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Metaphors of Reading and Teaching Reading: Adult and College Educators’ Readerly and Teacherly Identities
Posted by Laura McLoughlin on June 09, 2021 in categoryFacts & Research

In the new issue of Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy, a team of researchers from Oklahoma State University and Texas State University surveyed 46 educators about how they describe reading and teaching reading. 


Participants were given the option to complete an open-ended statement to create a metaphor or chose from a list of metaphors to describe their readerly and teacherly identities.  


The differences between how they conceptualize themselves as readers and teachers of reading is examined in the article. Read an excerpt here: 


In the present study, teachers’ conceptualizations were gathered through the use of metaphor analysis. Metaphor analysis is a methodological approach that is still relatively new to U.S.-based studies within literacy education. Even so, metaphor analysis studies in other forums and in other fields have demonstrated the utility of providing this methodological tool for explorations of student and educator metaphorical conceptualizations. For instance, some scholars have collected spontaneous and elicited metaphorical linguistic expressions (MLEs) and analyzed them as metaphorical representations of participants’ conceptualizations of complex concepts like teaching and learning in general. For example, in de Guerrero and Villamil’s (2002) investigation of metaphors for ESL teachers, nine separate conceptualizations emerged, including a knowledge-provider, a nurturer, and a tool-provider. And, more specific to literacy, several metaphor studies have explored both learner conceptualizations of literacy (Cortazzi & Jin, 1999; Shaw & Mahlios, 2014) and educator conceptualizations of literacy (e.g., Konopasky & Reybold, 2014; Shaw & Mahlios, 2015). 


It is in this latter space—educators’ conceptualizations of reading and of teaching reading—that we focused the present study. According to Martinez et al. (2001), “Metaphors may stimulate the teachers to explore new conceptual territories visible from an alternative point of view, a perspective of classroom practice which they might not have otherwise considered” (p. 974). Indeed, metaphors offer educators an opportunity to express their roles and responsibilities in classrooms. One example of this type of research is Konopasky and Reybold’s (2014) multiple-case study employing interviews of five adult educators (three part- time instructors and two full-time administrators), specifically focusing on their identity at significant junctures such as entering or exiting the adult education profession. The researchers analyzed the results thematically in three stages: stories, rhetorical moves, and metaphor. Results showed both uniqueness and commonality focused on access and space. “Access” referred to giving resources, information, and world access to the adult students. The adult educators served as gatekeepers with social power. Two adult educators also used ‘space’ as a metaphor to indicate they were the caretakers for their overwhelmed students. Interestingly, the authors expected to find dissonance, but instead found cohesion. The five educators used metaphors to draw together the “dissonant contexts of their lives” (Konopasky & Reybold, 2014, p. 2). 


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