Language and Literacy Studies

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Faculty in the Language & Literacy Studies program at the University of Texas at Austin view literacy as a dynamic and powerful force in society and in people’s lives, and we believe that it should be taught in ways that are true to that vision. We see literacy changing significantly in our lifetimes, and those changes make us mindful of the history that came before current practices in literacy and teaching, as well as of the new forms of literacy and education in our future. We know that what one can understand about literacy depends upon where and how one looks at it, and so we believe more wisdom is available when varied perspectives are in dialogue.

We are committed to teaching and research about literacy practices in classrooms and schools. We maintain a focus on the classroom because we believe that the teaching and learning of literacy occur in specific contexts, amidst particular relationships. Schooling is a special context, and the relationships that occur there are unique to it. Moreover, schools are situated in particular communities, which are nested in still larger social contexts, and we think all of these levels of contextualization give literacy teaching and learning its character.

We are especially committed to teacher education, at all levels of experience, from pre-service to induction and throughout a teaching career. For the most part, we are committed to teacher education that is field-based, i.e., that occurs in school settings. Wherever it occurs, we are interested in examining the meaning and effects of the contexts of teacher learning upon what is learned. We see the relationship between university teacher educators and schools as being one of mutual inquiry – a partnership in learning.

We see teachers as thoughtfully adaptive decision makers, and we see teaching as purposeful and deliberate. We act on the assumption that to teach, people must understand what they are doing, and they must mean to do something, rather than merely implementing someone else’s ideas. As teachers ourselves, we try to take a critical stance toward our work, toward others’ teaching, and toward curriculum, and we expect the critical conversation evaluating the meaning, quality, and utility of research to include K-12 teachers.

We have a special commitment to classrooms that foster and value multilingualism, multi-dialectalism, and multiculturalism. We are committed to seeing such classrooms and the students who learn in them as bringing special resources with them to school. As a corollary, we critique our own language, and that of others, when we perceive it as expressing a deficit perspective on students or teachers.

We view literacy learning as a continuous, recursive, lifelong process, not as neatly segmented into grade levels or levels of schooling. We believe that teachers, scholars, teacher educators, and students, are best served by a view of literacy that is situated in a lifespan of cumulative experience. Consequently, we do not see some professionals as purely “elementary,” “secondary,” or “post-secondary.” Mindful of the ways literacy is continually changing in our society, we study literacy acquisition as recurrent and ongoing across people’s entire lives.