Authoring multiple formas de ser: how bilingual Latina/o fifth grade students navigate their many worlds

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Cuero, Kimberley Kennedy

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My dissertation study not only links pedagogical theory, research, and practice, but also includes a personal element. I returned—as a researcher—to the elementary school where I previously taught bilingual Pre-K students. The following two research questions guided my exploration regarding the identity formations of my former Pre-K students who were in 5th grade at the time of the study:

  1. How are Latino/a bilingual students’ formas de ser [ways of being] revealed in different social spaces?
  2. In what ways do these formas de ser (dis)accord with traditional notions of school achievement? I carried out a qualitative study drawing from socio-cultural perspectives. I implemented purposeful sampling to work with a group of eight of my former Pre-K students. My data sources include daily participant observations (mostly during lunch, recess, and transitions), dialogue journaling, after-school focus groups, home visits, and interviews with teachers, students, and their families. My study presents a picture of how three Latino/a bilingual students were authored by themselves and others, particularly relating to their participation within their figured worlds of schooling. In the first chapter, I discuss how U.S. dominant ideologies affect the schooling for bilingual students and give an overview of the study. In the second chapter, I review relevant literature that has informed my work, as well as my theoretical perspectives. The third chapter includes issues related to methodology and my positionality as a researcher. In Chapters four, five, and six, I present three in-depth, qualitative case studies on three of the focal students: Elizabeth, Jeniffer, and José (pseudonyms). In the final chapter, I problematize (1) how the social construction of “good student” tended to be equated with whether a student was performing according to behavioral norms and expectations within the school rather than his or her connection with academic content and (2) how school success and achievement were narrowly conceived, exacerbated by the highstakes testing climate. Conclusions and implications point to the importance of seeking out more equitable and additive education that attends to the multi-facets and dimensions of students.