Theses Doctoral

Diversity in the Adult ESL Classroom

Tadic, Nada

For more than half a century, education researchers have strived to understand, accommodate, and promote diversity in primary and secondary classrooms, generating a wealth of insightful research in the process. However, issues of diversity in the adult second language classroom remain under-explored. Given the recent rise in immigration around the world and the accompanying increase in xenophobia and fear, it is crucial that we closely examine how language teachers attend to issues of sociocultural diversity while working with highly diverse immigrant and international student populations. This study addresses the existing research gap by offering a microanalytic explorations of teachers’ practices for working with diversity in adult second language classrooms. Specifically, I examine how remarks that undermine diversity and discussions on issues of diversity are managed in situ. My data consist of 55 hours of video-recorded adult English as a second language (ESL) classes at a community language program in the Northeastern United States. The participants were four ESL teachers and their 39 students from 17 different countries. The data were transcribed and analyzed in minute detail within the conversation analytic and membership categorization analytic (M/CA) frameworks.
Findings show that remarks that undermine diversity are both condoned and problematized in these classrooms. Although by condoning improper remarks the teachers might have inadvertently reinforced potentially harmful stereotypes and prejudices, they also helped promote a sense of appreciation, like-mindedness, and solidarity. On the other hand, by problematizing students’ potentially improper remarks, teachers created a space for various sociocultural views and experiences to be voiced, even as they ultimately promoted their own perspectives on issues of sociocultural diversity. Teachers’ practices for managing discussions on diversity were examined in a single case of a teacher initiating, extending, and terminating a discussion on a potentially sensitive topic of gender inclusivity. The analysis shows that the teacher fostered student participation by oscillating between neutral and value-laden statements on the topic at hand, increasingly resting gender inclusivity as he reinforced gender conformity. Findings contribute to research on diversity in education and on managing “socially sensitive” talk in the (language) classroom, as well as to critically “motivated” M/CA research.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Waring, Hansun Zhang
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 27, 2020