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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Promoting Student Discourse in a Linguistically Diverse Community-of-Learners Classroom


This autoethnographic inquiry explored the effects of a positive classroom culture in a South Los Angeles high school by addressing the questions, “How might efforts to establish a community-of-learners classroom affect frequency of student discourse (both oral and written) and understanding of science content? Furthermore, how might the results of these efforts differ within the Emergent Bilingual and Non-Emergent Bilingual student populations?” The focus group consisted of three biology classes with a mixture of Emergent Bilingual (EB) students and Non-EB students; each class was composed of about 30% EB students whose primary language was most commonly Spanish. A multitude of techniques, such as community circles and consistent group work within heterogeneous EB and Non-EB groups, were utilized to create a community-of-learners in each class. Students participated in an independent weekly survey that examined their frequency of participation and confidence levels regarding oral discourse. Students were also surveyed weekly regarding their preferred method of expressing content knowledge with options encompassing verbal, written, and visual opportunities. Data was collected for this inquiry through the analysis of the student surveys, written observations (field notes) of classroom and group discussions, and a final community circle. The results showed that a positive classroom culture and access to varied opportunities for discourse allowed students of various backgrounds to share their knowledge more readily and consistently.

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