Announcement of Ed.D. Dissertation Defense Grace Melane Ashforth: “A Qualitative Case Study of Performance Poetry”

9:00 am - 10:30 am

Students must be motivated for deep learning to take place. In high schools in the United States, student motivation is often cited by teachers as difficult to increase. Many teachers identify low student motivation as the number one problem teachers face in their classrooms. From the perspective of secondary teachers, many students seem relatively uninterested and disengaged in the material. This is likely because the English curriculum is canonical and aimed mostly at students from white, middle-class families. Most texts studied in English courses are written by white men, many of whom are now dead. In a canonical, predetermined curriculum, students have little voice.

Performance poetry framed within the tenets of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) can be used in English classes to increase student engagement and motivation for all students. While there is a plethora of literature centered on student motivation and pedagogy in English classrooms, much of this literature lacks a focus specifically on performance poetry and CRP, and an even smaller amount of this research is centered on students’ perspectives and experiences.

As a result, this qualitative case study sought to shed light on the impact of a CRP informed performance poetry unit on student engagement and motivation. Drawing on classroom observations, focus groups, and an analysis of student work samples, the study explored how performance poetry can be taught in English classrooms in order to better engage students in the learning process.

Results from this study indicated that the performance poetry unit was successful in engaging students more deeply in the learning process through high expectations, learning cultural competence, and gaining a sense of sociopolitical consciousness. As a result of a more relatable and choice-driven unit, students were more invested in their work and were better able to master the content being taught, while also learning to question the world around them and fighting against issues they see in their own societies. Further research with a larger and more diverse population is needed in order to more confidently generalize the findings and to truly understand how the tenets of CRP can be utilized to better benefit students in the learning process.

Keywords: performance poetry, culturally relevant pedagogy, student engagement, student motivation, student voice

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