ML2 – Second Language Literacies

A blog for the Second Language Literacies course from the MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages (ML2) at UPB-Medellín

My school´s curriculum interweaved with Critical Literacy

Melanie Mollan

English Language II: Literacies in Second Languages

Professor Raúl Alberto Mora

Semester II -2016


“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility—these three forces are the very nerve of education.”
Rudolf Steiner

This text is divided into three parts: Institutional Education Project, Academic Curriculum and English Curriculum. These parts are taken from the Institutional Education Project known as Proyecto Educativo Institucional (PEI) in Spanish, from the school I actually work in. Each part will be interweaved with different authors and experts from Critical Literacy (CL), some of them are: Behrman (2006), Ellington (2011), Goodman & Cocca (2013), Hickey (2014) and Comber (2015) between others. The main objective is to illustrate how my school´s PEI can be studied and analyzed together with CL, giving a richer reflection to my academic and professional development.

Institutional Education Project

The pedagogical foundations of the school I work in are based on different models and currents, they are built on the basis of the significant contributions of the Waldorf Education, operating didactic model, the humanistic pedagogy and the liberating pedagogy of Paulo Freire, by this we can say it is an eclectic intervention model which dovetails these currents promoting the research, imagination, creativity and other human skills in students.

Moreover, it develops autonomy in the learning processes and recognizes the student as an integral being allowing them to think and reflect. As Connell (1993) says in Barbara Comber´s article (2015), critical literacy involves repositioning students as researchers of language as well as allowing them to explore culture constructions of literacy. (p. 363)

Therefore, the school is working with its own institutional philosophy, leading to form students in three essential pillars that since the anthroposophy vision are: wish, feel and think. The articulation of these three principles requires that the teaching-learning process focuses on the experience, on the construction of knowledge and the interaction with the environment. Like this:

Wish: educating students with freedom and responsibility in their contribution to school and society.

Feel: strengthen self-awareness of their emotions and ensure its self-regulation to exercise a positive impact on others

Think: as an opportunity to maximize personal talents in the social conversion and teaching what to do. (Colegio El Triangulo, 2016)

From this perspective, students are the main characters of their learning process, due the call is that they should be active, innovative, creative, aesthetic, enterprising and with an immense desire to transcend the immediate knowledge. It is he who regulates its process of learning from his personal history and experience, based on what they know and their actions taken; these actions allow them to make new discoveries that will lead towards new explorations and will force them to analyze, formulate hypotheses, investigate, theorize and continue building progressive levels of knowledge. (Colegio El Triangulo, 2016)

In this order of ideas and taking into account Comber´s study (2015), she drew´s her attention to “resources factor (the extent to which schools have the human and material resources they need” as well as, “the curriculum factor (the quality of teacher instructional talk, teacher-student-relationships, and assessment practices), and “the translation factor (the extent to which students can make use of and assemble repertoires of practice which they can use in new situations”. (Comber, 2015, p. 364)

It is a matter of fact that schools interweave critical literacy in their academic and English curriculum to “examine the power relationships inherent in language use, recognize that language is not neutral, and confront their own values in the production and reception of language” as Behrman (2006) points out in an article named Teaching about Language, Power, and Text: A review of classroom practices that support critical literacy.

Academic Curriculum

My school´s academic curriculum is conceived from a holistic perspective that makes it open, flexible, participatory, inclusive, dynamic and centered on the student; encouraging a scientific though, as well as a critical, analytical and reflexive point of view. The methodology is centered in the four pillars which give structure to the pedagogic practice, they are: Waldorf education, operating didactic model, humanist pedagogy and liberating pedagogy. (Colegio El Triangulo, 2016)

I will now emphasize in the operating didactic model to show the relation with Goodman & Cocca´s (2014) learner-centered pedagogy that “foregrounds students´ lived experiences and community as texts for study, and develop students as agentive creators of new knowledge” (p. 212). The operating didactic model is inspired by the structuralism and constructivism of knowledge according to Jean Piaget, this model tries to ensure that individuals learn how to build new realities or meanings by interacting with its surroundings, as well as reinforcing the individual abilities, skills, attitudes and knowledge. As Josette Jolibert (1990-1992) would say “is by reading that one is transformed into a reader, and not learning first to be able to read afterwards, it is not legitimate to establish a separation, either in time or in the nature of the activity, between learning to read and read”.

However, Goodman´s ideas come back to life when talking about particular cultural and social context which is practiced in a decontextualised and psychological process. As this author cites Gee “Literacy practices are almost always fully integrated with, interwoven into, constituted part of, the very texture of wider practices that involve talk, interaction, values, and beliefs” (p.212)

English Curriculum

In my school, English is seen as a foreign language for the socio-cultural interaction and construction of knowledge; allowing students to develop communicative competence in different areas of their lives. Among the different reasons that can be exposed on the importance of learning a foreign language, my school emphasizes the expressed by the Ministry of National Education in the basic standards of competence for foreign languages: “learning a foreign language decreases the ethnocentrism and enables individual to appreciate and respect the value of their own world, as well as developing respect for other cultures. (Colegio El Triangulo, 2016)

In connection with the foregoing, (Altablero No. 37 October- December 2005), the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages brings new approaches in order to cover the dimension of social use and the analysis of the linguistic factors, which converge in the communication; emphasizes the idea that the role of the student is to expand their own learning. According to Janks (2014), “critical literacy integrates competing approaches to working with the relationship between language and power and maintains that anyone without the other creates a problematic imbalance”.

That is why Janks (2014), continues arguing that critical literacy is a very important step, due it takes students beyong “deconstructing” or “problematizing” the world, by inviting them to intervene in positive and different ways. “Education has a responsibility to develop student´s sense of agency. (p.350)
The Institutional PEI gives autonomy to the student who is increasingly responsible for taking decisions on its development, as a person who learns a language, it also gives the teacher the role of a mediator, as the person who knows the language and assumes the task of creating the right conditions to enhance learning in students. This teaching and learning reference leads to acquire a new social personality and have knowledge of other cultures, giving an integral enrichment to the student. (Colegio El Triangulo, 2016)

A crucial aspect is how critical literacy “can foster justice by allowing students to recognize how language is affected by and affect social relations” (Behrman, 2006). Therefore, the contemporary view that language is not only an end but also a mean, where students make use of it and create access to knowledge and the world that surrounds them, is a way of participating and being part of a social system.


A fundamental issue that arises from this research is when Comber (2005) asserts that “critical literacy needs to be continually redefined in practice” (Behrman, 2006) In addition to this, it is necessary to itemize what is written in my school´s Institutional Education Project and what happens in everyday´s class. For this reason, as Margaret Ellington (2011) said “it is evident to see that technology has increased the availability for information, it is now up to individuals to learn how to use these tools for a better understanding of the world”. Finally, from a critical literacy view, all these aims of teaching English as a foreign language are achieved through various moments in the school year, as: educational projects, spaces for interaction and learning environment and not only in class.


Altablero. No. 37 (October – December 2005). Bilingüísmo. Retrieved from:

Behrman, E. H. (2006). Teaching about language, power, and text: A review of classroom practices that support critical literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49(6), 490-498.

Colegio El Triangulo. (2016). Proyecto Educativo Institucional (PEI).

Comber, B. (2015). Critical literacy and social justice. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 58(5), 362-367.Volume 13, Number 3. Pp. 210 – 226

Ellington, M. (2011). Critical literacy: a change in definition; a change in how we read/write/speak. Retrieved from:

Goodman, S. & Cocca, C. (2013). Spaces of action: Teaching critical literacy for community empowerment in the age of neoliberalism.

Hickey, P. J. (2014). Lingua Anglia: Bridging Language and Learners. English Journal, 103(4), 100.

Janks, H. (2014). Critical Literacy´s Ongoing Importance for Education. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. pp. 349-356

1566 words
Written by: Melanie Mollan Moscoso


2 comments on “My school´s curriculum interweaved with Critical Literacy

  1. ML2
    August 12, 2016

    What a nice piece of writing! It is good to know that Freire’s pedagogy of liberation and emancipation is excercised in Medellin’s schools, rather than being put into theory on paper. Hope you keep spreading the seed critical literacy in your students’ minds. Nevertheless, still much has to be done in order to achieve the real emancipation and contest the power behind the “hidden agenda”, and the “status quo”

  2. ML2
    August 12, 2016

    What a nice piece of writing! It is good to know that Freire’s pedagogy of liberation and emancipation is excercised in Medellin’s schools, rather than being put into theory on paper. Hope you keep spreading the seed critical literacy in your students’ minds. Nevertheless, still much has to be done in order to achieve the real emancipation and contest the power behind the “hidden agenda”, and the “status quo” by Ma. Catalina Gómez

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