Evolving Research Identity Memo

In my Intro. to Qualitative Research course, we were given the task of creating a research identity memo. This is to be a reflective piece about what informs my research goals, assumptions about my research, view of the world, and what knowledge I hope to produce through this inquiry. This is a very rough draft, evolving on a daily basis, as I continue to expand and extend my thinking in new ways.

Research Identity Memo

Before entering my doctoral studies, I taught for 8 years in schools across Phoenix and Glendale. These teaching experiences consisted of working with culturally and linguistically diverse students in 2nd-6th grade classrooms, with a majority of students being enrolled in self-contained Structured English Immersion (SEI) classrooms, then later, in English Language Development (ELD) classrooms. During my time in the classroom, the laws surrounding instruction of English Language Learners (ELLs) drastically changed mandating students be segregated into classrooms based on language proficiency level to receive a 4-hour block of prescriptive English language acquisition curriculum with the belief that students would reach full language proficiency within one academic school year.

Experiences working with students in both SEI and ELD settings, viewing first-hand the significant impact these mandates had on students, specifically their identity, motivation, and self-efficacy, was disheartening. This narrowing of curriculum, which was mandated by state policy, brought many unintended consequences to the learning space for ELLs. This included an increasingly more rigid view of what constitutes English language proficiency and the lenses through which reading and writing instruction was to be implemented, limiting the gaze of what counts as literacy.

My experiences led me to pursue a doctorate with the hopes of joining the larger conversation, already in progress, surrounding the instruction of ELLs, specifically in relation to providing them with a rich literacy curriculum that builds off their cultural and linguistic resources, allows them opportunities engage with text for authentic purpose, and find their voice through sharing their stories. With the research that I wish to conduct, I desire to illuminate the stories of my students and their families, both the struggles and successes, to inform practice and move the language and literacy conversation in new directions. However, my goal is not to impose my beliefs and values on the lives of students, families, and teachers, but to engage in critical inquiry work alongside them in their respective classrooms and community. It is important to me to stay grounded in the issues that classroom teachers are facing and the impact it is having on their daily instruction, specifically issues related to equity.

With this work, I am working at not bringing a “prescription” to the situation, but rather to better understand this dynamic and discuss how spaces can be created or are being created to support learners, without muting their voices. Through this I hope to uncover powerful teaching that is taking place and being successful in these conditions to possibly inform the practice of other teachers. Majority of my experiences are in SEI/ELD with one year teaching in the general education classroom, this gives me a working knowledge of the ELD mandates, but with a different view of non-ELD classes that could possibly cloud my research gaze.