Gradually releasing responsibility in justice-centered teaching: Educators reflecting on a social justice literacy workshop on police brutality

Tiffany M. Nyachae, Mary B. McVee, Fenice B. Boyd

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Purpose – This chapter discusses youth participation in a Social Justice Literacy Workshop (SJLW). Participants were predominantly Black youth residing in an urban community with a rich history and important community resources such as libraries and churches. The SJLW used a variety of print texts, videos, artwork, documents, and other texts to explore the topic of police brutality and other justice-related topics. Design/Methodology/Approach – This chapter uses the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) model as a lens to revisit the SJLW as designed and implemented by the first author Tiffany Nyachae. Nyachae designed and implemented the SJLW as space to inspire students to engage in critical thinking and analysis of authentic texts, and to use these textual interactions as an impetus for activism in their community. With the help of her co-authors, Nyachae reflects on the SJLW through a GRR lens to describe how students were scaffolded and supported as they moved toward activism. Findings – Students brought their own understandings of police brutality and awareness of activism to the SJLW. These prior understandings were shaped both by their own lived experiences but also by their awareness of and interaction with social media. During the SJLW, youth read and discussed the novels All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (2015) and Hush by Jacqueline Woodson (2002). The youth engaged in activities and discussions about how prevalent issues in each novel connected to larger social and political concerns. Students discussed the current events, engaged in reflective writing, read short pieces, and analyzed documents and videos. The SJLW was successful in such a way that all students felt comfortable voicing their opinions, even when opinions differed from their peers. Students demonstrated critical thinking about issues related to justice. All students completed an action plan to address injustice in their community. While applying the GRR to this context and reflecting, first author Nyachae began to consider the other scaffolds for youth that could have been included, particularly one youth, JaQuan, who was skeptical about what his community had done to support him. Nyachae revisits the SJLW to consider how the GRR helped to reveal the need for additional scaffolding that JaQuan or other youth may have needed from leaders in the SJLW. A literature review also revealed that very few literacy practices have brought together the GRR and social justice teaching or learning. Research Limitations/Implications – This chapter demonstrates that the GRR framework can be effectively applied to a justice-centered teaching and learning context as a reflective tool. Since very little research exists on using the GRR framework with justice-centered teaching, there is a need for additional research in this area as the GRR model offers many affordances for researchers and teachers. There is also a need for literacy researchers to consider elements of justice even when applying the GRR framework to any classroom or out-of-school context with children and youth. Practical Implications – The GRR can be a useful tool for reflecting the practices of literacy and justice-centered teaching. Just as the GRR can be a useful framework to help teachers think about teaching reading comprehension, it can be an effective tool to help teachers think about supporting students to grow from awareness to activism in justice-centered teaching and learning. Originality/Value of Paper – This chapter is one of only a handful of published works that brings together a social justice perspective with the GRR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLiteracy Research, Practice and Evaluation
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameLiteracy Research, Practice and Evaluation
ISSN (Print)2048-0458
ISSN (Electronic)2048-0466

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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