Valuing Voice: Critical Literacy Practices in an Urban Debate Community Open Access

Cridland-Hughes, Susan Anne (2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/zp38wc88n?locale=en
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Abstract

Abstract
Valuing Voice: Critical Literacy Practices in an Urban Debate Community
By Susan Cridland-Hughes

This study seeks to examine the intersections of oral, aural, written, and performative literate practices in policy debate. Policy debate offers a unique space for literacy research, as students merge written and oral communication while preparing policy suggestions on a national topic and defending those arguments in formal oral presentations. Debate focuses student attention simultaneously on the cultivation of individual voice and the process of political decision-making. As such, debate offers a unique space for exploring how participating youth develop and refine critical literacy beliefs.

Using an ethnographic case study methodology, this study explored the community, pedagogy, and critical literacy practices of City Debate (CD), an afterschool program dedicated to providing debate instruction to students in a major Southeastern city. The following research questions guided this study:

1. Why do members, both youths and adults, participate in City Debate and how do they view their participation?
2. In what ways do oral, aural, written and performative literate communicative activities converge and diverge in the City Debate program?
3. How are literacy and critical literacy defined and redefined in the context of City Debate and what are the pedagogical practices for teaching critical literacy skills embedded in the City Debate curriculum?

Findings indicate that City Debate emphasized the development of debate skills and community, creating a space where youth felt they could speak and be heard. Observations and interviews revealed a multigenerational community of debaters using debate as an access point to support youth in developing critical thinking skills. As a learning environment, City Debate reflected a decentralized curriculum, a focus on civic awareness, and deep knowledge of the yearly debate topic. Critical literacy emerged in the conversations youth had surrounding debate topics as well as in structured events and opportunities offered to the community.

City Debate moves closer to the concept of "argumentative agency" advocated by Mitchell (1998). Individual participants report using debate-related concepts to make decisions about how to live their lives. However, there is less information about how the community scaffolds civic activism into its pedagogy and curriculum.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION...1
CHAPTER 1: STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM...5

Purpose of the Study and Research Questions...5
Significance of the Study...7
Definition of Terms...8
A Conceptual Framework...11
Summary...15

CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE...16

Orality and Literacy...16
Literacy in Out-of-School Settings...22
Debate Research...27
The Preliminary Study...32

CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY...37

Setting and Participants...37
Data Sources and Collection...42
Data Analysis and Interpretation...44
Limitations and Delimitations...48

CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS...49

Context of City Debate...49
Building a Community of Scholars and Intellectuals...53
Pedagogical Philosophy and Tools of City Debate...59
Oral, Aural, Literate and Performative Communication in City Debate...88
Critical Literacy at City Debate...94

CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION...108

Characteristics of City Debate as a Learning Environment...108
City Debate and Critical Debate Pedagogy...110
Implications for Practice...113
Limitations...113
Areas for Further Research...114
Conclusion...116

REFERENCES...118
APPENDICES...126

Appendix A: Document List...126
Appendix B: Semi-structured Interview Format...128
Appendix C: First Level Codes...130
Appendix D: Second Level Codes...133
Appendix E: Participants in Varsity Policy Debate Breakout Session...134
Appendix F: P-D.I.D.D.I. Sheet...135
Appendix G: Sample Debate Preparation...139
Appendix H: List of Debate Topics...142

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