This paper reports on research into the challenges of implementing a critical writing pedagogy within a teacher education program in Australia. Participants in this study are student teachers enrolled in a compulsory subject, “Language and Literacy in Secondary School”, a subject requiring them to develop a knowledge of the role of language and literacy across the secondary school curriculum and to show personal proficiency in literacy as part of graduate outcomes for teacher education dictated by the State Government of Victoria. To develop an understanding of the way that language has shaped their lives, students write a narrative about their early literacy experiences – a task which they all find very challenging, especially in comparison with the formal writing of other university subjects. Rather than simply reminiscing about their early childhood, they are encouraged to juxtapose voices from the past and the present, and to combine a range of texts within their writing. Later in the semester they revisit these accounts of their early literacy experiences and, in a separate piece of writing, endeavour to place these accounts within the contexts of theories and debates they have encountered in the course of completing this unit. The students’ writing provides a small window on how they are experiencing their tertiary education and their preparation as teachers, including the managerial controls that are currently shaping university curriculum and pedagogy. We argue that such heteroglossic texts (Bakhtin, 1981) prompt students to stretch their repertoires as language-users, enabling them to develop a socially critical awareness of language and literacy, including the literacy practices in which they engage as university students.
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