“DOING RESEARCH HELPS!”: NEWCOMER LATINX HIGH SCHOOLERS’ RESEARCH & WRITING CONCEPTIONS
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Drawing on critical pedagogy and sociocultural theories (SCT) of learning and literacy, this dissertation explored the relationship between recently arrived (or newcomer) Latinx immigrant students’ writing conceptions and their involvement in an afterschool program based on participatory action research (PAR). The study had a “two-tiered design” (Brown, 2010). In the first tier, a group of immigrant high schoolers (n = 15) and I worked together, as coresearchers, in PAR projects focused on students’ and teachers’ experiences at a newcomer school. Simultaneously, I conducted a qualitative critical inquiry on the writing conceptions and PAR experiences of four focal, Latinx, newcomer, youth coresearchers. The critical inquiry constituted the second study tier and the primary focus of my dissertation. For my dissertation study, I collected data from participant observation of the program sessions, literacy artifacts, and two rounds of semi-structured interviews with the focal newcomer Latinx high schoolers (NLHSs) and with two teachers who were familiar with the focal students’ writing. I analyzed the collected data inductively and deductively (Creswell, 2014). The study resulted in three main findings. First, the focal youth perceived PAR as an opportunity for conscientization and for challenging dialogue. Second, through the PAR process, the focal youth shifted from conceiving writing as a reproductive activity to view it as a tool for personal and social transformation. Third, the PAR process influenced the youth’s writing conceptions by being youth-centered, offering novel writing opportunities, and promoting dialogic talks. My research findings indicate that NLHSs’ conceptions of writing and research are tied to their learning experiences in their home countries and in the US. Their conceptions are therefore different from those of non-immigrant students. My investigation makes important contributions to educational theory, research, and practice. It demonstrates the effectiveness of employing both SCT and critical pedagogy (as a composite theoretical lens) to examine students’ conceptions of writing and research. It highlights the importance of studying NLHSs’ unique learning experiences and perspectives. It details research-based practices that help immigrant students develop their writing and facilitate their adaptation to a new country.