The purpose of this theoretical essay is to discuss recent scholarship in sociocultural studies of literacy – including two recent books by Peter Smagorinsky (2011) and Luis Moll (2013) and recent articles by Gutierrez and Engestrom – and to synthesize ideas from this scholarship into a coherent lens for understanding innovations in language and literacy education and in education more broadly, when language is seen as the means through which transformation of thought is achieved.
This essay uses ideas from Vygotskian theory, as interpreted by Moll, Smagorinsky, Gutierrez and Engestrom, to re-conceptualize innovation – a theme of current importance in literacy education and indeed education broadly – as culturally mediated. The author discusses specifically two examples of recent innovations in educational practice – the notion of multiliteracies and approaches to teacher education based on hybrid activity settings that link researchers and teachers, university and school.
As this is not an empirical study, there are no findings per se. However, the author’s discussion of innovation through a sociocultural lens focuses on re-mediation and the deliberate, conscious setting of goals as a means for construction knowledge in, and about, innovations in literacy teaching and learning. Also, the author concludes the essay with several principles by which to evaluate innovations from a sociocultural perspective.
This conceptual paper has the potential to contribute to new ways of applying sociocultural theory in literacy teaching and research, particularly research that involves the study of innovative, transformative practices in teaching and learning.
This essay offers a theory-driven reconceptualization of innovation for use in educational research and practice, which has a potential value as an antidote to shallow, narrow and/or prescriptive models of language and literacy innovations that are offered to practitioners. Put another way, it offers readers a new way to think about innovation in sustainable and culturally relevant terms.
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