Communicating Elevated Academic Expectations: Positioning Students as Thinkers with Ideas to Share


  • Jennifer Mitton St. Francis Xavier University
  • Lia Lewis North Nova Education Centre
  • Savannah MacDonald Northumberland Regional High School



The focus of this qualitative study is upon 15 Grade 12 students situated in an English Communications (ECM) classroom in rural Nova Scotia and the impact a daily classroom circle had upon their academic engagement. ECM is intended for students who may require further support to develop their skills as readers, writers, and language users as they enter the job market or community colleges. There is no formal curriculum for ECM, and often the demographics of such classrooms are comprised of some of the province’s most vulnerable populations. In this paper, we demonstrate the impact the daily classroom circle had upon late adolescents’ understanding of themselves as thinkers with ideas to share. Overall, we see this study as significant for teachers in high-poverty contexts, particularly the importance of using a classroom circle as a consistent space to communicate elevated expectations for students who have experienced academic struggles.

Keywords: adolescent literacy; circle routines; qualitative case study; restorative practices

Author Biographies

Jennifer Mitton, St. Francis Xavier University

Jennifer Mitton is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her current research is in the areas of adolescent literacy, teacher pedagogy, and metacognition.

Lia Lewis, North Nova Education Centre

Lia Lewis is currently the Acting Principal of North Nova Education Centre in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Savannah MacDonald, Northumberland Regional High School

Savannah MacDonald is a classroom teacher for the Chigecto Central Regional Centre for Education, and has worked on several projects as a research assistant with Dr. Jennifer Mitton. Her research areas of interest are teacher pedagogy, authentic instruction, and restorative justice.