Urban Hispanic High School Students' Perceptions of Educational Strategies Used During Their Tenth Grade Year in High School
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Census data and research studies have shown that the Hispanic population in the United States and in the state of Texas is the subpopulation whose workforce is the least educated, has the highest high school dropout rates, has the highest number of individuals and households living in poverty, and is projected to be the largest subpopulation (in the U.S. and TX) by 2050 (Finn & Sousa, 2014; Kelly, 2005; Murdock, 2014; National Center for Education Statistics, 2012b; National Center for Education Statistics, 2014; Noguera, 2008). By closing the achievement gap between White and Hispanic high school students and improving the high school graduation rate of the Hispanic population, Hispanics will be placed in a position of acquiring better employment, improving their income, and possibly moving out of poverty status. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to analyze data from Hispanic students about their perceptions of classroom instructional strategies and factors outside of the classroom that enabled or prevented them from being successful in each of their core subject courses (chemistry, geometry, English II, world history) during their sophomore year in a Texas urban high school. Two focus groups were formed: one group which proved to be successful in their chemistry course and a second group of students who failed the course. The data gathered were analyzed using first and second cycle qualitative coding methods and organized on tables to determine the frequency in which specific instructional strategies were mentioned and identified as being an effective or ineffective strategy in learning for each of the two focus groups. Data concerning any perceived outside factors affecting the participants’ success in the core subject courses were also gathered, analyzed, and organized on tables. The data gathered from each focus group were then compared to each other in order to determine similarities and differences in the frequency of effective and ineffective teaching strategies mentioned. Data concerning possible outside factors that influenced passing or failing the core subjects were also identified and compared, in order to ascertain potential trends within each focus group and between the two focus groups. The data obtained from this study support research stressing the importance of the availability of professional development for teachers in order to improve instructional techniques and manage classroom behavior. The results further revealed concerns about student preference for direct instruction which limits student exposure to instructional strategies that would ultimately develop the 21st century skills needed to compete in today’s job market. This further emphasizes the need for campus leaders to develop, monitor, and support teachers in an effort to successfully implement best instructional strategies in all classes. The study does not support the need for teachers to incorporate information related to the history and culture of Hispanic students into classroom lessons in order for them to better relate to the material being taught and improve their performance in their courses; the findings support a need for teachers and campus leaders to become knowledgeable of Hispanic cultures in order to provide Hispanic students with the motivation, academic guidance, and emotional support needed to ensure their academic success. Finally, analyses of data within and between both focus groups revealed that the instructional strategies used by the teachers in the four core subjects neither helped nor hindered student performance in any of the four core subjects.