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Keywords:

  • Motivation/engagement ;
  • Choice, preference;
  • Research methodology ;
  • Qualitative;
  • Strategies, methods, and materials ;
  • Instructional strategies, teaching;
  • To learners in which of the following categories does your work apply? ;
  • Adolescence

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Theoretical Background
  4. Method
  5. Findings
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
  8. More to Explore
  9. Biographies

This study examines the instructional practices around literacy that characterized the work of a community based arts program designed for urban adolescents. Two primary sources of data were collected: field notes on approximately 35 hours of instruction spread across seven months and interviews with the program's staff and students. Four distinct instructional episodic structures were observed: explicit instruction, collaborative or individual construction that provided time for students to engage in creative literacy and artistic activity, serial performance in which teachers are on as equal a footing as possible as students, and scaffolded practice that is informed by a belief that all can succeed can foster deep engagement in literate activity.

This study examines the literacy-infused instructional practices that characterized the work of a community-based arts program designed for urban adolescents.

“It takes a village” refers to a well-known proverb that evokes the principle of raising children as a cultural practice whose responsibilities extend beyond biological parents. This proverb suggests that extended families, communities, and schools (among other institutions) ought to share a strong commitment to parent the youths within their reach. Similar to parenting, schools are not the only institutions responsible for or involved in the education of children. Paying respect to teaching as it occurs within school settings, as well as in families and communities by informal educators, strikes us as a reasonable extension of the cherished proverb above.

The research site described in this article, a community-based org−anization that aims to foster literacy in African American adolescents through the medium of the arts (broadly conceived), enacts the village ethic of educating children. Our study occurred in this space because, although we recognize that literacy instruction for today's adolescents mainly happens throughout the typical school day, we also have a growing awareness of literacy teaching as it occurs during the evenings and on weekends as enacted by community pedagogues.

While mindful of the tensions inherent in trying to make sense of (or even comparing) pedagogy as it unfolds in and out of school, as teacher educators we remain curious about the approaches to literacy instruction deemed effective in community-based settings. We wonder about the ways in which informal educators “tailor…instruction to what they are seeing,” a goal articulated by one study participant.

The purpose of this article is to consider these issues by documenting the pedagogical practices of teachers/artists in a community-based arts program designed for African American urban adolescents. We explore how the pedagogy of informal educators occurred in a community site that involves youths who appear deeply engaged in a wide range of reading, writing, and artistic experiences.

Theoretical Background

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Theoretical Background
  4. Method
  5. Findings
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
  8. More to Explore
  9. Biographies

Research on students' out-of-school literacies is burgeoning. (See, for example, the comprehensive review of Cushman, Barbier, Mazak, and Perrone [2006].) One line of this research has examined students' self-sponsored literacy. A second line has examined students' literate engagements as members of nonschool institutions. Both lines of research, in Kirkland's (2009) words, provide a “counter narrative” (p. 10) to the norms and practices of the official world of schools (although the author warns of too readily accepting an unproblematic binary between literacy both in school and out).

Adolescents' Self-Sponsored Literacies

Research on adolescents' self-sponsored literacies has described a wide variety of literacies in which young people engage, expanding the field's understandings of what literacies ought to count, the literate ability of young people, and the range of experiences literate activities provide. Rather than attempt an exhaustive review, we will focus on a recent study that typifies the work in this area.

Weinstein (2009) examined nine urban adolescents from Chicago and their out-of-school writing, primarily their raps and poetry. She documented the purposes for which they engaged in this writing and the pleasures they derived from it. The understandings that she derived from her data, she argued,

can inform and enrich the ways that teachers discuss writing in school, and can shift their perceptions of students from individuals who know little about the “right” way to write to people who have deep funds of knowledge on which to draw as they negotiate various forms of composition. (p. 9)

However, the writers themselves saw little connection between what they must do in school and the writing they freely chose to do outside school.

Studies like Weinstein's have a hortatory function, encouraging literacy educators to recognize “the power that literacy has for young people of all classes and ethnoracial descriptions” (Weinstein, 2009, p. 159). Expanding the field's conception of what literacies matter and providing portraits of young people who are deeply engaged in literate activity of various sorts, even as they are being characterized as alliterate or illiterate, is enormously important. Yet these studies do not have clear implications for what institutions (including schools, local organizations, and community-based agencies) can do to foster students' engagement in literate activity.

Adolescents' Affiliation With Nonschool Institutions

Just as research that examines adolescents' self-sponsored literacies has the capacity to expand the field's understanding of what young people can do, so, too, may explorations of literacy in untraditional settings expand the field's understanding of what institutions can do. Once again, rather than attempt an exhaustive review, we will focus on a classic study that has greatly affected our thinking.

In the study that perhaps most resembles ours, Ball and Heath (1993) examined three dance programs, each of which fostered “a sense of connectedness” for adolescents “through strong discipline, group achievement, and mutual expectations for high quality” (p. 69). Although all three programs required an intense focus on dance, they recognized that few if any of their participants would end up as dancers. Instead, they sought to “make these kids proud of themselves as capable of doin' something good, really good,” or to teach them “sociability, discipline, cooperation, and concentration” (p. 81) or to help them realize that “black kids…can do anything white kids can do” (p. 83).

Ball and Heath (1993) make it clear that there may not be “causal connections” between students' success in the dance programs and their academic achievement. But they also argue that with “proper motivation and self-drive” (p. 89), what young people learned in the dance programs can “carry strong transfer value to academic pursuits” (p. 89). However, the authors do not make an argument for transfer from what they learned about the structural characteristics of the programs and what might be done in schools.

The focus on language use puts Ball and Heath's (1993) examination of dance troupes firmly in the ethnography of communication tradition that Hull and Schultz (2002) identify. Although Ball and Heath consider a curricular context that is far different from what is characteristic in secondary schools, they suggest that literacy educators and their students might profit from expanding the ways with words (Heath, 1983) that characterize their classrooms.

However, as important as it is to understand the variety of functions of language use in an educational context, it is also important to understand the larger pedagogical structures in which this language use is embedded. As Hillocks (1995) pointed out, teachers imagine their instruction in large units of time, what the author calls instructional episodes. Because we have an interest in out-of-school sites for the purpose of documenting the pedagogies used, our study uncovered the varied instructional practices occurring in units of time consistent with segments of lessons familiar to teachers (and often taught to preservice teachers through lesson planning).

Method

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Theoretical Background
  4. Method
  5. Findings
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
  8. More to Explore
  9. Biographies

Context of the Investigation

The program we investigated was one offered by Arts Asylum (a pseudonym), a community-based arts organization. The program had five components: African drumming and dance, hip-hop dance, music, poetry/spoken word, and video editing. The program was one service provided by this community arts organization. Consistent with a semiotic view of literacy, the director of the program explained its purpose as using “art strategically as an intervention or enhancement in the literacy life of a community [by using] people's deepest need to communicate as an ally in the act of reading and writing.”

At the time of our study, the program had been active for five years. At one point it had been affiliated with the community theater program of a local university, but that relationship had ended several years before the study. Although some of the teacher/artists (e.g., poetry and spoken word) shared the program's director's view that literacy enhancement was one of the program's primary goals, other teacher/artists (e.g., drumming, dance, music, video editing) gave priority to their artistic medium. Nonetheless, all of the teacher/artists understood literacy as a foundation for and a necessary component of what they were doing. They resisted making what they saw as an artificial separation between literacy and their particular content (Draper, Broomhead, Jensen, & Nokes, 2010).

Each year the free program serves urban adolescents recruited from high schools and middle schools near the neighborhood in which Arts Asylum is located. Students are not required to audition or have prior expertise in any of the arts to participate. Students joining the program meet three times a week in the fall semester and four times a week in the spring semester. They are then encouraged to return to the program year after year.

It was not unusual for young people to participate in the program for four, five, or even six years. Meetings lasted approximately two hours. The youths in the program rotated through varied classes depending on the day of week. Because the program deemphasized ability level, the participants were expected to attend all of the classes rather than choosing an “art” of greatest interest or proficiency. The program met at a local church that had a long history of community involvement and activism.

Historically, the students' work in the various classes was directed toward an interdisciplinary production of a show that brought together aspects of all the classes. The performance, held in spring, was built around a theme related to a socially significant issue relevant to the city's African American community. In the year of our study, the performance was built around parallel stories of people's lived experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Rwandan genocide and was presented in two evening performances and one matinee. The evening shows were targeted to the general public, and the matinee was targeted to public school students and teachers. Typically, several hundred people attended each of the three productions. During the year of the study, a fall production was added, which featured members of a local opera company performing students' spoken word poetry that had been set to music.

The program's teaching staff was made up of practicing artists. Each class was staffed by a single teacher/artist, except the poetry/spoken word class, which was led by one teacher/artist who specialized in more traditional poetry and another who specialized in spoken word. The African drumming and dance, music, poetry, and spoken word teachers/artists had all been with the program for several years. A video-editing class was added for the first time during the year of the study. The hip-hop dance class met only in the spring, because the program could not immediately replace a staff member who left to take a job with a traveling professional dance troupe. The teaching staff was paid by Arts Asylum. Although all staff members practiced their chosen art form, none had formal training in the profession of education. Several of the teachers/artists held positions in local schools, however, as counselors, educators on special assignments, or artists in residence.

Staff members viewed themselves as active participants in the continued betterment of local (African American) and global (African diaspora) communities. They shared, in both large and small ways, a commitment to community-based activism and regarded the Arts Asylum as a manifestation of such activism. One staff member noted that his art, teaching, and community activism went “hand in hand.”

Sources of Data

To document and characterize the instructional practices of the teachers/artists, we collected two primary sources of data: field notes and interviews. We took field notes during an orientation/recruitment meeting and throughout approximately 35 hours of instruction over seven months. We interviewed six of the most active youth members. We also interviewed the founder of Arts Asylum, the director of youth programming, and all but one of the experienced staff members. All the semistructured interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. With regard to the teachers/artists, we asked questions to collect information about their education and/or study of their art form, the cultural and political purposes of the program, and the specific goals created for their classes. In addition, we sought to characterize their individual teaching approach as a way of member checking.

Qualitative Data Analysis

After every observation, we wrote analytic memos and talked with each other about what we had seen (Bernard & Ryan, 2010). Initially, our analytic memos addressed the broader goals of the research. We wanted to identify literacy events and to consider those events on several dimensions: the institution that sponsored the events, the nature of the participants' literacy engagement, students' assessments of their efficacy, and the instructional contexts provided. Soon, we took these broad goals and focused our memos on the nature of the instruction. Through our memos, discussions, and reflections, we began to develop a vocabulary for the pedagogy we were observing within and across the classes.

We then relied on the work of Hillocks (1995) to consider each class as an embodiment of chunks of activity that we called episodes. An episode is a unit of instructional time, whose boundaries are marked by a change in materials, goals, or teacher–student interactions (for example, when a teacher/artist moved from explaining a technical term to asking students to put that term into practice). Once all of our observations were complete, we returned to our field notes and parsed them into episodes, using the vocabulary we had developed about the instruction to code them. For the purposes of our analysis, for an activity to be coded as an episode, it had to last at least two minutes. When the activity was less than two minutes long, it was coded with either the preceding or the following episode to which it was most closely related.

Ultimately, we determined that four distinct episodic structures made up over 92% of the instructional episodes we observed: explicit instruction, collaborative or individual construction, serial performance, and scaffolded practice. Although percentages may vary, these instructional episodes are not unlike those found in the classrooms of our most engaging K–12 teachers.

Findings

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Theoretical Background
  4. Method
  5. Findings
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
  8. More to Explore
  9. Biographies

Explicit Instruction

Across our observations, we noted fourteen examples of explicit instruction, which consisted of three types: (1) instruction designed to develop canonical academic knowledge, (2) instruction designed to develop cultural knowledge, and (3) instruction designed to develop particular kinds of political knowledge.

Although all the teachers/artists were highly aware that some of their goals differed from those of traditional schools, when the occasion arose they (especially the music and poetry teachers) took the opportunity to provide explicit instruction in canonical academic knowledge. For example, in the music class, after the students introduced themselves, the teacher/artist announced that an opera troupe would be performing music written by the young people. She then went on to give a short lecture in which she defined libretto and aria and talked about how operas were divided into acts and may or may not have prologues. After no more than three or four minutes, she asked the young people to pair up to write a brief operatic exchange that the group decided, after a short discussion, would be about school.

The music teacher/artist explained this instructional episode as follows:

Well, I wanted to give them an idea. I wanted to tell them what it was, first of all, like, explain what a libretto was and what an opera was and the different parts of it and their interpretations of it. And then I just wanted them to get a feel for interaction and what that felt like and for them to come up with scenarios for operatic compositions….[It] didn't have to be real deep, and it wasn't for the most part, but it was fun. Because it's hard to sit there and lecture to children, especially when it's an after-school program. You want it to be informative, but you still want them to be able to interact and participate, and I think it was good, very good and worthwhile.

This teacher's understanding that lectures were an aspect of school that is often resisted by the youths in the program was shared by her colleagues. The poetry teacher/artist, for example, taught students about Hurricane Katrina and Rwanda through readings and activities such as the creation of a timeline. However, she was also aware of not making her teaching too closely resemble what students said they disliked about school.

Teachers in the program also introduced cultural knowledge into their classes. This was especially true of the African drumming and dance teacher, who explained his goal this way:

Because that's the part of the foundation, just understanding. Because I think that so many times, people look at the cultural concepts from Africa and I wouldn't say belittle, but they kind of downplay its complexity. And part of what I want to teach people is that it's complex in our society, culture, and various cultures, and they need to understand where these things come from, the ethnic groups that they come from, the regions that these things come from, and basically they need to understand why, the “why,” before they just do it. Because these “cultural constructions,” for lack of a better word, were positioned here for a reason and help society be as great as it was. The morality of the traditional African village or society, the drum and dance, is a part of that, but there are other aspects of it as well. So I really want the students, even if they do not get it the first time and it takes a while, but at least to understand it and be able to appreciate it.

He sought to achieve this goal in two ways. One was through brief sequences of teacher-led discussions in which he would ask the name of a drum or dance or the region of Africa from which a dance came, a student would give a brief response, and he would praise accurate responses or correct inaccurate ones. The other was through a ritual that closed every class: Once the class was complete, students would approach him and bow. As he explained, in Africa,

usually the people who are dancing will give thinks to the drummers and also to the ancestors, to the teachers and also to the creators. Usually, they will stick their hand out, put it on their hearts and rest it on the floor, and then also point to ourselves, acknowledge the people who are around and also the creator. You know, African culture is very diverse, very diverse, but there are some very similar qualities. And I think one of those is respect and acknowledging the ancestors, the respect and acknowledgment of the relationship between dance and drum and respect and honor between the relationship between people who are on earth and the creator. And that's a part of that respect, because there is an energy flow that happens when dancers and drummers come together, that energy flow is a part of the whole concept that I am talking about.

Repeatedly enacting this ritual was a primary way through which he sought to connect students to the cultural roots.

The students embraced the cultural knowledge they received. As one explained:

[Arts Asylum] is not just a place to dance or write but a place to learn stuff that you didn't learn in school. When we do the dance, we just don't do it, we learn the history behind the dance….So we just don't learn the dance, we learned about why we dancing and what drums we using, what the song's about, what it means, and what does the dance mean to our ancestors….So, like, just learning about not only dance, because we got so many dances today that kids just do just to do; they don't know the research or the history about it. But when we learn our history, it makes us, like, feel comfortable with the dance and want to dance it more, because we know not only that we dancing but what we dancing for and what we representing when we do that dance.

The teachers/artists also worked to help students develop historical and political understandings. As the poetry teacher/artist explained during discussions on Rwanda:

Several of the children had never heard of colonialism. They didn't even know what it was. You know, the European breaking up of Africa. They were amazed….I said, “Well you guys, how do you think that people are speaking French in Mali?” So we did that. We did a lot of that in my class.

The way in which this teacher/artist shared her knowledge about several tough-to-teach topics was deeply appreciated by her students. As one of them explained when talking about the final production, what students learned enabled them to affect others:

We felt as if we actually touched a couple of people because people were coming to us like, “Did y'all actually write that?” “Did this really happen?” We were like, this really happened [the Rwanda genocide]. Like, we knew but we didn't know, we didn't know that other people didn't know. Like, adults came to us after the show like, “Was that true, did it really happen?” and it really did happen. So we felt good at the end of the day.

Individual and Collaborative Construction

We observed nine episodes of individual and collaborative construction of some kind of literacy artifact. With the exception of the dance classes, students were regularly engaged in extended periods of creative work. The most striking example occurred in the first music class, as discussed earlier in this article. After a short lecture of three or four minutes on several musical terms, the teacher/artist immediately moved to having students develop their own libretto. We talked with her about this instructional decision:

M:

I was surprised, because I was saying to myself, she's throwing them in the deep water.

Teacher/artist:

 Right away.

M:

 Right away. But they—

Teacher/artist:

 They are very smart.

Every session of the spoken word class provided time for the creative activity in which students engaged on their own or in groups. As the teacher/artist explained:

It's kind of a mix. I mean, some days we can go ahead and do the group project ahead or sometimes you got to go and do the individual projects, and I break them up so we don't really get to do the full group project.

The students appreciated the creative freedom, especially because they felt supported in their efforts. As one student explained, referring to the music class:

We had creativity instead of taking his song or their song; it's our song….We got to write our own lyrics, and a lot of people can't say that they did that or either nobody has supported them enough.

Another telling example of a collaborative episode occurred within the digital editing class. After walking around the community to videotape a range of compelling images, the students sat together in a circle to decide which images to keep and which to cut. A passionate strand of the conversation focused on how and whether to project images of violence in the African American community. Not unexpectedly, the students' opinions differed, and the teacher/artist encouraged the debate. A turning point in the conversation occurred when one youth asked critically, “What is the black perspective?” As the class went on, each student contributed his or her own perspective, and eventually a coconstructed theme for the video emerged.

Serial Performance

Most of the classes we observed were focused on getting students prepared for one of the two major performances. However, a regular feature of the poetry/spoken word and music classes was interim performances, in which the students and the teachers/artists took turns sharing what they had worked on. These performances were not evaluative, and the teachers/artists contributed as equals. We observed 10 such episodes, which we termed serial performances.

Both the teachers/artists and the students were aware that the serial performances put them on something of an equal footing. The spoken word teacher/artist put it this way:

Just to be able to let them know that we are here together and that this is a team thing and I am a writer and I ask you guys to write every day and I am here to write. I am not just here to say, Write about this, and I don't write. No, I am going to write about this just as well.

The students' view of the impact of serial performances was strikingly similar. As one explained:

We're all in a group, so we call ourselves as one, and I think that it is good that the teachers actually—they just wasn't there just to be our teachers, but they were there to be our friends, like, get closer. Like, I think that it really helps other people really express their poems. And when it's time to read it in front of everybody, they are not scared to because they have already been in a group of people and…just like the instructors interacting with us more than like a teacher—do this, do that—they were doing it with us.

Scaffolded Practice

The most striking finding of our analysis is the amount of practice students received and the amount of support they received for that practice. We observed 26 examples of this kind of episode. Two incidents in particular capture the ethic of scaffolded practice that informed the work of the teachers/artists. Early in the fall, one of the students was coming to Arts Asylum for the last time because he was moving to another state. At the end of the music class, the music teacher/artist asked him to approach. She handed him her guitar and physically moved the fingers on his left hand as he strummed.

In her interview, we asked about what she did. She explained:

I've learned how to just give someone a couple of very simple things that sound really good on the guitar and makes them very happy. And Thomas always wanted to pick up the guitar and play it and strum, so I really wanted to do that for him.

The other incident occurred not long before the spring performance. The students had been working on one of the African dances they were going to perform, which contained a series of difficult moves that lasted approximately two minutes. After the group performed it once, the teacher/artist stopped them and modeled the move himself. Then he asked one of the most accomplished dancers to repeat it. He modeled it again; she repeated it. He praised her very specifically, stressing what she did that he wanted the others to do. Then he moved to one of the weaker dancers and clarified exactly what he wanted him to work on. Then whole group repeated the entire sequence ten times. Next he divided the class in half, and each half alternated doing the sequence and watching their classmates do the same sequence.

The African dance and drumming teacher/artist explained the rationale for his approach:

Because some people pick it up easily and some people don't. Like, for instance, one of the students, she struggles, and there are others that are a little more advanced. You basically tailor your instruction to what you're seeing, and you try to give creative feedback to people. But it's a progressive process that has to be done.

The variation in initial ability in the spoken word/poetry class was equally great. So was the commitment to success for all:

No, we do it in a friendly family environment, where it's your turn to get help, everybody gets help. The best kid in here is going to get some help either sooner or later; everyone is going to get their day in the spotlight. And I think that is one of the best parts as well, where we say that it is all about your growth and development, and then the kids buy into it.

They certainly did buy in. One of the older students, by his own admission, was a very weak dancer when he began. He noted, “I was the worst dancer you could ever see, ever.” But after significant work and extensive practice, he was the central figure in a masquerade. He noted:

When I first got to perform with it, and I start to dance with it, I got more…it's like a new side of me that just came out of me onstage under that mask. Something that came out of me just came out and just lashed out, something that I didn't know that I had in me.

Understanding himself as a learner, the student describes how, even during school, he sometimes needs that extra practice:

I am not a math person; I've never been a math person. I need extra attention when it comes to math in order for me to get it. Once I get it, then you don't really have to worry about it. I'm on the same level, but I need extra attention.

The ethic of practicing until everyone can be successful was at the heart of Arts Asylum. The students were effusive in their appreciation of this ethic. Here is one student talking about the music class:

That's one reason why I do like [the music teacher/artist]. She really don't care if we can sing; she helps us. It may be one or two people—she can make us, once she puts us together and puts the song together—she can make us sing like we really have a voice to sing. That's why everybody be like, “Wow, y'all can sing” and we just be like “Yeah” and smiling, but we know we really can't. But from working with [the music teacher/artist], she help us on the tunes.

Take Action

STEPS FOR IMMEDIATE IMPLEMENTATION

  •   As a school, identify community-based organizations that effectively support literacy development. Observe or talk to the informal educators in these sites about the types of pedagogies they find effective.
  •   Create opportunities at your school for an informal educator to teach a lesson (or series of lessons) to your students as they would in their community organization. As a follow-up, have students reflect on the range of ways and contexts in which they are instructed in literacy. Encourage students to conceptualize their literacies broadly as well as to think through the diverse sites that support their literacy development.
  •   Advance a village ethic of educating youths by developing reciprocal relationships in which ideas about teaching and learning are shared across in- and out-of-school institutions. For example, a school- and a community-based organization might develop a monthly teacher/practitioner inquiry group that rotates meetings between the local school and community site.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Theoretical Background
  4. Method
  5. Findings
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
  8. More to Explore
  9. Biographies

Building on research that focuses on the variety of out-of-school literacies in which youths engage (Mahiri, 2004), our study began because we wanted to learn more about how a community-based arts program used instructional practices to foster the deep engagement in literacy that teachers (those in and out of schools) often strive to achieve. We believe that literacy scholars and practitioners can learn a great deal from examining the instructional affordances apparent in all kinds of comparative settings.

So what did we learn from the comparative example of Arts Asylum? More important, if youths attended this organization several days a week, what might they learn and what kinds of teaching might they experience? We imagine that they would learn about the power of being in a context in which youths can develop deep knowledge and share that knowledge with others. They would learn literacy through educators whose pedagogical practices provide time for students to engage in individual and collaborative creative activity. They would learn about the impact of sharing their own literacy performances in situations in which they are on footing that is as equal as possible to that of their teachers. And most important, they would learn about the power of extensive scaffolded practice that is informed by a belief that all youths, such as themselves, can succeed.

We fully acknowledge that the four instructional practices documented throughout our analysis occur (in varying degrees) in schools every day. We recognize, too, that time and other institutional constraints sometimes prevent even the best teachers from demonstrating, in any meaningful way, the range of effective pedagogy described in this article. Given these complexities, we strongly support the idea of building bridges and developing contexts for a deeper level of sharing between informal and formal educators.

Imagine, for example, if school districts offered professional development opportunities for educators who teach in traditional schools as well as community-based locations? Certainly, the teachers/artists we studied could gain from K–12 educators who have thought a lot about curricular issues, such as interdisciplinary planning (the heart of the Art Asylum curriculum) and ways to deliberately scaffold learning. Moreover, the teachers/artists could learn to explicitly identify their teaching practices as they are situated in the large body of scholarship on literacy. They might then seek out professional learning experiences and materials to further develop their practice.

At the same time, we want to argue for the importance of respecting informal community-based educators as intuitive pedagogues with great potential to intervene in the literacy development of young people. The instruction provided by the teachers/artists in our research proved to be both engaging and pedagogically sound. We regard community-based institutions, including Arts Asylum, as trusted sites that augment and support schools in mutually beneficial ways. As members of villages who champion youth development and learning, we recommend turning to informal pedagogues more often to share insights they have gained about effective and engaging literacy pedagogy.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Theoretical Background
  4. Method
  5. Findings
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
  8. More to Explore
  9. Biographies
  • Ball, A., & Heath, S.B. (1993). Dances of identity: Finding an ethnic self in the arts. In S.B. Heath, & M.W. McLaughlin (Eds.), Identity and inner-city youth: Beyond ethnicity and gender (pp. 6993). New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Bernard, R., & Ryan, G. (2010). Analyzing qualitative data: Systematic approaches. Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Cushman, E., Barbier, S., Mazak, C., & Petrone, R. (2006). Family and community literacies. In P. Smagorinsky (Ed.), Research on composition: Multiple perspectives on two decades of change. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Draper, R.J., Broomhead, P., Jensen, A.P., Nokes, J.D., & Siebert, D. (Eds.) (2010). (Re)imagining content-area literacy instruction. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Heath, S. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and Classrooms. Cambridge: University Press.
  • Hillocks, G. Jr (1995). Teaching writing as reflective practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Hull, G., & Schultz, K. (Eds.) (2002). School's out: Bridging out-of-school literacies with classroom practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Kirkland, D. (2009). Researching and teaching English in the digital dimension. Research in the Teaching of English, 44(1), 822.
  • Mahiri, J. (2004). New literacies in a new century. In J. Mahiri (Ed.), What they don't learn in school: Literacy in the lives of urban youth (pp. 119). New York: Peter Lang.
  • Weinstein, S. (2009). Feel these words: Writing in the lives of urban youth. Albany: SUNY Press.

More to Explore

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Theoretical Background
  4. Method
  5. Findings
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
  8. More to Explore
  9. Biographies

CONNECTED CONTENT-BASED RESOURCES

  • Ball, A.F. (1995). Community-based learning in urban settings as a model for educational reform. Applied Behavioral Science Review, 3(2), 127146.
  • Quinn, T., & Kahne, J. (2001). Wide awake to the world: The arts and urban schools—conflicts and contributions of an after-school program. The Arts and Urban Schools, 31(1), 1132.
  • Sarroub, E., Pernicek, T., & Sweeney, T. (2007). I was bitten by a scorpion: Reading in and out of school in a refugee's life. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(8), 668679.
  • Winn, M. (2010). “Betwixt and Between”: Literacy, liminality, and the ceiling of black girls. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 13(4), 425447.

Biographies

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Theoretical Background
  4. Method
  5. Findings
  6. Conclusion
  7. References
  8. More to Explore
  9. Biographies
  • Wanda Brooks is an associate professor of teaching and learning at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA; e-mail wbrooks@temple.edu.

  • Michael W. Smith is department chair and professor of teaching and learning at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA; e-mail mwsmith@temple.edu.