Dialogic Relevance Pedagogy: Encouraging Complex Reading Connections through Memoir Research
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This dissertation seeks to expand teacher conversations about “relevance” in English classrooms. To develop a practical pedagogy inclusive of relevance for teachers of literacy, I describe “dialogic relevance” and “dialogic relevance pedagogy,” and ultimately emphasize a broad definition of relevance. I distinguish both dialogic relevance and the pedagogy from an understanding of relevance that assumes that readers have one relevant path to the text. Teachers attempting to motivate and engage their students make assumptions about relevance based on content connections, thematic connections, or perceived background knowledge. As students engage in more direct inquiry about relevance, we create potential for developing relevance strategies that are increasingly reader/student-centered. Dialogic relevance pedagogy accommodates the expansion of each student’s worldview that occurs through reading and supports experiences that students can apply to other texts and contexts. In this dissertation I develop bridges among transactional reading theory, strategic reading, inquiry based research projects that highlight alternative constructions of relevance for students. Through narrative inquiry, multiple stories come together. Included are stories from my own teaching as well as from observations and collaboration in a colleague’s classroom. Taken together, the individual stories and their relationships provide an account of my experiences exploring the meaning of relevance in a dialogic context. The study suggests a strong connection between relevance and literacy that calls for a shift in teacher practice. Teachers considering this shift in pedagogy to dialogic relevance recognize students’ ability to discover and explore relevance as an essential literacy skill that gives students more choice in developing relevance relationships. Research papers about memoirs emerged through my study as one invitation for students to develop what John Dewey refers to as habits connected to dialogic relevance.
First They Killed My Father