Identity (re)constructions and early college literacies : urban-schooled Latino/as and the figured world of the university



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The purpose of this qualitative research study was to examine the connections between identities and literacies for a group of students entering the university while highlighting their adolescent literacy experiences as urban-schooled Latino/as. This yearlong qualitative research study utilized case study research methods (Merriam, 1998; Stake, 1994, 1995), along with the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Lincoln & Guba, 1984), and the critical analytical tools of Fairclough's (1995) levels of discourse, and Curriculum Spaces Research Theory (Cary, 2006). Data collection included focus group interviews, along with individual interviews, digitally recorded and transcribed in their entirety, as well as occasional observations, participants' class syllabi, written work, and personal online communication with the researcher. A theory of identities in practice (Holland, Skinner, Lachicotte, and Cain, 1998) coupled with a broad definition of literacies (Gee, 2000-2001; New London Group, 1996; Street, 1995, 2003) were utilized as frameworks for viewing the university as a figured world where literacies serve as mediating tools for the negotiation of identities (Holland, et al., 1998; Holquist, 1990; Vygotsky, 1962). At the same time, a discussion of discourses (Cary, 2006; Foucault, 1977; Usher & Edwards, 1994) and academic literacies (Zamel & Spack, 1998) offered a window into a discussion of power within institutions. Findings suggest that these students experienced a continuous redefinition of self, due in large part to exposure to White, middle to upper class students who were not a part of their urban school experience. Additionally, as students learned to participate in the academic community of the university, they noted a growing disconnect with family and friends, even though their education was taking place less than six miles from where they attended high school. Learning these new literacies, both academic and otherwise, appeared to cause participants to reevaluate their former identities and their positions in and around various figured worlds. These case studies offer insight into the literacy experiences of Latino/a students in both secondary and post-secondary schools. This research encourages identity work as a means of exploring the individuality of experience of students who are traditionally under-served in our nation's secondary and postsecondary institutions.