Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2017


Service-learning pedagogy can be found in K-12 schools and higher education classrooms across the country. Those programs and courses exist on a complex spectrum from charity to social justice; research presented here documents my efforts as a service-learning teacher to better align the program’s senior capstone class to the teachings from critical social justice theory. I used a practitioner inquiry approach to address the problem of an epistemology in the research process that recreated systems of oppression by excluding the knowledge and voices of the minoritized groups who are impacted by the issues being researched. My inquiry centers my students’ experiences while participating in community-based research activities and applying critical literacy skills to both the written word and the worlds around them. To understand their experiences, I collected student work throughout the school year and conducted focus groups. The community-based research methodologies created contact zone experiences, mirrors and windows through which students learn about people different from them and reflect on themselves from new directions. I found that students’ engagement with critical social justice theory vi supports critical literacy skills, enhancing their ability to identify, interrogate, and challenge social constructs, ideologies, underlying assumptions and power structures that perpetuate social inequalities and injustice. Finally, I argue that community-based research approaches create space for high school students to become knowledge-creators, promoting empowerment and self-agency while otherwise disrupting traditional banking approaches to education. I offer recommendations for assignments, curriculum timeline, and the role teachers play while students do community-based research and service-learning projects.


service-learning, capstone, practitioner inquiry, community-based research, contact zones, social justice

Document Type




Degree Name

Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Yoo Kyung Sung

Second Committee Member

Dr. Shelley Roberts

Third Committee Member

Dr. Pisarn Bee Chamcharatsri