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Why is it so hard to reconcile disciplinary literacy and antiracism? Informational texts and middle grades English language arts

Chandra L. Alston (College of Education, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA)
Sarah Byrne Bausell (The William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 1 February 2022

Issue publication date: 17 March 2022

305

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to understand the supports and challenges to using disciplinary and antiracism lenses when teaching with informational texts in middle grades English Language Arts (ELA) classrooms.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper analyzes teacher talk in four virtual sessions with four middle grades ELA teachers in one school district. Teachers had recently completed a voluntary, school-based antiracism professional development. Researchers used thematic analysis of session transcripts and semi-structured interviews.

Findings

Teachers’ informational text use was nested in and directed by curriculum and contexts that limited disciplinary and antiracist teaching. The context and texts constrained instruction to basic reading skills. Equity was conceptualized as supporting students’ persistence. Discussions of race were avoided.

Research limitations/implications

This study has implications for ELA teacher preparation, and district and state resources to support merging disciplinarity and antiracism in informational text instruction in ELA. The study is limited by the small sample from one district and access to only teacher self-reports.

Originality/value

Secondary ELA disciplinary literacy has privileged literature, yet there is an increase of informational text use in middle grades ELA. Teachers need support teaching informational texts through disciplinary and antiracism lenses.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Authors would like to thank the teachers who shared their time and knowledge during a particularly taxing year; Kayla Malone and Devan MacKenzie for their invaluable assistance on this research project; and the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation for funding this work.

Citation

Alston, C.L. and Byrne Bausell, S. (2022), "Why is it so hard to reconcile disciplinary literacy and antiracism? Informational texts and middle grades English language arts", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 16-28. https://doi.org/10.1108/ETPC-06-2021-0062

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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