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Further Notes on the Four Resources Model

Allan Luke
University of Queensland
Peter Freebody
Griffith University

A live chat was held with the authors on October 26, 1999. To read the transcript,
click here. After reading this commentary and the chat transcript, please continue
to share in the professional dialogue by reading the comments posted to the
discussion forum.

In 1990 we developed the four resources model of reading (Freebody, 1992;

Freebody & Luke, 1990). The model posits four necessary but not sufficient
“roles” for the reader in a postmodern, text-based culture:

• Code breaker (coding competence)

• Meaning maker (semantic competence)
• Text user (pragmatic competence)
• Text critic (critical competence)

As descriptions of the normative goals of classroom literacy programs, these four

roles have been widely circulated and adapted for use by teachers and curriculum
developers in Australia. Our purpose in this short paper is to review and
reconsider the relevance and value of the model's categories.

An axiom of mid-century New Criticism holds that trying to recover authorial

intent is a waste of time, so we will not discuss here what we “meant” or
“intended” when we initially developed the model. Further, since 1990, we have
ourselves individually and jointly applied, modified, and explicated it in different
ways (see articles in Muspratt, Luke, & Freebody, 1997). These notes are not a
naive attempt to assert some kind of discipline or remediation on the fields where
the model is being used. After all, Foucault reminds us that texts and discourses
have a way of taking on a life of their own, with local uptakes, interpretations,
and convolutions made irrespective of their authors' intentions or the political
contexts of their production. So it isn't surprising that the four categories have
taken on such a life of their own through teachers', teacher educators', and
researchers' work in Australia and elsewhere.

However, it is worth commenting on the intellectual, political, and professional

contexts that pertained at the time of the model's initial production -- not as an
act of nostalgia or discipline, but to begin querying the model's continued
relevance to literacy education and to the new forms of work, social relations, and
identity that shape the social construction of literacy. Because the model is a
normative one we need continually to critique and reformulate it in light of new
social and cultural conditions, demands, and possibilities for literate practice.
Here we offer some comments and reflections that second-guess and
recontextualize aspects of the model.

Drawing on History

From work on the history of literacy pedagogy, literacy curricula, and the
manufacture of “literacy crises” by governments, we agreed that there was no
single definitive, truthful, scientific, universally effective, or culturally appropriate
way of teaching or even defining literacy. History taught us that literacy refers to
a malleable set of cultural practices shaped and reshaped by different -- often
competing and contending -- social institutions, social classes, and cultural
interests. If the formation and distribution of literacy is indeed about the
construction of social, cultural, and economic power, how it is constructed and
who gets access to its practices and potentials is hardly a foregone conclusion of
skill acquisition, behavioral patterns, or natural patterns of creativity and

This was the received wisdom about literacy we encountered in the 1980s, and to
this day it guides the principal ways of defining, shaping, and conducting literacy
instruction in many classrooms in Australia, the United States, and elsewhere.
Literacy education is not about skill development, not about deep competence. It
is about the institutional shaping of social practices and cultural resources, about
inducting successive generations into particular cultural, normative ways of
handling texts, and about access to technologies and artifacts (e.g., writing, the
Internet) and to the social institutions where these tools and artifacts are used
(e.g., workplaces, civic institutions).

Teaching and learning literacy, then, involves shaping and mastering the
repertoire of capabilities called into play when managing texts in ways
appropriate to various contexts. Another of our premises in developing the model
was that these contexts, as institutional and community cultures, are not
homogeneous, consensual sites where rules, rituals, and symbols are at work, as
many mid-century cultural anthropologists believed. Instead, we have learned
from work in critical sociology and postcolonial, feminist, and cultural studies that
cultures are heterogeneous and heteroglossic, written through and through with
complexity and difference, with conflict over power.

This view emphasizes the variety of capabilities that literacy involves, the
multiplicity of purposeful social activities in which these capabilities play an
important part, and the variability of literacy activities from place to place and
occasion to occasion. To say that literacy is a social practice is to say that it is
subject to the play and power relations of local face-to-face contexts -- of
classrooms, communities, workplaces, places of worship, homes, and so forth.
Indeed, as all teachers who read this know, these contexts can be unpredictably
idiosyncratic, shaped and reshaped as social fields by the deliberate choices [in
Bourdieu's (1998) terms, the “position-taking” practices] of literate people.
However, to say that literacy is a social practice is also to say that it is
constrained, mediated, and shaped by relations of power --relations that may be
asymmetrical, unequal, and ideological.
It was our position that determining how to teach literacy could not be simply
“scientific,” but rather had to involve a moral, political, and cultural decision
about the kind of literate practices needed to enhance both peoples' agency over
their life trajectories and communities' intellectual, cultural, and semiotic
resources in multimediated economies. Literacy education, then, is ultimately
about the kind of literate society and literate citizens or subjects that could and
should be constructed. In this sense, it is difficult (and what's more, pointless) to
proclaim that “phonics” advocates or “word recognition” advocates or “early
intervention” advocates are somehow right or wrong in any absolute sense. The
decision about how and what to teach is not a descriptive, scientific one but
always involves normative activity and labor. As the research of the last decade
shows us, what we would call “pedagogic work” -- the actual labor of social
interaction and discourse exchange that occurs in classrooms -- constructs and
shapes (and constrains and limits) literate knowledge, power, and discourse.
Teaching and learning aren't just matters of skill acquisition or knowledge

When we refer to something as being “normative,” this suggests that it involves a

set of moral and political, cultural and social decisions about how things should
be, rather than a simple description of what is. It puts us into the domain of what
philosophers call “prescriptive” as opposed to “descriptive” statements about
preferable social forms of life and economic and social fields.

We also shared in 1990 a profound skepticism toward “single method” answers to

“the literacy problem.” Again, the historical perspective showed us that how and
when literacy became a problem had as much to do with economic, cultural, and
social change as it did with anything that might go on in schools and classrooms.
Given this, it should surprise nobody that illiteracy and literacy have been viewed
as a continual problem -- an index of moral panic over the kinds of changes
wrought by new technologies, fast capitalism, and globalization, promoted as a
definitive “cause” or solution for any of these phenomena. We could devote a lot
of time to critiquing phonics or progressivism or “open education,” or process
writing or traditional grammar -- but none of these causes literacy problems as
much as they differentially shape the social practices of reading and writing that
children learn in institutions like schools.

Nonetheless, we found that there was a continued proliferation of magic bullets,

of new approaches that promised to solve the literacy problem. Many of these --
like other 1980s curriculum reforms -- were expressed in evangelical terms and
were based on the assumption that all that practitioners had done before was
wrong, needed to be discarded or reversed before the “new” and “best” method
could be put in place.

We wanted to develop a model that attempted to recognize and incorporate many

of the current, well-developed techniques for training students in becoming
literate. We wanted to shift the focus from trying to find the right method to
determining whether the range of practices emphasized in a reading program was
indeed covering and integrating the broad repertoire of textual practices required
in today's economies and cultures. The model could be more a map of the
normative terrain of possible practices -- the “selective tradition” -- in any
classroom. It would be drawn from understanding of a group of students' existing
repertoires of linguistic, cultural, and textual practices, and from a sense of the
kind of life trajectories that might be possible and relevant for those students.
Choices regarding instructional practice should be made by teachers, and we
would argue that this kind of classroom decision making needs to be defended
zealously as part of teachers' work, in opposition to the single-method mentality
that, not coincidentally, aligns itself very well to centralized political surveillance
and technocratic control in education -- hardly an abstraction in the current

But the model wouldn't be an instructional panacea, it would not profess to have
all the answers on the “right way.” Accordingly, we have attempted to avoid and
resist the “commodification” of critical literacy as an educational and political
solution for all that ails us. In our view, critical literacies -- in all their varied print
and multimedia, practical and theoretical, cultural and political forms -- refer to
openings in the curriculum that enable teachers, students, and communities to
explore alternative ways of structuring practices around texts to address new
cultural and economic contexts and new forms of practice and identity. So the
term marks out a space for development and exploration of a new set of active,
agent-oriented, denaturalizing, and counter-ideological textual practices. If
psycholinguistics in the 1970s defined reading as a “psycholinguistic guessing
game,” to speak of “critical literacies” is to open the possibility of defining reading
as a mode of second-guessing texts, discourses, and social formations.

Changing the Terminology

So, because of our skepticism toward single-method models, we wanted with the
four resources model to come up with a normative description that both validated
literacy practices being undertaken by teachers in classrooms and provided
opportunity and a vocabulary for productive development. Since 1990, we have
debated the actual terminology used in the model. Role was the term we
originally used, but its connotation in contemporary sociology suggests something
that can be defined a priori for someone to “fit into.” It also tends to individualize
the process, suggesting, for example, that the particular kinds of literate practice
involved in “coding” or “semantic” work are somehow the prepossession of an
individual. Instead, we felt that each could be better defined as a family of
practices. This approach draws our attention to the fact that, while literacy is an
aspect of an individual's history, capability, and possibilities, it is also a feature of
the collective or joint capabilities of a group, community, or society.

Consider for a moment the full idea of literacy as a family of practices. First, the
notion of “practices” suggests that they are actually done -- performed,
negotiated, and achieved in everyday classroom and community contexts, rather
unlike psychological skills, schemata, competencies, and so forth. Second, the
notion of “family” suggests that they are dynamic, being redeveloped,
recombined, and articulated in relation to one another on an ongoing basis. So for
us, the shift from roles to practices was an attempt to represent more clearly the
shift from psychological, individual models of literacy to models that describe
substantive and visible, dynamic and fluid practices undertaken by human agents
in social contexts. This shift becomes more relevant each day, as we encounter
unprecedented hybrid multimedia texts.

Stemming from these ideas, our third reason for the shift in terminology is to put
in the foreground how literacy as a social practice is necessarily tied up with
political, cultural, and social power and capital. “Cracking the code,” “constructing
meaning,” “participating in literacy events” -- each involves the use of power and
knowledge in social fields (Luke, 1997). These fields -- and their practices -- are
local and dynamic, such that constructing meaning of a particular text might
count for something in the classroom and for something far more or less in a
given workplace or, for example, an aboriginal or migrant community.
We've seen many attempts to diagram the components of the model. These have
included triangles, boxes, spirals and gyres, hierarchies, and so forth, all of which
have different practical implications. Each is the artifact of a particular system or
form of inscription (the effect of the emergence of clip art and PowerPoint on the
categorization and structuring of knowledge shouldn't be underestimated). In any
attempt, however, the key concept in the model must remain necessity, not
sufficiency: each family of practices is necessary for literacy in new conditions,
but none in and of itself is sufficient for literate citizens or subjects. It might be
best to visualize the four families as inclusive, with each being necessary but not
sufficient for the achievement of the others.

Mapping the Dimensions

Literacy capabilities can be seen as having three dimensions: the breadth of an

individual's or community's repertoire of literate practices; the depth and degree
of control exercised by an individual or community in any given literacy activity;
and the extent of hybridity, novelty, and redesign at work. Thus, the questions
we can ask about a person's capabilities in literacy are typically “What kinds? How
much?” but also “With what transformative direction and power?” Since both the
breadth and depth of literacy practices are developed through educational
experiences and, at least in principle, can be reliably and validly assessed within
such educational settings, these dimensions constitute a significant educational
responsibility. Figuring out how to deal with issues of hybridity, transformation,
and novelty without romanticizing practice or falling back into individuated
models of creativity is a resilient and unresolved issue.

The matter of breadth of repertoire is usually regarded in terms of the range of

social activities involving literacy that the curriculum systematically puts on offer.
In some places these are referred to as “genres,” though elsewhere they have
been diluted -- with deep consequences -- to “text types.” In the development of
genre theory in the 1980s and 1990s, the purposeful social nature of the activity
(beyond, around, as well as “in” the text) was placed in the foreground. In
contrast, translating genre to text type has the effect of desocializing literacy
learning, allowing curricula and classroom activities once again to become
uncoupled from the communal, diverse, and changing cultural practices toward
which schooling ostensibly steers students (Hasan & Williams, 1997; Muspratt,
Luke, & Freebody, 1997).

In considering the depth of control or skill available to a student, the model

examined existing and proposed literacy curricula and pedagogical strategies.
Effective literacy draws on a repertoire of practices that allow learners, as they
engage in reading and writing activities, to

• break the code of written texts by recognizing and using fundamental

features and architecture, including alphabet, sounds in words, spelling,
and structural conventions and patterns;
• participate in understanding and composing meaningful written, visual,
and spoken texts, taking into account each text's interior meaning
systems in relation to their available knowledge and their experiences of
other cultural discourses, texts, and meaning systems;
• use texts functionally by traversing and negotiating the labor and social
relations around them -- that is, by knowing about and acting on the
different cultural and social functions that various texts perform inside and
outside school, and understanding that these functions shape the way
texts are structured, their tone, their degree of formality, and their
sequence of components;
• critically analyze and transform texts by acting on knowledge that texts
are not ideologically natural or neutral -- that they represent particular
points of views while silencing others and influence people's ideas -- and
that their designs and discourses can be critiqued and redesigned in novel
and hybrid ways.

The proposition here is that these repertoires of capability are variously mixed
and variously orchestrated in proficient reading and writing in societies such as
ours. As with other complex, culturally determined tasks, learners need distinct
spaces for acquiring and practicing these domains, as well as ample room to
practice their integration in meaningful events. Holding fast to this practical,
outward-looking view of learning how to participate in literacy events also alerts
students to the changing cultural expectations about literacy activities that
operate out of school. The hope is that they will develop a flexibility of practice
along the depth, breadth, and novelty axes that will enable them to respond
directly to the expectations of the local community or work subculture.

It remains our position that literacy was never a matter of deficit but principally
an issue of economic and social access to the cultural institutions charged with
literacy education and practice. A number of studies conducted in various
countries have explored the distribution and maintenance of literacy capabilities
in society. One point that arises from these studies is that access to different
kinds of educational experiences becomes both a symptom and a cause of literacy
performance. In newly industrialized and rural-agricultural economies, the spread
of literacy capabilities among social groups tends to develop its own momentum,
increasing both the extent to which the capabilities are spread and the motivation
to secure them. In such instances, literacy develops with an ideology of desire for
modernity and cosmopolitanism.

But it is also clear that an equal spread of literacy capabilities across all sections
of our community is not achieved within current schooling arrangements. Patterns
of access to social and material resources in any given society are closely related
to the kinds and levels of literacy capabilities of various groups within that
society. Questions about breaking the cycle of poverty, inequality -- and, indeed,
illiteracy -- are in fact sociological questions about how to generate counter-
reproductive and transformative approaches to schooling and work. It is
important to recognize that there is no evidence that literacy education -- in any
of the most familiar forms -- could possibly end poverty or solve unemployment,
despite the cyclical claims by politicians and others that lack of literacy is the
cause of all that ails us and its widespread acquisition will be the solution. But
there is evidence that literacy education can make a substantial contribution to
transforming the social distribution of knowledge, discourse, and, with these, real
economic and social capital among specific communities, groups, and individuals
(Carrington & Luke, 1997).

Recently, many attempts have been made to draw together research that takes
into account the kinds of students who participate in literacy programs, rather
than simply looking at the approach to teaching. One critical point that has
emerged is that, while students who have a high degree of congruence with the
culture of the teachers perform well in various types of programs, students who
lack such congruence perform particularly poorly in programs described as
“meaning based.” This research provides a direct link between curricular and
pedagogical practice on the one hand and cultural and social class diversity and
educational disadvantage on the other.
Yet the school-effectiveness and school-management fields continue the pursuit
of what has become the holy grail of instructional psychologists: a single effective
or “authentic” pedagogy. The four resources model suggests that varied
combinations of pedagogies and curricula may have differential effects for
different groups of students. Regardless of the intense debates about the relative
efficacy of various teaching methods and in spite of the fact that effective
teachers have been found to use materials with broadly comparable features, it
remains our contention that, within a certain range of procedures, differing
teaching approaches work differentially with different categories of students.
Further, we contend that effective teachers know this and monitor the progress of
their students in order to make appropriate adaptations. This reinforces our
position that, rather than being unitary dimensions of human performance, both
literacy and literacy education refer to repertoires of capability and to families of
practices. As students vary in their needs for development in different aspects of
that repertoire, so do teachers vary in the range of educative experiences they
can offer and in their responsiveness to students' needs.

Our point here is that it is not that some literacy teaching methods work and
others do not. They all work to shape and construct different literate repertoires
in classrooms. They all have outcomes visible in practices and motivation. If we
begin from this position, the four resources model continues to raise as many
questions as it might answer: What do particular combinations and blends of
families of practices work to produce? In which combinations and emphases do
they work with specific communities of students? For what practices, places,
times, and occasions do they prepare students? And for what political and
ideological configurations?

What better way to assist teachers' work and pedagogy in these new times than
with complex and critical questions rather than simple answers.


Bourdieu, P. (1998). Practical reason. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.


Carrington, V., & Luke, A. (1997). Literacy and Bourdieu's sociological theory: A
reframing. Language and Education, 11(2), 96-112.

Freebody, P. (1992). A socio-cultural approach: Resourcing four roles as a

literacy learner. In A. Watson & A. Badenhop (Eds.), Prevention of reading failure
(pp. 48-60). Sydney: Ashton-Scholastic.

Freebody, P., & Luke, A. (1990). Literacies programs: Debates and demands in
cultural context. Prospect: Australian Journal of TESOL, 5(7), 7-16.

Hasan, R., & Williams, G. (Eds.). (1997). Literacy in society. London: Longman.

Luke, A. (1997). Genres of power: Literacy education and the production of

capital. In R. Hasan & G. Williams (Eds.), Literacy in society (pp. 308-338).
London: Longman.
Muspratt, S., Luke, A., & Freebody, P. (1997). Constructing critical literacies.
Sydney: Allen & Unwin; and Cresskills, NJ: Hampton.

Author Information

Luke (e-mail is a professor of education at the

University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and deputy director
general of education for the Queensland State Government. His current research
focuses on critical literacy and discourse analysis, globalization and educational
policy, state curriculum policy and practice, interracial families, anti-racism, and
Asian identity. He is an editor of the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy and
has published widely; among his books are Towards a Critical Sociology of
Reading Pedagogy (Benjamins, 1991), Language Planning and Education in
Australasia and the South Pacific (Multilingual Matters, 1991), and The Social
Construction of Literacy in the Classroom (Macmillan Australia, 1994). Recent
work can be viewed by visiting (Journal of
Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 21, no. 4),, and (Literacy Web Australia).

Freebody (e-mail is a professor of education at

Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. His research interests are
literacy and classroom talk, social class and the construction of educational
advantage and disadvantage, medical and professional discourse, discourse
analysis, and qualitative research methodology. His books include Children's First
Schoolbooks (Blackwells, 1987), Knowledge, Culture and Power (Falmer, 1993),
and the forthcoming Literacy, Silence and Difference (Hampton Press, 1999); he
is coauthor of the major work on Australian language policy, Australian Literacies,
published by Language Australia. Two papers he contributed to the Scientific
Commission on Literacy symposium at the World Congress of Applied Linguistics
are available at

Transcript of the Discussion Forum

Editors' Note: When this article was posted in Reading Online in August 1999,
readers were invited to comment on it through a bulletin board feature that was
discontinued when the journal was redesigned in July 2000. Following are the
comments posted to that bulletin board.

Readers who would like the opportunity to comment on this or other articles in
the journal are invited to post messages through ROL's Online Communities.

Post 1

Author: Kevin _Leander

Date: 10-24-1999 22:06

I was wondering if either the authors or anyone else has linked teacher training
to the model? That is, if the classroom is considered as a text or genre, how
might the model play out for developing literacy teachers who break codes,
critically analyze and transform texts, etc.? (Of course, the classroom would be
only one such (con)text or genre for new teachers, but it's an immediate and
relevant one.)

Reply 1a

Author: Allan_Luke3
Date: 10-26-1999 09:28

Hi Kevin. whew. our first message. In 1991, Peter and I worked on a

commonwealth government report on teacher education with fran christie, jim
martin, terry threadgold and others - we argued that all teachers should have a
training in: critical discourse analysis and critical literacy, second language
acquisition, related critical social theory and vygotskian sociocultural learning
theories. The four resources model is one way of gluing together these
approaches. in 1991 this was blocked, principally by 'personal growth' advocates
who argued that our approach was too radical. Now, about 8 years later, almost
all Australian teacher education programs have a core 'language/discourse'
subject of the order described above. Peter and I both teach them at our
respective unis: I teach a second year subject called 'language and discourse in
education: ed204' (you can find the subject outline at the UQ website - It dovetails with a subject 'media, culture and
information technologies in education', that features critical, semiotic approaches
to multimedia. You'll find both of these subjects desribed in the Journal of
Adolescent and Adult Literacy, vol 43, no. 5, 2000. We require that all teacher-
trainees (in maths, sciences, economics, all areas): learn functional grammar,
critical discourse analysis, how to analyse and teach genres of a range of popular
and academic texts, and related teaching/learning theory. This includes theories
of discourse and ideology. In other words, all our students learn to 'do' grammar
- but in relation to issues of how discourse constructs and shapes identity,
difference and educational relations of power. p.s. the students really enjoy it,
because it's extremely hands on.

Reply 1b

Author: Judith Diamondstone

Date: 10-26-1999 19:23

Hi, Kevin!! [geee, a relative...!!] Somehow, my preservice class on language

"got" shaped through some of the same channels that fed into the 4 resources
model -- It's a longer story than i want to tell right now, but the point is that:
When it works it really works. I don't get deeply into functional grammar but I
draw the outlines of it, as a tri-angular ? way into texts -- that is, showing that
grammar can be described in 3 ways (Halliday's metafunctions) -- we use some
environmental texts, students texts, and my students' own texts, and get "at"
them through these different windows. The students resist at first, but once the
class is contextualized in the larger project of "changing times" -- they can get
'turned on' to the idea of language as resource... something to explore as a
window itself into social context.

Reply 1c

Author: John_Davidson
Date: 10-26-1999 20:23
Hi folks,

re:teacher training and the "4 Resources Model", I am the editor of an Australian
teacher journal called "Practically Primary" which has an audience of both
classroom teachers and teacher educators.

We ran an article by Allan and Peter on their model in our June 99 issue. It was
long and rather "heavy" compared to the sort of article we normally publish and
the editorial committee were a bit nervous about putting such theory into a
classroom-based journal. The result was that we received more feedback than
usual from classroom teachers, and a terrific response from regular readers about
the appearance of solid theoretical material in a mainly "practical' magazine.

The point is that classroom teachers not only "need' solid theory but want it too,
and want the chance to participate in theoretical discussions

John Davidson

Reply 1d

Author: Pat _Smith2

Date: 10-26-1999 21:57

I rather like the idea of considering a classroom as a genre. Our new BEd course
has indeed a basis in multigenre, multiliteracy views of meaning making but not
in "grammar'. We chose an outcomes emphasis: similar outcomes but achieved
with different cultural content. Most importantly it must be considered how we
make and communicate meanings in our own social worlds, particularly in
classrooms. So field, mode and tenor would serve as a useful framework for
describing classrooms as genre and we would find linguistic and textual features
within these classrooms which show different social worlds. The four resources
would/should contribute different fractions to the whole for balance.

The idea put forward by Gunther Kress in Language Arts July 99 was that we
could regard genres as more generative than we have in the past. Once you learn
the rules shaped by power structures in a society, you can transform innovate,
create.If a BEd course expects a critical view, based on knwledge of
multiliteracies and multicultural meanings and as in our case from Freirean and
literary critical practice, our students would design their world.

Reply 1e

Author: Kevin _Leander

Date: 10-28-1999 09:23

I've gained a lot from these postings--thank you. Picking up on Pat's posting, a
related question I have regards how issues of genre are considered using this
model. If genres are considered generative, and if all texts are more or less
genre-fied, utterances that respond to past genres, hybridize them and move
those genres forward (a la Bakhtin), then what's a normative stance toward
something like "genres of power" that fits the model? Does it matter which
genres are chosen, or how you cut up semiotic-social action into generic
categories, or does it primarily matter that teachers and students recognize
semiotic-social action as generic?

Reply 1f

Author: Allan_Luke3
Date: 10-29-1999 07:42

Kevin: obviously, we in Australia have been to the end of the world and back on
the question you raise (i.e., antipodes), about whether reproductive knowledge of
a genre is necessary or sufficient for critical and innovative practice, or even
whether critique and innovative presuppose capacity to canonically reproduce a
text form. In the New London Group multiliteracies work, we tried to capture the
tension by having recognising and representing design, critical reframing and
transformed practice as distinguishable and scaffoldable (?) pedagogical
'moments'. I now think the key is probably one of doing genre with an 'attitude',
so to speak, that a lot of it depends on whether the pedagogy within which one
introduces a canonical text form is pedagogy with a (skeptical) attitude, that
foregrounds its own position and epistemological standpoint on the text in
question, and situates it immediately in relation to a (contradictory, power-
ridden) social field. These are ways of pedagogically 'qualifying' the status of a
particular genre, of decanonising it and opening it up for critique as it is being
introduced. This isn't theoretical baffle but can be done quite practically.
Regarding your other question - about whether you can 'cut up' social semiotic
action into genres: good question. better to treat genres as 'stablised for now'
synchronic slices. but doesn't all pedagogy necessarily 'stop' or 'freeze' or try to
capture an openended flow of discourse? isn't that by definition what a text is?
(structuralist stripes are showing here) what's your alternative?

Reply 1g

Author: Kevin _Leander

Date: 10-29-1999 09:42

Thanks Allan,

I'm not sure I extirely understand your position about genre with an attitude,
although it sounds good to me. I suspect that one of the issues in these debates
are sharply different meanings of "genre". Are you considering genre as
"canonoical textual form" in close relation to a social field? A focal text is
introduced as a generic form and then qualified? I was thinking more in terms of
a focal text always being decanonized, situated, only partially located "within"
available genres--never canonical, never purely "authoritative" so to speak. In
this sense, something like a canonical textual form is not a genre at all, but one
aspect of (power-laden) generic action. Freezing and slicing up that action sounds
pretty interesting and useful as a "middle level" category (smaller than social
field, bigger than a breadbox), don't you think?


Allan_Luke3 wrote: -------------------------------

Kevin: obviously, we in Australia have been to the end of the world and back on
the question you raise (i.e., antipodes), about whether reproductive knowledge of
a genre is necessary or sufficient for critical and innovative practice, or even
whether critique and innovative presuppose capacity to canonically reproduce a
text form. In the New London Group multiliteracies work, we tried to capture the
tension by having recognising and representing design, critical reframing and
transformed practice as distinguishable and scaffoldable (?) pedagogical
'moments'. I now think the key is probably one of doing genre with an 'attitude',
so to speak, that a lot of it depends on whether the pedagogy within which one
introduces a canonical text form is pedagogy with a (skeptical) attitude, that
foregrounds its own position and epistemological standpoint on the text in
question, and situates it immediately in relation to a (contradictory, power-
ridden) social field. These are ways of pedagogical....

Allan_Luke3 wrote: -------------------------------

Kevin: obviously, we in Australia have been to the end of the world and back on
the question you raise (i.e., antipodes), about whether reproductive knowledge of
a genre is necessary or sufficient for critical and innovative practice, or even
whether critique and innovative presuppose capacity to canonically reproduce a
text form. In the New London Group multiliteracies work, we tried to capture the
tension by having recognising and representing design, critical reframing and
transformed practice as distinguishable and scaffoldable (?) pedagogical
'moments'. I now think the key is probably one of doing genre with an 'attitude',
so to speak, that a lot of it depends on whether the pedagogy within which one
introduces a canonical text form is pedagogy with a (skeptical) attitude, that
foregrounds its own position and epistemological standpoint on the text in
question, and situates it immediately in relation to a (contradictory, power-
ridden) social field. These are ways of pedagogical....

Reply 1h

Author: Allan_Luke3
Date: 11-21-1999 14:14

Kevin: thinking about the discourse analysis that you were doing of racialising
practices in Illinois practices - seems to me that the approach you're describing
might be something like 'dissing genre', which would fit well with 'genre with an
atttitide' - presupposing their instability and using pedagogy to make them
institutionally vulnerable rather than 'beyond criticism'.

Reply 1j

Author: Colin_Kenworthy
Date: 03-06-2000 09:21


It's a while since there have been postings to this forum, so I hope you are still

I just want to add some comments that might fill you in a bit more about the
effect of the four resources model; and its place in Australian teacher education.

I teach in a largish school of education at Edith Cowan University and my work

has been profoundly affected by Freebody and Luke's four resources model for a
number of reasons:
1 First because all students in initial teacher education courses for primary and
secondary English teaching at Edith Cowan University are encouraged to view
reading from the standpoint developed by Freebody and Luke, assignments and
classroom tasks are set in all years that require students to use this model for the
following purposes:

To critique the ideology of school texts and children's literature

To develop lessons and programs of work that use all four reader resources
To analyse transcripts of their own and others' teaching

2 Secondly, the reader analyst resource has provided a basis for my own research
into classroom practice in:

Colin Kenworthy (1998) "Gender and literacy: Theory and practice in the
classroom" In MARTINO, Wayne and COOK, Chris. (1998). Gender and texts.
Norwood, SA: Australian Association for the teaching of English.

3 Thirdly, the reader analyst resource is fundamental to the teaching materials

developed by a number of Australian educators. Some of the texts that are widely
used in Australian secondary English teaching are listed below:

MARTINO, Wayne and MELLOR, Bronwyn. (1995). Gendered fictions. Cottesloe,

WA: Chalkface Press.

MARTINO, Wayne. (1997). From the margins: Reading Aboriginality, Gender and
Ethnicity. South Fremantle, WA: Fremantle Arts Centre Press.

KENWORTHY, Colin. KENWORTHY, Susan (1997). Changing places: Reading

Aboriginality in Texts and Contexts. South Fremantle, WA: Fremantle Arts Centre

MELLOR, Bronwyn, PATTERSON, Annette, O'NEILL, Marnie. (1991). Reading

fictions . Scarborough, WA : Chalkface Press,

MOON, Brian. (1990). Studying literature: theory and practice for senior
students. Scarborough, WA: Chalkface Press.

MOON, Brian. (1992). Literary terms: a practical glossary. Scarborough, WA:

Chalkface Press.

MORGAN, Wendy. (1994). Ned Kelly reconstructed. Cambridge; Melbourne:

Cambridge University Press, 1994.

MORGAN, Wendy with GILBERT, Pam. (1996). Critical literacy: readings and
resources. (Norwood, South Australia.: Australian Association for the Teaching of

4 In closing I must express the hope that this forum might remain open for a
while yet as I am currently writing an online unit on political and socio-cultural
influences on literacy and literacy learning and want students to consider the four
resources model and to engage in dialogue about it and this forum seems an ideal
place to do just that.

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