Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Michelle Fowler-Amato

Committee Member

Kevin DePew

Committee Member

Staci Defibaugh

Committee Member

Jori Beck


In this design-based research (DBR) study, I collaborated with two first-year composition (FYC) instructors in designing and implementing Critical Language Awareness (CLA) pedagogy to promote students’ linguistic consciousness while strengthening and enhancing their postsecondary writing skills. I designed and implemented this study by drawing on a critical theory of language, informed by literature on language ideologies (Silverstein, 1979; Irvine & Gal, 2000; Kroskrity, 2010) and raciolinguistics (Flores & Rosa, 2015; Alim, 2016), and a critical theory of pedagogy, informed by literature on critical pedagogy (Freire, 1970, 1973; Giroux, 2011) and critical race pedagogy (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Lynn, 1999). After engaging in micro-cycles of analysis (Gravemeijer & Cobb, 2006), modifications were put in place during the second iteration of the study. Modifications focused on embedding activities and discussions within the curriculum to better support students’ linguistic consciousness and to better scaffold writing assignments throughout the course.

Additionally, I engaged in retrospective analysis (Gravemeijer & Cobb, 2006), revisiting the entire data set and developing five assertions regarding the study’s local instruction theory and the continued implementation of CLA pedagogy more broadly: (1) Instructors’ articulated and embodied beliefs about language influenced students’ developing linguistic consciousness. (2) Students’ perceived lack of agency in education strongly affected the transformative aims of the innovation as students articulated resignation for or complicity with discriminatory beliefs.

(3) Collaborative innovations require ongoing negotiation between instructors and researchers as both parties navigate the influence of past teaching and learning experiences on the current innovation. (4) The iterative process of the collaboration promoted instructors’ agency in designing, modifying, and implementing CLA pedagogy in FYC. (5) CLA pedagogy complicates the national WPA outcomes for FYC by inviting students to question and challenge notions of rhetorical effectiveness.

This study contributes to disciplinary conversations about language, race, and education by illustrating the difficulty of not only maintaining a critical stance toward language diversity, but also, at times, even articulating a critical stance given our deeply embedded beliefs about language. Additionally, it contributes to literature on professional learning (NCTE, 2019), illuminating how collaborating with instructors promotes agency in moving language rights theory into praxis.


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