Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Carl Valdez

Abstract

Colleges and universities typically provide remedial reading coursework for English language learners (ELL) to develop academic reading proficiency. However, a disproportionate number of ELLs fail to exit remedial classes. Prior research has indicated cultural relevance can motivate and stimulate learning; however, the extent to which a culturally relevant classroom curriculum makes a difference in the ELL classroom experience has not been fully explored. This study describes the experience of cultural relevance in an academic reading ELL college class. Moll's funds of knowledge was used as the conceptual framework in a qualitative case study to examine how cultural strengths and knowledge can be embedded into instruction for enhanced learning. Data were collected from one teacher and 10 ELL student interviews, lesson observations, and the course syllabus with instructional materials. The results from an inductive analysis revealed four major themes: cultural relevance, student characteristics, reading English, and social learning, which aligned with the funds of knowledge framework. Further, it was found that a teacher's role can serve as the cultural bridge to enhance ELL's cognition. Recommendations for future research include a larger and more culturally diverse group of participants to (a) explore if a consistency occurred that was informed by cultural experience, and (b) investigate the experience of culturally relevant pedagogy for ELL students. Social change implications include culturally relevant pedagogical practices, a cost effective instructional model, and successful academic English acquisition for ELLs.