Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Dr. Nancy Robb Singer


Dr. Nancy Robb Singer

Dr. Rebecca Rogers

Dr. Nicholas Husbye

Dr. Lenny Sanchez


This dissertation reports on a collaborative action research study conducted with Sioux Roslawski, a third-grade teacher in a Ferguson, Missouri elementary school. Sioux and I wondered how students might use words, images, and actions to shape a vision of their community space and its future in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting. Situated within a critical-spatial and sociocultural paradigm, placemaking stems from understandings of place as culturally produced and interpreted, and, thus, capable of being re-designed in the interest of equity and social justice. The research methodology was guided by a critical qualitative and ethnographic approach, coupled with critical and mediated discourse analysis. Findings focus on how our efforts to engage students in placemaking were hindered by a school culture that positioned students as successful literacy learners based on standardized test scores and teachers as technicians of pre-defined curriculum. However, through acts of appropriation and resistance, students were (re)positioned as readers, writers, and thinkers. Using talk and text, students storied their homes, neighborhoods, and communities, and they tried to make sense of the civic unrest that took place in Ferguson in the summer and fall of 2014. These counter-stories reveal students’ communicative competency and provided a nuanced perspective of Ferguson. This research has implications for how teachers can enact critical professional practice in an age of standardized learning and high-stakes tests. In addition, it shows how pedagogy focused on placemaking might help students, particularly those in marginalized communities, interrogate and celebrate their home spaces.

OCLC Number