Teachers and students developing critical language awareness through an exploration of everyday language practices
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In this design-based dissertation study, I drew on critical curriculum theory (Freire, 2007; Freire & Macedo, 2011; Giroux, 1985) and a theory of culturally sustaining pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 2014; Paris, 2012; Paris & Alim, 2014) to explore what critical language study looked like in practice as well as how teachers and students responded to this instructional approach. Making use of qualitative research methods (Patton, 2002) and an embedded multiple-case design (Yin, 2014), I engaged in iterative analysis (Reinking & Bradley, 2008), making modifications as the participants worked toward the goal of further developing their critical language awareness. These included pedagogical modifications such as 1) strategies for engaging in “collaborative knowledge building,” (Wells, 2001) 2) strategies for developing disciplinary understandings, 3) strategies for maintaining inquiry as stance, as well as a methodological modification, 4) strategies for supporting the teacher/researcher collaboration.In addition, I engaged in retrospective analysis (Gravemeijer & Cobb, 2006), exploring data collected across the entire investigation in an effort to revisit and revitalize pedagogical theory. Results showed that many of the participants developed new understandings about language, began to recognize the expansiveness of their linguistic toolkits, came to legitimize variation and language shift as well as try on critical identities. The following four assertions emerged from retrospective analysis: 1) The participating teachers and students struggled to maintain inquiry as stance while working toward the goal of further developing their own critical language awareness. 2) There were opportunities for a greater transformation when the participating teachers and students interacted with supportive, reflective collaborators. 3) There were opportunities for greater transformation when the participating teachers and students named their own language practices. 4) The teachers’ and students’ participation in the professional learning community as well as in the units of study seemed to incite emerging critical identities. This study contributes to the literature on what critical language study looks like in practice in secondary language arts classrooms as well as in teacher education. In addition, it serves as an example of the potential of design-based research to support teachers in putting critical curriculum theory and a theory of culturally sustaining pedagogy into practice.
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