A critical analysis of literacy in the workshop approach as described by Atwell, Calkins, and Rief

Date of Completion

January 2005


Education, Reading|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




Functional literacy, cultural literacy, and progressive literacy are just a few of the many terms one can invoke when attempting to define literacy. From a critical perspective, for a democratic society to exist, a critical literacy is of crucial importance. Critical literacy aims to empower individuals and transform society. It is grounded in critical theory and, like critical pedagogy, investigates ways in which social, cultural, racial, sexual, and economic inequalities are reproduced. By investigating the ideological, political, and social structures that perpetuate such inequalities, it hopes to raise consciousness and move towards creating a more socially just society. ^ Nancie Atwell, Lucy Calkins and Linda Rief are highly regarded in the field of language arts education. Their books, In the Middle (1998); The Art of Teaching Writing (1994); and Seeking Diversity (1992), respectively have contributed a great deal to the teaching of language arts. Employing discourse analysis, this study examines the stated approaches set forth by Nancie Atwell, Lucy Calkins, and Linda Rief to analyze the assumptions and ideologies underlying these works; the ways in which literacy is conceptualized in these approaches; the extent to which the approaches advocated have the potential to move toward critical literacy; and the ways in which the works of these educators relate to Graves and to one another. ^