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About the Integrating Literacies Project

The nature of work has changed. Academic skills are insufficient if they aren’t flexible enough to transfer and adapt across settings. Latinx youth often have rich experiences in adapting or extending communication practices and identities across settings. How might this prepare them for successful career trajectories? 

This study is about the changing nature of “work” in the knowledge economy, and the ways in which Latinx youth are prepared for the evolving communication norms and flexible identities of successful contemporary career trajectories. Specifically, we investigate the nature of work in the lives of Latinx youth and the corresponding communication practices they mobilize as they engage in work across the settings of work-study placement, classroom, and community.

The goal of this study is to identify (a) types and conditions of work that afford youths’ engagement in advanced communication practices and related 21st century skills, and (b) types and conditions of work and communication that correspond with agentive and aspirational identities for youth. Such an examination of work, communication, and identity can inform instructional and mentoring programs and practices in classrooms, career preparation programs, and workplace settings by noting promising approaches to work and communication in one setting that can be adapted to support youths’ development in other settings.

This study is unique in several ways. First, it focuses on a youth population that is underexplored in the world of work: Latinx youth from households at or below the federal poverty level. Most importantly, this study examines the experiences of youth across a range of contexts that are rarely explored in a single study. Scholars, practitioners, and young people often cite “disconnects” between what is taught in schools and what is needed in “real life.” By centering the inquiry on the construct of “work,” we are able to compare strategically the nature of work across settings and their underlying communication practices. While the work demands of each setting may be quite different, their requisite communication practices are likely to share some commonalities that can be examined, adapted, and instructed to inform and support youths’ skill development in other contexts.

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