Research Projects

Current and Recent Projects

Linguistic Minority Students and Literacy Education in Rural and Small Town High Schools

Though much attention to language diversity has concentrated on urban populations, many rural and small town communities across the country are rapidly diversifying. The percentage of minority students in rural schools rose from 16.4% in 2000 to 26.7% in 2013 and rural schools now serve more than 2.6 million minority students and over 300,000 students classified as ELL (Johnson et al., 2013). Despite the doubling of ELL students in rural and small town schools in recent years, these schools and their communities are still perceived as homogeneous and continue to be largely overlooked in the research, especially research focused on linguistic minority students. An analysis of university enrollment data in New Mexico, a state where a quarter of rural students are ELL and disproportionally Native American and Hispanic, shows that rural students are withdrawing from college at higher levels than their urban counterparts.

This project aims to understand how linguistic minority students are being prepared for college-level literacy at rural high schools. Building on an analysis of enrollment data and two pilot site visits, the researcher will spend 12-16 weeks at four additional rural schools in order to develop a deep understanding regarding how linguistic minority students, including immigrant students, are served in these schools. He will interview students, teachers, and administrators while conducting classroom observations, collecting teaching and other materials, and keeping a daily journal of his experiences in the communities. In particular, he will focus on exploring the following questions: What does literacy instruction look like in English language arts (ELA) and English as a second language (ESL) classrooms in different rural and small town high schools and how is this instruction shaped by context? How are these classrooms preparing linguistic minority students for college literacy work? The findings will help teacher education and educational leadership programs better prepare future teachers and administrators to serve the literacy needs of increasingly diverse students in rural and small town schools. They will also help college writing program administrators better prepare their instructors to facilitate these students’ transitions to college literacy work.

This project was funded by the UNM's RAC Program the NAED/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship program. Article manuscripts in progress.

Understanding Persistence and Improving Retention for Repeating Students in First-Year Writing Courses (with Beth Brunk-Chavez, Heidi Estrem, and Dawn Shepherd)

For this study, we investigated the experiences of students repeating first-year writing (FYW) classes at three universities via surveys and interviews in order to better understand the challenges faced by diverse student populations and what can be done to improve their success. The project supports recent emphasis placed on on students’ first-year experience and will help writing program administrators respond to increased pressures to improve retention and graduation rates. Article manuscript in progress.

The Experiences of Non-Native English-Speaking Teachers of First-Year Composition Courses (with Stefan Frazier and Mariya Tseptsura)

With the increasing numbers of nonnative English speakers entering graduate programs in the United States, there has been a shift from the traditional U.S. born, typically White, native speaker teaching in first-year composition programs. This survey and interview based study was designed to explore the experiences of nonnative English speaking instructors, including TAs in composition programs at a wide variety of institutions. The findings from the study provide WPAs and graduate faculty ways to improve the preparation of NNESs teaching in their writing programs. Article forthcoming in College Composition and Communication.