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Title:Reinscribing and reimagining linguistic and social hierarchies in a prison-based language and literacy program
Author(s):Sosnowski, Jim
Director of Research:Murillo, Luz A
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Murillo, Luz A
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Smith, Patrick H; Sanders-Smith, Stephanie; Farnell, Brenda; Flores, Nelson
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Curriculum and Instruction
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Adult Language and Literacy
Raciolinguistic Ideologies
Carceral Education
Abstract:Utilizing the theoretical frameworks of translanguaging, raciolinguistic ideologies, and global designs, this dissertation investigates the teaching of language and literacy in a peer-taught, prison-based, English as a second language (ESL) program, Language Partners (LP) which is situated in a men’s medium security prison in Illinois. Following historical trends in the U.S. in which language and literacy education has been mobilized as a response to social and economic crises, education is increasingly being positioned as a means for addressing the issue of mass incarceration in the U.S. This study examines the language ideologies and discourses which shaped the teaching of English in LP and interrogates how the associated practices and policies either contributed to rearticulating or breaking down social and linguistic hierarchies similar to those found in educational and public spaces outside of the prison. This qualitative study was informed by principles of Participatory Action Research (PAR) and Critical Ethnography (CE). Throughout this study, the LP teachers, who were incarcerated men, and I collaborated as co-researchers as we sought to better understand what informed the practices and policies that we utilized in the teaching of English in LP and what was being accomplished through our program. As co-researchers, the LP teachers contributed to each phase of the research: design, implementation, analysis, and actions based on our findings. Similar to discourses found in educational spaces outside of position, rationales for teaching English in LP, a program which primarily served undocumented Mexican immigrants, communicated the ideas that learning English would provide the incarcerated students with more opportunities and access to educational and employment opportunities both while incarcerated and post-incarceration. Classroom observations and the collection of artifacts utilized in the classroom or to describe the program revealed that teaching English was based predominantly on monoglossic language ideologies which positioned language as a reified and bounded object which could be dissected into discrete linguistic units and taught outside of a particular social context. These monoglossic language ideologies, in conjunction with other factors, such as the influence of outside volunteers and teaching materials that were available to the LP teachers, contributed to a curricularized approach to English language and literacy instruction which shaped both linguistic and social hierarchies amongst members of LP, further contributing to the marginalization of the LP students and teachers. However, participatory action research (PAR) provided an opportunity for the teachers and I to critically examine our approach to teaching, creating the possibility to reimagine English teaching in our program and to critically consider our roles in relation to teaching and conducting research in a prison context. This study emphasizes the necessity to approach the teaching of language and literacy with adult populations as a social act, moving away from curricularized understandings of language teaching. Additionally, following other critical scholars, this research contributes to calls to question what is meant by transformative and liberatory education in spaces which continue to forward normative expectations of language and literacy. In relation to participatory action research, this study demonstrates the potential of PAR to challenge normative and restrictive understandings of research and knowledge production while also drawing attention to the importance of maintaining a critical focus and continually addressing power and hierarchies throughout the research process.
Issue Date:2020-03-17
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Jim Sosnowski
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-08-26
Date Deposited:2020-05

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