“What are we supposed to do?”: Critical Literacies & Empire

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


In response to recent renewed calls to decolonise the curriculum, the PGDE English programme has opted to re-evaluate a deceptively simple question: What does it mean to teach English in an increasingly diverse context? Scotland represents those tensions between coloniality and decoloniality: as both a beneficiary of colonialism and the British empire, as well as a victim of coloniality’s approach to monolingualism and monoculturalism. In order to confront these issues in tangible ways that relate to their emerging identities as teachers of English, our student teachers participate in an outdoor learning project that asks them to analyse an everyday artifact in Glasgow (the Doulton Fountain). Through a series of activities that draw on multimodal critical discourse analysis, the student teachers analyse, collect, and produce a range of texts. These texts reveal interesting ways of using language and literacy to speak back to, and sometimes defend, power. In this presentation, I provide an outline of the series of activities as well as consider some of the texts students were able to produce, before reflecting on the implications for classroom practice.
Period5 Feb 2021
Held atLancaster Literacy Research Centre
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • critical literacy
  • decoloniality
  • teacher education
  • literacy
  • power