Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Michelle Zoss, Ph.D

Second Advisor

Gholnecsar Muhammad, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Joyce E. King, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Janice Fournillier, Ph.D.


The field of youth participatory action research is growing (Caraballo et. al, 2017). This investigation builds upon the growing field of participatory action research with middle and high school students. Specifically, I explored how six Black youth in an out-of-school enrichment program perceived literacy and responded to a program promoting critical consciousness. Students engaged in action research projects using photovoice (Williams, et al., 2020; Wang & Burris, 1996) to examine their experiences in schools. I worked as a teacher and researcher during my study using critical literacy theory (Freire, 1996) to guide my planning and teaching. The data I collected included lesson plans, brainstorming notes, photos, student work samples, and interview data. I analyzed the data using grounded theory (Charmaz, 2007). Students perceived literacy as the expansion of knowledge and skills, self-expression, and joy. and responded to the project with greater confidence, demonstrating civic agency and leadership, recommended centering Blackness in their schools and being critical of the impacts of COVID. After the study, I suggest four literacy practices that could be beneficial, particularly for Black youth taught both in and outside of school spaces for their identity and social consciousness development. These literacy practices for teachers include starting with a Black history that predates slavery, taking and implementing curricular input from youth, building autonomy in literacy projects for young people, and providing students with opportunities to study and research their communities.


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