(Responding to) Youth epistemologies to create a third space: a reclamation of learning in an English language arts classroom


Purpose: This paper aims to focus on the construction of a third space within a high school. Specifically, the authors consider how youth of color engage the educational context of an 11th grade English language arts (ELA) class as a basis for (re)imagining their history, culture and themselves to construct counter-narratives away from framing their lived educational experiences as failures, deficient and depicted in “damage-centered” (Tuck, 2009) ways. The research engages the process and challenges of creating this type of space within a school setting, as well as examining the ways in which students envision these locations. Design/methodology/approach: Critical ethnography centered the emphasis on youth engagement for social change, as well as the inquiry on how the classroom space was constructed, shared and navigated by the students and ourselves (Madison, 2005). In addition, the research design reflects critical ethnography through the use of prolonged participation in the field (nine and half months), a focus on culture (specifically school and classroom culture/climate) and a critical theory-based framework [hybridity, third space and youth participatory action research (YPAR)]. Findings: Three major themes emerged from the data that demonstrate how instructors and students collectively engaged in a third space through the YPAR project. These themes include developing an ethic of care with students and among instructors, cultivating an atmosphere of social justice awareness and the contrast of the classroom space with the wider-Hillside Vocational High School environment. Originality/value: The study engages the use of YPAR within a high school class that became a unique space for students to learn and develop. The ELA class did not just reflect adding the first space and second space together or merging the two. Instead, it seemed to demonstrate the creation of a new type of space or the development of a third space. In this space, students could bring and bridge their out-of-school and in-school experiences to develop new knowledge and ways of seeing the world.

Publication Title

English Teaching