Student response to critical literacy within the dominant discourse.

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Student response to critical literacy within the dominant discourse.

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Critical literacy is one application of critical pedagogy that focuses on the cultural and ideological assumptions that underwrite texts and discourses. While there is no simple, unified definition of critical literacy, instruction that aligns with this framework involves investigating the politics of representation and interrogating the inequitable, cultural positioning of speakers and readers within discourses. Critical pedagogy and critical literacy are often framed pedagogies of the oppressed with little attention to their relevance within the dominant Discourse. However, many theorists believe that such teaching within predominantly white and affluent populations is not only relevant, but necessary (Howard, 2003; Thandeka, 2002). Drawing on teacher-as-researcher design, this study examines how the students in her all white class within an affluent suburb made sense the ideas of power and privilege and how they responded to critical literacy pedagogy. This action research utilizes grounded theory and critical discourse analysis to illuminate the complex and nuanced responses of students. Data includes video recorded class discussions, student work samples, fieldwork observation notes, interviews and surveys. Findings from this study reveal the complex and sometimes thorny ways that critical literacy manifested itself in the classroom and in students' lived lives. The implications for teaching are presented in two themes 1) The need for teachers to build trust with communities outside of the classroom, namely, parents and administrators through strong communication, academic rigor, understanding, and 2) The need for teachers to increase awareness of the potential negative effects of critical literacy on students and minimize them. The intent of this study is to address the need for greater understanding of how students engage in critical literacy to better support teachers, students and to strengthen it as a pedagogy.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2009. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Cynthia Lewis, PhD. 1 computer file (PDF); vii-209 pages, appendices A-H.

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Knutson, Margaret MacCarthy. (2009). Student response to critical literacy within the dominant discourse.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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