The conceptualisation of English teaching differs greatly between and within elementary and secondary contexts. Framed as the instruction of literacy, literature, language arts and more, the teaching of English is shaped by often conflicting opinions regarding what matters in the teaching of English and how English can best be taught. Drawing on Smagorinsky’s (2002) discussion of the principled practice of English, and on characteristics of good teaching that research has demonstrated to enhance student authentic achievement (Newmann, Marks, & Gamoran, 1998; Author, 2003), this paper presents the findings of a large crosssectional analysis of the nature and quality of the teaching of English in elementary and secondary schools as represented in assessment practice. Three strands of analysis inform this critique. First, the analysis identified statistically significant differences in the quality of assessment practice between elementary and secondary samples, with secondary teachers demonstrating significantly higher assessment practice than elementary teachers. Second, we conducted content analysis to examine the different ways in which English subject matter was conceptualised by elementary and secondary teachers in assessment practice. Finally, we conducted an analysis of variance between the quality of classroom and assessment practice and the ways in which English subject matter was conceptualised by participants, revealing a significant relationship between the sophistication, (or lack) of teachers’ conceptualisations of English subject matter and the quality of their assessment practices. We conclude the paper by examining the implications of these analyses for educators who grapple with the perennial question of what matters, in terms of subject matter and pedagogical practice, in the teaching of English.
AARE 2008 International Education Research Conference: Changing Climates: Education for Sustainable Futures. AARE 2008 International Education Research Conference: Changing Climates: Education for Sustainable Futures (Brisbane, Qld 30 November - 4 December, 2008)