAM, F. (2003). The self and others in traditional psychology and in positioning theory. In R. Harré & F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The self and others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. London: Praeger.) showed that Charlie’s “Read Aloud to the Teacher” encounters involved children choosing and reading a favorite book from the class library to read to the teacher. On this occasion, however, I was the one who invited Charlie to read to me. Charlie’s actions and interactions in this encounter are documented in Table 3. In the analysis that follows, I include extracts from dialogues I had with Charlie about his perspectives of his various classroom literacies experiences (as fully reported in HARRIS, 1989HARRÉ, R. & MOGHADDAM, F. (2003). The self and others in traditional psychology and in positioning theory. In R. Harré & F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The self and others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. London: Praeger.).

Table 3
"Read Aloud to an Adult" encounter

As indicated in the micro-analysis of moment-to-moment practices in this Read Aloud to an Adult encounter , Charlie’s moment-to-moment practices saw him accepting the invitation to read to me and choosing a substantial information book about penguins and polar bears (column 1, rows 1-2 in Table 3). He sat down to begin reading this book (row 3), but then changed his choice after remembering he would need to read the book aloud (row 4). He chose a simple text with ample pictorial support (row 6), explaining the book had lots of stories (row 7). He read the book aloud with care and accuracy, using pictorial and grapho-phonic cues to decode words he did not recognize, and self-corrected where there was inconsistency between pictorial and grapho-phonic cues (row 10). Charlie then responded to my questions about how he decodes words that he does not recognize (rows 11-17).

Now micro-analyzing Charlie’s characterization of participation in the Read Aloud to an Adult encounter, Charlie characterized reading in this situation as a performative task, with priority given to accuracy and fluency. The anticipated requirement to read aloud accurately and fluently (such as is expected when reading to the teacher) appeared to change Charlie’s choice of book (as noted in column 2 next to rows 4-6 in Table 3). Yet in Free Choice Reading, Charlie read his first-chosen book about penguins and polar bears and other such books with enthusiasm and meaning.

As indicated in rows 11-17 in Table 3, Charlie characterized decoding strategies in terms of a focus on sounds and help from friends, and failing both these strategies, changing the book he is reading. Charlie’s mention of friends to help him figure out words resonates with a comment he made another time about reading with a friend, saying, “Two kids together can figure out how to learn new words better than one person can” (as noted in my audio-recorded and transcribed dialogues with Charlie, HARRIS, 1989HARRÉ, R. & MOGHADDAM, F. (2003). The self and others in traditional psychology and in positioning theory. In R. Harré & F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The self and others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. London: Praeger.).

Charlie also told me, “It’s easy to read on your own. You have to think and concentrate and use your brain. That’s what you have to do, and look at the letters and not space out” (as noted in column 2 next to lines 7-10 in Table 3). Thus Charlie characterized reading, like writing, as effortful.

How Charlie directed that effort changed according to situation, as evidenced in his different approaches to reading in Free Choice Reading and Reading Aloud to an Adult. Charlie’s situational awareness was signalled when he had chosen a book and then said, “Oh, I have to read this aloud to you” (row 4), right before he changed the book to one that had short stories and simpler text. His first choice of book was a complex information book he would read alone to himself in “Free Choice Reading” (as evidenced in my observations in the originating study), whereas his second, simpler choice was one he chose for reading aloud to an adult.

9. MICRO-ANALYSES OF THE FAVORITE PAT HUTCHINS BOOK ENCOUNTER AT STATION 3

In these next micro-analyses, I shift from a focus on Charlie’s actions as a literate person in individual situations to the collective actions at Station 3. This encounter required each child to choose his or her favorite Pat Hutchins book, draw a small illustration representing the book, and write an accompanying caption on a separate strip of paper. The children’s drawings were then to be compiled into a class graph showing class preferences, with captions placed beneath their respective titles below the graph. The actions and interactions of the teacher and students documented from the annotated transcripts of my originating study are shown Table 4.

Table 4
The "Favorite Pat Hutchins story" encounter

Table 4. The “Favorite Pat Hutchins story” encounter

Micro-analyzing the moment-to-moment practices in this Favorite Pat Hutchins Book encounter, following the teacher’s explanation of the Favorite Pat Hutchins Book task (column 1, rows 1-3 in Table 4), and Charlie’s group’s task clarification amongst themselves (rows 4-5), Charlie immediately expressed resistance to the task (row 6). His complaint was ignored by the rest of the group as they compliantly progressed the task (row 7). Diverting his attention to the marker pens, Charlie initiated a comment about some children’s negligence with the pens (rows 7-10). Charlie’s concern was rejoined defensively by Ronald (who illicitly had taken the pens home), and further taken up by Rita (row 11). Thereafter, Charlie’s progression of his concerns with marker pens prevailed throughout most of his task time (rows 12-28). Charlie did not begin the task until well into task time (rows 29-30). When he did take to the task, he did his drawing (row 29) and caption (row 36) in a way that subverted his teacher’s intentions. His work on these two aspects of the task was punctuated by a recess bell for the upper Primary school (row 32) that prompted him to end the task and tidy the tables, disrupting the rest of the group’s work (rows 33-34). His teacher then intervened and re-directed Charlie back to the task (row 35). The task ended with Charlie tidying the tables for group points (rows 37-38).

Turning now to micro-analyses of characterization of participation in the Favorite Pat Hutchins Book encounter, I identified divergence between the teacher’s and Charlie’s characterizations of this encounter. The teacher characterized the “Favorite Pat Hutchins story” encounter as one that involved choice and the literacy acts of drawing and writing that were connected with reading and numeracy (column 1, rows 1-3 in Table 4). Underpinning this characterization is the teacher’s assumption that all the children enjoyed Pat Hutchins stories - an assumption that Charlie’s actions and words clearly did not validate in this or other observed Pat Hutchins-based literacy encounters in his classroom.

Charlie constructed an alternative view (row 6) and initiated an alternative characterization of participation that was dominated by his concern with responsible marker pen care as promoted by his teacher and her appointment of marker pen monitors (rows 7-28). I interpreted Charlie’s characterization and subsequent actions to align with his stated resistance to the Pat Hutchins texts and therefore the task at hand, as also did his very prompt pack-ups of the task not once but twice in this encounter.

This interpretation was further borne out when Charlie did finally engage in the task (row 29) - that is, he characterized his participation in the task with resistant overtones expressed through his choice of words, thick black marker pen and accompanying loud vocalization (rows 29-31, 36), which all ran contrary to his teacher’s expectations of how the task was to be done as indicated by her discourse and that of other students.

10. MICRO-ANALYSES OF MAKING A GROUP STORY MAP AT STATION 3

I now come to the final micro-analyses for this paper, which pertains to Making a Group Story Map based on Hutchins’ books at Station 3. Documented actions and interactions in Charlie’s group are shown in Table 5.

Table 5
"Group Story Map" encounter

Micro-analyzing moment-to-moment practices in this Group Story Map encounter, the teacher explained the task of each group making a collaborative story map based on a Pat Hutchins book to be chosen by each group (column 1, row 1 in Table 5). In her framing of the task, the teacher made links back to the children’s previous construction of individual story maps, and emphasized collaborative aspects of this task that called for “good group work” (row 1). Charlie’s own opening moments with this task at Station 3 saw him resist the task in terms of the Pat Hutchins books, as was his established pattern (row 2). The group, however, complied with the teacher-assigned task as they moved on with choosing a book for their map (rows 3-4). As indicated in the discourse, this process failed to yield a clear choice, which led Joanne to initiate a more formal voting process that led to a book being chosen (rows 6-7). Charlie resisted the outcome of this process, claiming it was biased by a friendship in the group (rows 8-11). Ronald disagreed (row 11), and the rest of the group began to prepare to do their map despite Charlie’s ongoing objections (rows 12-15).

As indicated in row 17, Charlie approached the teacher to express his concern. Following the teacher’s intervention (row 18), the group initiated a new voting process and a different book was agreed by the group (rows 19-21). Group members then discussed next steps for making the map (rows 22-26). The number of required circles for the map to cover the story were proposed and disputed (rows 27-28), as was the map’s format (rows 29-31). Joanne resolved the format independently (row 32), after which Charlie approached the teacher again with the problem of how many circles they needed so as to cover the story (rows 35-38). The teacher talked this problem through with the group to reach a solution of selecting key pictures from the book (rows 39-46). The teacher left and the children returned to their map. They numbered their circles (row 47), but then the lights went out for the groups to pack up and move to their next stations (rows 48-49).

Now micro-analyzing characterization of participation in the Group Story Map encounter , the teacher’s characterization revealed an orientation to collaborative group processes that include co-operation and compromise (column 1, row 1 in Table 5). The children in Charlie’s group attempted to enact this portrayal through two decision-making processes that failed to yield clear or undisputed choices (rows 3-11) - especially in light of Charlie’s vocalizations that cast this task in terms of his anti-Hutchins sentiments and concerns for fairness in his group (rows 8-10, 13-15). On this basis, Charlie’s actions and response indicated that he exercised what he viewed as his right to refuse to participate. The group’s third decision-making attempt (rows 19-21) was purposefully enacted as a democratic voting process, which was successful in determining a book to use for the map. Following this outcome, Charlie’s characterization of the task focused on technical aspects of the story map, such as number of circles, formatting, and arrows to show story flow (rows 24-30) - bringing his group peers and eventually his teacher into discussion and resolution of these points (rows 35-46). Once the number of circles was resolved, the group began the next step of the map (row 47), only to find their time had run out (row 48). They did not get to continue this task another day (row 49).

11. MESO-ANALYSIS OF PATTERNS OF PARTICIPATION

In this section, I present the process of theorizing patterns of participation identified across the contexts in four encounters. Through this process, I extrapolated recurring patterns from the micro-analyses of data presented in Tables 2-5 concerning moment-to-moment practices and characterizations of participation. I related the recurring patterns I extrapolated to contextual variables as understood through Erickson (1982)DAVIES, B. & HARRÉ, R. (1999). Positioning and personhood. In R. Harré & L. van Langenhove (Eds.) Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action, Oxford: Blackwell.’s notions of an encounter’s social structures and academic content.

As I now explore below, patterns of participation revealed clear distinctions amongst contexts, which may be understood in terms of each context’s social structures and academic content that Erickson (1982)DAVIES, B. & HARRÉ, R. (1999). Positioning and personhood. In R. Harré & L. van Langenhove (Eds.) Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action, Oxford: Blackwell. argued influence how a learner engages in that encounter. Analyzing this interplay below affords insights into (1) how we view and appraise children’s literacy task encounters in classrooms; and (2) influences upon a child’s positioning therein - as now explored below.

Analysis of Charlie’s patterns of participation across the four encounters provided evidence that Charlie enacted his identity as an actively engaged, reflective, meaning-making reader and writer only in particular contexts. In the Free Choice Reading and Writing encounter (Table 2), Charlie’s participation brought his literate identity to light in terms of transacting with and interrogating particular texts of his choice or liking, making connections with and reflect on old and new knowledge, show interest in words, and employing a range of reading strategies (as evidenced, for example, in Table 2).

Indeed, across all Free Choice Reading and Writing encounters documented in the originating study (HARRIS, 1989HARRÉ, R. & MOGHADDAM, F. (2003). The self and others in traditional psychology and in positioning theory. In R. Harré & F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The self and others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. London: Praeger.), Charlie participated in choosing information books about the natural world (including dinosaurs), with which he intently engaged as a meaning-making reader and writer. The academic content of these encounters - that is, the information books made available to him during these times - strongly aligned with Charlie’s own interests as well as his aspirations to be a paleontologist. Free Choice Reading and Writing encounter’s social structures further supported Charlie’s active, focused, independent, meaning-making participation in silent reading and writing and in choosing books and what to write about.

Charlie’s participation as a literate person again shifted in the Read Aloud to an Adult encounter. Such encounters in his classroom usually involved reading to the teacher, and entailed: choosing a book; reading the book aloud; answering questions about the book; and being evaluated on oral reading performance. Inherent in the social structures in this situation is the power relationship inherent in reading to an adult, most often the teacher, wherein he continued to be evaluated as a reader. The significance of the teacher’s evaluation of Charlie’s oral reading is underscored by Charlie’s assignment and withdrawal as a remedial reader. Thus it is not surprising in this Read Aloud encounter that Charlie ultimately oriented his participation to being a reader concerned with performance and accuracy, with less regard for ranging across meaning and preferred text choices that he showed in Free Choice Reading and Writing. Ultimately what can be inferred from the analysis of these patterns of participation are shifts in how Charlie was positioned and positioned himself in and across these literacies encounters in his classroom - and how this positioning was influenced by both the social structures and academic content of each encounter.

Analysis of the two Station 3 encounters (the Favorite Hutchins Book encounter in Table 4 and the Group Story Map encounter in Table 5) brought to light another very different pattern of participation for Charlie as a literate person. In these two encounters, Charlie enacted social concerns and academic conflicts that were not present in either the Free Choice Reading and Writing encounter (Table 2) or the Read Aloud encounter (Table 3).

The Favorite Pat Hutchins Book and the Group Story Map encounters shared an academic focus on literacy (which Charlie enjoyed), literary narratives (to which Charlie was not particularly predisposed), Pat Hutchins books (which Charlie despised as indicated in the data in in Tables 4 and 5 and analyzed in the previous sections of this paper) and reader response and enjoyment (which for Charlie was undermined by his dislike for the Hutchins books made available in these encounters). Thus these encounters posed conflicts of academic interest for Charlie that he brought to light in how he recurrently participated in these encounters.

Analysis of the two encounters at Station 3 provided evidence that they shared a myriad of social structures for working on individual or collaborative tasks in a group setting. These social structures related to officially ordained rights and duties vis-à-vis task time limits, points system, team leadership, monitor roles, expectations of co-operative, on-task behavior, and participant structures and procedures, which all related to ordained rights and duties. In relation to these rights and duties, Charlie’s patterns of participation saw him enact social concerns about proper marker pen care and responsibility and related misdemeanors (Table 4, rows 7-28), monitor roles (Table 4, rows 14-15), earning points (Table #4, rows 33-34, 37); as well as extant friendship patterns in his group undermining fair group processes that contribute to group co-operation (Table 5, rows 8-11, 13-15, 17-18). Charlie’s expression of his concerns saw multiple moments of contention, disagreement, a struggle for consensus, and a preoccupation with how things were supposed to be done - all of which diverted Charlie from his academic engagement in how he participated in and across these Station Three events, as further evidenced in the originating study (HARRIS, 1989HARRÉ, R. & MOGHADDAM, F. (2003). The self and others in traditional psychology and in positioning theory. In R. Harré & F. Moghaddam (Eds.) The self and others: Positioning individuals and groups in personal, political, and cultural contexts. London: Praeger.).

12. MACRO-ANALYSIS OF ACTS OF POSITIONING

Analysis across the encounters documented in this telling case (and in Charlie’s data set in the originating study that the four encounters selected here typify), led to identification of four categories of positioning acts. One emergent category is “Proactive positioning”, which occurred in Charlie’s individual situations that provided room for his agency, independence and self-direction - that is, Free Choice Reading and Writing (as seen in Table 2) and Free Choice Activities (as noted in column 2 next to cells 3-6 in Table 2). In these situations, Charlie was given scope to proactively position himself to connect his literacy resources and capabilities with his interests and aspirations.

A second emergent category is “Reactive positioning”, which occurred in situations that did not connect with, or violated, Charlie’s interests and sense of rights and duties - notably, Station 3 where Charlie adopted a resistant positioning, which led to teacher intervention at Charlie’s request or by her own initiative, and subsequent negotiation of Charlie’s positioning with him to bring him back on task (as evidenced in Tables 4 and 5).

“Authoritatively mediated positioning”, a third emergent category, presented teacher expectations and protocols with which children were to comply. Still, Charlie’s compliance was not a given. Whereas Charlie complied with the Read Aloud protocols (as seen in Table 3), he overrode the authoritative mediation at Station 3, provided through the teacher’s directions and templates, by adopting a meta-position of resistance, subversion and challenge (as seen in Tables 4 and 5). Positioning therefore emerged as dynamic in and across time and space.

The fourth and final category of position was “Assigned positioning”, referring to a child being positioned without there being scope for negotiation. For example, Charlie was assigned the position of remedial reader by his school, reflecting the attribution of literacy he was given from his school diagnosis and placement as a remedial reader. Charlie had no opportunity to negotiate this positioning, nor did there seem to be recognition of the impact of this positioning on what Charlie could and could not access in his classroom. For example, Charlie could not access “Rug Time,” which occurred while he was withdrawn for remedial reading instruction. Yet, as previously noted, “Rug Time” was when children were given opportunity to share books they had read, stories they had written, and books they had made in their own time at home or during Free Choice encounters in the classroom - Charlie had plenty to share but was given no opportunity to do so at this time. In assigning this remedial reader position, the school did not recognize, acknowledge or validate Charlie’s literacy resources vis-à-vis his engagement with information books, television documentaries, movies, and interest in the natural world and paleontology.

This remedial reader assignment was like the proverbial silent yet dominant partner in the study. I was unable to document Charlie’s remedial reading lessons, and these lessons were invisible to his peers, and indeed his teacher to some extent. Yet, the impact of being withdrawn from class daily to attend these lessons pervaded Charlie’s opportunities to enact, grow and demonstrate his literate identity in his classroom, as indeed did all the positionings captured within and across the literacy encounters documented in this telling case.

13. CONCLUSIONS AND DISCUSSION

Enacted in the moment and across time, encounters and contexts, positioning of and by a child and their literate identities in classrooms can be expected to vary across different situation types, associated with variations in academic content and social structures as a child sees them in a learning encounter. Compliance is not a given, nor is resistance - and what a teacher might call “disruptive behavior” might be understood as a positioning response to disruption to a child’s own literate life trajectory, as the child sees that trajectory.

A child’s positioning is influenced by how particular practices that the teacher privileges connect or not with what the child values, prefers or disputes. The four analyses presented in this paper raise the question of how selection of texts shape children’s responses to tasks rather than their ability to read or to complete the task as designed. This issue, also documented by Davies (2003), is often not considered in traditional assessments of student knowledge or capabilities in literacy.

Across the four acts of positioning categories that emerged from this telling case, it became clear that differential affordances may be found or lost in children’s opportunities to enact and demonstrate their literate identities. A literacy encounter’s academic content and social structures are significant in accounting for differential positioning across situation types in which children encounter literacy at school - and shed light on how we understand situated performance. Context is everything - it not only influences a child’s positioning but also what a child can and does reveal about their literate identities.

The analyses showed that children may reveal their literacy capabilities in different situations that may or may not be visible to teachers and school specialists. Charlie’s telling case highlights the need to interrogate the moral implications of assigning children to the category of “remedial reader” without knowing the full range of the child’s literacy capabilities - and what is gained and what is lost for what children can access and do as readers and literate people in their classroom as well as other social contexts of reading outside of school, such as Charlie’s home experiences of watching television documentaries about nature. Therefore, this telling case highlights limitations of standardized, decontextualized assessments; and points to the need to trace a learner in different contexts, such as was framed in the originating study and its subsequent telling case reported in this paper.

As indicated in tracing Charlie across different contexts and encounters with others in the class, positioning also carries significant moral implications in terms of not only how a child is positioned but how this positioning (as opposed to instruction) is differentiated amongst children. Charlie’s designation as someone whose reading needed “to be remediated” wrought significant implications for opportunities he was not afforded in his classroom to which other, non-remedial children had access - such as “Rug time” in this telling case study. Charlie’s exclusion for Rug Time made visible what no rug time sharing means for children not granted access to this time and activity. Through this action by the school, Charlie was not afforded opportunities to reveal his literate identities and capabilities. This finding raises a critical issue for other children-- what academic work and processes are missed by students pulled out of their classes for special help.

FUTURE RESEARCH DIRECTIONS

More than an application of positioning theory to data, this telling case involved a series of inter-related microethnographic analyses that were (re)visited through a positioning theory lens to frame the literate personas that Charlie made visible to me as researcher in contrast to his teacher and peers. Further literacy research along these lines is warranted across more children in their early years; and across an extended period of time as children progress through their early years of schooling, so as to document and understand longer-term consequences of positioning for children’s literacy learning and participation. These consequences concern what is and is not made possible for children to reveal about themselves as literate people and learners in the opportunities made available to them; and affordances children are granted to enact and grow their academic identities as literate people over time.

Through multiple levels of analyses framed by Anderson (2009)ANDERSON, K.T. (2009). Applying positioning theory to the analysis of classroom interactions: Mediating micro-identities, macro-kinds, and ideologies of knowing, Linguistics and Education, 20(4), 291-310. as an ethnographic process, I constructed a telling case study that provided understandings of the fluidity and dynamism of positioning within and across encounters and contexts. This telling case study also made visible how Positioning Theory provides critical tools for (re)theorizing how to understand children as literate people and learners in their classrooms. It also provides a framework for examining children’s positioning of self and others, as well as positions afforded to children that impact opportunities to learn and to enact, grow and demonstrate their agentic literate identities.

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    22 May 2020
  • Date of issue
    Jan-Apr 2020

History

  • Received
    30 Oct 2019
  • Accepted
    21 Feb 2020
  • Published
    03 Mar 2020
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