Student engagement in a 7th/8th grade social studies, ESL classroom

Julie Nora, University of Rhode Island


English language learners (ELLS) in U.S. classrooms at the middle school level are reticent and limited in their knowledge of English and of the norms of typical U.S. classroom participation expectations. From a theoretical perspective grounded in activity theory, a six-month study employing ethnographic methods--including observation, videotaping and analysis of students' work--examined the participation and activity structures in one 7th and 8th grade English as a Second Language (ESL), social studies classroom. Analysis of classroom observations and interviews with students and the teacher suggest that the teacher unconsciously shaped and possibly limited his ability to draw upon students' culturally relevant knowledge and that prioritizing student conformity to the teacher's norms and getting the teacher's answer prevented ELL student engagement and learning. A discussion focuses on implications for ELL teaching and program development for research and practice.

Recommended Citation

Julie Nora, "Student engagement in a 7th/8th grade social studies, ESL classroom" (2007). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3298375.