My experience with students has mainly been centered within community centers, alternative, and charter high schools. Therefore I have chosen to design a 10-week project for disadvantaged 9th grade students utilizing a select number of content areas such as English and History to actually be implemented in Summer 2005. The project is designed around a strategic set of principles designed to promote learning and academic achievement for inner-city Latino students, some who experienced time in a juvenile detention center.
These principles are centered on trust, conflict resolution, culture, self-reflection, and motivation. The principles emerged from conducting earlier research and focus interviews with students, families, and teachers. The practice of incorporating thoughts and interests of these individuals for the purposes of research and positive outcome stems from a method called participatory action research (PAR). In the his book, Paulo Freire (1970) cites the use of PAR methods, mentioned previously, for teaching literacy in South America in a way that empowered local people to act to change their lives (Freire, 1970).
Freire (1970) acknowledged the oppressed as the masters of inquiry into the underlying causes of circumstances in their world. PAR emerged as both action and participatory research methods combined. PAR became defined as a method of research involving everyone who is at stake to collaborate and create positive change through critical examination. It is a qualitative process that occurs in cycles of planning, acting, observing and reflecting in a dynamic and flexible manner.
Studies appropriately utilizing PAR have noted feelings of empowerment and positive outcomes among researched communities of color, which makes it attractive for use among Latino students. PAR in combination with proper teacher preparation instills effective teaching pedagogy, a strategic set of principles designed to promote student learning and academic achievement. PAR builds upon multicultural education by harvesting these principles with deep consideration to the cultural backgrounds of the people who are being affected.
Without proper teacher preparation, stereotypes and lack of knowledge regarding Latino communities play a factor in how a teacher strategically formulates principles to promote learning. Furthermore, these factors serve as obstacles and impedes upon providing an effective curriculum (Ballas, 1993). Without being trained and challenged, inner-city Latino students will not be able to achieve their full potential and become significant contributors to various sectors of society. Although multicultural education serves to be a great resource in schools, this project delves deeper into the issues experienced by disadvantaged Latino students.
Inner-city themes of violence stemming from trust and conflict resolution are issues that need to be resolved before even continuing to become empowered through culture. In previous research, exploring the paradox of inner-city Latino students having a school identity along with a street identity led to finding that students are able to manage both identities (Mohammad, 1999). However, they are not usually maintained well and usually one of the identities gradually fades. This project attempts to help the street identity be the one the fade away and solidify the school identity.
This is most likely to be achieved through increasing self-esteem and motivation in considering Krashen’s affective filter theory. According to Krashen, speaking out in a new language can result in anxiety, embarrassment, or anger. These negative emotions can create a kind of filter that blocks the learner’s ability to process new or difficult words (Chamness, et. al. 2004). Classrooms that are fully engaging, nonthreatening, and affirming of a child’s native language and cultural heritage can have a direct effect on the student’s ability to learn by increasing motivation and encouraging risk taking.
The affective filter may be deep-rooted in constructing a strong school identity or may even be a factor in the deconstruction or inability for a student to create a school identity. For instance a new bilingual student may experience high stress in their school environment. This stress may be from a situation that rose from negative interaction with classmates and/or teacher(s), ineffective educational policies, or through participation in class. If the stress rising from the situation causes a decrease in motivation and/or self-esteem, then the affective filter is engaged (Chamness, et. l. , 2004). Once the filter is engaged, then the student experiences difficulty in acquiring the English language. Upon notice in experiencing difficulty, the student may withdraw from class activities and becomes farther from having a solid school identity. Furthermore, parents and/or teachers may label the student and possibly establish a self-fulfilling prophecy. This may further propel the student in solidifying an identity other than a school identity.
The role of the teacher would be to help solidify the school identity by continuously revisiting the project’s goals and objectives as well as discussing its activities with students. The teacher would also facilitate discussion, journal writing, and respect among students. Mentors who have previously experienced hardship would also be invited by the teacher to share their experiences with the class. The students would be engaged in a range of activities centered on writing and reading culturally significant texts and issues as well as learning about politics and history.
These portions of the curriculum are designed to promote critical thought among students and an environment conducive to learning. The project would also contain a second component to build life and human relationship skills among students. These activities have been created from ideas discussed forth in previous interviews and focus group discussions. Since it has been previously noted that students’ and parents’ interests and concerns were never taken into consideration, it is strongly believed that in doing so will create a sense of empowerment among students, parents, and teachers.