This evaluative comparative case study focuses on the foreign language enrollment and experiences of African-American students in both a suburban and an urban context. Given the pervasiveness of inequity in education coupled with the benefits of foreign language study, it is important to examine the low enrollment and retention of African-American students in foreign language classes. The main objective of this study was to compare and contrast lower and upper level foreign language students' perceptions of foreign language study within two different school contexts in order to gain a better understanding of African-American students' enrollment and experiences.
This study involved 79 students in total: 42 suburban students and 37 urban students. All 79 completed a questionnaire about their ethnic background, family, and previous and current experiences learning a language. 15 suburban and 32 urban students also participated in focus groups, group interviews, or individual interviews during which they were asked to describe their enrollment decisions, experiences in foreign language study, and their perceptions of the low enrollment of African-American students in foreign language classes. Data analysis procedures included both a within-in case and a cross-case analysis of the questionnaire, focus group, and interview data from each school.
This study illuminated that students of all ethnic backgrounds in two very different educational contexts shared similar perceptions of foreign language study, particularly that it is grammar and textbook-driven. Additionally, many of the students, regardless of their ethnicity or SES, embodied similar motivation for enrolling in and opting out of foreign language classes. In regard to African-American students, however, this study provided evidence of a low enrollment and retention among African-American students. Furthermore, findings reflected that teachers and fellow students harbored negative perceptions and stereotypes of African-American students, pointing to the pervasiveness of institutional and social racism in the students' schools and communities. Other findings in this study pointed to the difference between male and female African-American students' persistence in foreign language study and several issues related to identity and SES.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2012. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Diane J. Tedick. 1 computer file (PDF); ii, 278 pages, appendices A-E.
Glynn, Cassandra Lea.
The role of ethnicity in the foreign language classroom: perspectives on African-American students’ enrollment, experiences, and identity.
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