Date of Award

12-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dan J. Tannacito, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lisya Seloni, Ph.D.

Abstract

U.S. higher education institutions are enrolling increasing numbers of long-term immigrant students, who belong to Generation 1.5. Essentially beginning college while still in the process of learning English, these students often struggle in higher education, and they present new challenges to college writing instructors. This study explored the literacy and language development experiences of thirteen Generation 1.5 Hmong women in a California university. Because of the complexity and multi-faceted nature of literacy and language, a qualitative research methodology, which combined aspects of narrative inquiry and feminist ethnography, was implemented for this investigation. Data was gathered through journal writing, group discussions, and one-on-one interviews. The participants were encouraged to take an active role in determining the focus and direction of the research, and their descriptions of their experiences were enhanced by their interactions with each other. The product of the data collection process was a compilation of short narratives, in the women's own words, which described the educational and literacy journeys of each of the participants individually and provided a broader perspective on their collective experience as a minority population. These stories were organized and analyzed using a framework developed by Nancy Hornberger (2003) and revealed that the literacy development of Hmong women often occupied the less powerful ends of Hornberger's continua of biliteracy. Their stories demonstrated that their language use was heavily influenced by the literacy and language use in their homes, as well as their families' values concerning education and the role of women in their culture. In addition, their opportunities to use English were often limited to classroom situations in which their literacy development was hampered by marginalizing experiences with teachers and classmates. Despite their long history in this country, these Hmong college women remained suspended between two cultures and languages. In the final chapter, the author proposes three ways that educators might address the critical issues revealed by these stories: by educating, supporting, and establishing teachers to be agents for social change; by promoting the appropriate attitudes toward multiculturalism in U.S. schools; and by legitimizing the minority experience within the U.S. educational system.

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