A collaborative self-study into the development and integration of critical literacy practices

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Otago
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2006
Project end date: 
January 2008
Principal investigator(s): 
Susan Sandretto
Research team members: 
Scott Klenner and Andrew Straw
Research partners: 
Practitioner partners: Elsie Boyens, Gill Brown, Rosemary Coleman, Tony Graham, Lisa Hansen, Jo Harford, Peta Hill, Wendy Lamond, Phil Maw, Rae Parker, Garth Powell, Tui Qauqau, Clive Swale, Peter Thorn, Jennie Upton, and Jo Weggery

Project Description

During 2006–7 four Dunedin primary schools and one secondary school, involving a total of 16 teachers, took part in the project. The participating teachers became familiar with the literature on the theory and practice of critical literacy, and developed, implemented, and evaluated critical literacy strategies in their regular classroom programmes.

Critical literacy has a long history and a number of different theoretical influences (Larson & Marsh, 2005). We use the term “critical literacy” to describe ways in which teachers and students can deconstruct texts (Lankshear, 1994). We believe that “critical literacy is a critical thinking tool that encourages readers to question the construction and production of texts. Using critical literacy tools, readers consider inclusion, exclusion, and representation in texts, relate texts to their own lives, and consider the effects of texts” (Sandretto & Critical Literacy Research Team, 2006a, p. 23).

The Critical Literacy Research Team argues that critical literacy forms an important part of a multiple literacies, or multiliteracies, view of literacy and literacy teaching. Multiliteracies position reading as “a social practice” (Luke, 1995, p. 97) rather than “simply the ability to read and write” Walter, 1999, p. 31). A number of educationalists have highlighted the “new times” we are preparing students for (Gee, 2000). We believe that, in order to be successful global citizens in our rapidly changing world, students will need to develop a “repertoire of practices” (Luke & Freebody, 999, p. 3) to engage with texts. The four resources model by Luke and Freebody (1999) provides a framework for the “repertoire of practices” that students need to develop. This model suggests that the repertoire of practices that students need to acquire includes: code breaker; text participant or meaning maker; text user; and text analyst (Anstey & Bull, 2006; Queensland Department of Education, 2000; Luke & Freebody, 1999). Code breaker refers to the practices readers use to break the codes and systems of written, spoken, visual, and multimodal texts. Text participant relates to the ability of readers to make meaning from texts. Text user represents the practices of using texts effectively in everyday situations. Lastly, text analyst emphasises that texts are not neutral and signifies the practices of analysing texts. This project explored text analyst practices.

Project Contact: 

Susan Sandretto ,Senior Lecturer, Primary Programmes Coordinator, University of Otago College of Education.
Email susan.sandretto@otago.ac.nz

The Critical Literacy Team

​Phase 2 2007

(L-R) Tui Qauqau, Elsie Boyens, Clive Swale, Susan Sandretto, Scott Klenner, Lisa Hansen, Peter Thorn, Wendy Lamond, Rosemary Coleman


Phase 1 2007
(L-R) Scott Klenner, Tony Graham, Susan Sandretto, Gill Brown, Jo Harford, Phil Maw, Jo Weggery


Phase 2 2006
(L-R) Peta Hill, Jennie Upton, Rae Parker, Scott Klenner, Susan Sandretto, Garth Powell, Andrew Straw