The Long and Winding Path from Research to Pedagogy

In December 2019, my book, Talk, Tools, and Texts: A Logic-in-Use for Studying Lifespan Literate Action Development, came out via the WAC Clearinghouse.  Now that it’s done, my mental energy has shifted from “how can I communicate my work to this audience?” to “what can I do with this text now?”  It’s been interesting being able to treat this text as a “thing” that I can now work with in the production of more text.

One thing that I’ve recently turned my attention to has been the implications of this text for my own pedagogy.  The book isn’t really focused on that—I talk about classroom writing when it emerges in the writing lives of my research subjects, but my focus was more on setting up an infrastructure for studying writing, not teaching it. WAC Clearinghouse Site

Now that it’s finished, though, I keep coming back to questions of pedagogy.  What are the pedagogical consequences of thinking through literate action development from a lifespan perspective?  What questions does it lead me to ask?  What classroom choices do I make differently with this in mind?

These questions are tough to answer.  Part of the problem, I think, is that I’ve been thinking through the ideas of that book for years now, so they’ve been likely seeping into my teaching choices along the way.  But the other part of the problem is that the path leading from this work to the classroom is a long and winding one.  There are a number of implications, possibilities, and limitations to think through.

The broad issue I’ve been thinking through is how I can help students understand the writing they do as part of the very complex, material, and social work of literate action.  I’ve been trying to start with some small targets that students can seem to make sense of.  For instance, in my research writing class, I draw on Michael Lynch’s description of scientific work as consisting of opportunistic and improvised practices that have a complex relationship with the scientific writing that is actually published.  I haven’t done much more than that: just pointing out that the work of science is messy, and the writing of science can obscure that messiness.  That seemed to be an idea that has grab for them.  How I build on that (particularly, how I connect it to the complexity of the lifespan) is another matter, but it’s something I can think through further now that I have a starting point.

I’m overdue on a few fronts here on my blog—I haven’t made an entry in quite a while now, and I’ve got to report in on my end-of-term commenting practices like I said I would—but I’ll keep thinking about this (and how I can report out on it) as I move forward.


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