Announcement of Ed.D. Dissertation Defense ZABRINA SONGUI: ‘“I’M THE SMART ONE”: THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FGLI LEARNING IDENTITY THROUGH A SUMMER BRIDGE EXPERIENCE”
ABSTRACT: This phenomenological research study investigated how participation in the Educational Opportunity Fund summer bridge program shaped first generation low-income students’ learner identity as they entered college. Learner identity is generally defined as a learner’s personally and socially constructed roles that influence his or her capacity, skills, and ability to succeed. This study employed interviews and focus groups for data collection. Through the lens of Tino’s (1993) theory of student integration, Mead’s (1962) identity theory, and Yosso’s (2005) community cultural wealth model, this study unveiled the socialization process inherent within the academic learning environments of the summer program. Findings suggest that as students navigated the program, the past and present influenced their perception of themselves as the “good student.” Prior messages conveying learning as easy and college as only for the “select few,” made students apprehensive about their place in college. As students faced academic challenges, they questioned their ability, as the same behaviors that made them the “good student” in the past were no longer sufficient. However, as students continued, they were able to utilize resources within the program (i.e. tutoring, learning tools/strategies, peers, staff) and outside the program (i.e. family, friends) to adjust to the academic rigors. Students gained a sense of agency as they began to see themselves as newly capable and responsible for their success. Considering the findings of this study, summer bridge programs can be more intentional about normalizing difficulty and fostering students’ strengths in what we already know is a transition filled with a deficit focused lens.
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