Date of Award

Summer 8-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Curriculum and Instruction

Committee Director

Judith Dunkerly

Committee Member

Melva Grant

Committee Member

Kala Burrell-Craft


Black students and their linguistic resources are undervalued, disdained, disrespected, and disregarded in language arts classrooms. Not only is Black Language often ignored in English language arts instruction, but language more generally remains largely hidden within elementary ELA. Elementary ELA educators are tasked with teaching a vast array of skills, content, and concepts. So, teacher education programs are responsible for ensuring that preservice teachers leave prepared to take on the task of cultivating language arts classrooms that foster students’ literacy development. However, traditionally, literacy teacher education and the ELA curriculum has maintained white mainstream English as the standard for which all other languages and language varieties are measured. Consequently, preservice teachers are unaware of how to cultivate instruction that supports, values, and affirms the language and literacies lives of their Black students, leaving their teacher education programs unaware of how their own ideologies about language impact their curricular and pedagogical choices. This unpreparedness, the lack of awareness, and unaddressed attitudes towards Black Language, and in turn Black students, leaves speakers of Black Language vulnerable and directly in harm's way at the hands of their language education.

This study’s purpose was to trace the development and (re)framing of a language arts methods course, and preservice teachers’ experiences in the course, that centers Black epistemologies to counteract the anti-Blackness that exist in language teacher education and forward Black literacy as liberation and joy in teacher education. This inquiry was addressed through three distinct, yet interconnected articles that utilized different methodologies. The first is a personal experience narrative that recounts my experience developing and (re)constructing a language arts instructional strategies course by employing Black epistemologies. The second utilized qualitative case study to describe four preservice teachers' overall experience in the course. The third highlights a specific literary experience within the course and describes preservice teachers' critical reading of African American young adult literature positioned as a vehicle for racial and linguistic justice. The major implications of this research provide an opportunity for the field of (literacy) teacher education and elementary language arts to (re)frame how courses center Black students, explore Black literacy, especially historically, build and deepen their knowledge of Black Language, interrogate ideologies about language, and combat and challenge anti-Blackness and anti-Black linguistic racism towards an equitable and just language education that centers the linguistic, racial, and cultural needs of Black students.


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