Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Committee Member

Christine Clark

Second Committee Member

Jane McCarthy

Third Committee Member

Marilyn McKinney

Fourth Committee Member

Doris Watson

Number of Pages



The purpose of this study is to investigate whether white elementary teachers' perception of Whiteness influences critical literacy practices in elementary classrooms in an urban school district in the Southwest United States. This study consists of six white elementary school teachers.

Using Hardiman's model of White Identity Development, (WID) this study specifically explores the phenomenon of Whiteness and how teachers view themselves as having white privilege and advantage in American society. Hardiman's WID model includes five stages of white racial identity development in which a white person begins with no awareness of him or herself as a racial being and can move to an antiracist white identity (Hardiman & Keehn, 2012). Using Freebody and Luke's (1990) four resources model, this study also explores the literacy instructional strategies employed by the participants and categorizes them within this four process model. These categories include code breaking, text participant, text user, and text analyst. Freebody and Luke (1990) argue that all of these processes are essential in assisting readers with using texts effectively.

In order to better understand Whiteness and its potential relationship to critical literacy practices, this study addresses one main question and two ancillary questions. Generally, How does Whiteness influence elementary teachers' use of critical literacy practices? More specifically: How do elementary teachers negotiate Whiteness in elementary classrooms? and How do elementary teachers define and implement critical literacy practices? By exploring these questions, this study identifies potential relationships between the teachers' perception of Whiteness and the critical literacy practices they use or do not use in their elementary classrooms. However, because this study is an explanatory multiple case study, these questions provided various outcomes.

Consistent with case study methodology, data were gathered through one-on-one interviews, classroom observations, and small group discussions. The data were analyzed for patterns and themes using the categories identified in the conceptual models. The themes for Hardiman's WID include: Naïveté, Acceptance, Resistance, Redefinition, and Internalization (Hardiman & Keehn, 2012). Freebody and Luke's (1990) four resources model was also used to analyze patterns and themes. These categories include: code breaking, text participant, test user, and text analyst. After a detailed discussion of each case, the cross case analysis identifies themes and patterns across cases.

Results of this analysis suggest teachers' white identity development is somewhat influenced by their teacher preparation programs and more likely to be affected by interracial encounters, over and underestimating one's own white racial identity development is associated with characteristics of actual white racial identity, and elementary schools act as structures that stifle racial identity development. In the area of critical literacy this study suggests teachers do not have a strong understanding of critical literacy theory and therefore are not using it frequently in their classroom, and also that elementary schools are structured in a way that prevent the implementation of critical literacy practices. Last, this study combines the conceptual models of Hardiman's WID model (Hardiman & Keehn, 2012) and Freebody and Luke's (1990) four resources model into a conceptual framework demonstrating more advanced white racial identity is related to more frequent use of the four resources processes. The implications for these findings are discussed by addressing policy, practice, in the areas of elementary education and teacher preparation programs, and future research.


Case study; Critical literacy; Elementary education; Elementary school teachers; Literacy; Multicultural education; Racial identity; Reading; Urban schools; Whiteness; Whites – Race identity


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education | Elementary Education and Teaching | Liberal Studies

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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