She will use the next five years of her research professorship at Werklund to focus on early learning in literacy as well as the imperative of literacy for democratic citizenship.
In collaboration with others, Aukerman hopes to use her specific expertise in the cognitive, social, and emotional dimensions of literacy to help envision what early literacy instruction can look like to better empower children, helping them realize joy and likewise discover voice, agency and the power of divergent perspectives.
Literacy is essential to the democratic project, says Aukerman. “It lies at the very heart of democracy. Texts are central to the ways we think and act as citizens,” she explains.
“Texts seek to persuade, rendering a need for informed, critical reading; they provide multiple perspectives on the world, potentially fostering regard for and engagement with differing views; texts are important ways we act on our worlds, [and] in the service of shaping our world in positive ways.”
Aukerman views the current emphasis on assessment and back-to-basics schooling that the Government of Alberta and the Ministry of Education are pursuing as potentially too limiting. Instead, she contends we need a shift in the conversation, issuing the clarion call towards an education system that better supports the development of an informed, democratic citizenry, or potentially risk failing our children.
The professor, whose research has been disseminated internationally, and who recently contributed a chapter to the International Handbook of Dialogic Education, suggests schooling should involve a more well-rounded sociocultural model in which relationships, acknowledgement of affect, and sustained dialogue assume a more central role in education. Noting the current dearth in research examining the relationship between literacy and democracy, Aukerman says it is both timely and necessary.