Opening and entering critical spaces: exploring how high school students and their English teacher navigate the critical literacy classroom

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Mark R. Meacham (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Amy Vetter

Abstract: This research study focused on how students engaged in Critical Literacy practices and the ways their teacher attempted to foster such practices. The study included one experienced critical educator (Lewison, Flint, & Van Sluys, 2002) from an ethnically diverse school in the southeastern United States. This early/middle college high school setting included one tenth grade English class and one eleventh grade English class taught by a fourth year English teacher. A total of 22 students were invited to participate in the study and 21 returned parental consent and student assent forms. The study drew on multiple data sources, including: audio/videotaped observations, fieldnotes, teacher and student interviews, informal conversations, and student work samples. Data analysis focused on what the teacher did to foster student Critical Literacy practices, how the students engaged in those literacy practices, and the degree to which the practices aligned with specific Critical Literacy components (Lewison et al., 2002; Vasquez, Tate, & Harste, 2013). Findings suggested that the teacher used: (a) open-ended questions and model texts, drew on personal experiences and popular culture texts, and positioned students as co-learners in order to foster critical conversations (Leland, Harste, Ociepka, Lewison, & Vasquez, 1999; Schieble, 2012); and (b) in order to foster critical text production (Janks, 2010; Morrell, 2003) familiarized the students with rhetorical appeals, and used critical conversations in conjunction with multimodal text sets to model how one might take up a critical perspective. While fostering such practices, the teacher drew on his personal Critical Pedagogy as well as teaching practices related to a New Literacy Studies perspective. Findings associated with the students suggested they engaged in critical conversations and critical text production by drawing on: (a) personal experience; and (b) new (digital/online) media texts (Janks, 2010). These student literacy practices aligned variably with specific Critical Literacy components. While most students, at one time or another, drew on personal experiences and/or new media texts to engage in critical conversations and/or critical text production, at times other times, certain students did not do either.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2014
Critical conversation, Critical Literacy practices, Critical Pedagogy, Critical text production, Multimodality, New Literacies
Literacy $x Social aspects $z United States
Critical pedagogy $z United States
English language $x Study and teaching $z United States

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