Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice

Document Type



Research suggests that when students realize a personal connection to their learning environment and feel their identities are supported, successful learning can take place (Nasir, 2012). Specifically, the use of texts that are meaningful to the lives of African American males can provide spaces for them to explore their unique identities (Tatum, 2009). Such texts can include young adult literature, which offers potential for motivating students to engage in reading, especially because of its themes relevant to teen readers. While much research exists about the various YAL books available, less is known about “what actually happens when teens read young adult novels” (Hayn, Kaplan, & Nolen, 2011). In light of this, through this dissertation I investigate what happens when a teacher uses two young adult novels with her students to explore their identities. The purpose of this research was to explore African American adolescent male identities through young adult literature. Using ethnographic methods and two young adult novels, I conducted this research with eleven African American male students in Ms. Clark’s second and third period English II classes at Bayou Central High School during the 2012-2013 school year. Data collection occurred throughout the two novel units and included classroom observations, participant interviews, surveys, questionnaires, and examination of student work. Student work samples included reading response journals, personal essays, group activities, and a culminating mural on identity. Data analysis involved coding to develop categories and themes, which were then triangulated with supporting data. Findings were interpreted through a New Literacy Studies frame, as well as reader response theory. Findings suggest that participants found connections with young adult novels, particularly those containing characters or plots relating to participants’ lives. Other findings indicate that participants projected different identities, dependent upon the social scene in which they operated. In addition, data suggest participants found a lack of appreciation in school contexts for their out-of-school literate lives. Implications include the need for classroom teachers to craft a curriculum more reflective of the unique cultural identities of African American males, as well as inclusion of their out-of-school literacies in everyday learning experiences.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Bach, Jacqueline



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Education Commons