Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Allen Webb

Second Advisor

Dr. Gwen Athene Tarbox

Third Advisor

Dr. Meghann Meeusen

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Amanda Haertling Thein


Critical inquiry, young adult literature, teaching education, adolescent literature, critical youth studies, cultural studies


This dissertation presents a critical inquiry approach to teaching young adult literature in English language arts classrooms. Critical inquiry is derived from critical theory and critical pedagogy approaches, as well as pragmatic philosophies of inquiry. The author shows from convincing examples that a critical inquiry approach to teaching empowers students to ask meaningful questions about both what they are reading and the world they live in.

Chapter One: Methods of Teaching Young Adult Literature: Past, Present, and Future is an introduction to critical inquiry and the teaching of young adult literature. Chapter Two: Critical Inquiry in Teaching Young Adult Literature: Whole-Class, Literature Circle, and Independent Reading presents three effective approaches for teaching young adult literature in the English language arts classroom. Chapter Three: Critical Inquiry and Cultural Studies: Teaching Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Walter Dean Myers’s Monster provides an in-depth, whole-class-read unit for teaching one of the most commonly taught novels in secondary English classrooms with a critical inquiry, cultural studies approach. Chapter Four: Critical Youth Studies and Young Adult Literature discusses an emerging field of scholarship in English education—critical youth studies—and how to apply it to the teaching of young adult literature. Finally, Chapter Five: Remixes and Mashups: Critically “Playing Around” with Young Adult Literature empowers students to playfully and critically inquire into culture; to analyze stories, contexts, themes, and issues in young adult literature and other forms of popular culture; to engage meaningfully with technology in the English classroom; and to share ideas and make a difference in their local communities and in the world.

Drawing upon observation of several different English language arts classrooms, interviews with in-service teachers, the author’s own teaching experiences, and solid theory and scholarship in the field of English education, this dissertation demonstrates how young adult texts have an important role to play in student inquiry. English teachers want students to question and read analytically, to explore complicated ideas and materials, to foster their imagination, and to become critically thinking citizens in a culturally diverse and still-developing democracy. This dissertation will help teachers to achieve these goals.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access