Critical Approaches to Research in English Language Arts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The first decade of the 21st century brings with it a resurgence of interest in critical theorizing and innovative use of critical approaches in English language arts (ELA) research. Every researcher’s epistemological point of view informs her theoretical framework, methods, and questions as well as guides data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The goal of critical theory, according to Fay (1987) is to “explain a social order in such a way that it becomes itself the catalyst which leads to the transformation of this social order” (p. 27). Critical theorizing is not a mystical understanding reached by only a select few. In fact, Gramsci (1971) has argued that everyone is a critical theorist: ”participants in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world, or to modify it, that is to bring into being modes of thought” (p. 9). Critical theories and methods have evolved over time to address “new theoretical insights and new problems and social circumstances” (Kincheloe & McLaren, 2005, p. 306). This on-going process of reconceptualization, or criticality, meets the ever-changing challenges and complexities of our world and lives in the world. A brief review of the epistemological “roots and routes” (Hall, 1984) of critical theorizing and current manifestations that inform ELA critical approaches follows. The chapter concludes with a discussion of applications of critical theorizing in qualitative ELA studies.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts
EditorsDiane Lapp, Douglas Fisher
ISBN (Electronic)9780203839713, 9781136886560
ISBN (Print)9780415877350
StatePublished - Dec 2010


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