Arriving Soon — What’s Hot in Literacy 2018 Literacy Research and Instruction

Literacy Research and Instruction

by Jack Cassidy, Evan Ortlieb, & Stephanie Grote-Garcia

Once again, the annual What’s Hot in Literacy survey will highlight the literacy topics and issues that are receiving the most attention; in other words, they are “hot”. Each year this survey serves to identify literacy topics that are “not hot” and those that “should be hot”. But why? What purpose does it serve?

Some schools have used the results from the What’s Hot survey as a basis for professional development; determining how the focus of the field is shifting is always relevant! Learning communities have also been formed with individual teachers researching topics pertinent to their schools and their youth. Often, these teachers share their findings with other school personnel as part of ongoing collective growth model. University professors have also used the What’s Hot list as an introduction to courses that examine trends and current topics in literacy. Students are provided the list and then asked to rate the topics as “hot” or “not hot.” The composite results of the students are then compared with the responses of literacy leaders. These are just a few instances of engaging with current topics serve as the bedrock to continuing the discussion about what’s hot in literacy.

It is important to note that “hot” topics are defined as those currently receiving attention in research and/or professional discussions. Likewise, an item identified as “should be hot” indicates that is warrants additional research and pedagogical consideration and therefore, should be receiving more attention. Simply stated, the 2018 survey will document current literacy trends and issues within the field of literacy as it has for the last 21 years — it will not measure importance of topics, which is a common misunderstanding associated with the What’s Hot publication. An investigation to identify “importance” is simply not measurable with a survey.

As in the past, a purposive sampling procedure was employed for this year’s survey. Twenty-five literacy leaders from numerous geographic regions with various occupations and of multiple ethnic groups were all interviewed by phone. All shared a broad and recent knowledge of the literacy field. Included among the participants were educators, board members, journal editors, and other recognized leaders of literacy organizations.

All 25 interviews were conducted individually by phone. Each topic was read to the respondents, and they were asked if the topic is “hot” or “not hot” and then asked if it “should be hot” or “should be not hot”. Qualitative comments from the respondents were recorded and helped enrich the final text. Once the interviews were completed, the results were tallied. Three levels of ranking were reported for “hotness.”  First, items receiving 100% consensus among the literacy leaders were reported as “extremely hot” or “extremely cold.” Secondly, items receiving 75% consensus are reported as “very hot” or “very cold.” Lastly, items earning 50% consensus were reported as “hot” or “cold.” Items were identified as “should be hot” or “should not be hot” using similar consensus scales.

The first What’s Hot, What’s Not column was published in 1997 and appeared in Reading Today, a publication of the International Reading Association. Throughout the years the survey has been used in college classrooms as an introduction to literacy trends and issues. K-12 schools have also used the survey to identify topics for professional development sessions. The 2018 survey will remain a barometer for identifying “hot” topics and will serve as a guide for discussions surrounding current literacy issues and trends.

Last year, the annual survey changed publication venues and appeared in Literacy Research and Instruction. Some of the hottest topics of 2017 were close reading, digital literacy/new literacies and media literacy, disciplinary literacy/literacies, and informational/nonfiction texts. Joined by two new topics, only two of the 2017 topics will reappear as 2018’s hottest topics. Interested in knowing the four hottest topics for 2018? Look for the upcoming 2018 What’s Hot in Literacy results featured in Literacy Research and Instruction.