«A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education in the Graduate Division of ...»
Focal district and site administrators.
While all of the participants in the Program Review were present at meetings at which I gathered qualitative data, and were, therefore, participants in the study, I chose very carefully who would become the focal participants in the study, with whom I would conduct in-depth qualitative interviews. Many of the participants in the meetings had made a contribution to the discussions held in them, but had no role in the final formation of the policy statement, curriculum development or implementation of the reinstatement plan. I, therefore, chose three administrators who were responsible for one of these areas for these interviews.
Ms. Beverly Fisher, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education. Ms.
Fisher had been responsible for calling together the Program Review group and for conducting all of their meetings, working with individual members to set the agenda, and assigning roles and responsibilities to some of the members. After the Program Review was complete and the report was submitted to the Superintendent, Ms. Fisher worked behind the scenes with Ms. Gomez to develop a possible new curriculum model for the 6th and 7th grade Spanish Immersion classes. Ms. Fisher was beginning her second of three years in her position with Midville School District, having come from another Northern California school district with a Spanish Immersion program. She was familiar with that program as both a district administrator and a parent of three children who had been students in the program in that district. A former middle school science teacher, Ms. Fisher had been a student at Midville High School nearly 40 years prior to taking the job as Assistant Superintendent.
Mr. Gerald Bell, Director of Secondary Education and Supervisor of World Language Education. Mr. Bell had been a district administrator in Midville for approximately a decade at the time of the study, and was responsible for researching possible language assessment tools and programs for use in the Spanish Immersion program in advance of the meetings, and for drafting the final policy statement and report for the Superintendent. A former Spanish and French teacher, at both the high school and college levels, Mr. Bell was from the Midwest, and had participated in ACTFL and other professional World Language teaching organizations over the years, and had been involved with the International Schools movement as well. He was acquainted personally with both of the university consultants who participated in the Program Review through their contact in professional associations.
Mr. Robert Worth, Principal, Midville Middle School. Mr. Worth had only been hired as Principal of the middle school in June 2008, and was becoming familiar with the district, his site, and the Spanish Immersion program even as he began meeting with the Program Review group that fall. His role was first to represent the interests of his site in the possible reinstatement of the program and then to oversee the implementation of the new iteration of the program once it had been reinstated. He consulted with teachers as the Program Review unfolded. A former elementary teacher, Mr. Worth had recently completed his Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Reform at a Northern California university. As a young person, he had had experience teaching ESL in Malaysia.
Summary of Fifth Grade Data Collected During the period of data collection in the 5th grade classroom (January-May 2009), I gathered a variety of qualitative data connected to my research questions as outlined in Table 2.2 below. Following the table, I describe the specific data collected by type of data.
Table 2.2: Overview of Data Collected from Spanish Immersion 5th Grade Classes, Winter-Spring 2009
I conducted one in-depth qualitative interview each with Mr. Foster and Ms.
Gomez lasting approximately one hour each. I also had an informal introductory interview with Ms. Gomez prior to making my first visit to her classroom, and some informal conversations both at the school and at El Molino. I spoke informally with Ms.
Flores twice at school and twice at El Molino. Each of the two formal interviews was based on a protocol (Appendix E), and was recorded (audio only) and transcribed in full.
I wrote notes about my informal interview and conversations with Ms. Gomez. In interviewing both Mr. Foster and Ms. Gomez, I hoped to arrive at some understanding of their beliefs and ideologies about language learning and use, their experiences with TWI education (as well as their understandings of the goals of this Spanish Immersion program), their sense of the differences between TWI and World Language models of language teaching and learning, and their concerns about the future reinstatement of the middle school Spanish Immersion program. Each of their interviews took place after the district’s formal Program Review of the middle school program had ended.
Participant observations: 5th grade classrooms and El Molino.
Fifth Grade Classrooms: I began my participant observations in Ms. Gomez’s class in January 2009, several weeks before the 5th graders would leave for their trip to El Molino. My purposes in observing the class before the trip were multiple: to observe ways in which the students were preparing for the trip, to understand the character of language learning and use in 5th grade Spanish Immersion, to identify specific practices that reflected Ms. Gomez’s beliefs and ideologies about language learning and use (to serve as data to triangulate with that collected in her interview), and to observe student language use and learning in various academic disciplines and domains (Language Arts, Science and Social Studies). I made three 1.5-3-hour visits to Ms. Gomez’s classroom before the trip, and one 1.5 hour visit to Ms. Flores’s (to observe a Social Studies lesson).
After the trip to El Molino, I made two more 1.5-hour visits to Ms. Gomez’s class to observe a lesson she had developed for her students’ final writing workshop, an important culminating classroom experience of this 5th grade class. During my observations, I took extensive typed and handwritten fieldnotes which I reviewed post-observation and about which I wrote memos focusing on specific elements of the classroom experience.
El Molino: Because the experience of students, teachers, and myself as a researcher promised to be very intense and diverse at El Molino, I prepared myself well in advance for my observations at the camp. I attended a session held by Ms. Gomez and Ms. Flores in which they discussed with all the 5th grade participants how they should prepare, and what talleres (workshops) were likely to be offered that year so that the students could ponder their selections in advance. The talleres took place four of the five days of camp, and lasted 1.75 hours each, totaling 7 hours for each taller. Using the list of possible talleres provided to the students by Ms. Gomez, I developed a protocol for my choices as well (Appendix F). I wanted to observe language use in a variety of domains, some more like the academic domains of school subjects, some less, some which might appeal more to girls, and some which might draw boys. Out of my choices of talleres, I planned to determine some of my focal students. I planned to attend four talleres, but in the end, attended six. In most cases, I made one visit to each, but because some ended a day earlier than usual that week, I attended Cuidado de animales twice, once on my first day at camp and once on my last. I recorded at least a portion of each taller I attended on digital video; for two talleres, Sombreros and Deshilado, I only recorded a short portion of the session as an establishing record of the sites at which they took place and the configuration of the activity. For Cuidado de animales, Biología, and Producción de radio, I recorded the entire 1 hour 45 minute sessions; for Alebrijes, I recorded the first hour and took handwritten notes for the final 45 minutes. I took handwritten notes in Sombreros, Deshilado, and Producción de radio as well, but the settings for Cuidado de animales and Biología did not allow me to take notes. I produced post-observation memos for those two talleres instead. In each taller, I focused on student and teacher language use and the domains of language use involved in the subject matter covered.
While a major focus of the experience at El Molino revolved around the talleres, the students participated in other experiences, some of which I observed, though, because I was commuting from Patzcuaro to Erongarícuaro each day, I did not stay past dinner each night. During the day, I observed students stopping to make purchases at the local grocery store, chatting during free time, riding or walking to their talleres, preparing for a special musical performance, talking with teachers and camp counselors about plans and issues related to the running of camp or activities they would engage in, and playing sports. Other than the talleres, the most significant activity I observed was a morninglong community service experience all the campers participated in at a local pre-school, an activity I recorded in digital video.
Sample student work.
At the end of the school year 2008-2009, I asked Ms. Gomez for access to student work in Spanish, including their Libretas de lectura and the final product of the fiction writing workshop for as many students as possible in her class. All of the writing gathered was written in Spanish. I gathered Libretas de lectura from four students, including three of the focal students identified in El Molino, Betsy, Michael and Marta; I received the final short stories from the fiction writing workshop from 14 of Ms.
Gomez’s 18 students, including 4 of the focal students in Ms. Gomez’s class, Jacob, Michael, Georgia and Marta. Conducted entirely in Spanish, these two activities reflected the language use and learning practices characteristic of this class, and the sample work represented the focal students’ engagement in these practices. In addition, in gathering these data, I hoped to be able to compile the genres the focal students had read and written, and the themes and domains about which they had read and written during a significant portion of the year to add to the classroom and El Molino observation data. I also used three focal students’ short stories from the fiction writing workshop, along with that of one non-focal student, in my June 2009 interview with high school Spanish Language AP teacher, Mr. Mann, at which I asked him to read and react to each of them as a means of adding to my understanding of Mr. Mann’s language beliefs and ideologies, and his impressions about the language competency of these students.
Incidentally, I gathered some student writing in English, as some of their entries in their Libretas de lectura were written in English about English-language books they had read.
In addition, Ms. Gomez’s class wrote final short stories in both English and Spanish, and a few English-language stories were included in the collection of their fiction writing. I did not, however, use any of this data in my analysis, as my focus was only on Spanish language learning and use.
Summary of Midville High School Spanish Language AP Data Collected During the period of data collection on AP Spanish Language (April-June 2009), I gathered a variety of qualitative data connected to my research questions as outlined in Table 2.3 below. Following the table, I describe the specific data collected by type of data.
Table 2.3: Overview of Data Collected from Midville High School Spanish Language Advanced Placement Course and Exam, Spring 2009
Teacher/department administrator interview.
In June 2009, after the school year had ended, I conducted a 1-½ hour long indepth qualitative interview with Mr. Mann, using a protocol very similar to the one I used with Mr. Foster, Ms. Gomez and the subjects from the Program Review group. This interview was transcribed in full and coded. I also had an informal interview with him prior to visiting his class for the first time, and made handwritten notes on that conversation.
A distinguishing feature of the formal interview with Mr. Mann was his evaluative reading of several short stories written by Ms. Gomez’s 5th grade Spanish Immersion students the month before. Because I had identified Mr. Mann as belonging to the high school World Language community involved in the Program Review, and had hypothesized from that review that one of the values of that community was language correctness over language use, I wanted to test my hypothesis by recording his reaction to several pre-selected writing samples. I selected four writing samples to share with him, three coming from focal students from Ms. Gomez’s class, Jacob, Michael and Georgia, the fourth being another girl. I chose stories based on gender, theme, and qualities of language and language use, including grammatical/orthographic control, range of grammar features, and creativity and fluidity of expression. He willingly participated in an open-ended evaluation of four short stories; I did not lead him to take any particular perspective on them, only asking him to comment on whatever he saw as significant about them as pieces of writing in Spanish. After his reading and evaluation, I explained that I had chosen them based on their differences in control of language, among other factors, and he affirmed that they did represent such differences.
Participant observation: Spanish Language AP classroom and exam.