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"I be on the bus": An Investigation of Middle School Students' Learning About Dialects, Power, and Identity

Moore, Kaylan (2017) "I be on the bus": An Investigation of Middle School Students' Learning About Dialects, Power, and Identity. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation reports on the implementation of a dialect diversity curriculum in a racially heterogeneous 6th grade classrooms. The research was guided by the following questions: (1) How do middle school students engage in curricular activities on dialect variation, identity, and power? (2) How do students’ racial identities and linguistic experiences shape their views about dialects? (3) How were students’ sociolinguistic perceptions and content learning shaped by the curriculum? (4) How do students’ attitudes about mainstream and non-mainstream dialects change over the course of the study (qualitatively and quantitatively)? Critical language pedagogy informed the creation of the curriculum. Data sources included pre- and post-survey responses, classroom observations, students’ written responses, and student interviews. Data were collected over a six-week period and critical language pedagogy drove data generation, coding, and analysis to determine what students learned and how their perceptions were shaped, changed, or stayed the same.
Overall, students demonstrated growth in their understanding and appreciation of the grammaticality and legitimacy of non-mainstream dialects such as AAE and Pittsburgh dialect. However, there was little change in students’ frequent use of Standard English language ideologies in their descriptions of mainstream American English (MAE) that positioned MAE as inherently better than non-mainstream dialects such as AAE and Pittsburgh. In terms of differences in student subgroups, African American and multiracial students voiced similar perceptions about the connection between dialect use and the speaker’s identity, but White students did not acknowledge links between language varieties and identity. Furthermore, there was noticeable silence and avoidance around the topic of race from White students. Quantitative data collected from pre- and post-surveys of student perceptions did not always converge with classroom observations and students’ written responses.
Findings align with scholars who suggest that code switching techniques that do not include discussions about the inherent power behind privileged dialects such as MAE have the potential to further marginalize speakers of non-mainstream dialects. Future studies should consider the way themes of institutionalized power and racial identity can be introduced to middle school students in meaningful yet understandable ways before students consider the ways power and identity intersect with language variation.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Moore, Kaylankgm20@pitt.edukgm20
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGodley, Amanda J.
Committee MemberBartow-Jacobs, Katrina
Committee MemberKucan, Linda
Committee MemberReaser, Jeffrey
Date: 8 May 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 March 2017
Approval Date: 8 May 2017
Submission Date: 2 May 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 235
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Instruction and Learning
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: English Language Arts
Date Deposited: 08 May 2017 19:09
Last Modified: 08 May 2017 19:09


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