Seeing "practices of hope": Re -reading critical pedagogy and service learning in a liberal arts college English program

Julie Eastlack Hopson, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Over the past decade, college English teachers have increasingly applied theories of critical pedagogy and service-learning, with shared goals of reflective action and social transformation, to composition teaching. Advocates stress benefits to college students of connected learning and empowerment. Critics assert major assumptions underlying notions of power and knowledge—and who benefits—remain too theoretical and ungrounded. Missing are perspectives showing how such projects “serve” or “empowering literacy” happens with target populations. This year-long qualitative case study centered around an elementary-school tutoring project woven into one liberal arts college's composition courses. The professors reported lack of success with the project, designed to illuminate class-based economic and political inequities and inspire 14 college student tutors to empower and to challenge institutional structures on behalf of eight “at-risk” working-class Appalachian migrant children. I explored why this service-learning project did not produced the expected outcomes. I reconsidered these debates within New Literacy Studies, Foucauldian, and situated-learning conceptual frameworks, interpreting the relationships among knowledge, power, learning, and identity. Ethnographic research methods included participant observation, fieldnotes, journal, interviews, photographs, documents, and surveys. Three exemplars illustrate findings from the tutors' and tutees' practices surrounding literacy events using situated-literacy, situated-learning and related identity frameworks. I suggest the tutees managed evolving social performances of resistance, assertion, and collaboration to create opportunities to promote identities as independent, competent, and valued learners. Through negotiated participation, they enacted a set of local literacy-learning practices mediating among differing conceptualizations of learning models in terms of time and space. I argue that such literacy practices may be unrecognized due to inadequate interpretations of critical pedagogy as to how knowledge is defined, power works, learning happens, and identities are enacted in service-learning settings. I propose a “situated interchange” theoretical construct: Composition educators contemplating similar empowerment-oriented intervention projects might facilitate more hopeful outcomes by incorporating socio-cultural literacy and learning theories that support collaborative, ethnographic inquiries into how tutoring communities might transform educational practices for themselves and others, both in and out of schools. ^

Subject Area

Language, Rhetoric and Composition|Education, Curriculum and Instruction|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Julie Eastlack Hopson, "Seeing "practices of hope": Re -reading critical pedagogy and service learning in a liberal arts college English program" (January 1, 2002). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI3073012.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3073012

Share

COinS