Enacting an Antiracist Critical Literacy Pedagogy in Rural Places: How Appalachian Teachers Engage Students in the Interrogation of Whiteness
Rachelle Kuehl

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Primary Discipline

Literacy and/or English/Language Education
Educators? responsibility to help students interrogate the systemic nature of racism and the ubiquity of Whiteness as an ideology requires a sophisticated understanding of the nuances of antiracist instruction in various contexts. Thus, this multiple case study investigation will examine how teachers in a particular context?rural Appalachia?enact an antiracist critical literacy pedagogy, providing nuance to the current virulent debate over how issues surrounding race should be taught. For the study, eight K-12 teachers will co-develop and teach antiracist language arts units using frameworks of critical pedagogy of place (Greenwood, 2003), critical civic empathy (Mirra, 2018), and historically responsive literacy (Muhammad, 2020). Critical ethnographic observations (Carspecken, 1996) during instruction that examine classroom power dynamics and external exertions of power/Whiteness (from policymakers, administrators, the media, etc.) alongside teacher interviews and rigorous researcher self-reflection will reveal challenges and successes in promoting racial literacy (Croom, 2020). Interactions will be interpreted through the lenses of rurality and place, invoking critical discourse analysis (Rogers & Mosley-Wetzel, 2017) to analyze each case individually, integrating findings across cases as the study develops. Applying layered theoretical perspectives of critical race theory (e.g., Ladson-Billings, 1998), Whiteness studies (Leonardo, 2013)/critical Whiteness studies (Matias, 2016), antiracism (Kendi, 2019), and abolitionist teaching (Love, 2020) to thick descriptions of school and community contexts, detailed explorations of students? responses to antiracist instruction, and critical analyses of teachers? pedagogical moves will provide insight for pursuing antiracist teaching in places where community resistance may impede the establishment of racial literacies.
About Rachelle Kuehl
Rachelle Kuehl is a postdoctoral associate in the School of Education at Virginia Tech, where she manages the Appalachian Rural Talent Initiative, a grant-funded outreach project of Virginia Tech?s Center for Rural Education aimed at increasing equity in gifted programming for rural Appalachian students. A former elementary teacher and reading specialist, Dr. Kuehl?s research sits at the intersection of literacy, underserved populations, and place. Her articles about literacy instruction, rural education, children?s literature, gifted education, and teacher education have appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as The Reading Teacher, the Journal of Children?s Literature, the English Journal, Theory & Practice in Rural Education, Reading Horizons, English in Education, the Teacher Educators? Journal, Collection Management, and the Journal of Literacy Innovation in addition to various state and regional publications. She is the author or co-author of five chapters in edited books and has presented her research at national and international conferences for organizations such as the American Educational Research Association, the International Literacy Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Rural Education Association. Dr. Kuehl holds a Ph.D. and an Ed.S. in curriculum and instruction from Virginia Tech, an M.S. in educational leadership from Radford University, and a B.A. in English from St. Olaf College. She currently serves as chair of the International Literacy Association?s intermediate book awards committee.

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