A collaborative self-study into the development of critical-literacy practices - a pilot study

Funding year: 
1 year
University of Otago
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2005
Project end date: 
January 2006
Principal investigator(s): 
Susan Sandretto
Research team members: 
Jane Tilson, Cambridge, England
Research partners: 
Practitioner partners were Peta Hill, Jennie Upton, Rae Howland, and Rae Parker from East Taieri Primary School and Port Chalmers School

Project Description

In preparing the students of today for the workplace of tomorrow, we are preparing them for the unknown. With technology and science advancing at a rapid rate, what is new today becomes obsolete tomorrow. Thus it becomes more difficult to define what knowledge those who are students now will need in the future. Educationalists predict that what will not become obsolete are critical-thinking skills: “The power to interpret, to be critical and to be able to navigate will be highly-prized attributes in the well-educated person of the twenty-first century” (Newby, 2005, p. 299).

Literacy is one important area where students will need to develop a wide range of dispositions, orientations, and skills. What counts as literacy has evolved from “simply the ability to read and write” (Walter, 1999, p. 31) to an understanding that:

Being literate in a contemporary society means being active, critical, and creative users not only of print and spoken language but also of the visual language of film and television, commercial and political advertising, photography, and more. (International Reading Association, 1996, as cited in Braunger & Lewis, 2006, p. 4)

Included in this evolving definition of literacy is a broadening of what counts as “texts”, from printed and visual formats to include oral and digital material as well.

This pilot project consisted of collaborative self-study research into the development of critical-literacy practices within primary schools. Two teachers from each of two primary schools in the Dunedin area developed a project in partnership with two researchers from the University of Otago. The teachers, with the assistance of the researchers, collaboratively investigated the development and implementation of an enhanced critical-literacy focus within everyday guided reading practices in their classrooms. The research sought to:

  • enhance the understandings and pedagogical practices of critical literacy for the participating primary school teachers;
  •  document the implementation of critical-literacy strategies within regular, ongoing, guided-reading lessons in the participating teachers’ classrooms;
  •  involve focus groups of students in stimulated-recall interviews to comment on a guided-reading lesson using critical-literacy strategies;
  •  produce collaboratively theorised reports of the research process and findings to share with audiences of both researchers and teachers; and
  • elaborate on ways in which the pilot could be expanded and enhanced in a future research study.