Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Literacy, Language and Culture

Committee Chair/Advisor

Jacquelynn Malloy

Committee Member

Phillip Wilder

Committee Member

Susan Cridland-Hughes

Committee Member

Julia Lopez-Robertson


This study explored the literacy engagement of Hispanic rising seventh grade adolescents during a summer literacy program. Using a participatory social justice mixed methods design (Creswell & Plano-Clark, 2018), students’ voices were used to design and refine an instructional model proposed to increase their level of engagement in literacy tasks. Through a literacy motivation survey and focus group interviews, students’ perception of motivating and demotivating literacy experiences affecting their levels of engagement were gathered and analyzed. Following this exploration, a design-based approach was employed to create an initial model that would be refined by identifying the enhancing and inhibiting factors influencing levels of engagement for a span of four weeks.

At the conclusion of the study, a retrospective analysis revealed four major findings: (1) students value choice and agency; (2) a multiplicity of identities exists despite students being from the same subgroup; (3) culturally sustaining environments are valuable; and (4) out-of-school spaces are beneficial for student learning experiences. Higher levels of engagement were observed and recorded when students chose texts of interest during independent reading, as well as having a voice in other areas such as topics and time spent on given tasks. While these students have similar linguistic and ethnic backgrounds, they came with different experiences and interests not specific to their culture. Because this study took place in a culturally sustaining environment (Paris & Alim, 2017), the researcher, faculty, and students were involved in refining the instruction. Finally, this study corroborates previous research on afterschool/out-of-school programs as spaces where students can successfully be positioned as co-constructors of the knowledge and learning experiences for themselves and their peers.



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