During my tenure as a high school teacher, I noticed that my monolingual English speaking students and my long-term English learners (LTELs) exhibited similar difficulties with academic literacy. Interestingly, my LTELs’ literacy practices were used as evidence of their failure to acquire English. On the other hand, my monolingual students’ knowledge of English was never called into question by their use of literacy in the classroom. I turned to the research to better understand the existence of this double-standard. I found numerous articles that talked about the “different” needs of adolescent English learners; however, this research was not conducted on high school students who were born and educated solely in the United States. This gap in the research led me to identify LTELs as the focus of my dissertation.
My dissertation will explore the in and out-of-school English literacy practices of five 10th grade students who have been classified as English learners since kindergarten. I will employ multiple qualitative methods including: ethnography, verbal protocols of reading, and in-depth qualitative interviews. These tools of inquiry will allow me to paint a holistic portrait of how students labeled as “long-term learners of English” use English literacy. This research is significant because it problematizes the assumption bilingual students’ difficulties with academic literacy should be interpreted as evidence a lack of English proficiency.
As a former high school English teacher and administrator in a socioeconomically, ethnically and racially diverse high school, I began my doctoral research in the Department of Curriculum & Teaching at Teachers College with a desire to better understand the connections between the academic achievement of students of color and the complex dynamics of race, ethnicity, culture, knowledge, and power in classroom contexts. Since 2007, I have been a research fellow at a diverse selective public middle school in New York City, where I have observed in classrooms and examined students’ English language arts (ELA) standardized and course assessments in order to assist with program development, ELA curriculum design, and professional development in writing and reading across the disciplines. This work, also located in classrooms and closely connected with students and teachers, has contributed to my research interests and inspired me to explore the interrelatedness of identities, experiences, and achievement among students of color in diverse academic contexts.
My dissertation research, a case study entitled “Constructing and Negotiating Identities-in-Practice: Multiple Identities, the Enacted Curriculum, and the Figured World of Achievement in a Middle School English Classroom,” examines the intersection of eight 8th grade students’ experiences of their English language arts curriculum, the construction of their multiple identities, and their academic achievement. The purpose of this inquiry is to advance the theory and development of context-based curricula that reframe deficit conceptions of lower-income students of color and can lead to improved academic achievement for historically underserved student populations.
My research focuses on the potential of using life-based literary narratives—specifically postcolonial literature for young adults—as a pedagogical tool with pre-service teachers. Given current trends in immigration and global economic interdependence, pre-service teachers need to cultivate a critical understanding of global issues and cultures, so that they may nurture a global worldview in their own students once they begin teaching. My research includes locating postcolonial novels written for and about young adults, and analyzing them for perspectives that challenge normative understandings of race, gender, and nation. My research study will examine the effectiveness of using a book group model with pre-service teachers to critically engage such texts in conversations about global issues and cultures.
Mentor to Elizabeth Durand
Violet Harris maintains active interest and conducts research in the areas of children's literature, multicultural children's literature, children's book publishing, the historic development of African American literacy, and the creation of literacy materials created specifically for African Americans. More broadly, She is interested in literacy, socio-cultural influences on literacy and schooling, and teacher education. Currently, she is working on a content analysis of historic literacy materials for African American children and monitoring two trends in children's literature: biracial/multiracial children and religion. Her future research projects will focus more on analyzing specific authors, illustrators, and genres in children's literature and analyzing trends in publishing.
Latrise is a PhD candidate at Emory University, Division of Educational Studies. She is a former Language Arts/English public school teacher. Her research focuses on the literate practices of African American male youth; particularly the literacy ideologies, texts, and artifacts the complicate and/or extend notions of literate identities within and across in-school and out-of-school spaces. She is also interested in how particular literate practices connect to lived experiences and support the development of the individual literate identities of African American male youth. In Latrise’s ethnographic work with a group of African American middle school males, she hopes to reveal insights into how the youth connect with each other, text, literacy artifacts, and teachers/facilitators. Using ethnographic interviewing, she wants to explore how such connections may represent and/or contradict the literate ideologies and practices of other spaces.
Latrise’s other research interests include, literacy education, teacher preparation, culturally relevant pedagogy, and writing instruction.
Danny C. Martinez
Danny C. Martinez-Doctoral Student (soon to be Candidate) at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies in the Division of Urban Schooling.
While teaching Middle School ESL courses in San Francisco and High School ESL courses in Los Angeles I became very interested in the languages spoken by my students. The youth in my classes entered speaking Spanish from various regions of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Bolivia (to name a few of their home countries). Over time, I noticed how my students began using words and phrases that were new to them, language varieties they were learning from their peers through their everyday communicative interactions. In Los Angeles I also taught 10th grade English, where recent immigrant Latin@ students, U.S. born Latin@ students and Black students interacted on a daily basis. Here I witnessed the language practices of all my students change over time. Recent immigrants were uttering phrases in Black English, Black students were speaking words and phrases in Spanish, Chicano Spanish and Spanglish! U.S. born Latin@s who were fluent speakers of Black English were speaking formal varieties of Spanish, and all students were learning academic varieties of English.
This phenomenon is now central to my dissertation study where I will conduct a year-long ethnography detailing the language practices of Black and Latin@ youth in a 10th grade English Language Arts classroom located in a Los Angeles school that I call Willow High School. The theoretical and methodological traditions of Ethnography of Communication and Language Socialization have informed my study. I will also draw on Sociocultural theories of language and literacy, as well as Cultural Historical Activity Theoretical perspectives on “vertical and horizontal” forms of learning, learning that is inclusive of culturally valued practices. While larger narratives tend to describe the language practices of Black and Latin@ youth through a deficit lens, this project aims to add to research that shows how the language practices of non-dominant communities are complex and useful in fulfilling communicative needs of a language community. This study will also contribute to language and literacy research in education that treats the language and literacy practices of non-dominant youth as a resource for learning by demonstrating how our urban youth are already taking on additive approaches to learning languages, even if these languages are viewed as "marginal."
I am a doctoral candidate in the Language and Literacy Program at the University of South Carolina. My proposed qualitative study uses life history interviews among other methodologies to investigate: (a) roles that African American families play in adolescents’ educational opportunities, (b) teachers’ views of family involvement, and (c) implications for middle level teachers that can be made by focusing on families as sites for opportunity, support, and access. Although I am at the early stages in the development of this study, I have begun to review literature that helps me understand issues associated with families, adolescents, schools, and literacy education. I am engaging with research in several areas: (a) the study of African American students in the U.S. South, (b) parental involvement, and (c) understanding African American families.
My research is significant to the field of education in the English Language Arts, because it seeks to understand ways that schools and parents can work together to achieve literacy development for adolescents while challenging stereotypes and misperceptions that may be preventing such collaboration. The purpose of the work is to make visible the experiences of families, students, and schools in communities rarely studied - poor, rural African American communities in the U.S. South - and to consider middle school reform regarding parental involvement in a new light. In the process, I hope to challenge schools’ definitions of successful parental and family involvement by uncovering resources and support structures that exist in homes and communities in conjunction with assumptions about and expectations for parental support from the school’s perspective. Further, the study will provide data that may help teachers become cognizant of their vital roles as active members of family networks by building awareness of families as sites for educational opportunities. Because time and place are crucial in understanding lived experiences, a study like this will add to the body of research in school reform and family involvement by helping teachers conceive of and appreciate supportive roles played by African American families in the literacy learning of adolescent youth in the rural South.
Kimberly N. Parker
Kimberly N. Parker is a Ph.D. Candidate in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. Her research interests include the school-based literacy practices of young Black men. In her work, she explores the ways young Black men make sense of texts through their own discourse as well as those of their classrooms and the broader discourses of school. She also considers how race, ethnicity and gender factor into those discourses. Her other research interests include multicultural young adult literature, literature circles and book clubs as a literacy practice, and charter school education, particularly as related to African American teachers. As she expands her interests, Ms. Parker is grounded in the work of public schools; she regularly considers how to make her research relevant to the classroom teachers charged with teaching our students. As such, she continues to work within public schools as she completes her doctoral work.
Melody Patterson Zoch
My dissertation will be a yearlong ethnographic study of the literacy teaching practices and discourses about literacy at an urban elementary school that serves primarily Latino students in the Southwest. I chose this particular school because it is currently experiencing a lot of positive change in their literacy program, their leadership, their recognition from the district, and they have a newly established university partnership. I situate my study within school reform for improving literacy teaching and learning; and I acknowledge the importance of understanding what urban schools can do to close the achievement gap and trump deficit perspectives about urban schools and culturally and linguistically diverse students.
Mentor to Melody Patterson Zoch
Sarah Freedman is currently leading a Spencer-funded 3-year grant to study how students develop as ethical civic actors when they live in divided societies--in particular the US, South Africa and Northern Ireland. She is working collaboratively with colleagues at Facing History and Ourselves as well as research teams in each setting. She, of course, is particularly interested in how writing can support students as they come to understand and take action related to the conflicts that emerge from the divisions in their societies.
Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz is an Assistant Professor of English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. At the core of her teaching and research agenda is an exploration of how diversity (gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation) inform instructional goals, curriculum, pedagogy, and literacy learning in high school and community college settings. Her three current research projects specifically examine the intersection of race, gender and literacy in these educational settings as well as teacher preparation for urban schools. She is interested in the development of racial literacy skills among teachers and students, the literacy habits, and perceptions of school literacy held by over-age and under-credited high school males, and the relevance of Critical English Education to Black and Latina community college female students.
Sandra Quinones, University of Rochester/Warner Graduate School of Education, Department of Teaching and Curriculum. My research focuses on the concept of educación, a dynamic cultural construct that embodies cultural and linguistic (re)sources of knowledge and ways of being in Latino communities that are worthy of further analysis. I draw from Latino critical race theory (LatCrit) and Chicana/Latina feminist theory to explore what it means to be una persona bien educada from a Puerto Rican perspective. Data collection will include phenomenological interviews, observations, and focus group interviews with Puerto Rican educators to gain a better understanding of individual and collective meanings. Data analysis and interpretive procedures will include discerning categories and themes and then relating these findings with relevant literature.
My aim is to extend the work of previous Latina/o scholars and build theory that contributes to Boricua scholarship and educational research. This line of inquiry has implications for supporting additive schooling practices, including culturally responsive pedagogies with Latina/o youth and their families. This qualitative research also complements the need to address demographic changes and literacy development for English language learners from bilingual/bicultural transnational populations.
Tim San Pedro
Tim San Pedro is currently conducting research in a pilot Native American Literature classroom taught to high school seniors in a southwest urban public school. Despite the city’s proximity to bordering reservations, this is the only classroom offered to students that discusses Native Americans in both the contemporary and traditional contexts. By taking a closer look at four case studies (four Native American students), Tim will continue to pursue emerging codes from the data such as perceived silence in the classroom and difference in learning styles from home and school.
Tim’s interest in this topic stems from his upbringing on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Polson, Montana and the questions of unequal education in public schools to different populations of students. He hopes that the research he has conducted (and will continue to conduct) will ultimately help Native and non-Native students gain an appreciation for the richness of culture that collectively is their community, their country, and their world.
Mentor to Timothy San Pedro
Arlette Ingram Willis received her Ph. D. from the Ohio State University. She is currently a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, the division of Language and Literacy. Her publications include Teaching and using multicultural literature in grades 9-12: Moving beyond the canon (1998), Reading comprehension research and testing in the US: Undercurrents of race, class, and power in the struggle for meaning (2008); three co-edited books Multiple and intersecting identities in qualitative research (with B. Merchant, 2001); Multicultural issues in literacy research and practice (with G. Garcia, R. Barrera, and V. Harris, 2003); On Critically Conscious Research: Approaches to Language and Literacy Research (with M. Montovan, H. Hall, C. Hunter, L. Burke, and A. Herrera, A., 2008); and numerous referred articles, book chapters, book reviews, and monographs. She also has served as co-editor (with David Bloome) of the National Council of Teachers of English Literacy Book Series and is co-editor (with Violet J. Harris) of the American Education Research Journal, Teaching, Learning, and Human Development section.
My dissertation, “The Writing Development of Procedural and Persuasive Genres: A Multiple Case Study of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) Fifth Grade Students,” explores the relationship between the instructional context and the development of writing of a small group of diverse CLD students acquiring written literacy in English. This ethnographic case study presents the portraits of five multilingual/multicultural students as they navigate and negotiate learning the structural elements and language features of the procedural and persuasive genres. Data collection included conducting observations, capturing videotaped examples of the nexus between classroom instruction and student writing, the collection of students’ writing samples, formal and informal interviews with students and the classroom teacher, and writing memos about my own experiences of processes observed. Data analysis involved iterative, multiple re-readings across the data sources in order to identify the themes, questions and impressions (Dyson & Genishi, 2005; Miles & Huberman, 1994). Theories about second language writing, systemic functional linguistics (SFL), student voice, identity and literacy further informed my analyses. It is my hope that results of the dissertations study will help teachers discover new ways to educate children and youth of color from a diversity-as-strength perspective (Cummins, 1998).