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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24804

Title: Practising Critical Literacy Work with English Language Learners: An Integrative Approach
Authors: Lau, Man Chu
Advisor: Cummins, James
Department: Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
Keywords: English Language Learners
critical literacy
middle school
participatory action research
critical pedagogy
Issue Date: 30-Aug-2010
Abstract: Existing mainstream ESL pedagogy tends to be functionalist and assimilationist, ignoring the complex sociopolitical dimensions of language learning (Pennycook, 2001). In addition, critical inquiry is often deemed too difficult for English language learners (ELLs), hence seldom introduced in ESL classrooms. However, academic proficiency, deep understanding and critical literacy (CL) are needed for school success and world citizenship. This doctoral thesis describes a year-long participatory action research with a class of new immigrant ELLs (aged 12-14) in a city in Ontario, Canada. Informed by CL and critical pedagogy, the research aimed to find out how CL education played out in a beginning ESL classroom--the instructional choices made, negotiation of teacher and student identities, processes and challenges involved, and the extent to which students’ critical/literacy development was facilitated. Based on Cummins’ Academic Expertise Framework (2001), the sociocultural theory of learning (e.g., Lave & Wenger, 1991; Vygotsky, 1987) and Guthrie’s (1996, 2004) conception of literacy engagement, an integrative instructional approach was adopted for the design and implementation of the CL program. The program addressed ELLs’ academic language needs while affirming their cultural identities and developing their critical ability in dealing with struggles amidst their acculturation process. Following the principles of critical action research, this study was done through cycles of reflection, action and evaluation with different sets of qualitative data which were coded and analysed based on phenomenological research methods. The results showed a significant improvement in students’ level of self-confidence and critical/literacy development while the ESL teacher changed from being sceptical of doing CL work with beginning ELLs to fully embracing it and seeing herself as an advocate for ELLs. This research showed that with careful scaffolding and guided practice of functional, cultural and CL skills grounded in a collaborative learning community that set high expectations on students’ critical and creative abilities, students achieved substantial critical/literacy engagement and development. The question educators should ask is not “At which grade or language level can students be introduced to CL?”, but rather “Are we providing support and scaffolds to students’ learning that are geared towards helping them to gradually become critical language users?”
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24804
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning - Doctoral theses

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