«A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education in the Graduate Division of ...»
Spanish Language AP Classroom: I began my participant observation visits to Mr. Mann’s class in April 2009, several weeks before the May 2009 AP exam, with the intention of making weekly visits to his class to see what classroom activities characterized the period leading up to the exam. My purposes were the same as those I had in making the observations in the 5th grade classroom. I made a total of three visits before the exam, for each of which I took typed and handwritten notes and collected collateral materials involved in that day’s activities. My third visit (4/30/09) occurred on a day when the class would be practicing the spoken portion of the AP exam with one of the proctors in the library, which happened to be the day I planned on video recording the class session. It turned out to be propitious since I was not allowed to video record during the exam itself, and this allowed me to capture the experience of managing the technology necessary to complete the exam, and to record sample test items used for practice.
Just as I had made a couple of classroom visits to Ms. Gomez’s class, after the class trip to El Molino, to observe one of her culminating classroom activities, the fiction workshop, I also made one final visit (5/22/09) to Mr. Mann’s class after the AP exam, to observe a class session related to his culminating classroom activity, the reading of La casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) by Federico García-Lorca. I hoped to add further texture to my understanding of the character of language learning and use by doing so.
2009 Spanish Language Advanced Placement Exam: I felt fortunate to be able to gain access (if only to observe and take typed and handwritten notes) to the Spanish Language AP exam at Midville High School. I attended the entire exam, arriving with the students at 7:30 a.m., observing the process of registering, finding a seat, taking all the sections of the exam, taking breaks, and finishing the exam at approximately 12:30 p.m. I participated by helping proctors make sure that all students had the materials they needed at a couple of points in the exam, and by alerting proctors to student needs and even to minor errors in understanding in their administration of the exam. I was the only Spanish-speaking adult in attendance; none of the proctors spoke or understood enough Spanish to follow either the Spanish version of the exam instructions or the audio texts the students listened to as part of their exams. I had access to a computer on which I took typed notes related to the administration of, student participation in and content of the exam. I have since supplemented those notes with the data from the student focus group and with the free-response questions and related audio and text files from the College Board website dedicated to the exam.
Focus group of former Spanish Immersion students who took May 2009 exam.
In order to get an emic perspective on the 2009 Spanish Language AP exam, I ran a 90-minute focus group the afternoon of the exam, after school, with a group of 10 former Spanish Immersion students. In preparation for the event I prepared a detailed protocol (Appendix G), and arranged to video record the discussion with a wide-angle lens to capture all of the students seated around the group of rectangular tables. This procedure provided supplementary qualitative data (Morgan, 1997) to my participant observation of the exam administration, and the exam scores I would later gather from the school district. I hoped to hear the students discuss some of the items on the exam, how prepared they had felt for it, some of their impressions of the course itself and their motives for taking it and the exam. Ultimately, I was interested in how confident they felt about their performance on the exam. I coded the video using HyperResearch and transcribed salient portions of the recording.
Spanish Language AP exam scores: 2006-2010.
The process of getting access to Spanish Language AP Exam scores for Midville Spanish Immersion students and their non-Spanish Immersion peers took me much longer than I had imagined it would. I had gathered from conversations with district personnel and teachers that nothing distinguished Spanish Immersion students from other students in the district databases, so I anticipated that someone from the district would likely need to review lists of former Spanish Immersion 5th graders available from the elementary school. I did not, however, anticipate that the scores from two of the years I was interested in, 2005 and 2006, would be lost. Neither the World Language department nor the administration of Midville High School nor the district data administrators were able to locate those lists, which had likely been discarded as a result of changes of administrators. In the end, a couple of site administrators were able to reconstruct partial data on 2006, and to identify the scores of all the former Midville Spanish Immersion students who took the exam from 2006-2010, including all the students I had identified as former Spanish Immersion who had taken it in 2009, the year of the study. Complete data from 2007-2010, including all student scores, were available. From the raw numbers they provided me, I was able to calculate percentages, and run t-tests to determine the significance of difference in the scores of the Spanish Immersion students in relation to non-Spanish Immersion students.
Summary of Midville Middle School Spanish Immersion Program Review Data Collected During the period of data collection from the Program Review (October 2008May 2009), I gathered a variety of qualitative data connected to my research questions as outlined in Table 2.4 below. Following the table, I describe the specific data collected by type of data.
Table 2.4: Overview of Data Collected from Midville Spanish Immersion Middle School Program Review, Fall 2008-Spring 2009
District and site administrator interviews.
Once again, using a protocol very similar to that I used with Mr. Foster, Ms.
Gomez and Mr. Mann, I conducted hour-long in-depth qualitative interviews with each of the focal subjects of the Program Review. In them I focused on their experiences of language learning and teaching, their understandings of bilingualism, of TWI and World Language education, and of the goals of the Midville Spanish Immersion program. I transcribed the entirety of the interviews.
Participant observation: Program review meetings and Spanish Immersion middle school curriculum development meeting.
I began my participant observations with the Program Review group in September 2008, meeting the first two times with the smaller group of teachers and administrators to observe their focus in planning for the later meetings with the larger group. Beginning in October, I met with the larger group three times until their work was completed. At each meeting I took typed and handwritten fieldnotes, and collected materials distributed to the members, including information on language assessment programs, district documents on the history of the Spanish Immersion program, and drafts of the policy statement. I was more of an observer than a participant in this group, though I did contribute in two specific ways, providing the group with several articles on the implementation of TWI programs in middle schools, and reading and commenting on the draft of the final policy document, focusing primarily on issues of clarity and composition.
In May 2009, I attended the meeting on the possible curricular plan for the reinstated Spanish Immersion program, having had only a couple of day’s notice that it was taking place. During the meeting, I took typed and handwritten notes, and audio recorded the entire meeting, and later transcribed the entire recording. My purpose in attending was to learn about the movement from de jure language policy statement to de facto language policy represented by pedagogical planning. I also wanted to get a sense of the reception of the plan by middle school teachers involved in its implementation.
As the beginning of my data analysis process, I created an Excel spreadsheet to track all of the data from the three settings. I organized data by setting first, then by date, and logged each data source into columns for specific types of data (fieldnotes, interviews, documents/artifacts, student work, video and audio recordings). As I reviewed, transcribed and/or coded each data source, I indicated having done so on the spreadsheet. I organized the data sources themselves into folders by setting first, and then data source type. I listened to and viewed audio and video recordings multiple times, with space in between for reflection on my observations and codings (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). I conducted coding of the data sources using HyperResearch, creating coding systems based on the following categories for the data from the elementary setting.
Language Beliefs and Ideologies
I have taken my understanding of the relationship between language ideologies and language policy in educational settings from Spolsky and Shohamy (1999) who, in turn, draw from other theorists for their definition of language ideologies as “a speech community’s consensus on what value to apply to each of the language varieties that make up its repertoire” (p. 34). Language policy is informed by the language ideologies of a community, and enacted through language practices. Therefore, in developing my analytical framework and the coding system related to it, I attempted to interrogate the language ideologies or beliefs of two focal decision-making subjects of the elementary TWI community, Mr. Foster and Ms. Gomez, of Mr. Mann in the World Language community, and of Ms. Fisher, Mr. Bell and Mr. Worth as members of the middle school Program Review. In addition, I focused classroom observations on specific activities and practices characteristic of the Spanish Immersion setting (and Ms. Gomez’s language ideologies and beliefs) and the Spanish Language AP setting (and Mr. Mann’s language ideologies and beliefs).
My analysis actually began with the design of my interview protocols for these two focal subjects. In each case, I began with questions related to the focal subjects’ understanding of what it means to be bilingual, based on the knowledge that individuals may have very different understandings of this language phenomenon (Wei, 2000;
Myers-Scotton, 2006). I also focused on their views about the goals of TWI education, their hopes for their students’ future uses of Spanish, their concerns for the future of the middle school Spanish Immersion program, and their sense of the differences between the TWI model of language education and the high school World Language model. In focusing my questions on these themes, I hoped to be able to see clearly their language ideologies and beliefs.
In developing a coding system for my work with subjects’ language ideologies and beliefs, I began with categories related to Bogdan and Biklin’s (1998) large categories of “Perspectives Held by Subjects” and “Subjects’ Ways of Thinking about People and Objects” (p. 173). My overarching category was “Conceptions of Language Learning and Use,” and as I coded I created sub-codes based on emerging understanding of the actual responses of the subjects to my questions.
Characteristics of Language Learning and Use in Classroom and Culminating Experience In order to further develop my understanding of Ms. Gomez’s language ideologies and to identify consistencies or inconsistencies in classroom practices, I developed a code for interviews and participant observation fieldnotes focusing on the characteristics of language learning and use in the classroom. Through them I paid attention to the teacher’s role, students’ roles, specific uses of Spanish and English for various purposes, and focus on grammar and correctness, among other concerns.
Spheres of Human Activity or Domains of Language Learning and Use
Based on Bakhtin’s (1986) writings about the connection of primary speech genres with various “spheres of human activity,” I developed codes related to domains of language learning and use, including both academic (Language Arts, Science [biology, chemistry], Math) and social (camp culture, classroom culture, home and family), and used those codes with data from both the classroom and El Molino.
Through this analytical process I developed a sense of the breadth of language learning and use, and of how language ideologies filter down to students in specific classrooms and learning activities.
Data Analysis Particular to the Spanish Language AP Setting
I also compiled all the raw quantitative data pertaining to the Spanish Language AP Exam scores into a table, subtracting the number of former Spanish Immersion students who took the exam each year from the total number of students, and calculated percentages of former Spanish Immersion students and non-Spanish Immersion students who had passed (with scores of 3, 4, or 5), who had scored 4 or 5, who had not passed (score of 2 or 1) and whose score had not been reported. I then ran a t-test to determine the significance of the differences between the percentages of Spanish Immersion students and non-Spanish Immersion students for each category. I reported the t-test results in the table of scores.
Data Analysis Particular to the Middle School SI Program Review Setting
Language Beliefs and Ideologies: In processing the fieldnotes from the Program Review meetings, I focused on how individual members of the groups contributed perspectives characteristic to the Communities they were present to represent (i.e., elementary Spanish Immersion; middle school or high school World Language; parents;