Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

J. Amos Hatch

Committee Members

Richard Allington, Amy Billone, Susan Groenke


This dissertation was a qualitative case study undertaken within a critical/feminist research stance. The purpose of the study was to gain an understanding of the critical literacy journey of one first year teacher, as the teacher and I co-constructed our understandings of that process. Specifically, the study examined if and how a first year teacher who explored critical literacy during her teacher preparation would develop and implement a critical literacy curriculum. The participant was a first grade teacher in an urban classroom. Data generated during the participant‟s pre-service year included eight reflections, eight text connections, and two surveys. Data generated during her first year of teaching included eight planning meetings, fifteen observations, three interviews, and a collection of lesson plans and class products.

Findings revealed that the teacher in this study consistently perceived critical literacy as being valuable for teachers and for students. Over the course of the study, she changed her perception and became more comfortable having conversations related to two “taboo” topics: homelessness and race. Data revealed five obstacles this teacher faced throughout this research as she tried to implement critical literacy: other teachers‟ attitudes; parental influences; the developmental age of her students; a lack of books; and limited time. There were three main sources of support throughout this process: the researcher, the teacher‟s knowledge about critical literacy books, and her students‟ reactions. Read alouds were the primary element in this teacher‟s critical literacy curriculum. She pursued conversations with her students based on social issues; yet those conversations were situated primarily in the context of children‟s books. This teacher was just beginning to develop her critical literacy approach and to understand what that entails.

The following general conclusions were drawn from the findings: (a) implementing critical literacy is difficult for new teachers; (b) developing a critical approach to literacy instruction is a process; and (c) new teachers are capable of moving toward critical literacy practices. The findings indicate that implementing critical literacy as a first year teacher is a difficult and complex process, which requires time, support, and reflection.

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