Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College for Education and Engaged Learning


Teacher Education and Teacher Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monica Taylor

Committee Member

Emily J. Klein

Committee Member

Jeremy Price


In schools, literacy is often positioned as a fixed set of reading and writing skills. This can limit what counts as an academically acceptable literacy practice despite the complex and nuanced ways people communicate in their personal and social contexts. With this tension around conceptions of literacy in mind, I wondered how teachers thought about literacy in their lives and in what ways (if any) their personal conceptions of literacy crossed the boundary into their classrooms. Thus, this study examines three secondary English language arts teachers’ conceptions of literacy using a feminist approach to new literacies as the theoretical framework as a foundation for my research. Using Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis’ (1997) portraiture as the foundation for my methodology, I crafted the story of each participant’s literacy history and conception of literacy through interviews, class visits, written and audio-recorded reflections, and artifacts shared from their personal lives and their teaching. The findings of the study suggested that English language arts teachers may hold complex conceptions of literacy that do, in fact, cross the boundary into their classroom. However, these findings also revealed the tensions and barriers these teachers navigate as they face deficit-based models of literacy common in the educational system.

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