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Title:African American English in urban education: a multimethodological approach to understanding classroom discourse strategies
Author(s):Hallett, Jill
Director of Research:Baron, Dennis
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Bokamba, Eyamba G.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Baron, Dennis; Prendergast, Catherine J.; Kaplan-Weinger, Judith
Department / Program:Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):African American English
second dialect acquisition
Language attitudes
Abstract:Discrepancies between “home English” and “school English” for urban students have been addressed for decades by a number of scholars in the fields of linguistics, education, and sociology (Baratz 1969, Baugh 1995, Charity et al 2004, Alim 2009, Edwards 2010). Those students who speak prestige varieties of English tend to do better in school settings, in which the teacher’s language is that of the mainstream middle class. Charity Hudley and Mallinson (2011: 77) note, “[e]ducators and students who come from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds may be unaware of, confused by, or ill equipped to understand each other’s linguistic and cultural behaviors.” Some researchers have examined teachers’ contrastive analysis of non-prestige varieties of English with that of the prestige variety (Pandey 2000, Wheeler and Swords 2006), but rarely has the teachers’ acquisition of non-prestige forms been examined in any form (a notable exception is Fogel and Ehri 2006). Furthermore, no study to date has taken a multimethodological approach to understanding both student and teacher discourse strategies in the urban classroom. This study presents the linguistic situation in one Chicago high school. An ethnographic assessment situates language use among students and teachers in the classroom. A written translation task assesses teachers’ knowledge of non-prestige dialects (Siegel 1999) at the beginning of the school year, and is compared to recorded language use in authentic classroom interaction, including student and teacher use of African American English. Interviews add depth to the study by connecting teacher-to-student discourse to rapport-building strategies. Student questionnaires round out the study by providing feedback on teachers’ language strategies and their rapport-building effects. Through this micro- and macro-level methodology, a multifaceted picture of teachers’ and students’ language strategies is presented. The teachers’ ability to accommodate to students’ dialects is reflected in the written task, while actual accommodation and rapport-building is examined through discourse analysis and interviews. The teacher who accommodates to students’ language has potential to defuse the linguistic tension apparent in the mainstream urban American classroom, with the further possibility for discussion, demystification, and deconstruction of language ideologies and linguistic identities inherent in the makeup of urban societies.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Jill Hallett
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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