“I’VE COME SO FAR IT’S HARD TO SAY IT ALL”: A NARRATIVE APPROACH TO CHANGES IN PERCEPTIONS OF STUDENT IDENTITY IN A STUDENT SUCCESS PROGRAM
This four-year study centers on identity research, exploring a two-year student success program in a midwestern school. The program follows a “school-within-a-school” model (Indiana Department of Education website, 2020) as it is housed on the same grounds as the main school but in a different building. The student-to-teacher ratio is lower than traditional schools and the English class covers less material, but in more depth, than parallel 9th and 10th grade classes. The study follows two students as they progress through the two-year program and integrate into the main student body for 11th and 12th grade, to understand how they narrate their journey through high school. The 9th and 10th grade teachers provide a sense of the impact of teacher identity on the student participants. A narrative approach (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990) is used to examine individual’s perspectives- rooted in their experiences- to dig into my participants’ stories, framing them within an equity literacy context (Gorski, 2014). Using equity literacy allows for the exploration of biases and inequities that student participants may face in our education system. The findings of this dissertation study have three major implications: 1. Home identity has a significant effect on student identity. As such, an awareness of what high school students bring to the classroom and how this affects their thinking and motivation to participate in class is critical; 2. The importance of not only making lessons relevant to student lives, but also helpful. Both student participants appreciate being given space to write what they want to write, rather than being told what to write. As a result, writing becomes a means of processing events happening in their lives, and has a positive effect on self-efficacy; 3. Given the second implication, teacher educators need to provide space for preservice teachers to explore ways to make lessons helpful to their students by encouraging them to tell their own stories through discussions in a safe space, while modeling behaviors such as showing vulnerability in the classroom.