Date of Award

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

College/School

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department/Program

English

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Melinda Knight

Committee Member

Caroline Dadas

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg

Subject(s)

Universities and colleges--United States--Public services, Literacy programs--United States, English language--Rhetoric--Study and teaching, Higher Education--Social aspects--United States

Abstract

It has been argued that by bridging the educational resources of institutions of higher education with local, community literacy initiatives, adult literacy can be promoted outside of the university while imparting teaching and learning experiences to the on-campus community. The purpose is not to impart the values of the Ivory Tower but to create bridges through collaborative work and dialogue to achieve social or political action for the community members. This thesis will show how writing centers can foster transformative community and public writing spaces using the Montclair State University’s Center for Writing Excellence Seminar for Lifelong Learners as a model.

For analysis and examination for community literacy work that can be accomplished by writing centers, I will explore a theory of community literacy based on the work of theorists such as Linda Flower and Elenore Long in order to define community literacy as both a field of inquiry and a political and social movement. I propose that the development of community literacy, through experiencing literature and developing as writers, has a meaningful and empowering effect on participants, thereby benefitting their communities. I further propose that community literacy, when structured through a university program, has a reflexive, mutually beneficial effect for participants and university staff Universities find themselves is unique positions to offer educational experiences and personal development to those who live locally but are not part of their infrastructure. My interest is informed by the work of Peter Elbow, specifically his book Writing Without Teachers, which serves as a challenge against traditional methods of teaching writing and a helpful guide for forming accessible writing groups and workshops. I will also incorporate work on collaborative learning by Kenneth Bruffee, which supports the practices of writercentered approaches and what community participants bring with them when they enter a writing group. James Britton will also play a pivotal role with his scholarship on the cognitive value of “talk,” a critical part of community partnerships.

This research will present literature on community literacy to show what is already known, provide some primary resources on this subject, examine the extent that community literacy can serve as a vehicle for teaching writing, and propose best practices. By providing an alternative discourse, various perspectives and methods for meaning-making emerge within communities. By bridging reading and writing experiences to those outside the university, we can improve critical thinking through reading and writing in a way that is engaging and provides accessibility to personal development, with the ultimate goal of producing social action.

I will identify the elements of successful community literacy programs and the theories that shape them. I will then showcase an example of a well-known, model community literacy program, selected by how it embodies the theories I have examined. For this section I intend to use the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center as a model of a highly successful community literacy program. In addition to an in-depth re vie w of the Center for Writing Excellence Seminar for Lifelong Learners, this study will conclude with the implications for creating community literacy partnerships.

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