Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Anne DiPardo

Second Advisor

sj Miller

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Dutro

Fourth Advisor

Ben Kirshner

Fifth Advisor

John-Michael Rivera

Abstract

Schools consistently prove to be unwelcoming environments for queer students. Queer issues and identities are often marginalized or even erased from curricula, putting queer youth at risk (Nieto, 2011). Utilizing a methodology known as student voice research, the principal investigator of this study formed a Curriculum Design Team where teachers and students collaborated in the construction of writing assignments that offer opportunities to explore queer issues and identities. The team capitalized on teacher expertise and empathy as well as the unique perspectives and experiences, or queer sensibility, of seven members of a high school Gay-Straight Alliance (G.S.A.). Participants examined how non-normative identities were materialized or foreclosed in their school’s curriculum, and developed writing assignments that promoted visibility, exploration, critique, and affirmation of Discourses (Gee, 2010) that affect queer youth. Students who participated in the study advocated for choice and modeling when writing is assigned, so that youth in schools have the opportunity to select queer topics as they study historical events or analyze literature. Student participants suggested that by providing a set of options that include queer topics or issues, teachers can communicate to students that exploring sexuality or gender is safe. Students in the study brought a queer sensibility to the meetings of the Curriculum Design Team, which impacted meeting dynamics as well as how teachers took up Discourses impacting queer youth. Meeting and interview transcripts provided a rich source of ethnographic data for Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 2010), as a means to study how power is manifested through the language of curriculum, multiliteracies, and meeting dynamics.

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