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Wading in the Water: A White Educator and African American Girls develop Critical Literacy
Dellinger, K. LaNette
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This qualitative study focused the experiences of a white educator who spent twelve months working with a group of 8-12 African American adolescent girls at a community center in an urban community. Data collection methods included fieldnotes, interviews, questionnaires, photographs, participant's journals, and other artifacts. The study focused on the use of performance activities to stimulate critical reflection about issues that were generated from the daily experiences of the girls involved. Performance activities were based on the work of Augusto Boal in liberatory theatre and the notions of Maxine Greene about opening critical space through the arts. Activities engaged in during the twice weekly sessions included drama, poetry writing and reading, singing, and visual arts. The purpose of these activities was to stimulate the girls' development of critical literacy, a concept that may be defined as reading the written text and reading the sociocultural dimensions of society for the purpose of transforming society toward greater justice and equity. The researcher examined her own developing critical literacy, as well, throughout the study, particularly as it relates to issues of race and white supremacy. While the development of critical literacy is something that is a lifelong project, not something to be achieved in one year of work, analysis of data reveals many times when the girls were able to identify conditions in their experiences that worked against them. They were able to consider possible ways of changing negative situations in their lives. Working together as a group enabled the girls to pool their ideas and to learn from one another. They were also able to experience how powerful collective action can be. Comments by the girls in interviews, journals, and questionnaires showed that they believed that their understanding of issues important to their lives had changed as a result of participation in the group. The things learned as a result of this study are useful for understanding how to work with adolescent African American girls in urban communities, as well as how to prepare teachers to work in such communities.
- Doctoral Dissertations