The effects of culturally-based computer software on the motivation and academic engagement of African American English speakers

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Green, Satasha L.

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There is a need to respond to the educational demands of African American English (AAE) speakers based on standardized measures (Carnoy, Loeb & Smith, 2001). There is also a need to fill the gaps in our existing knowledge base of the effects of culturally and linguistically responsive intervention on achievement and mediating factors, including motivation to learn and academic engagement. Otherwise, AAE speakers may receive inadequate instruction to meet their needs and may be at risk for further remediation or special education placement. Without interventions that address unique needs academically and effectively, achievement disparities are likely to continue (Gay, 2000; Harris, 1991; Perry & Delpit, 1998). Therefore, the question is What can be done to improve the academic achievement and more specifically, reading achievement of AAE speakers? According to Rickford (2001), poor performance in reading is symptomatic of a disinterest in reading and may require providing AAE speakers with instruction and evaluation that are culturally and linguistically responsive (Delpit & Perry, 1998). For example, the use of cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students may make learning more relevant and effective. Also, many educators have argued that curriculum, instruction, reading materials, and computer-assisted instruction that are based upon an Afro-centric model of education are likely more congruent with African American students ways of knowing and learning (Banks & Banks, 2001, 1995). The purpose of this study was to examine the use of a computer software program, Culturally And linguistically Responsive Reading (CARR), on the motivation of African American students’ who speak AAE motivation to read and levels of academic engagement in reading. The student participants were selected AAE speakers receiving special education services and/or “at-risk” for special education placement who are reading below grade level. The study was primarily evaluative (Gay, 1985). It involved a 12-week open-trial during which seven students were exposed to CARR. While being exposed to CARR, measures were collected of the students’ academic engagement with an additional qualitative component of interviews. The results from this study suggest that the CARR tutorial software may be effective in reading motivation and academic engagement of AAE speakers in special education and/or “at-risk for special education placement reading below grade level. Student interview responses revealed that AAE speakers in special education or “at-risk” of special education placement reading below grade level had positive perceptions about CARR. All students in the study perceived, as a result of using CARR that their reading motivation and academic engagement improved.