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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Practitioner Research Study Exploring Critical Literacy in a Secondary English Classroom
by Hushmendy, Dilnavaz F., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2018, 185; 10809620
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a qualitative practitioner research study in which I explore how my students and I engage in critical literacy using sociopolitical Articles of the Week (AoWs). Critical literacy is the ability to read, write, and speak about texts in a reflective manner to better understand power, inequality, and injustice that prevails in the world. The two major questions that drove this study were: (1) How are eleventh-grade students’ perspectives evident in their discussions and reflective papers? (2) How do my students and I take up the opportunity to pursue a social action project in response to Articles of the Week? The twenty-two research participants for this study were students in one of my three eleventh-grade English classes. While I used AoWs in all three eleventh-grade sections, I conducted my research in only one of these sections. This class differed from the other two sections only in that these students planned and implemented their social action projects in groups in lieu of individual presentations of their research paper in the other two classes.

I collected six kinds of data: (1) scanned copies of students’ eight reflective papers based on AoWs; (2) transcriptions of eight video-recorded AoW discussions; (3) teacher journal; (4) students’ post AoW surveys; (5) scanned copies and/or photographs of students’ social action projects; and (6) transcription of a post social-action whole class video recorded discussion. I collected these data in four phases from October 2015 to June 2016. Every week, over eight weeks (October-December), students read an AoW. After, and as homework, they wrote a reflective paper and brought it to class at the end of the week (Friday), when we had a whole-class discussion. After reading eight AoWs, students chose and researched a social action, researching daily for six weeks. This six-week research project resulted in a research paper that satisfied the research requirement of the eleventh-grade English class. Finally, two days per week for five weeks, students implemented their group social action projects on these topics: (a) Gun control laws, (b) Syrian Refugees, and (3) School Start Later.

Using the constructivist grounded theory technique (Charmaz, 2000, 2006) and the two methodological frameworks—practitioner research and inquiry as stance (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009)—as well as the four dimensions of critical literacy (Lewison, Flint & Sluys, 2002) to analyze and interpret my data, the following findings emerged: Findings to research question 1—most students appreciated considering multiple perspectives, both in writing and discussion. Students’ discussions demonstrated strong knowledge building in the following areas: incidental knowledge building; knowledge building with immediate effects; knowledge building by geography; and knowledge building as deliberation and debate. Findings to research question 2—social action projects involved two major activities: procedural activities and negotiating power. The procedural activities involved choosing a social action project, researching, and working in groups to implement the social action projects. The power analysis in this study revealed that examining multiple perspectives and including them in social action projects can work positively for students—social networks opened for students who provided a balanced perspective on topics. For students taking a one-sided perspective, social networks shut down. The results of this study have the potential to inform future practitioner researchers and critical pedagogues to develop new ways of building a critically reflective classroom that allows for robust social transformations that could influence educational policies because teachers’ voices do matter.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sheehy, Margaret R.
Commitee: Goatley, Virginia, Wissman, Kelly
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Literacy Teaching and Learning (Reading)
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 79/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Secondary education, Reading instruction
Keywords: Article of the Week, Constructionist grounded theory, Critical literacy, Knowledge building, Practitioner research study and inquiry as stance, Social action or praxis
Publication Number: 10809620
ISBN: 978-0-438-02622-3
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