A social view of literacy and learning
In thinking about the questions raised in the interviews and in the literature review, I felt it was very important to pursue this idea that self-direction is not simply a matter of skills. This led me to explore much broader research. I discovered a whole movement of research in a number of fields that challenges the idea of literacy as a set of reading, writing and thinking skills that can be taught in isolation. This research suggests that we need to look at learning as a social activity that is shaped by interactions with others, by context and by meaning. This research seemed to be an important key to unlocking the puzzle of self-direction.
I found that the movement toward a social view of learning is a significant shift in thinking. It has taken place over the last fifteen to twenty years in a variety of fields, including psychology, sociology, and education.
The New Literacy Studies is part of this movement. The New Literacy Studies are a series of writings in research and practice that describe language and literacy as social practices, rather than technical skills to be learned in education (Street, 1991, p. 17). These ideas are based on a number of studies on how literacy is used in everyday life. The New Literacy Studies show that there are different types of literacy, or literacies which depend on particular contexts and purposes.
For example, people use different kinds of literacy at home, at school, or at work. These are particular places where people act and use language in distinct ways. There are different social expectations in these situations, and these shape how people use literacy.
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