Date of Award

12-1-2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

McIntyre, John

Abstract

This study examined the effects of using critical theory in a writing curriculum on the development of reflective writing, social consciousness, and social engagement. The Freirian approach of critical theory and Vygotskyan social learning theory were used to frame and guide the current study. The literature reviewed included research on developing language arts curricula adopting the Freirian critical pedagogy approach and Vygotskyan social learning theory. A curriculum was written and tested to assess its effects on student’ reflective writing, social consciousness, and social engagement. A mixed method methodology was used to collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data. In particular, an embedded mixed-method design experimental model was employed. Data was collected before, during, and after the intervention of the new curriculum. Reflective writing essays were scored with a rubric, and document analysis was used to assess social consciousness. I also observed the students during the intervention to assess social engagement. The Students were interviewed at the end of the intervention to obtain their perceptions regarding the curriculum. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the quantitative data. Pretest and posttest means and standard deviations were used to analyze the data. The Students’ levels of competency were assessed using a paired t test, and effect size was used to indicate any differences between the pretest and posttest values. Black’s Modified Gain Ratio was also used to investigate the effectiveness of the intervention. Qualitative data was analyzed with the assistance of theming, an observation and interviews. The research findings revealed that the intervention of the developed curriculum influenced the students’ reflective writing, social consciousness, and social engagement. The paired t-test results demonstrated significance at the p < 0.05 between pretest and posttest. The Students used reflective writing skills including organization, description, observation, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation in writing essays about social issues. In addition, Black’s Modified Gain Ratio results revealed that using critical theory within the curriculum affected the students’ reflective writing with effect sizes of 1.74 and 2.6. Qualitative results of levels of social consciousness and social engagement were also improved. The qualitative results supported the quantitative results of using critical theory approaches in student education. In addition, the interview results confirmed the qualitative and quantitative findings of the effect of the intervention. The Students reported that the intervention helped them to improve reflective writing, social consciousness, and social engagement in many ways. Recommendations for future research are to develop other courses using critical theory approaches, ask teachers and planners about challenges they face in incorporating critical theory in classes, observe teachers using critical theory-based research to provide feedback, train teachers in the use of critical theory approaches, and investigate the integration of critical theory in pre-service teaching programs.

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