Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Elementary, Middle & Secondary Teacher Education

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Chisholm, James S.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Flint, Amy Seely

Committee Member

Flint, Amy Seely

Committee Member

Cook, Mike P.

Committee Member

Mark, Sheron

Author's Keywords

teacher education; teacher preparation; critical literacy; critical discourse analysis; English Language Arts; teaching methods


This qualitative dissertation study contributes to conversations around the practical knowledge gap–professional behaviors or practices which are underdeveloped in available research–between critically oriented literacy teacher preparation programs and praxis in early career classrooms. Critical literacy, or engaging with major texts, discourses, and ways of communicating in a culture or context, attempts to locate and disrupt power imbalances and encourage justice-oriented activism. While teacher candidates (TCs) often practice critical literacy in their training programs, they often struggle to facilitate critical literacy instruction in their own classrooms. Using Thematic Analysis (TA) for data reduction and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) for data analysis, I explore TC discussion–both spoken and written–in an English Language Arts (ELA) Methods course (Methods) that centered critical texts and topics. Data sources include demographic surveys, Intersectional Identity Maps, recorded book club conversations, transcripts of recorded book club conversations, reflective book club writing, semi-structured interview recordings, and transcripts of semi-structured interview recordings. In analyzing these data, I address 1) the discourse moves TCs make in order to sustain or evade sociopolitical talk during conversations around critical topics and 2) how TCs talk about enacting critical conversations in future classroom instruction. The study’s findings highlight patterns across TC talk, primarily in how they (a) imagine future students relating to Young Adult Literature (YAL) texts, (b) conceptualize adolescents, (c) weigh what is appropriate content to discuss in the ELA classroom, and (d) conceptualize the role of the ELA teacher. Broadly, TCs privileged relatability when endorsing/rejecting YAL, positioned adolescents as too immature to engage with critical topics and texts, determined that sexual content in YAL undermined its educational value, and conceptualized the teacher as content-area, sociohistorical, and cultural “expert” while simultaneously limited in decision making authority. The implications for teacher educators feature practical vehicles–assignment and discussion prompts for modeling effective facilitation of critical conversations–and pinpoint where additional practical knowledge must be built, regarding when and how teacher educators should more precisely coach TCs toward criticality in their own reading and talk experiences.