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Home > Literacy Research Discussion group > LRDG meetings held in 2000

Literacy Research Discussion Group (LRDG)

Co-organisers: Julia Gillen and Sharon McCulloch.

Unless stated otherwise below, meetings are held every Tuesday during term time, 1.00 - 2.00 pm.

Here is the timetable for meetings of the Literacy Research Discussion Group.


Lent term 2016




19 January


Rachel Stubley, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Writing in teacher education: extending tutor-student dialogue, understanding and practices in academic writing

Like most university students, new and practising teachers on professional courses are required to do substantial amounts of academic writing. My broadly ethnographic study explores teacher educator and (student) teacher experiences of this practice in my own university. How far do teacher educators share expectations of, and a rationale for, academic writing? What are (student) teachers’ experiences of academic writing and writing support, and are they able to bring their broader experiences and identities as writers outside the university to their academic writing? I will discuss the critical discourse analysis of some of my own writing tutorials with my students, which problematizes the dialogic approach suggested by Lillis (2001) and provides a context for my research. I will present initial findings from focus group discussions with teacher educators, exploring areas of agreement, ambivalence and difference in their aspirations for writing and professional development. I will also sketch some ideas and work in progress for exploring student teachers’ broader “writing lives”, and my hopes for integrating insights from this study into teacher education writing practices at university.

Monday 25 January

Bowland North SR10

Rodney Jones, University of Reading

Departmental talk. Monday 25th January, 4.00 pm - 6.0 pm, Seminar Room 10, Bowland North

"'Have you swiped your Nectar card?': Pretextuality and practices of surveillance”.

Click here for the full abstract


Friday 29 January

Bowland North SR10

Sharon McCulloch, Diane Potts and Tanya Williamson, Lancaster University

Designing the academic self, session 1 of 4: Who does the Internet think you are? 

This is an interactive workshop on the use of metrics in academic life. Social media, metrics, preprints, websites – much of our academic identity is now tied up in how we mediate ourselves online. So what should we be thinking about and what should we do? The first of four interactive workshops for PhD students and early career researchers on the use of social media and metrics is a discussion of if and how emerging academics can be pro-active in creating or ‘designing’ a coherent online presence, including practical matters such as selecting your online name and keywords, as well as the pros and cons of commonly used sites for showcasing academic work. Please register to ensure your place at the workshop.


2 February


Uta Papen, Lancaster University

Hymns and prayers – can religious literacy practices support literacy teaching in schools?

In this talk I discuss the role of religion in the context of literacy learning. Drawing on my ethnography of literacy learning and teaching in a Catholic primary school conducted in 2013 and 2014 I suggest that religious literacy practices such as included in worships, singing or listening to bible stories can support children’s general literacy learning. These practices offer children exposure to different forms of language, more complex and intellectually engaging than some of the texts they encounter in their literacy lessons. They showcase for children that reading and comprehension can take forms other than what is commonly associated with academic literacies with their focus on rational thinking, correct decoding and close textual analysis. Religious literacy practices support ways of reading and engaging with texts and the ideas they contain that afford more emotional and bodily experiences of meaning making. They offer opportunities for collaborative engagement with literacy that does not rely on individual skills alone. While I am confident that the findings of my research are valid and relevant, in this talk I also reflect on the difficulties I face as a researcher when arguing for ethnographic-based research to inform policy and practice. In the current context where research outcomes are believed to have to be ‘measurable’ in skills terms and where policy-makers tend to dismiss any practice that is not ‘evidence-based’, studies such as mine are easily ignored. What can ethnographers do to counter this trend?

9 February


Peter Shukie, Blackburn College

Community Open Online Courses: An Action Research project exploring the experiences of learning and teaching in non-institutional online space

To what extent is learning and teaching bound by the concepts of institutional tradition and practice? Do web-based technologies and new networks mean that we are entering a world of anyone and anywhere education with knowledge and meaning distributed? What does this mean for us as learners and teachers and does leaving the institutional fold create exciting possibilities or chaotic isolation? In this presentation I will reflect on my creation of COOCs (Community Open Online Courses) as a free to use, open to all learning, teaching and sharing platform. The project emerged from my own interests in community learning and my experiences as a teacher in adult literacy settings. Although the project is not based on literacy education the approach was one of Popular Education as viewed through Freirean ideas of transgression of teacher-student binaries and the co-creation of knowledge and meaning. The project suggests a community-focus and seeks, through Participatory Action Research, the experiences of people attracted to non-institutional space. A Freirean and Deleuzo-Guattarian analytical approach suggests the necessity for radical reinventions of teaching and learning in online space while also considering that MOOCs offer a ‘false multiplicity’ while establishing institutional norms and practices in that space.

16 February

Charles Carter, A15

Karin Tusting & Sharon McCulloch, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Designing the academic self, session 2 of 4: How are metrics affecting academics’ writing practices in UK universities?

Academics are increasingly subject to a range of ‘metrics' that attempt to measure research output. These include individual measures such as the h-index, journal-level measures such as ‘journal impact factors’, and ‘altmetrics’ based on numbers of views, downloads, saves, shares and recommendations online. These metrics are used in recruitment to academic positions, promotion, and research assessment exercises such as the REF. Metrics affect academics’ writing practices via their choices of journals to write for, genres to write in and topics to focus on. Academics are increasingly expected to engage in self-promotional practices including maintaining professional webpages and academic social networking, all of which inform the newer altmetrics. This interactive workshop explores the ways in which metrics are influencing academics' writing practices. The presenters will report on preliminary findings from an ERSC-funded project that involved interviewing academics at three universities in the UK. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss their own experiences of metrics. Please register to ensure your place at the workshop.

23 February


Wendy Crocker, Western University, Canada

Contested space: The representations of literac(ies) on primary classroom walls

In Ontario, Canada, programmatic curriculum documents remind teachers of primary grades that their classrooms should reflect “the ideas, values, attitudes, and cultures of those who use the space” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014, p. 20). However, the washback effect of large scale literacy and numeracy assessment measures places materials suggested as “best practice” by the Ministry (e.g., anchor charts, success criteria) in competition for limited display space in classrooms. In this talk, I will share preliminary findings from a photographic case study involving over 2000 still images from thirty classrooms across five schools to uncover the ways in which literac(ies) are represented by considering the materials displayed on the walls. I look through the theoretical and analytical lenses of local literacies (Barton & Hamilton, 1998), multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000), and geosemiotics (Scollon & Scollon, 2003) to consider the tensions between authentic expressions of children’s learning of literac(ies) and evidence of the prescribed literacy mandates of an accountability culture.


1 March


Awena Carter, Lancaster University

 A Picture Postcard View of Silverdale: How holiday makers used postcards to communicate their experiences of a North Lancashire village

Gillen and Hall’s research into the vernacular writing practices of Edwardian picture postcard senders (Gillen and Hall 2009, 2010a and 2010b) revealed ordinary people’s informal literacy practices, and the enthusiastically creative and multimodal ways they used this new means of communication. In this presentation I first use some of Gillen and Hall’s findings to provide a framework with which to analyse how postcard senders between 1904 and 1980 constructed the identity of the North Lancashire village of Silverdale as a holiday centre. I look at the Post Office regulations governing postcards; the rise of a postcard writing convention; the dynamic between postcard texts and pictures; and the similarity of the Edwardian practice of the sending and receiving of postcards to today’s social media. I then ask whether conventions developed by the exuberant Edwardian picture postcard senders became a means of discoursal control for postcards writers, until well into the 20th Century.

8 March


Chris Bailey, University of Sheffield

Building Banterbury Library: The (social) creation of (hybrid) space in an after-school Minecraft Club

Recent research around the use of Virtual Worlds in educational contexts has conceptualised literacies as communal processes, whilst considering complex notions of collaboration through participants’ multiplicity of presence. However, further work is necessary in order to investigate the relationship between these on- and off-screen dimensions in relation to children’s meaning making practices. With this in mind, this presentation examines the self-directed creation of a virtual library by a group of children working together to create a ‘virtual community’, using the video game Minecraft. Drawing on data from a year-long ethnographic study of an after-school club, I focus on a group of eleven year old children’s creation of space and place in the virtual town they called ‘Banterbury’. Through an examination of the multiple elements that contribute to the creation of this library, represented here using comic strips, I reveal how the children collectively utilised on- and off-screen resources to create a place that existed in a hybrid space. By exploring the children’s construction of this location and the transgressive screen-based texts they created, alongside their off-screen play, I illuminate how the literacies constructed through their interactions were influenced by resources drawn from their wider culture, shaped by their experiences with schooled literacy and their experiments with in-game multimodal creation. In addition, I consider how the children worked, sometimes together and sometimes apart, to reframe the space in their own ways.


15 March


Hissah Alruwaili, Lancaster University

'A Good Muslim? So you cannot Ignore the Opportunity for Da’wah': Faith and EFL Learners’ Practices of Choice & Autonomy

This is an ethnographic case study aims at understanding the struggle of two Saudi EFL female learners attempting to restructure their definition of permissible space for learning a foreign language in Islamic culture. I used an ethnographic design to follow the two learners for 8-month through physical and digital contexts collecting natural data through field notes, observations, fieldwork journals and audio-recorded interviews. The analysis employs language socialisation approach (Duff, 2010) to focus on how the socialising agents (i.e., the two learners) negotiated accessing language learning spaces and how they positioned themselves as female, Muslim EFL learners. Despite the learners’ strict interpretations of a number of Islamic resources (the prophet’s sayings, or hadith, and the fatwa), the various patterns of their behaviour and responses showed willingness and active participation to gain a conception of language learning spaces that engenders greater agency and capacity for resistance.



Summer term 2016




19 April


Concha Orna-Montesinos, Zaragoza University, Spain

26 April

Charles Carter, A15

Sharon McCulloch and TBC

Designing the academic self, session 3 of 4

3 May



10 May



17 May



24 May

Charles Carter, A15

Sharon McCulloch and TBC

Designing the academic self, session 4 of 4

31 May



7 June



14 June



21 June



July tbc




Michaelmas term 2015





13 October 2015

B89, County South

Karin Tusting, LRC
"It's like every time you sat down to do some writing, an email comes in that takes you away from it."  The place of email in the ecology of academics' writing practices.

This talk will draw on data from the ESRC-funded project "Dynamics of Knowledge Creation: Academics writing in the contemporary university workplace".  The project explores academics' writing practices, across the full range of research, teaching and administrative writing, working with academics across different institutions and disciplinary backgrounds using repeated interviewing and observation to develop a detailed understanding of their practices.  In this paper, I will focus on academics' email practices.  As the quote above suggests, email is often seen as being an interruption, something which takes away from the 'real' work.  And yet, as the digital platform most frequently spoken about by our participants by quite some margin, engaging with email takes up a significant proportion of academics' working lives.  This talk will explore people's experiences around emails, asking what it is that makes email such a challenging and yet such a central part of academics' writing practices.

20 October 2015

C89, County South

Robert Crawshaw, European Languages and Culture, Lancaster University

European Cultural Literacy – the toolkit challenge


The proposed discussion will focus on the issues involved in establishing a Europe-wide research programme seeking to promote the concept of ‘cultural literacy’ as it applies to research practice .  The underlying aim of the European Cultural Literacy Programme (ECL) is epistemological: to broaden the base of what has traditionally been perceived as ‘the humanities’ against a background of increased scepticism towards their utility in a world dominated by economic and scientific priorities. This has implied reconsidering the relationship between a ‘humanities-led’ approach to research and the objectives and methodologies characteristic of social science and cultural studies.  It has become clear that the scope of humanities scholarship needs to be extended so that creative output can be addressed from a more social and cultural perspective and theorised accordingly.  While this is a challenge which the agendas of UK research councils are already striving to meet, the problem of how best, methodologically speaking, to ‘instrumentalise’ a new approach (in crude terms a kind of ‘toolkit’) remains problematic if not potentially self-defeating.  If the new approach is re-conceptualised as a form of ‘cultural literacy’, what does this imply in terms of core knowledge, methodology, and the capacity to generate imaginative solutions to long-standing social concerns?  My ‘essay’ is a working draft for the ECL steering group of which I have been invited to become a member.

The draft will be circulated in advance of our meeting on October 20th as a working paper for discussion by the members of the ‘literacies’ research group.

27 October 2015

B89, County South

Ibrar Bhatt, Educational Research,
Lancaster University

Going beyond A4: Academic engagement for multiple audiences

We in academia (including PhD students) spend a substantial proportion of our time writing, even though we may not always describe some of our activities as ‘writing’. In this talk I present some of my own reflections and experiences as a recent PhD graduate on the subject of writing for multiple audiences. I will focus on the major disruptions facing academic publishing and knowledge dissemination, and how these have brought forth new sets of writing demands which pose both challenges and opportunities for those working, or aspiring to work, in academia. Using the historical metaphor of the coffee house during the age of Enlightenment, I will discuss how much can be gained from writing within the forums and arenas outside of the academy.

3 November 2015

C89, County South

Michelle Lawson, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

‘Go out and make mistakes like the rest of us’:   Positioning strategies in an online migrant community

Lifestyle migration, the movement of relatively privileged people in search of a different, often better, way of life, is a growing research area that has seen little attention given to digital communication.  My research explores how a new life following migration is mediated through an online forum for British migrants in south-west France.  Wenger’s (1998) theory of community of practice was initially used to structure analysis of online activities.  I show how the operationalisation of constructs such as ‘shared repertoire’, for example, can explore linguistic patterning and routines of interaction, giving insights into community practices, relationships and discursive identity construction. 
However, a more developed model of language use is required in order to examine underlying issues of power within such communities. I show how Positioning Theory (Harré, 2012) offers relevant tools to analyse member positioning within the socially determined moral landscape of lifestyle migration, one with associated rights and duties. More recent analytical tools developed by Bamberg and Georgakopoulou (2008) are also utilised to explore the motivating (ideological) factors behind certain positioning acts.
The analysis of situated language both supports and extends existing themes within the sociological literature of lifestyle migration, giving a more nuanced account of the relationship between wider value systems and their local representations.

10 November 2015

C89, County South

Carmen Lee, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Hashtagging as a literacy practice: Textual Representations of the #HongKong #UmbrellaMovement on Instagram

As with other social movements, the 2014 Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong had a strong social media presence. This talk explores how the Movement was represented textually on Instagram, with a specific focus on how creating and adding hashtags became a salient literacy practice during the Movement.The study reported in this talk began with 700 posts on Instagram, all of which contain the Chinese hashtag #雨傘運動 (“Umbrella Movement”). Over 9,000 hashtags from these 700 posts were then categorized according to their language choice, discourse functions as well as their symbolic and indexical values. Findings from an initial analysis suggest that, unlike political hashtags on Twitter which tend to be descriptive and informative, a large proportion of Instagram hashtags during the Umbrella Movement are performative and affective in nature (e.g. #ilovehongkong, #supporthk). Drawing on interview data with selected Instagram users, I also discuss how written Cantonese and mixed language hashtags, among other local cultural symbols, have become powerful resources for participants to assert their unique “Hongkonger” identities. Through the lenses of affective politics, deglobalization, and authentication, this talk demonstrates the ways in which hashtags serve as an important tool for self-presentation online.

17 November 2015

B89, County South

Samantha Duncan, Institute of Education, London

Reading aloud in Lewisham: an exploration of adult reading aloud practices

This presentation will explore initial findings of a qualitative pilot study of the reading aloud practices of seventeen adults in the London Borough of Lewisham, and examine the possible next steps for a larger study. While the dominant contemporary image of reading is that of a silent activity, and within literacy provision it is frequently assumed that reading aloud is not a ‘natural,’ ‘real life’ adult practice, anecdote suggests that adults do indeed read aloud, but these practices are overwhelmingly undocumented. This pilot study was the first stage in developing a better understanding of contemporary adult reading aloud practices. Semi-structured interviews were used to ask adults whether, what, where, how and why they read aloud.  Initial findings reveal the ubiquitous nature of reading aloud in adult life, across a range of life and for different self-selected purposes, and reinforce the importance of expanding our conceptualisations of reading to recognise the diversity and changing-nature of real life practices. This presentation will ask participants to explore possible implications of the pilot study data and develop ideas for future work.

24 November 2015

C89, County South

Winnie Ho, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Volunteering Literacies: An Ethnographic Case Study

Adult volunteers in voluntary youth groups, youth uniformed groups (UG) or cadet forces – like people in schools and workplaces – spend a substantial proportion of their time in writing and reading through community service. However, there has been little exploration of investigating the nature of reading and writing in the domain of voluntary UG in both Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

Grounded in the perspectives of both literacy as social practice (Barton and Hamilton, 1998) and linguistic ethnography, my study explores the hybrid nature of the dominant and vernacular literacy practices of an adult volunteer from an aviation-centered UG in Hong Kong as a community of practice (Wenger, 1998). This volunteer drew on different resources to complete a vocational qualification and was engaged in various types of print-based and digital texts both in the physical volunteering context and on Facebook.

Based on analysis of written texts, including assignments and texts related to volunteering work and multimodal texts on Facebook, interviews and participant-observation, the study reveals that understanding this volunteer’s motivational factor and his needs can pave the way for learning resources development. The rise and popularity of Facebook will possibly change the way this UG think about the dynamics that can lead to both challenges and opportunities.


1 December


C89, County South

María José Valero, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

From “monolingual” language learning to multimodal meaning-making: a shift in research focus

In this talk, I will discuss the recent shift in my PhD research. First I will describe the initial approach of my investigation, which intended to be an ethnographically-oriented multiple case study on informal learning of English through participation in digital practices related to different online cultures (i.e. videogames, fashion blogging and scanlation). Then I will describe the problems I found when I first tried to analyze the collected data, namely the imposition of artificial divisions between multiple languages and modes and the resulting oversimplification of the participants’ meaning-making processes. I will relate these problems to several underlying theoretical biases, which can be summarized as follows: 1) I conceptualized the participants as learners on a developmental path that   ends with a command of the English language separate from the rest of languages and modes (Block, 2013); 2) I conceptualized languages as autonomous and bounded systems (cf. Blommaert, 2010); 3) I conceptualized language learning merely as the incorporation of linguistic forms (cf. García & Sylvan, 2011). Finally, I will describe my new research direction, which is aimed at understanding the semiotic work of the participants while engaged in the digital practices related to the online cultures with which they are affiliated. 

8 December 2015

LT11, Management School

Diane Potts and Sharon McCulloch, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Designing the academic self: session 1 of 4: who does the Internet think you are?

This is the first of four interactive workshops on the use of social media and metrics for PhD students and academics. This first workshop focuses on if and how emerging academics should be pro-active in create or ‘designing’ a coherent online presence. The session will include discussion of your online name, profile and keywords by which others might search for you, as well as the pros and cons of the most common sites through which your academic identity can be showcased.


LRDG Meeting Record

Current Timetable


2015 : 2014 : 2013
2012 : 2011 : 2010
2009 : 2008 : 2007
2006 : 2005 : 2004
2003 : 2002 : 2001

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