A School's Activity System of Supporting Upper-Elementary Newcomers' English Language Proficiency Growth
Using the sociocultural theoretical framework of activity theory, this intrinsic case study sought to investigate how administrators, mainstream teachers, and English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) teachers in one school support newcomers’ English language proficiency growth. Newcomers are English learners (ELs) who moved to the United States within the past year and have no or extremely limited English language proficiency. It is critical to understand how schools support upper-elementary newcomers’ English language proficiency growth because more newcomers are entering United States classrooms now than in the past (Trickett et al., 2012) and recent legislation emphasizes upper-elementary ELs' language proficiency growth for accountability measures. This study seeks to illustrate how newcomers are supported and add to the current void in research related to upper-elementary newcomers' education. This single-bound intrinsic case study used Stake's (2005) case study methodology recommendations. After a three-phase research site selection process, the researcher collected and holistically analyzed three sources of data: observations, interviews, and documents. Participants included three administrators, four mainstream classroom teachers, and two ESOL teachers. The case study's data analysis thoroughly portrayed how each component of the school's activity system connected to supporting upper-elementary newcomers' English language proficiency growth. Findings illustrated the intricacies of each component of the school's activity system: rules, division of labor, community, and tools. They also revealed that multiple primary and secondary contradictions exist within the activity system. Conclusions included the school's activity system is multifaceted and interconnected, explicit assessment rules strongly impact the activity system, and educators are using research-based pedagogy despite challenges. Furthermore, there is a need for transformation due to the contradictions that exist within the activity system. Recommendations for future study include: (a) to include more or different participants at the same school, (b) replicate the study in a middle school or high school environment, (c) conduct other studies using other qualitative methodologies to gain a better understanding of a specific component of the school's activity system, and (d) engage in a multi-case analysis to shed light on third and fourth generation contradictions of the activity system.
Cowdrick, Kara Elizabeth