I am interested in exploring language and literacy as cultural and sociological phenomena, where issues of ethnicity, language use, social class, gender, and culture are reflected, complicated, and situated within educational institutions. Specifically, I examine the ways school-based language and literacy practices and events either reinforce or alienate students’ participatory personal, academic and professional development. These interests have been informed by the disciplines of sociolinguistics and literacy studies, Discourse and gender studies, cultural anthropology and sociology. By interweaving theory and practice, I examine these issues as they impact learning and language development, teaching and teacher education, and school and public policy. My theoretical stance is also critical in that I emphasize the transformative functions of language and literacy, keeping in constant view, their potential to effect social change and create more inclusive, democratic societies.
I have been working on a multi-year ethnographic project related to school success, literacy, and low socioeconomic youth populations. The purpose of this research is to examine cultural, language, and literacy practices that may either hinder or support the intellectual, social, and socioeconomic success of low SES elementary students. I am conducting fieldwork in a multi-cultural-multi-lingual community. I am examining how “reading and writing” is taught at the elementary level to accommodate ELL and bilingual populations and students who struggle with literacy and the ways in which the appropriation of language, position, and literacy serve as a method to establish voice and identity in the group, class, and larger social contexts.
Other interests: Gendered Literacies: I am currently working on my book examining the sociocultural identity construction of elementary boys through their literacy practices and the ways in which they transform the shape of their literacies. The purpose of this study is to explore the construction of the classroom as a dynamic system of relationships and configurations for elementary aged boys. Compelling aspects I have noticed throughout my teaching life are the multitude of understandings boys have concerning themselves as male readers and writers and the ways in which these identities inform and influence their ways of being, “officially” and “unofficially” in the classroom. By systematically and critically examining beliefs, choices, and interactions around “what counts” as literacy, I explored how nine third grade boys’ developing construction of masculinity shaped their participation in school literacy practices, specifically how they participated in socially mediated reading and writing events and how the school literacy practices shaped their understanding of what it means to be male in an elementary classroom (Peyton-Young, 2003).
The results of my research indicate that the educational and social spaces of this classroom were constructed, maintained, and at times constrained by peer relationships, teacher belief systems about what counts as educationally and socially appropriate behaviors, and by the constructs of society, which many of the participants theorized as the benchmark of what it means to be a boy and a student in the schooling environment. My research indicates that the boys composed the texts of their lives through their literacy practices declaring their existence in the world as they themselves were shaped by the social codes and practices of these events (Lewis, 2001).