Narratives on writing in Colombian Higher Education emergingfrom online newspapersElizabeth Narváez-Cardona
ContextThe large-scale assessment in Colombian highereducation, called Pruebas del Saber PRO, wasestablished as mandatory test by the governmentsince 2010 for students before getting theirundergraduate degrees.Among other issues, this large-scale assessmentevaluates communicative abilities for writing inSpanish.
ContextThis large-scale assessment in Colombianhigher education, Pruebas del Saber PRO,has become an opportunity to focus onwriting in higher education as a nationwideimportant issue.
The project perspective Newspaper narratives could be seen as written accounts that become strategic sites to explore world representations deployed as public opinion.
The project perspective Therefore, tracking the world representations (White, 1981; Johnstone, 1993) created by the Colombian online newspapers on higher education writing would be useful to gain insights of the national expectations about such issue.
The project goalThis project aimed at identifyingworld representations on highereducation writing through evaluationdevices deployed in the newspapernarratives (Tannen, 1993, Johnstone,1993; Wortham, 2000).
Data collection and the analytic focus A data collection based on an online search enabled to analyze flexibly the plots of 16 newspaper narratives in order to explore (Labov, 2010; Coffey & Atkinson, 1996): a) what thematic focus has been selected in the titles of the narratives? b) what differences and commonalities could be identified across the narrative plots? c) what "world representations" on higher education writing could be inferred from the narratives?
Findings Relevant features of the data16 news were foundrelated to the topic:“writing and Pruebas delSaber PRO”.They were published fordifferent Colombianonline newspapersbetween April 17th, 2011and November 4th, 2012.The graphic 1 displays theregions to which thesenewspapers belong to andthe numbers indicate thechronological order inwhich the newspapernarratives were published.
Findings Relevant features of the dataThe most of the news matching withthe # 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12 and 14were published by the two mostancient newspapers in the country,called El Tiempo y El Espectador,from which the headquarters arelocated in the capital of the country,Bogotá.In terms of the spread in which theonline articles were published, mostof the narratives were concentratedin March 2012.This data behavior might rely on thefact that in March 15th, 2012 thegovernment released the first officialreport of the assessment outcomes.
FindingsIt is noticeable that the newspaper narratives wereembedded into a sequence of retelling starting with thetexts # 3 and # 4.The contrastive analysis conducted across the narrativeplots showed that in this sequence of newspaper accounts,the text # 4 could be appointed as the main narrative fromwhich the remaining 12 narratives were derived.Consequently, the following accounts derived from this keytext # 4 include within their contents some fragments of thismain narrative.
Findings However, the location of those contents within the retold story can vary. The graphic depicts this relocating phenomenon across the newspaper narratives. The actual content used in the key text # 4 for evaluation, the row colored in brown, becomes the abstract in the following texts # 6 and # 15, and the complication and orientation in the texts # 8 and # 12, respectively; whereas, the orientation, the row colored in pink, in the text # 3 becomes the abstract in the texts # 8 and # 12. This depiction of relocating the contents might show how this process configures new accounts and interpretation of the main narrative as a creative process of narratives. Indeed, new contents are also incorporated within the narratives as part of this relocating process, which are depicting in the rows colored in yellow in the graphic.
Findings What these narratives were about according to the titles?Identifying the evaluation devices used in phrasing the titleswere useful to make anticipations about the abstracts of thenarrative plots (Tannen, 1993, Jhonstone, 1993; Wortham,2000).Furthermore, some transformations in these abstracts wereidentified across the retelling phenomenon; mostly about howthe assessment outcomes were interpreted by different onlinenewspapers.
Findings What these narratives were about according to the titles?Two tendencies emerged from the titles:1) The first trend could be called “the crisis of theColombian Higher Education”, given that 56.25% out ofsixteen titles conveys as "message" that the outcomesof the large scale assessment are highly discouraging.2) The second trend could be called “the problem is theassessment design”, because 12.6% out of 16 titlesredirected the attention from the educational crisistowards questioning whether the assessment design isa valid instrument to evaluate the qualities ofColombian higher education.
Findings What world representations on Higher Education writing could be inferred from the narratives? 68, 75% of the newspaper narratives included paragraphs related to writing. This could suggest that in most of the narratives analyzed, writing was an important issue for being published by the newspapers.
What world representations on Higher EducationFindings writing could be inferred from the narratives?The graphic 3 is a useful visualorganizer to summarize thisworld representation, which isbasically a hierarchicalorganization of the thematicpatterns identified across thenarratives.
ReflectionMethodologically speaking, this project wasuseful for exploring how the analysis onretelling sequences of newspaper narrativeswas related to changes in the location ofcertain contents within the narrative plotsacross time.This analysis was important in understandingworld representations on a specific issue,which in this case was a large-scaleassessment on higher education writing inColombia.