Genre theory has been around for a long time now. The exchange between Michael Rosen and Frances Christie recently featured in Changing English is the latest in a series of exchanges between advocates of genre and their critics over the past three decades or so. Our aim in this response-essay is not to weigh up the merits of the cases made by Rosen and Christie. Rather, we want to think about how individual teachers might confront the hegemony of genre theory and the harmful effects we believe it is having on language education.
Our starting point is Lisa’s own professional practice, as she enacts it from day to day at a state secondary school in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, one of the most ethnically diverse regions in Australia. We draw on Lisa’s journal to construct a sense of the time and place, as well as samples of students’ writing that she gathered in the course of a year with her Year 7 class, in order to gain a better understanding of her work as an English teacher.
How does this material compare with ‘all the genre work done over some 25–30 years’ by the genre theorists? What ‘knowledge’ will she be able to construct on the basis of the classroom observations that she made over that time? What should we make of the fact that her world is not the same as the world as genre theorists conceive it?
Field of Research
130204 English and Literacy Curriculum and Pedagogy (excl LOTE, ESL and TESOL)