Videogames, distinction and subject-English: new paradigms for pedagogy
AuthorBacalja, Alexander Victor
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2017 Dr. Alexander Victor Bacalja
At a time when the proliferation of videogame ownership and practice has led to greater attention on the consequences of increased engagement with these texts, schools and educators are engaged in active debate regarding their potential value and use. The distinctive nature of these texts, especially in contrast to those texts which have traditionally dominated school environments, has raised questions about their possible affordances, as well as the pedagogies most appropriate for supporting teaching with and through these texts in the classroom. While much has been written about the learning benefits of videogames, especially in terms of opportunities for the negotiation of self (Gee, 2003), there has been less research addressing the impact of applying existing English subject-specific pedagogies to their study. In particular, there are few case-study investigations into the suitability of subject-English classrooms for the play and study of videogames. The project utilised a naturalistic case-study intervention involving eight 15-year-old students at a co-educational school in the outer-Northern suburbs of Melbourne. Data was collected during a five-week intervention in an English classroom context at the participants’ home-school. This involved the teacher-researcher leading a series of learning and teaching activities informed by dominant models of subject-English (Cox, 1989), Cultural Heritage, Skills, Personal Growth, and Critical Literacy, that focussed on several popular videogames. Data was analysed using Bourdieu’s theory of practice (1977) to reveal a social reality at the centre of this intervention co-created by a dialectical relationship between the habitus of students (especially in terms of their videogame, school and gendered identities) and the field of the classroom, with its own historically constituted and legitimised/authorised ways of being and doing textual study, as realised by the teacher. Mediating this relationship were the intrinsic features of videogames. The findings are presented through a Framework for Videogame Literacies in Subject-English which synthesises the relationship concerning past and present approaches to textual study in the subject, and the need to embrace what Locke terms, an “informed and critical eclecticism” (2015, p. 25). Firstly, the study found that the inclusion of videogames in subject-English provided the material for rich, rigorous and authentic learning experiences. Much of this can be achieved through the appropriation of existing paradigms of subject-English and their associated pedagogical practices, resisting the privileging of any single component of the framework and instead encouraging an awareness of the different purposes which each part serves. Secondly, analysis demonstrated the ways in which dominant approaches to the subject must evolve in response to the unique design features and intrinsic textual practices associated with these texts. Lastly, the study revealed that attempts to bring these texts into English classrooms will need to negotiate the disciplinary forces which organise these spaces, in terms of both the habitus of students, and the historically constituted structures which establish what is possible in such places. This work contributes to the field of research examining videogame literacies in classrooms, especially in terms of the impact of bringing technologies typically engaged for entertainment into subject-English learning contexts. The study suggests that future research is needed to test the efficacy of the Framework, and to identify ways for teachers to respond to inevitable developments in the design features of videogames so that current and future iterations of videogames can be incorporated into schools for rigorous learning and teaching.
KeywordsEnglish teaching; videogames; pedagogy; literacy
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