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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Critical Literacy in the Humanities: The Challenges and Constraints of Preparing Pre-service Teachers for 21st century North American Classrooms

Dr A Potts, David Hicks.

This paper explores the work of two teacher educators, in a North American K-12 teacher preparation program, to engage pre-service teachers in critical literacy practice as they work within the school contexts, and related courses.

To enhance pre-service teacher's understanding of critical literacy beyond the "higher order comprehension", which is a minimal interpretation of a complex issue, we sought to encourage pre-service teachers to enter the profession ready to identify and teach content and issues that are founded upon a recognition of social justice while promoting self-authorship. Rather than making pretensions to being simple, definitive, or comprehensive, our focus on critical literacy in the humanities seeks to demonstrate that the process of meaning making is perpetual, reciprocal, ideologically aware and foundational to the development of global citizenship. In moving towards an understanding of the perspectival nature of knowledge within the humanities our work with pre-service teachers stresses the need to go beyond low level factual questions that when answered are viewed as proof of a students understanding of past and current events. Rather we seek to prepare our teachers to teach their students to unpack and critique 'texts' by asking such questions as: Who is this account for and is it believable? Who benefits by this reading? Whose viewpoints are omitted? Is the account supported by sources? Or what would I be committing myself to if I believed that?

However, the engagement of pre-service teachers in the process of becoming ethically aware, and responsive to relevant events and issues while assisting them in developing an understanding of how to explore such content in classrooms is challenging. The current literacy agenda and emphasis on a reductionist assessment driven standardized curriculum creates a tension. This paper examines the possibilities and tensions facing teacher educators in a) defining and envisioning critical literacy in theory with teachers who have experienced little, if any, exposure to critical literacy in their own education; and b) preparing teachers to develop learning opportunities that examine current events, expand students' global understanding, foster open communication, explore alternative perspectives and strengthen media literacy skills.


Dr A Potts  (United States)
Assistant Professor in Literacy Studies
Department of Teaching and Learning
Virginia Tech

Ann Potts is an assistant professor of Literacy Studies in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Presently the coordinator of a masters pre-service teacher education program. Research interests include the development of teachers understanding of language, literacy, and culture within school contexts, associated with the needs of children in our current move to globalization, technology, and critical literacy.

David Hicks  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Department of Teaching and Learning
Virginia Tech

David Hicks is an assistant professor of social studies education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech. Currently he is investigating how concepts of citizenship and the integration of technology can influence how teachers approach the teaching and learning of history and social science.

  • Pre-service Teachers
  • Critical Literacy
  • Globalization

(30 min Conference Paper, English)