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Special Issue on Knowing in English

Join the Conversation

 ‘It is characteristic of English that it does not hold together as a body of knowledge which can be identified, quantified, and then transmitted… ’

Department of Education and Science (1975), A Language for Life: Report of the Committee of Inquiry appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science under the Chairmanship of Sir Alan Bullock F.B.A. (The Bullock Report), London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, p.5.

This special issue of Changing English (volume 28, issue 1, to be published in March 2021) invites you to engage with the ‘knowledge question’. We invite you to focus specifically on the relationship between your knowledge as an English educator and the meaning-making that occurs when students interact with one another within the social space of the English classroom. Why does this focus strike us as being especially apposite at the current moment?

The nature of our current professional landscape has been a topic of many articles in Changing English that have highlighted the growing gap between the knowledge and experience that have historically been accumulated by the English teaching profession and what governments present as the ‘knowledge’ that constitutes English. There is no doubt that the content of English, across the world, is being prescribed in increasingly narrow terms. For many students, English is now experienced as a succession of grammar, spelling and comprehension exercises that comprise standardised literacy testing or the study of a select number of canonical texts that supposedly constitute the ‘best that has been thought and written’ (to quote from the subject content and assessment prescriptions in England [DfE, 2013, p. 3]).  We are  also, however, thinking of Michael Young’s arguments about ‘bringing knowledge back in’ to the curriculum (Young, 2008), which, while ostensibly working to redress an over-emphasis on skills and drills, imposes constraints on English because of its privileging of propositional knowledge at the expense of richer forms of inquiry and interpretive play. It is as though forces are aligned to suppress vital dimensions of English curriculum and pedagogy. These dimensions can only emerge when English teachers have the agency to take their students beyond the reified forms of knowledge embodied in standardised literacy testing (and the standard English that such testing privileges) and ossified notions of the literary canon in order to explore the complexities of language and meaning in ways that truly matter to them.

We are posing this inquiry as an opportunity for you to develop a philosophical perspective on your work. This does not mean, however, that you should feel obliged to write at an abstract level remote from your practice. You are an English educator writing for other English educators. We encourage you to write stories that are redolent of the concrete particularities of classroom settings, to combine storytelling with more analytical writing in order to achieve a better understanding of English as a form of ‘knowing’. Autobiographical narratives in which you explore your education and reflect on how it might mediate your practice as an English educator are especially welcome.

A fuller version of this call for contributions is available here.

Submission Information

Please email abstracts to either of the Editors by the 2nd March 2020:

Dr John Yandell: [email protected]

Dr Brenton Doecke: [email protected]

Dr Graham Parr: [email protected]

Due Dates

2nd March 2020                 Submission of abstract

20th July 2020                     Submission of draft

August 2020                       Feedback from reviewers

31st October 2020           Submission of final draft

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DfE [Department for Education]. (2013). English literature: GCSE subject content and assessment objectives. London: DfE. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/254498/GCSE_English_literature.pdf

Young, M. 2008. Bringing Knowledge Back In: From Social Constructivism to Social Realism in the Sociology of Education. London and New York: Routledge.