Year

2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Department

School of Education

Abstract

Critical literacy focuses on the connection between literacy and power (Lankshear & McLaren, 1993a). It examines how literacy practices are inextricably connected to social, political and economic contexts. Critical literacy has been studied extensively for four decades in varied contexts of schooling, vocational education, higher education and adult education. Most of these studies have been in English-speaking countries (Lankshear & McLaren, 1993b; Pandya & Avila, 2014; Simpson & Comber, 2001). In the Philippines, however, critical literacy as a pedagogical practice has not been widely explored. As such, this inquiry aims to contribute to the growth of literature on critical literacy studies in the Philippines.

This purpose of this inquiry is to investigate the influences that shape college teachers’ beliefs and practices about teaching literacy at a university in the Philippines using the lens of Janks’ (2010) critical literacy synthesis model. Specifically, this inquiry seeks to examine three college teachers’ initial understandings of critical literacy, their engagement with professional learning opportunities designed to support their understanding and teaching of critical literacy, and the enablers and inhibitors they experience in the process. Three teachers from a private university in the Philippines consented to participate in this inquiry. Over one semester, the teachers engaged in professional learning workshops on critical literacy, implemented personally-designed critical literacy modules, and participated in action learning meetings (Aubusson, Ewing, & Hoban, 2009). A combination of inductive, deductive and cross-comparative qualitative data analysis (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) were used to interpret the findings of this inquiry.

The findings indicate that action learning is a viable means of professional learning for teachers. Action learning helped teachers enhance their pedagogical knowledge of critical literacy, share their reflections on its possibilities and challenges, develop a metalanguage to interpret visual texts, and enact micro-transformations in their beliefs and practices regarding teaching literacy. On the other hand, a lack of extended time for professional learning, the absence of a sustained focus on ideology critique, and limited guidance on designing critical literacy modules may have restricted teachers’ understandings of the nuances of critical literacy.

Nevertheless, data from classroom observations indicated that the professional learning workshops attended by these teachers supported them to negotiate the practice of critical literacy principles despite the contextual realities of their classes and of Luzviminda University. Some enablers for critical literacy that these teachers experienced included: selecting texts that opened discussions about inequitable relations, providing access to powerful genres, acknowledging students’ cultural capital, and allowing students to design alternative discourses. On the other hand, some inhibitors of the teaching critical literacy for these teachers included: regulating students’ responses, guiding students’ interpretations, valuing conventional literacy practices, and making assumptions about the applicability of critical literacy.

The inquiry suggests that teachers’ beliefs and practices about teaching critical literacy are not always a matter of choice or will, but are sometimes an implicit or necessary response to institutional and cultural norms and values. The inquiry concludes with recommendations for future critical literacy education in the Philippines in terms of theory, practice, methodology and policy.

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