Fostering critical literacy with high school students through ethnodrama

Sarah Hobson, University of Pennsylvania


This study utilized a practitioner inquiry methodology to examine the relationship between an ethnodrama pedagogy and fostering critical literacy with high school students. Ethnodrama involves the dramatic analysis and representation of ethnographic data (Mienczakowski, 1995). In this classroom, I conceptualized ethnodrama as the situating of multiple individual stories in relation to each other and on behalf of larger sociocultural understandings about social conflicts. ^ This study draws upon frameworks for literacy as critical social practice, for adolescent literacies as hybrid and multimodal, and for drama and inquiry pedagogies as particularly suited for building upon adolescent literacies and co-constructing knowledge with adolescents. Using these frameworks, I studied the relationships between the pedagogical resources developed in this classroom and student literacy practices. In particular I focused on the recontextualization of student talk across drama engagements (Rymes, 2012). ^ There were specific characteristics of drama structures that fostered student-centered inquiry. The more multimodal, ethnographic, and dramatic the texts, the easier it was to design open-ended drama engagements. These open-ended drama engagements and the invitation to honor the stories of others fostered student interest in building upon one another's literacies and the features and themes of these texts. Furthermore, when students were applying dramatic interpretation of the stories of others towards representing them for audiences, they could witness how they individually contributed to a larger collective impact. I in turn was able to either join them in their inquiries or to help them design dramas they directed without me. ^ Similar characteristics of drama fostered the opportunity to access one another's reactions and interpretations of multiple songwriters regarding gender and generated student desire to collect and represent their own ethnographic data. With this study, I argue that ethnodrama pedagogy inspires students to reflect on their meaning-making processes and to inquire into social issues. It also offers useful analytic and representational resources for studies of students as ethnographers. Finally, the study provides evidence for conceptualizations of pedagogical resources that intersect meaningfully with adolescents, their literacies, and their needs.^

Subject Area

Education, Performing Arts|Theater|Education, Secondary

Recommended Citation

Hobson, Sarah, "Fostering critical literacy with high school students through ethnodrama" (2012). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3509138.