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Semiotic work & the (re)construction of soc rel: Designing ed. spaces to transform our communities
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How can we design socially just language education? How can social relations be restructured through language education? How can language education contribute to solidarity and civic engagement? Social relations are the basis of society and depend on semiotic work to be (re)constructed. Social participation shapes the semiotic resources of communities and individuals. To transform alienating forms of communication and social practices that exclude and oppress non-dominant groups in many of our communities, educators, students, and researchers need to collaborate in the design of educational experiences: where there are “opportunity spaces” to construct knowledge, participate in social action and develop semiotic resources to impose reception. I argue that this can be done through everyday forms of resistance that go beyond critiquing discourses of power or providing access to discourses of power, instead focusing on transforming and expanding ways to make meaning of our worlds. I describe guiding theoretical principles, strategies for pedagogical action, and reconceptualization of semiotic workers’ roles synthesized from SFL-inspired critical language awareness approaches in the Americas (Achugar, 2015). This view of language as a meaning-making resource that is the product of human work (Halliday, 1978) provides a theoretical framework and a practical construct to reimagine education as a form of social action to transform individuals and communities. By giving recognition to semiotic work and workers and to outcomes of that work (Kress, 2015), through reflection (Hasan, 1996) and consiencitizao (Freire, 1968), and through opportunities to engage in meaning-making and action research, we can reconfigure epistemological and social relations. To design transformative and socially just pedagogy, we must consider the situatedness of knowledge and how social relations are structured in each context to assess their transformative potential. These principles and practices will be illustrated with data from a history literacy project in multilingual secondary schools.


This paper describes theoretical principles, pedagogical action, and reconceptualization of language education from SFL-inspired critical language awareness approaches. I argue we need to consider the situatedness of knowledge to assess their transformative potential and possible transfer possibilities using examples from a history disciplinary literacy project in secondary schools.

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