Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Brian R. Horn


Public school spaces play a large role in developing people’s understandings of civic knowledge and responsibility. Teachers, administrators, and policy-makers design school curriculum to reflect the types of citizens they believe a society needs, and thus, determines approaches to teaching and curriculum development (Labaree, 1997). This action research study examined the civic efficacy and critical literacy understandings of seven elementary education teacher candidates enrolled in a content area literacy course. The course and the study were designed using a critical literacy and civic efficacy framework as literacy practices are closely connected to the ways in which people are able to enact their citizenship (Shor, 2009). In order to be civically engaged, people must effectively use literacy skills to make sense of a wide-range of messages presented in a variety of modes and to produce texts for a variety of audiences and purposes. Opportunities to develop these literacy practices can start in the elementary classroom (Vasquez, 2010). As the instructor of this course, I was interested in discovering how teaching the course from a critical literacy and civic engagement perspective shaped teacher candidates’ civic efficacy and their beliefs about their roles as teachers, and how those beliefs were reflected in their coursework. I used ethnographic methods (Emerson, Fretz, & Shaw, 1995) as a participant observer and data consisted of researcher fieldnotes, participants’ work samples, and interviews. Data were analyzed using various coding strategies (Maxwell, 2013; Saldaña, 2009) and memo writing which highlighted the teacher candidates’ civic efficacies and understandings of critical literacy.

Findings suggested that the teacher candidates in this study 1) developed understandings of the importance of teaching the literacy skills needed to participate in democratic ways, 2) acknowledged the importance of teaching for a public purpose and working collaboratively with a variety of people, and 3) were able to integrate a wide range of multimodal resources and strategies in their teaching, all while keeping students’ needs and interests at the center of their decision-making. Teacher candidates viewed their roles as teaching students the skill needed to accomplish real-world tasks, which included speaking and listening in addition to reading and writing. They also recognized that elementary classrooms could be spaces for children to discuss and understand real-world issues. In addition to these views of their roles as teachers, the teacher candidates often implied that their roles as teachers was to fix communities which implied a deficit view of the families and communities they imagined they would someday be teaching. Implications for this study provide suggestions for promising practices in a literacy method course that have potential for developing teacher candidates’ civic efficacy and understandings of critical literacy so that they see their role as developing citizens who can fully participate in a democratic society.

KEYWORDS: teacher education; critical literacy; civic engagement; civic efficacy, preservice teachers


Imported from ProQuest Karraker_ilstu_0092E_11076.pdf


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