How Do High School English Language Learners Experience Community Building in a Constructivist Environment?


Spring 5-14-2015



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Dr. Terri Christenson

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Dr. Julie Thompson

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Dr. Jeffrey Dufresne


The purpose of this study was to examine the perspectives of six English learners (EL) in three different English as a Second Language (ESL) writing classes from Levels 2, 3, and 4. These levels are also referred to as Emerging, Developing, and Expanding, according to the World Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) Consortium’s 2012 Amplification of the English Language Development (ELD) Standards (2014). Moreover, this study sought to determine the efficacy of how high school English learners experience community building in a constructivist environment. The foci of the study was based on three creative forms of art infused into the writing curriculum throughout the semester: memoir/journal writing (past and present stories from an author’s life), drama (verbal, nonverbal, kinesthetic, and interpretive), and poetry (both written and spoken). Through an established relationship between the researcher/lead teacher’s current school and an art organization, the writing curriculum was expanded and enriched, while still maintaining the integrity of the Common Core Standards (CCS) required by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). Within the art organization, two artists in residence were welcomed into the three writing classes, of which one was included in the research study. The first goal was to build community among all members by means of a constructivist environment. The second goal was to implement a variety of proven activities within the aforementioned art forms (memoir/journaling, poetry, and drama) to deepen a learner’s sense of self-identity and connection to his/her community. These two goals, in turn, will provide the channel for more reflective and less inhibited writing, thus expanding the learner’s ability to feel successful, invested, and confident in his/her abilities. Using a qualitative research methodology, information from a phenomenological study of the six learners was collected and coded. The themes that surfaced from coding were recreated into six poems the researcher/lead teacher wrote for each of the six learners being studied.


Community Building, ESL/ ELLs, Teachers/ Teaching, Writer’s Workshop

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