Title page for ETD etd-42298-195935

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Dellinger, K. LaNette
Author's Email Address kdelling@vt.edu
URN etd-42298-195935
Title Wading in the Water: a White Educator and African American Girls develop Critical Literacy
Degree PhD
Department Curriculum and Instruction
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Lalik, Rosary V. Committee Chair
Carico, Kathleen M. Committee Member
Garrison, James W. Committee Member
Kilkelly, Ann G. Committee Member
Niles, Jerome A. Committee Member
Williams-Green, Joyce Committee Member
  • race
  • performance
  • urban education
  • critical literacy
  • teacher education
Date of Defense 1998-05-07
Availability unrestricted




LaNette Dellinger

Rosary M. Lalik, Chairperson

Teaching and Learning


This qualitative study focused the experiences of a white educator who

spent twelve months working with a group of 8-12 African American adolescent

girls at a community center in an urban community. Data collection methods

included fieldnotes, interviews, questionnaires, photographs, participant's

journals, and other artifacts.

The study focused on the use of performance activities to stimulate

critical reflection about issues that were generated from the daily experiences of

the girls involved. Performance activities were based on the work of Augusto

Boal in liberatory theatre and the notions of Maxine Greene about opening

critical space through the arts. Activities engaged in during the twice weekly

sessions included drama, poetry writing and reading, singing, and visual arts.

The purpose of these activities was to stimulate the girls' development of critical

literacy, a concept that may be defined as reading the written text and reading

the sociocultural dimensions of society for the purpose of transforming society

toward greater justice and equity. The researcher examined her own

developing critical literacy, as well, throughout the study, particularly as it

relates to issues of race and white supremacy.

While the development of critical literacy is something that is a lifelong

project, not something to be achieved in one year of work, analysis of data

reveals many times when the girls were able to identify conditions in their

experiences that worked against them. They were able to consider possible

ways of changing negative situations in their lives. Working together as a group

enabled the girls to pool their ideas and to learn from one another. They were

also able to experience how powerful collective action can be. Comments by

the girls in interviews, journals, and questionnaires showed that they believed

that their understanding of issues important to their lives had changed as a

result of participation in the group.

The things learned as a result of this study are useful for understanding

how to work with adolescent African American girls in urban communities, as

well as how to prepare teachers to work in such communities.

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