Year One at "City" High School: An Ethnographic Study of Heritage Language Learners at an Innovative Charter School
AuthorHelmer, Kimberly Adilia
Committee ChairWildner-Bassett, Mary
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractPacker and Goicoechea (2000) and Wortham (2006) propose that academic learning is both personal and social transformation. This transformation is continuously negotiated through classroom interaction and curricular choices. The current ethnographic study of an urban southwestern charter high school investigates academic learning in two contexts: a Spanish heritage-language (SHL) class and a humanities class.The study examines Mexican-origin students' resistance to studying their ancestral language. From the first day of their SHL class, students refused to speak Spanish (despite their proficiency), rejected published Spanish-language materials, and acted out. Student resistance was rooted in their perceived lack of relevant tasks and materials, teacher-respect for their home language and culture, and student belief that learning "proper Spanish" could threaten social and familial relationships (see also Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Labov, 1972a; Mehan, Hubbard, & Villanueva, 1994).The resistance of the heritage language learners contrasts sharply with the engagement of the same students in their Humanities course in which students connect enthusiastically with subject matter and instructor. Findings suggest that engagement was fostered through the teacher's strict adherence to the principles of place-based learning (Gruenewald, 2003a, 2003b), critical democratic pedagogy (Shor, 1992), and the instructor's teacher ethos.Latinos have the greatest high school dropout rate in the United States while simultaneously being the largest growing demographic group (Carreira, 2003; "US Census Report," 2004; Waggoner, 2000). The pairing of these two statistics should draw alarm. Thus the study of Latino student engagement and resistance to academic learning is crucial for understanding this problem as well as exploring what pedagogies hold most promise. In terms of HL instruction, analyses reveal that a critical place-based approach to heritage-language instruction holds such promise.
Degree ProgramSecond Language Acquisition & Teaching