Date of Award

Summer 7-2016

Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Antonia Darder

Second Advisor

Candace Poindexter

Third Advisor

Mev Miller


This qualitative study explored the experiences and insights of four alumnae from a girls’ after-school writing program and the program’s transformative impact on development of their literacy, their voice, and their confidence. The writing program, InkGirls (a pseudonym), was for girls of color ages 13 to 18 who lived in metropolitan Los Angeles. Participants attended high-density public schools located in low-income neighborhoods. Curriculum and instructional practices in such public schools have been critiqued as substandard, rote, and lacking opportunities for critical thinking and student voice (Darder, 2015). Gender bias in the classroom, and the lack of representation of women of color in instructional materials also have been legitimate concerns in U.S. public schooling (Sadker, Sadker, & Zittleman, 2009).

Using a theoretical framework of critical pedagogy (Freire, 2000) and critical feminist pedagogy (Weiler, 1988), this qualitative study investigated practices of critical literacy (Christensen, 2009) in the writing program that promoted development of literacy and voice and elevated the critical consciousness and social agency of the participants. The program’s elements of critical literacy included studying relatable texts, reading from critical perspectives, writing personal narratives, and completing social action projects in public readings for a live audience. The findings from the program’s curriculum and public readings, and the perceptions of the former participants pointed to critical literacy as an effective approach to literacy instruction and development of voice and agency.

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