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Setting the PACE for G1.5 Language Curriculum Development:

The Aloha Community College Generation 1.5 Participatory Curriculum Evaluation


Shawn M. Ford

Department of Second Language Studies

University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

November, 2003

Scholarly Paper


Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts in

English as a Second Language


This paper documents a participatory curriculum evaluation of an innovative language curriculum designed to meet the needs of generation 1.5 (G1.5) students enrolled in a Hawai‘i community college. The G1.5 curriculum was designed to develop academic literacy through a wide range of research-based language activities intended to increase awareness of discursive and linguistic differences. Pedagogical activities involved studying and analyzing language found in the college community to promote meta-cognitive awareness and develop students’ own language use. The paper’s conceptual framework draws on the notions of hybridity (Solsken, Willett, & Wilson-Keenan, 2000), secondary discourses (Gee, 1996), and language analysis (McComiskey, 2000) in its discussion of issues pertinent to G1.5 students and of the theoretical foundation for the G1.5 curriculum. To address issues of evaluation, quantitative SLA approaches (e.g.: Brown, 1995), action research (e.g.: Crookes, 1993), and participatory research (e.g.: Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000) are considered in connection to language curriculum and program development. Ethnographic research methodology of the study involved a working model for continuous, coordinated, and comprehensive language curriculum evaluation. Findings of the study highlight collaboration among project participants throughout the curriculum evaluation project. The study illuminates the successes and challenges encountered by the teacher and students as the curriculum was implemented, and continually negotiated and revised.


In this paper I discuss the evaluation component of an innovative English-as-a-second-language (ESL) curriculum originally designed for generation 1.5 (G1.5) students, which was implemented at Aloha Community College[1] (ACC) in Hawai‘i over the 2001-2002 academic year. G1.5 students are often defined in the literature as bilingual, U.S. high school graduate students, who have also attended schools in their countries of origin, and who, depending on their age of arrival in the U.S., develop varying degrees of literacy in English and diverse levels of expertise in secondary academic discourses (Bennet, Kadooka, Menacker, Skarin, Talmy, & Winn, 2000). Researchers have shown that educational practices at the high school level are largely responsible for underdeveloped academic literacies of these students (Bennett, 2001; Kadooka, 2001; Davis, 2001, as cited in Skarin, 2001). This linguistic underdevelopment may be a major factor in high dropout rates and low academic achievement of G1.5 students observed at the college level (Skarin, 2001). The goal of the curriculum in this study is to prepare students for college careers by developing academic literacy through a variety of research-based language activities, thereby addressing the linguistic needs of G1.5 students[2].

Throughout this paper, I refer to the curriculum in question as the G1.5 curriculum[3]. The curriculum was the culmination of a two-year ethnographic study that assessed the educational experiences and needs of G1.5 students at ACC and included development of a curriculum that would best serve this diverse student population (Skarin, 2001).

My study attempts to determine the extent to which the curriculum was implemented successfully and the extent to which the mission and objectives of the curriculum were achieved[4]. I argue here for an approach in which the evaluation process is inextricably linked to the curriculum under investigation; evaluation becomes a built-in component of the curriculum (Rossi & Freeman, 1993; Brown, 1995) through the notion of participatory action research (Whyte, 1991; Alderson & Scott, 1992; Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000). Therefore, the conceptual framework of my research project considers primarily the theory behind the development of the G1.5 curriculum and secondarily the components of a thorough curriculum evaluation.

Conceptual Framework

In the following conceptual framework, I present some of the theories that guided my study. I begin by situating the study with an overview of the history of language education in Hawai‘i. Afterwards, I provide a review of the research and theoretical literature pertinent to G1.5 students and their special needs. Next, I describe the critical needs analysis project conducted at ACC that sought to identify G1.5 academic needs, and the curriculum that resulted from the needs analysis. Finally, I discuss the literature that informed the evaluation component of the curriculum project, which is the focus of this current study.

History of Education in Hawai‘i

            The first formal educational institutions in Hawai‘i were established by white missionaries in 1820 to serve several purposes: to convert the native Hawaiians to Christianity, to educate white and mission children, and to develop and maintain a stratified colonial order (Talmy, 2001). As Talmy (p. 3) explains, Hawaii’s earliest formal education consisted of

a system of “select” and “common” schools: “select” schools were set-aside for white and mission children and the children of Hawaiian royalty. “Common schools” were for everyone else. In addition to institutionalizing racism and elitism, the select schools codified linguistic discrimination: the language of instruction in the select schools was English; in the common schools, it was Hawaiian.


This linguistic segregation based on race and social class led to the gradual decline of the Hawaiian language until eventually it was banned entirely in all schools and replaced by English following the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 by a small group of American businessmen (Kawamoto, 1993). The result of this change in education policy was near-linguicide of the Hawaiian language, until a very robust and successful movement to revise the language was initiated by Hawaiian activists and educators (Warner, 1999).

            Another outcome of this segregated educational system was the cultural and linguistic assimilation of the various groups who immigrated to Hawai‘i to work the plantations, since neither immigrant languages nor immigrant histories were taught in the “common” schools. The one group who eventually made concerted efforts to maintain their culture and language was the Japanese, who established a system of heritage language schools and a thriving press throughout the Hawaiian islands (Kawamoto, 1993; Tamura, 1993). However, cultural and linguistic oppression and discrimination continued to be inflicted on non-white children through education.

            During the first half of the 20th century, further attempts at assimilation were made through various patriotic campaigns throughout WWI and WWII. In the wave of nationalism and Americanization that swept across the United States and eventually reached Hawai‘i by the end of WWI, efforts were made to close heritage language schools and suppress an active non-Japanese press (Kawamoto, 1993; Tamura, 1993). The English language was viewed as a sign of allegiance to the United States, and open heritage language maintenance by Hawaii’s immigrant groups for the most part ceased for several decades. The result of this greater English language dominance was further assimilation of non-white groups and linguicide of non-English languages.

            Yet another change that took place in Hawaii’s educational system during the early 1900’s was a move away from the “select” and “common” distinction between schools towards the establishment of an English Standard School system (Sato, 1981; Kawamoto, 1993; Tamura, 1993). While the “select” schools eventually formed the base of Hawaii’s private school system, the “common”, public schools were divided among those that enrolled students based on standard English proficiency and those that did not. This was in direct response to pleas by the white middle class who could not afford private schools (Sato, 1981). This system of linguistic separatism continued until it was dismantled 25 years later, although Talmy (2001: p. 5) points out that “segregation remained in the form of standard English sections within schools, and in the continuing existence of private schools”.

            Even after the abolition of the English Standard School system, Hawaii’s pattern of educational discrimination based on language continued through state Department of Education negligence in implementing federal educational practices mandated under Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Talmy, 2001). Among the negligent practices cited by Haas (1992) include segregation, inappropriately placing language minority students into special education programs, and not providing language minority students with required educational services. These examples of contemporary negligence in the educational system are the culmination of a history of language education in Hawai‘i that has methodically sought to assimilate and deny the linguistic rights of language minority groups.

G1.5 Research and Theoretical Literature

Having provided the historical context of language education in Hawai‘i, I now turn attention to issues found in the research and theoretical literature relevant to G1.5 language development. Talmy (2001) defines G1.5 students as

immigrants who are native speakers of languages other than English…[who] have done part of their pre-college schooling both in their countries of origin and, after immigrating, in the U.S. Depending on their age at immigration, circumstances in their home country, and the type of education they have received since immigrating, they will have varying configurations of language and literacy abilities in their first language and in English.


Given the diversity evident within this group of students, there are a number of important similarities that G1.5 students share that justify their classification for research and pedagogical reasons. These similarities fall into three broad categories: discourse issues, identity issues, and educational experiences.

Discourse issues. There has been increased attention within SLA literature to the work of educational theorist Pierre Bourdieu regarding access to academic discourse for underprivileged social classes, in particular his notions of cultural capital (1982) in which academic discourse is a means to perpetuate the social order:

…our own pedagogical tradition is in fact, despite external appearances of irreproachable equality and universality, only there for the benefit of pupils who are in the particular position of possessing a cultural heritage conforming to that demanded by the school. (p. 398, emphasis in original)


Drawing from the work of Bourdieu, James Paul Gee makes a distinction between little d ‘discourse’, which he defines as “connected stretches of language that make sense”, and big d ‘Discourse’, which he defines as “ways of being in the world, or forms of life which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, and social identities, as well as gestures, glances, body positions, and clothes.” (1996, p. 127) Gee goes on to make a distinction between primary Discourses, those acquired early in life within an individual’s family and in particular sociocultural settings, and secondary Discourses, those acquired later in life through apprenticeship in various social settings and contexts (e.g., academic Discourse). According to Gee, access to secondary Discourses is part of the problem of inequality in minority access to education, literacy and learning. However, while Gee hypothesizes that a secondary Discourse cannot be explicitly taught but can only be mastered through a process of apprenticeship in the target discourse community, Delpit (1998) argues for the overt instruction of academic Discourses to minority students so as to “add other voices and Discourses to their repertoires” (p. 216).

In addition to the explicit teaching of the language of power, Solskin, Willett, and Wilson-Keenan (2000) argue for promoting hybridity, a process through which students “appropriate the knowledge, texts, and identities of the school curriculum [secondary Discourses] … blending the new school practices with practices familiar from home, community, and popular media [primary Discourses]” (Solsken, Willett, & Wilson-Keenan, 2000; see also Kamberelis, 2001 for a discussion of “hybrid discourse practice”).

Considering these previous issues of discourse development, one similarity that G1.5 students share is that they often differ from other immigrant students and international students with regards to discourse and genre awareness. Immigrant and international students have had the benefit of continuous language development in their first languages and the opportunity to acquire increasingly complex academic skills and content from schooling in their home countries (Harlkau, Siegal, & Losey, 1999). G1.5 students, on the other hand, have had their language development interrupted; many have not been provided adequate opportunity to develop a range of academic skills nor had sufficient access to advanced content in ESL programs or mainstream high school classes (Cummins, 1986; Bennet, et al., 2000). These students have had neither the opportunity for apprenticeship into the academic discourse community, as discussed by Gee, nor access to the explicit instruction of academic discourse, as advocated by Delpit. These differing experiences can create classrooms of students with wildly divergent discourse and genre awareness, which can bring about major implications for classroom pedagogy and for the educational programs that contain G1.5 students.

Perhaps the most significant feature that distinguishes G1.5 students has to do with their linguistic strengths and weaknesses. Although G1.5 students are found to be diverse regarding first and second-language linguistic abilities, one consistent finding in this area is that G1.5 students are much stronger in their English listening and speaking abilities than in their English reading and writing abilities (Muchisky & Tangren, 1999; Bennet, et al., 2000). In fact, G1.5 reading and writing skills may be largely undeveloped due to ineffective educational practices in high school (Kadooka, 2001). As a result, G1.5 students have extensive experiences with communicating aurally in an English academic setting and much less experience with reading and writing, leaving them under-prepared for the academic requirements of college. With this in mind, several researchers (Johns, 1999; Muchisky & Tangren, 1999; Bennet, et al., 2000) advocate pedagogies that draw on students’ linguistic strengths and experiences to help develop academic discourses and genres, such as the notion of hybridity discussed previously (Solsken, Willett, & Wilson-Keenan, 2000).

Each of these ideas concerning access to and the development of academic discourse contributed to the creation of the G1.5 curriculum (see Appendix 2) and the curriculum planner (see Appendix 3).

Identity issues. Second language researchers Norton-Pierce (1995) and Norton and Toohey (2000) argue that a language learner’s social identity determines the learner’s use of the target language. Norton-Pierce calls on SLA researchers to develop “a comprehensive theory of social identity that integrates the language learner and the language learning context” (p. 12). She sees the positive development of social identity in the classroom as leading to a greater investment in language learning, through an “awareness of the right to speak”, which in turn will lead to language acquisition. Norton and Toohey further the importance placed on identity in language learning by claiming that the value and meaning found in language is created not only by the signs and symbols that constitute the language but also by the value and meaning intended by the individual who uses the language. In consideration of this claim, identity is seen as largely affecting a learner’s investment in a second language, use of the second language, and access to second language discourse communities. It is precisely this last effect that education theorist Etienne Wenger considers to be the most influential for a language learner’s identity. Referring to schools as “communities of practice”, Wenger (1998) argues that in educational settings, learning is identity formation.

With regards to G1.5 students, attention to identity has been largely ignored in their educational experiences. This is problematic, considering that, as permanent, long-term immigrants in the U.S., many G1.5 students are likely to develop identity issues as a result of their experiences with multiple cultures, nationalities, and languages (Harklau, Siegal, & Losey, 1999). Furthermore, G1.5 students tend to be more conversant with U.S. cultures and society, and appear to be less comfortable with their home languages and cultures than immigrant and international students. Consequently, many G1.5 students neither identify solely with their native culture nor with American culture, but think of themselves as a mixture of their cultural identities, in a sort of cultural limbo (see Ko, 1993, for insight into Korean G1.5 identity issues). What seems to be absent from G1.5 educational experiences is the sort of attention to identity formation discussed by Norton-Pierce (1995) and Norton and Toohey (2000) that would place value on students’ multicultural and multilingual identities.

Additionally, research by Chiang and Schmida (1999) and Burnett and Syed (1999) locate the source of many G1.5 identity issues within the context of the U.S. education system. In a study of Asian-American G1.5 students, Chiang and Schmida (1999) argue that the categories of ESL, bilingual, and linguistic minority and the labels of native versus nonnative speaker are problematic within the college education community when used to define G1.5 students and have negative consequences for their shifting identities both inside and outside of the school setting. However, Burnett and Syed (1999) provide an account of positive identity development through heritage language instruction in Ilokano and Tagalog at the university level.

These issues of identity also contributed to the formation of several of our G1.5 curriculum objectives (see Appendix 2), to the creation of various classroom activities and readings, and to considerations of relevant pedagogical issues.

Educational experiences. Another issue regarding G1.5 students arises from their diverse education experiences. As childhood immigrants, most G1.5 students have extensive experience with the U.S. education system, particularly with high school ESL programs (Leki, 1999; Bennet, et al., 2000). Many of these experiences may be quite negative, leading to issues of low motivation evident within this group of students. Researchers have shown that educational practices at the high school level are largely responsible for underdeveloped academic literacies of these students. For example, Kadooka (2001) describes a repetitive process of individual sheet work, in which students practice grammar, spelling, and vocabulary, providing little opportunity for meaningful language use and little possibility for language acquisition. This linguistic underdevelopment may be a major factor in the high dropout rates and low academic achievement of G1.5 students observed at the college level (Harklau, Siegal, & Losey, 1999). In addition, the various ways of addressing the needs of G1.5 students by different school districts (Cummins, 1986), by individual teachers (Leki, 1999), and by higher education institutions (Wolfe-Quintero & Segade, 1999; Muchinsky & Tangren, 1999) contribute to different learning outcomes for these students.

Summary of issues. To summarize some of the issues discussed in the research and theoretical literature, G1.5 students tend to share these factors related to discourse and genre, identity, and educational experiences:

1)    they have the same status as permanent, long-term immigrants to the U.S.;


2)    they may neither identify solely with their native culture nor with American culture;


3)    they have extensive experience with the U.S. education system, particularly with ESL programs;


4)    they may have schooling difficulties due to negative education experiences;


5)    their aural abilities in English are often more developed than their English reading and writing abilities; and


6)    they differ from other immigrant students and international students in their continuity of language development, access to advanced academic skills, familiarity with US cultures and society, attitudes about being labeled “ESL”, and identification with their native languages and cultures.


In consideration of the numerous similarities that G1.5 students have with each other, and the numerous differences between them and other ESL students, educators and researchers have proposed separate curriculums to address G1.5 needs, provided that appropriate institutional support and resources exist (Bennet, et al., 2000).

ACC Critical Needs Analysis

The curriculum that is the focus of this paper was the result of a needs analysis initiated by the ACC ESL program director to assess the educational experiences and needs of G1.5 students at the community college. He and the ESL program faculty were concerned about G1.5 students who seemed to be “falling through the cracks” of Hawaii’s educational system, in particular those enrolled in ACC (Bennet, et al., 2000). The ACC ESL program director approached the staff of the Center for Second Language Research (CSLR), an entity of the Department of Second Language Studies (SLS) at UHM, for assistance with identifying the educational needs of these students. The ACC ESL program director and CSLR staff developed a critical needs analysis project to conduct an ethnographic research study that examined the educational experiences of ACC G1.5 students.

To help identify needs of immigrant students in academic institutions, researchers have discussed the advantages of a critical approach to needs analysis. Benesch (1996, 2001) advocates a particular approach to critical needs analysis that assesses student needs and then attempts to address future learning conflicts by examining the academic contexts in which the student needs are situated. Benesch makes the distinction between traditional needs analysis and critical needs analysis in the following manner:

Needs analysis research … is mainly descriptive. Researchers identify and describe existing elements of the target situation to provide the basis for curriculum development. Critical needs analysis, on the other hand, considers the target situation as a site of possible reform. It takes into account the hierarchical nature of social institutions and treats inequality, both inside and outside the institution, as a central concern. (1996, p. 723)


According to Benesch, whereas traditional needs analysis constitutes just the initial stage of a curriculum development process charged with producing pre-determined syllabuses and materials, critical needs analysis is a recursive component of a transformative curriculum that includes ongoing syllabus negotiation and materials creation based on needs that emerge through students’ lived experiences. Lay et. al (1999) report on a massive project in the spirit of this approach conducted by the entire institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). Through this project, CUNY instituted six separate initiatives aimed at supporting various academic needs of G1.5 and immigrant students. The critical needs analysis undertaken by the CSLR staff was based on the ideas presented by Benesch in seeking to identify the academic needs of G1.5 students.

The CSLR research team was composed of six UHM researchers who continually gathered data throughout the period of the longitudinal critical needs analysis, from the Fall 1999 to the Fall 2000 semesters (Bennet, et al., 2000). The research group conducted more than 50 interviews with G1.5 students and ACC teachers, counselors, and administrators, and observed nearly two dozen classrooms during the course of the project. Additionally, the researchers collected a variety of relevant materials, including official ACC and ESL-program documents, classroom syllabi and assignments, student background information questionnaires, emails, and miscellaneous written material relevant to the ESL program. The team worked collaboratively to collect and analyze the research data and to prepare a report of findings that arose from the critical needs analysis project.

The critical needs analysis found that many of the problems that G1.5 students have at ACC stem from:

Š      unfamiliarity with communication in the academic setting;

Š      unfamiliarity with requirements of academia;

Š      unchallenging academic activities and tasks; and

Š      discouragement of bilingual abilities.

Based on these findings, the CSLR research team concluded that “[G1.5] students would benefit from taking a process approach to teaching and learning, . . . one in which students’ abilities and identity are honored, their interests and concerns are made a central part of the learning experience, and their specific needs are addressed” (Bennet, et al., 2000: pp. 2-3). Furthermore, the researchers recommended that G1.5 students would benefit from apprenticeship into the ACC community of practice by investigating the rules and requirements of academia through a student-as-ethnographer approach to language learning. These findings coming from the critical needs analysis contributed to the development of the G1.5 mission statement (see Appendix 1), the G1.5 curriculum (see Appendix 2), and to the overall design of the curriculum evaluation, described in the methodology section of this paper.

Critical Curriculum Development

Following the needs analysis project, during the summer of 2001, Renae Skarin, who had been a member of the CSLR research team, was hired by the ACC ESL program director to develop and implement a curriculum based on G1.5 student needs identified through the critical needs analysis. Since the curriculum would be based on a critical needs analysis, it would also be dialogic, as Rivera (2000) proposes, which would lead to a sense of student ownership and a real voice in the learning process. Furthermore, such a curriculum based on a critical needs analysis would be compatible with the concept of “hybrid discourse practice” (Kamberelis, 2001), a classroom approach which would seek to “disrupt dominant discourse ideologies and practices and disclose possibilities for more democratic forms of pedagogy” (p. 86). These two critical notions of negotiation and multiple discourses helped form the theory behind Renae’s curriculum development process. What resulted was a participatory curriculum that contained two major components: 1) investigations of language use in academia, and 2) an ethnographic research project.

Investigations of language use. The first major component of the G1.5 curriculum was designed to address the needs of apprentice writers. McComiskey (2000) offers a social process approach for writing development based on three intricately interrelated levels of composing: textual, rhetorical, and discursive. According to McComiskey, the textual level is concerned with the linguistic aspects of writing, the rhetorical level is concerned with issues of audience and purpose, and the discursive level is concerned with the economic, political, social, and cultural factors that form writers’ identities. McComiskey stresses “the need to make all three levels overt in our composition classes” (emphasis in original) because “careful attention to all three levels of composing … characterizes successful writing processes.” In terms of writing pedagogy, McComiskey recommends that

1) teachers ought to articulate the kinds of activities they want their students to perform outside the classroom, and they should design pedagogical techniques that develop skills in their students consistent with these future activities; 2) teachers ought to theorize the nature of the social context within which these activities will be performed, and they should design curricula based on the structures and processes that comprise this context; and 3) teachers ought to predict the positive and negative effects these activities in these future contexts might have on both students and society alike. (p. 113)


By following this approach to composition instruction, the writing teacher better prepares students for writing tasks necessary in given contexts (e.g.: academia, the workplace, the community).

Renae carefully designed the curriculum to address McComiskey’s approach to writing development while following his pedagogical recommendations. In fact, this approach is quite compatible with the second major curriculum component, the ethnographic research project, discussed below.

Ethnographic research project. The second major component of the G1.5 curriculum is based on the idea that students become novice ethnographers in order to investigate the culture of academia. Through this process, students investigate rules and requirements for college writing, observe core college courses, interview teachers and students of the courses they observe, collect various types of field data, conduct library and Internet searches, and analyze all of the data that they gather. The culmination of the curriculum is an ethnographic research report of academic culture.

Renae designed the ethnographic research project to be structured and sequenced so as to provide appropriate scaffolding for the students to work through each part of the ethnography process one step at a time. She also worked to integrate the investigations of language use and the ethnographic research project components of the curriculum so that they would adequately support one another.

Timeline and components. The G1.5 curriculum was structured around the ethnographic research project and its components:

Š      Week 1 – Introduction to and overview of the course

Š      Weeks 2-6 – Introduction to the course project

Š      Weeks 7-11 – Data collection phase



Š      Weeks 12-16 – Data analysis and write-up phase



The curriculum was supplemented with chapters concerning language use from the assigned textbook, specific vocabulary instruction when necessary, and explicit instruction on a specific grammar topic once per week. All materials for the lessons, activities, and assignments either were adapted from various sources or were designed based on the recommendations of the initial critical needs analysis.

            In addition to taking a critical approach to curriculum development, Renae took a critical approach to instruction. Drawing from notions of critical pedagogy (Wink, 2000), throughout the G1.5 curriculum implementation, the instructor conscientiously strove for praxis in the classroom as she provided students with an empowered voice and groomed them for problem posing as a means of apprenticeship to the discourses and literacies of the hidden academic culture. This pedagogical approach came to pervade the entire G1.5 curriculum.

Critical Formative Evaluation

As a final aspect of the project, I was hired through the CSLR to develop and participate in the critical formative evaluation component of the G1.5 curriculum implementation. During the summer of 2001, I attended a heritage language workshop so that I could become familiar with some of the theoretical and pedagogical issues relevant to G1.5 students. Also, I attended an evaluation workshop to help develop the critical formative evaluation component of the project. These two workshops, supplemented with additional readings, helped prepare me for the coming semester when I would become a participant observer and evaluator of the G1.5 curriculum.

In the following section of my conceptual framework, I discuss some of the issues relevant to my evaluation design. Specifically, I examine approaches ranging from the quantitative end of a proposed evaluation continuum, to approaches at the qualitative end of the continuum, including program based research, action research, and participatory evaluation. The continuum that I developed to illustrate these evaluation approaches are found in Figure 1 below:

Figure 1: Evaluation Continuum


Quantitative Evaluation                                                                                                                                Qualitative Evaluation



SLA Approaches                                                                           PBR                      Action Research               Participatory/

                                                                                                                                        (Participatory)                  Empowerment


The history of SL evaluation is dominated by quantitative approaches to evaluation that rely largely on tests and other measurement instruments in order to make curricular decisions and to determine the worth of educational practices (Brown, 1995; Rea-Dickens & Germaine, 1998; see Lynch, 1996, for a thorough review of second language program evaluation.) However, recent trends in SL evaluation indicate a move towards either qualitative or a combination of both quantitative and qualitative approaches (Lynch, 1996; Rea-Dickens & Germaine, 1998). Whichever approach is taken, evaluation is seen as a necessary requirement of any curriculum. It has been called by Brown (1995) “the glue that connects and holds all of the [curricular] elements together.” Without evaluation, a curriculum lacks meaning, and therefore, lacks credibility.

SLA approaches. Depending on the overall goals of the project, an evaluator either will be an outsider to the curriculum being examined or will become a participant within the curriculum being studied. These two approaches tend to represent the extremes of the evaluation continuum: the outside, quantitative approach, and the participatory, qualitative approach. According to Brown (1995), an evaluator may take the outsider approach due to time constraints, when the etic perspective of the researcher is valued, or when no other option is available. Consequently, the evaluator with time constraints may succumb to the “jet-in/jet-out” approach to evaluation (Alderson & Scott, 1992; Lynch, 1996), a situation where the researcher enters a research site, quickly gathers data, and then exits the site as quickly as possible, ideally with little disturbance to the project’s participants. On the other hand, an evaluator may seek the insider perspective when time constraints are not a factor and when the emic viewpoints of the project’s participants are of primary concern, as is the case with qualitative and participatory approaches to language program evaluation. This latter approach was the case for the G1.5 curriculum evaluation, due to the participatory nature and the length of the project.

Regardless of the approach taken or the methodology employed, Brown (1995) indicates that evaluations take on two types: summative or formative. Summative evaluations seek to determine a curriculum’s success and usually result in drastic changes. A project’s requirements may call for a summative evaluation when a program has reached its endpoint. However, summative evaluations may also be carried out in the middle of a curriculum project to allow for analyses of activities up to that point. Formative evaluations, on the other hand, seek to gather and analyze data that contributes to the improvement of the curriculum. These types of evaluations usually result in adjustments and changes to the curriculum during its implementation. In either case, Brown (1995) advocates a pro-active approach in which “regular formative evaluation procedures and self-induced summative evaluations” are an integral part of the curriculum so as to “put a program and its staff in a strong position for responding to any crises that might be brought on by evaluation from outside the program” (p. 226). Although the G1.5 curriculum relied on continuous formative evaluation and a concluding summative evaluation, its design was not based on the suggestions provided by Brown. Rather, the evaluation was both formative and summative due to the participatory nature of the project.

Brown also advocates a pro-active stance towards program evaluation called the “Program-Based Review”, or PBR, as discussed by Mackay, Wellesley, Tasman & Bazergan (1998). PBR is participatory by nature, allowing program members to contribute to the evaluation as full and active members, and is intended to “provide information of direct and immediate relevance and use to programme personnel in improving their management and teaching-related activities as well as in demonstrating the programme’s achievements to supervisory bodies” (p. 112); that is, PBR is both formative and summative. Furthermore, PBR does not limit itself to utilizing either qualitative or quantitative descriptions, but it leaves open the possibility for both, depending on the unique situation of a particular language program. Consequently, PRB occupies a position somewhere in the middle of the evaluation continuum. Although this evaluation approach has the option of using qualitative methods, it does not include a critical aspect, and it does not seem to include students in the participatory process, thus making the approach incompatible with the G1.5 curriculum evaluation.

Continuing along the evaluation continuum from PBR is action research (Crookes, 1993). Crookes makes the distinction between a conservative, value-free concept of action research done by a ‘teacher-researcher’ and a progressive, value-laden concept of action research carried out as a “critical education practice”. It is the latter form that is of the most interest for this study. To quote Crookes (1993), action research of this kind involves “teachers doing research on their own teaching and the learning of their own students” (p. 131) beginning “with the ideas and concepts of teachers” as they arise “through reflection and enquiry” (p. 134). Although this approach did not become a part the evaluation component of the G1.5 curriculum, this conceptualization of action research became the regular approach used by Renae to gather information regarding her teaching and student experiences.

Participatory evaluation approaches. SLA approaches have offered insight into the need for more comprehensive, formative, and critical evaluation. This study, therefore, takes a collaborative approach, drawing on the notions of participatory action research (Whyte, 1991; Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000) and the related approach of empowerment evaluation (Fetterman, Kaftarian, & Wandersman, 1996), both of which reside at the extreme qualitative end of the evaluation continuum. My primary methodological approach to evaluation throughout the research project was based on a model for participatory action research as advocated by Kemmis and McTaggart (2000). According to these researchers, “participatory action research is best conceptualized in collaborative terms” (595). They continue by explaining that their approach to evaluation involves becoming

…participative students, that is, to conduct research by acting as learners within communities of practice, and to be agents of change. As an agent of change the evaluator works collaboratively with all those who are engaged in the educational movement for students’ self-reliance and empowerment.


A continuous cycle of collaboration and evaluation by all participants involved in a project is a dominant feature of the interactive nature of their approach.

Also of interest to the current study is participatory evaluation as reported by Alderson and Scott (1992) since this study also was carried out within an SL program. These researchers describe participatory evaluation as a formative and summative project conducted by insider participants that involves “sharing of decisional, planning roles as well as the donkey-work”, “taking an active part, not just watching from the sidelines”, and “gaining benefit from the work carried out” among all participants involved (p. 38). Although the report indicated that the evaluation was largely successful, there were also a number of challenges associated with the participatory nature of the project, including the three-year time commitment for the evaluation, questions of evaluator credibility, inadequate reporting of participant participation in the evaluation process, and problems with some of the quantitative data (surveys) and qualitative data (observations) collected.

Additionally, Lewkowicz and Nunan (1999) report on the limits of a “collaborative evaluation” project conducted in an intensive English language program in Hong Kong. Among the problems they encountered were a high turnover of participants within the program, a lack of appreciation of the principles of the evaluation process, and conflicting agendas. They concluded that collaborative evaluation is very limited and unlikely to lead to program development unless the aims of the evaluation project are made transparent from the outset and a sense of trust is firmly established among project participants.

Reflecting on these previous research findings, the current study did not encounter any of these reported difficulties, possibly due to the unique context of the project and the unique designs of the curriculum and participatory evaluation. First of all, the G1.5 curriculum evaluation was designed at the outset to last two semesters, so length of time never became a factor. Relatedly, since the evaluation was situated within a required ESL course, consistency in student participation was maintained each semester. Additionally, evaluator credibility never seemed to be an issue throughout the evaluation. This was probably due to my visible presence in the classroom from the first day of instruction each semester, and a thorough discussion of the G1.5 curriculum evaluation and my role and purpose in the classroom from the outset. The students seemed to accept the curriculum as a unique learning opportunity and myself more as an additional teacher than as an evaluator. Therefore, drawing on the notions of Kemmis and McTaggart (2000), and mindful of possible difficulties, the project participants pursued a participatory approach to the evaluation of the G1.5 curriculum.

Research Questions

In consideration of the curriculum and evaluation issues discussed in the preceding conceptual framework, I formed the following broad questions that guided my research:

1)    How did students experience the curriculum?


2)    How did these experiences reveal the successes and challenges in the process of curriculum implementation? and


3)    How did the instructor adapt the curriculum based on the ongoing formative evaluation?


Answers to these questions were sought throughout the research period from the main participants in the evaluation: the students, the teacher, and the evaluator. It was understood that due to the nature of qualitative analysis, additional research questions would most likely emerge over the course of the study and would be addressed at that point.


            Having provided the conceptual framework of my study, I now turn to methodology, in which I discuss the participants of the evaluation, and present the working model for continuous, coordinated, and comprehensive language curriculum evaluation that I developed especially for the G1.5 curriculum with theoretical concerns in mind.


The main participants, the primary stakeholders, of this research project were the three distinct groups collaboratively engaged in the curriculum implementation and evaluation process on a daily basis: the students enrolled in the G1.5 curriculum course, the teacher implementing the curriculum, and the evaluator. While each group had its own principal involvement with the curriculum, all of the participants contributed and interacted in various ways to the ongoing curriculum implementation and evaluation project. In addition to the primary stakeholders, another group of participants, the secondary stakeholders, was also concerned with the G1.5 curriculum, but to a lesser degree. At the periphery of the program, they were interested more in the results of the curriculum than in the daily implementation and negotiation of the curriculum. The various stakeholders of the G1.5 curriculum evaluation and their involvement and interests are listed in Table 1.

Table 1: G1.5 Curriculum Evaluation Stakeholders











Proximity to Curriculum

Curriculum Involvement

Curriculum Interest








Participants as learners

Academic proficiency





Participant in curriculum as instructor

Students’ academic success





Participant as curriculum evaluator

Improving curriculum
















Approval of curriculum

Curriculum approaches leading to academic success

Other Teachers





Curriculum approaches leading to academic success






Trained workers, productive citizens






Children’s academic success

Table adapted from Norris (2001)


G1.5 Curriculum Students. Although the G1.5 curriculum was developed to address the experiences and needs primarily of generation 1.5 students, a much greater diversity of students were enrolled in the G1.5 curriculum course. Due to the structure of the ESL program at ACC and the manner in which students are placed in the program, the students in the curriculum project came from a variety of cultural, linguistic, and social backgrounds with a wide range of experiences; however, the one factor that they all had in common was that English is their second language.

The students ranged in age from 18 years old to the mid-forties. Many came straight out of high school, some had previous college education, and others had been out of the education system for many years. In addition, some of the students were immigrants to the U.S., while others came to the U.S. on student visas and would return to their home countries after completing degree programs. For the purpose of this study, these students can be placed in the following five categories:

Category 1-   immigrant students who graduated high school in the U.S. (G1.5 students);


Category 2-   recent immigrant students who graduated high school in their native countries;


Category 3-   long-term, older immigrants who are returning to college as non-traditional students[5];


Category 4-   foreign students[6] from countries with western-style educational systems (e.g. Hong Kong, Micronesia, Polynesia); and


Category 5-   foreign students from countries with non-western-style education systems (e.g. China, Japan, Korea).


The number of students in each category who participated in the G1.5 curriculum evaluation over the academic year is listed in Table 2.

Table 2: G1.5 Curriculum Evaluation Student Categories

Student Category

Description of Category

Number of Students

Category 1

Generation 1.5 student


Category 2

Recent immigrant with high school education in home country


Category 3

Long-term, older, non-traditional, immigrant student


Category 4

Foreign student from country with Western-style education system


Category 5

Foreign student from country with non-Western style education system





The significance of these categories may become more evident when examining the various student contributions to and experiences with the G1.5 curriculum. Although the students from these different categories reacted positively overall to the curriculum, several challenges were associated with this student diversity during the evaluation, the significance of which will be addressed in the conclusion section of this paper.

G1.5 Curriculum Teacher. The teacher implementing the G1.5 curriculum, Renae, was a member of the original CSLR research team that conducted research and needs assessment of the student population in question at ACC. She received her Masters’ degree in ESL with an emphasis on bilingual education and identity issues from UHM. She had had extensive experience with teaching English both in the foreign and SL settings. In addition, she already had been working on the design of the G1.5 curriculum during the spring semester of 2001.

G1.5 Curriculum Evaluator. My position as evaluator of the G1.5 curriculum was arranged through the CSLR. At that time, I was a first-year student in the Masters’ in ESL program of the SLS department at UHM. Two years previously, I graduated from ACC with an AA degree in Liberal Arts and a Certificate in Asian Studies. While a student at ACC, I worked for the ESL program as a classroom tutor in the Intensive English Program. I feel that my previous experience as a student at ACC and a tutor of the ESL program helped me take an insider’s perspective, obtain credibility, and gain the trust of the students throughout the G1.5 curriculum evaluation. Among my academic interests are writing program and materials development, teacher education, and administration.

Research Site

            The G1.5 curriculum research site was located at Aloha Community College (ACC) in Hawai‘i. ACC is a two-year college, offering AA and AS degrees as well as numerous certificate programs. It is one of several community colleges in the UH state-funded school system, which serves as a major source of future UHM students.

            The research classroom for the G1.5 curriculum was located within the ESL program at ACC. Unlike other colleges that marginalize ESL programs by assigning them to disassociated departments or by relegating them to peripheral positions around their campuses (Kaplan, 1997), the ESL program at ACC is part of the college’s Arts and Sciences Department, located near the center of the campus and utilizing the same classrooms as other credited college departments. The ESL program enrolls approximately 500 students per semester, the majority of which continue their education at ACC after completing the program.

            The section assigned to the G1.5 curriculum was a high-intermediate, integrated skills ESL course. Typically, this course is taught using a required textbook, with attention paid to the four skill areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing over the course of the semester. The project section was scheduled to meet four days per week, Monday through Thursday, for two hours each day in the late afternoon. In addition, a 15 minute break was scheduled halfway through the class time, giving a total of seven contact hours of instruction per week, which was 112 hours for the 16 week semester.

The research classroom was located on the second floor of a major campus building that housed many other Arts and Sciences courses. The classroom was small compared to other classrooms in the building, as were all of the rooms used for ESL classes. It was rectangular in shape and accessed from the outside walkway via a long, narrow hallway. The room was air-conditioned and well-illuminated by fluorescent lighting, and along the top portion of one side of the room were louvered windows, just high enough so that you could not look directly out of them. The classroom contained the standard furnishings of desks for the teacher and students, and additional instructional equipment, such as a dry-erase board, a portable overhead projector and screen, a portable TV/ VCR cart, and a locked cabinet that contained dictionaries, thesauruses, and other miscellaneous items, all of which the teacher made frequent use of. The walls of the room were decorated with posters and projects contributed by current and former students enrolled in other ESL sections.

In this particular classroom, the enrollment was limited to 22 students per semester. During the first semester of the G1.5 curriculum evaluation, the enrollment was 20 students, and during the second semester, the enrollment was 17 students. During the first semester, the classroom was teacher-fronted, with the student desks in four rows of six chairs each, facing the teacher. During the second semester, the teacher changed the seating arrangement to a teacher-fronted, horseshoe design, so that all of the classroom participants could see one another. During each semester, I observed and participated in classroom activities from a seat located at the front of the classroom, to the right of the teacher, close to the wall with the louvered windows. This position afforded me the best vantage point to view the entire classroom.

In addition to regular class sessions, the class to meet in the computer lab and in the library for certain curriculum activities throughout the semester. Particularly during the research and write-up phase of the ethnographic research project, the students were given several “free days” when they had to report to class first, and then were allowed to either go to the computer lab to work on their reports or go to the library to do research. Afterwards, the students were required to return to class in order to “check out” with the teacher before leaving school for the day. Furthermore, the students were allowed to do their observation and interview data collection during class time due to scheduling conflicts. As a result, many of the students used the class time to do these activities outside of class.

Research Methodology: G1.5 Curriculum Evaluation Model

Over the course of the G1.5 curriculum evaluation, I utilized interpretive qualitative methods to conduct research, beginning with the conceptual framework that helped form my research questions, and continuing throughout the data collection, analysis, and reporting phases of the study. The theory behind the conceptual framework served to guide the methodology employed in the evaluation. As Davis (1995) explains, “(t)heory and method are inextricably bound together in conducting and reporting interpretive qualitative research” (436). My primary methodological approach for the teaching, learning, and evaluating components of the evaluation was based on the model for participatory action research as advocated by Kemmis and McTaggart (2000).

In an effort to acquire as much relevant material as possible, I gathered data from the students and teacher, in addition to conducting my own extensive field research. All of the primary participants in the study contributed some form of data; however, I gathered most of the data through observations, interviews, and document collection. Throughout the data collection phase of the evaluation, I sought information that would help me answer my primary research questions as well as any other questions that emerged during the study.

Considering the previous work that has been done regarding critical participatory evaluation, I developed the Participatory Curriculum Evaluation Model, or PACE as I refer to it, to graphically reflect the comprehensive nature of the actual evaluation project. This model is presented in Figure 2 below.

                              Figure 2: PACE Model

The structure of the model is devised to show the relationships between all of the participants involved. Hence, coordination between and among all of the participants is a requirement of the model. Continuous collaboration results in an ongoing reflective process of:

planning a change, acting and observing the process and consequences of the change, reflecting on these processes and consequences, and then replanning, acting and observing, reflecting, and so on… (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000, p. 595).

This process of observing- reflecting- changing is evident at the center of the PACE model as the implementation- negotiation- revision aspects of the curriculum. The model also visually depicts the notion of triangulation, a necessary factor of interpretive qualitative methodology that helps to establish credibility, whereby researchers rely on a variety of sources, methods, and participants in an investigation (Davis, 1995).

The PACE model is designed to graphically reflect the comprehensive nature of the actual evaluation process. It is intended to operate in conjunction with the curriculum continuously throughout its implementation, from beginning until end. Therefore, the G1.5 curriculum is placed at the center of the PACE model as the focus of the evaluation. Interacting directly with the curriculum, the model includes the three components that constitute the primary stakeholders involved in the project: teaching, learning, and evaluation. The PACE model also shows the patterns of interaction between the components via bi-directional arrows, and the types of data that each one contributes to the evaluation. These three components at the top portion of the model make up the micro-level factors that regularly contribute to the evaluation project. The model additionally includes the secondary participants involved with the project and shows their main interactional pattern in the curriculum model through the evaluation component. As the administrators, supporters, and external judges of the G1.5 curriculum, these participants compose the macro-level factors that contribute to the evaluation process.

Learning Component. The students learning the curriculum are the primary focus of the evaluation; therefore, they assume a dominant position at the top of the PACE model, immediately adjacent to the curriculum. The students engage in constant interaction with the teacher. This relationship is depicted in the model as horizontal bi-directional arrows to represent their equal importance and status in the evaluation. The students also interact frequently with the evaluation component of the program, but to a much lesser extent, hence the vertical relationship shown in the model.

Data gathered from the G1.5 curriculum students was in the form of written activities and assignments. The bulk of this data came from their final portfolio projects, which was due at the very end of each semester. I also conducted several interviews with each of the students over the course of the semester, both in groups and individually. All of the interviews were tape recorded for later transcription and analysis. Within the data gathered from the G1.5 curriculum students, I sought information to help me answer my primary research questions. Specifically, I sought examples of their successes, difficulties, and experiences with the curriculum by examining our interviews and the students’ written course data.

Teaching Component. As one of the primary stakeholders, the teacher is also a dominant figure at the top of the PACE model. The teacher is constantly involved with the learning component by means of interaction through the G1.5 curriculum. This same relationship also exists between the teaching and evaluation components but to a lesser degree.

The majority of data from Renae was in the form of lesson plans, assignments, handouts, and other classroom activities generated by the teacher. She also supplied her own teacher reflections and notes for each week throughout the semester[7], and I met with her regularly to discuss issues that arose in the class and any other thoughts that she had about the class. By examining the data collected from Renae, I hoped to gain another perspective of the successes and difficulties of the G1.5 curriculum implementation, thereby helping me answer the first of my primary research questions.

Evaluation Component. The evaluator of the G1.5 curriculum is the central figure of the PACE model due to the nature of the project at hand. The evaluator is responsible for regularly engaging all of the stakeholders of the evaluation in addition to the curriculum itself; therefore, the evaluation component is placed in the middle. The evaluator interacts with the other primary stakeholders by way of the curriculum and with the secondary stakeholders directly. As can be seen in the model, the only contact that the secondary stakeholders have with the curriculum is through the evaluator.

In Table 2 below, the audience members of the G1.5 curriculum evaluation are listed along with questions that each may have about the project. Additionally, the table shows the responsibility that the evaluation has to each stakeholder: to describe the curriculum to the stakeholder; to help the stakeholder understand the curriculum; to help the stakeholder change the curriculum; or to educate the stakeholder about the curriculum.

My involvement in the classroom included co-teaching sometimes, tutoring sometimes, and joining student discussion groups at other times. As a participating member of the classroom, I was in an advantageous position to gain an understanding of the meaning that Renae and the students were making while engaging in pedagogical activities.

Table 2: G1.5 Curriculum Evaluation Audience

Audience Members

Audience Questions

About the Curriculum

Evaluation Responsibility to Audience Member






What is this?

What are the roles?

Who are students?

What are students’ needs, etc.?






What will happen?

What is this?

How will it benefit me?






What is this?

How much resources are needed?

How many students?

What are the roles?

How will relationships be built?






What is this?

Was it a success/ failure?

How was it implemented?

Why bother?






What is this?

How will students benefit?

What evidence is there?






How are resources used?

What are products?






How are resources used?

What are products?





Table adapted from Norris (2001)

At the beginning of each semester, I developed a schedule to help me keep track of the evaluation process and to inform the teacher of important evaluation dates, such as meetings, interviews, and videotaping sessions[8]. The majority of my data was based on my own classroom observations done twice weekly over the course of each semester. To facilitate a comparative analysis of my observations to the reflections and notes made by Renae, I recorded my observations weekly onto the same type of form that she used. I also videotaped five class sessions each semester evenly dispersed throughout the semester for later analysis. In addition, I had regular weekly meetings with Renae over the course of the semester to discuss the evaluation. I also was able to have a number of casual conversations with some of the students about experiences that they had with the G1.5 curriculum during each semester. Through an extensive analysis of data gathered as participant observer, Renae and I sought evidence of successes and difficulties associated with the curriculum implementation.

Secondary Stakeholders. The secondary stakeholders of the G1.5 curriculum, those who provided the institutional and community support for the project, represent the foundation of the model. This group includes the administrators who support and fund the project, other teachers in the ACC ESL department, the research community who may have interest in the project and its outcomes, parents and other family members of current and potentially future students of the curriculum, and the community members who may be interested in investment in and potential benefits of the project. Each of these stakeholder groups contribute to the social structure that supports the existence of the G1.5 curriculum project.

Data Analysis

Throughout the course of this study, I used qualitative research methods to analyze the multiple sources of data collected. Based on an analytic inductive method for interpretive qualitative analysis as described by Davis (1995), I searched for recurring themes that emerged during this process in order to answer existing research questions and discover new research questions. In the next section, I attempt to present a thick description of some of the most striking emergent themes by providing representative examples as evidence (Davis, 1995). Hopefully, through this study, issues will be developed and addressed that will help shed light on the process of the G1.5 curriculum evaluation.

Evaluation Findings

Over the course of the two-semester curriculum evaluation, many successes and challenges with the curriculum as implemented were observed. To facilitate the discussion, these findings are grouped into the following categories, organized by the major curriculum components: 1) Investigations of Language Use, drawing mainly from the notions of McComiskey (2000); 2) the Ethnographic Research Project, based on the ACC critical needs analysis (Bennet, et al., 2000); and 3) Overarching Themes, which apply to the entire curriculum.

Investigations of Language Use

The goals of the Investigations of Language Use curriculum component are based on McComiskey’s (2000) social process approach for writing development, and build upon one another as the curriculum unfolds. These sequential goals are

I)      to understand the textual, rhetorical, and discursive functions of language;


II)    to understand the ways these three functions interact in different tasks; and


III)   to apply these three functions appropriately to different tasks.


The following objectives were designed to help achieve the goals of this component:

A)    investigate the textual, rhetorical, and discursive functions of language;


B)   develop fluency in English;


C)   develop the vocabulary necessary for the course and project;


D)   develop grammar in the context of students’ own production;


E)   analyze different forms of rhetoric and genres commonly found in academia;


F)    manipulate rhetoric and genres for different audiences and purposes;


G)   develop understanding of different social functions of language;


H)   analyze interpersonal and individual discourse styles;


I)      develop awareness of different discourse styles and expectations between different courses and teachers;


J)    identify individual language strengths, needs, and usage;


K)   develop meta-cognitive and meta-linguistic abilities; and


L)    complete language tasks using the three functions of language.


Specific activities were designed or selected to support each objective of this curriculum component. In this manner, all classroom activities were connected to the curricular goals through related objectives. This process ensured that classroom activities were purposeful and supportive of the overall curriculum. The flowchart in Table 3 is provided to show the connections between the goals, objectives, and activities of the Investigations of Language Use curriculum component.

Table 3: Goals, Objectives & Activities Flowchart for Investigations of Language Use Component

Component Goals





I. Understand the textual, rhetorical, & discursive functions of language

A)    investigate the textual, rhetorical, and discursive functions of language

1)     read handouts for each function

2)     analyze texts for each function

B)    develop fluency in English

3)     journal writing

4)     freewriting

5)     reading articles

6)     classroom discussions

7)     role plays/ presentations

C)    develop the vocabulary necessary for the course and project

8)     class discussions of vocabulary in the context of instruction

9)     explicit instruction of vocabulary

10)  activities that facilitated the use of vocabulary (e.g.: freewriting, role plays, text analysis)

D)    develop grammar in the context of students’ own production

11)  error analysis and feedback from teacher

12)  self-assessment and error analysis

13)  explicit grammar instruction

14)  process writing: drafting, feedback, and revising

E)    analyze different kinds of rhetoric and genres commonly found in academia

15)  analyze texts for each function

16)  text structure activities: visual representations of language

17)  discuss and write up findings of analysis

F)     manipulate rhetoric and genres for different audiences and purposes

18)  “Little Red Riding-hood” news report and letter to the college maintenance dept.

II. Understand the ways the functions interact in different tasks

G)    develop understanding of different social functions of language

19)  class discussions of social functions of language

20)  9-11 presidential speech

21)  readings of social functions of language

22)  focused freewriting and journal entries

23)  “discourse community” role play

H)    analyze interpersonal and individual discourse styles

24)  student questionnaire

25)  focused freewriting and journal entries

26)  class discussions of discourse styles

27)  9-11 presidential speech

28)  “discourse community” role play

I)      develop awareness of different discourse styles and expectations between different courses and teachers

29)  class discussions of teacher expectations and course requirements

30)  class discussions of different college discourse communities

31)  analysis of course syllabus

J)     identify individual language strengths, needs, and usage

32)  student questionnaire

33)  focused freewriting and journal entries

34)  class discussions of individual language abilities

35)  individual student conferences

K)    develop meta-cognitive and meta-linguistic abilities

36)  focused freewriting and journal entries

37)  class discussions of individual critical thinking and language skills

III. Apply the functions appropriately to different tasks

L)     complete language tasks using the three functions of language

38)  read and analyze academic texts

39)  academic email and letter writing

40)  “discourse community” role play

41)  project presentations

As can been seen in Table 3, there is some overlap in the objectives and activities in this curriculum component. For example, in the second set of objectives, a, b, and c are more closely associated with Goal 2 due to the interactive nature of discourse, yet they are also an integral part of Goal 1, which concerns itself directly with understanding the discursive function of language. Regarding activities, two that overlap into all three component goals and several of the objectives are freewriting and role plays. This overlap is the result of these activities serving multiple purposes simultaneously. This is also the case with several of the other activities in this component. For example, classroom discussions were used frequently throughout the course, although topics were changed to reflect the instructional focus. Since the activities within this curriculum component are too numerous to describe in detail, I will focus on those activities that are most relevant to each individual evaluation finding.

Discourses, domains, and genres. Many of the G1.5 curriculum students said that they enjoyed the assignments that required them to investigate language use. Renae approached the issue of language use by introducing the students to the concepts of discourses, domains, and genres, using a handout that defined and described each factor and showed how they are interconnected. She also assigned activities that had the students think about how these concepts apply to their own lives. Some of the assignments required students to investigate the particular ways that they are accustomed to using the English language, such as the language use questionnaire and related journal entries. For example, at the beginning of the semester, before the introduction to language use concepts, one G1.5 student Himeji wrote this about his language use:

… right now, I speak English most of the times, and at home I speak Japanese. And my problems are pronunciation and grammer. Since I never study basic grammer on beginning, even when I was at my English class @ high school, I had no idea whatever thing we were doing, like grammer test… Right now speaking English is easier than speaking Japanese. Also even though I don’t know how to write English properly, I think writing English is easier than writing Japanese. The reason why I think this way because English don’t have Kanji. Anyways, I hope I will learn how to write properly.


This expression of difficulty with English grammar and writing is common among G1.5 students (Wolfe-Quintero & Segade, 1999). Many of these difficulties seem to be a result of misguided teaching practices in high schools that do not emphasize academic preparation or contextual language use for ESL learners (Kadooka, 2001). Furthermore, Himeji’s observation that English had become his dominant language also is common among many G1.5 students (Chang & Schmida, 1999). This may be due to the lack of heritage language support for immigrants in U.S. public educational institutions. Towards the end of the semester, Himeji provided this journal reflection about his language development:

I learned a lot of things this semester. I learned college student’s discourse and also I learned lots of grammar. As you can see, I am trying to use all grammars I learned, but as you can see I am having problem. Since I use to it with slang conversation, it is hard to adjust to academic writing.


Although Himeji felt that he is still having difficulties with English grammar, he indicated an awareness of his grammar development. Also note his accurate spelling of grammar in his journal entry as compared to his previous writing sample. Additionally, Himeji showed an understanding of different discourse styles by indicating that his use of slang is incongruent with academic discourse.

At different points throughout the two semesters, Renae assigned activities connected to the discussions of discourse, domains, and genres that required the students to investigate the different ways that language is used in general. One of these assignments required the students to do a small-group role-play in a specific setting (e.g.: an airplane) in which the students played roles of different statuses and in which conflict arose due to incongruent discourse styles. The purpose of this activity was for the students to investigate how discourse styles can come into conflict in different situations. The following excerpt comes from my observation field notes taken during the role-play activity:

For the next activity, Renae told the students that they have 10 minutes to practice their role-plays. During the practice time, all of the students are working on their skits, either practicing their roles or writing dialog. After 10 minutes, Renae told the students to take their 15 minute break. During break-time, all of the students are still practicing their skits, both in class and outside of class. After the break, the students begin their role-plays. Yun-hee and Ikuko go first. Their skit is of a biker in a nice restaurant. Ikuko is the waiter and Yun-hee is the biker. Everyone laughs because Yun-hee is wearing Lu’s leather jacket and trying to act tough. Ikuko seats Yun-hee at a table. Yun-hee puts her feet up on the table, throws down the menu, and yells for a glass of beer. Ikuko tries to talk quietly to Yun-hee, but Yun-hee yells for a beer again. Finally, Ikuko tells Yun-hee that she has to leave the restaurant. Everybody laughs and claps at their skit.


The students’ design of this role-play and its dialog reveals an emerging understanding that differing discourse expectations and use can come into conflict, depending on situation and purpose. As Delpit (1998) argues, this level of explicit awareness of discourse expectations is necessary in order for students to participate more equitably in academia.

Another series of assignments required students to investigate ways in which discourses and genres differ depending on domain by examining various types of communication, such as letters, e-mails, speeches, and essays. One such activity centered around President Bush’s televised speech following the events of 911. This activity highlighted the unique discourse style used by the president in the speech genre of communication as presented through the domain of television.

Renae also included several activities designed to reveal the implicit rules of communication in academic language use. In one series of activities, she had the students analyze letters and emails for appropriate use of language based on audience and purpose. Additionally, Renae introduced the students to interview protocol, which they later used to do their own interviews with teachers and other students. Regarding classroom rules of conduct, Renae began with an in-class discussion of teaching styles and rules of communication common to this particular academic setting. The students were told to make this topic the emphasis of their classroom observations and of their interviews with their instructors. The students also were told to analyze their course syllabi for evidence of academic rules of communication, such as level of language formality used in the syllabi, instructor contact information and office hours, course goals and activities, and teaching approaches (e.g.: lectures, discussion). Through these various activities tied to investigations of academic language use, the G1.5 curriculum students were apprenticed into the secondary Discourses of the college community, a process that Gee (1996) argues is the means by which people gain access and “membership to a particular social group or social network”. The students indicated that these various rules of academic language use that they investigated were new ideas to them, that they had never learned them explicitly in high school, and that they felt that some of their difficulties in school had to do with their violations of these rules. Because they had not engaged in the process of academic apprenticeship in their earlier schooling, these students did not have the opportunity to acquire the secondary Discourses necessary for successful participation in academic communities.

The students involved in the G1.5 curriculum evaluation said that they liked these various language use assignments because they had never thought about language in these ways before; by doing so, the students felt that they had a better understanding about how language is used in academia and in society in general.

Textual, rhetorical, and discursive features of language use. Several other research findings address the textual, rhetorical, and discursive features of language use as discussed by McComiskey (2000) that lay at the heart of the G1.5 curriculum. The following quotes from G1.5 students in the curriculum evaluation and the related analyses are representative examples that show evidence of the students’ developing understanding of the various levels of communication.

At the textual level, most of the G1.5 curriculum students were concerned with their grammar development. These students expressed a strong desire to improve their grammar because they felt that they did not use proper English. In an interview about experiences with the curriculum, Eric, a freshman G1.5 student, explained

I’m not really sure why we’re learning this kind stuffs, but I do know it’s different. I never learn this things in high school. I’m sure it’s gonna be good for my future…I really need to improve my grammar…I want to know real English (emphasis in original).


It became clear over the course of the semester that this particular student associated grammatical and lexical knowledge of English with his idea of real English knowledge. He regularly approached the teacher and myself before and after class to ask us questions about correct grammar, word use, and pronunciation.

For the first semester of the evaluation, Renae did not intend to include explicit grammar activities in the curriculum. She intended to address grammar issues individually through feedback and conferences as they emerged in students’ writing assignments. However, within the first few weeks, we realized student expectations and needs regarding grammar through journal entries and informal interviews.

I need help with my grammar…


I would like to do more grammar and writing in class.


Grammar practice. Help me learn more grammar.


I never tried to study grammar. But now I need to study grammar seriously, because I am planning to get a job over here.


After discussion of student comments and of the overall curriculum plan, Renae decided to devote one lesson per week to a particular grammar topic. Most of the times, the chosen topic was motivated by grammar mistakes evident in students’ writing assignments. Renae tried many different approaches to instructing grammar: grammar lessons followed by grammar quizzes or activities from textbooks, and grammar lessons followed by text analyses from textbooks or of the students’ own writings followed by editing assignments. Of the different approaches that she tried, the students seemed to respond best to the grammar lessons tied to their own writing assignments. Some of the students said that this approach helped them improve their writing.

Another aspect of the textual feature of language had to do with a focus on the rhetorical and genre-specific language of the course. As new concepts and terminology related to the course were introduced, Renae devoted time to explanation and definition, and subsequently used the concepts and terms freely throughout the semester. As a result, some discussions became mini-vocabulary lessons. Terms such as ethnography, genre, discourse, conventions, and methodology were learned by the students.

At the rhetorical level of language, many of the G1.5 curriculum students were beginning to understand the concepts of audience and purpose of a given communicative event and how to apply those concepts to their developing English skills. In response to a journal entry question about the importance of understanding language use, one G1.5 student, Lee, wrote

I think that the discourse is very important, because if I understand that, I would write a paper and make a presentation well. I think that I’ve learned a lot of those terms from the video of the speech of President Bush, because in that video he showed that the perfect register, style, format and purpose. He also knew his role well too. He knew who were the audience, so he showed his Discourse very well. It helped me to write my paper well because now I can write a paper thinking about the good format, register and style. I still have some problems in audience and discourse, but I think I would figure out in the future by reading more books and watching more interviews.


It would appear from this journal entry that the student is beginning to understand the rhetorical aspects of language use. Although he admits that he still has difficulties, his meta-cognitive awareness of language use may propel him to continue to pay attention to the rhetorical level of language in the future.

Another activity designed to look at the rhetorical aspect of language was based on the children’s story “Little Red Riding Hood”. In the computer lab, the students were provided a text of the story and were instructed to convert the children’s story into a news article. The students were also provided a sample newspaper article to use for analyzing journalistic language style and newspaper article format. Working in groups of three, the students read and discussed the story, analyzed and discussed language and format features of the newspaper article, and then collaboratively worked to produce the news article version.

In one group in particular, consisting of immigrant students, the students first worked together to develop an outline of their news article. Next, one student started handwriting the news article while another student typed the handwritten text and the other student searched the Internet for news formatting ideas and images to use in their article. Afterwards, this group of students commented that they really enjoyed the activity. They liked working together and being creative. In a later discussion, one of these students told me that he liked that activity more than other activities because it was “very funny”. He explained that at first he wondered why Renae assigned the activity using the children’s story and did not understand how he could turn it into a newspaper article. But as he worked on the activity, he realized that the children’s story could become a crime story to fit the news article style. In his group’s article, the Big Bad Wolf murdered Grandma then kidnapped Little Red Riding Hood and was being hunted by the police. He thought the article was interesting because of the realistic and serious tone of the ridiculous news story. Additionally, through this activity he understood how language can be changed to suit a certain audience and purpose.

At the discursive level of communication, the students began to show an understanding of the political nature of language and that social factors contribute to identity formation through language use. In particular, Himeji studied other Japanese G1.5 students for his course research project and made the following analysis in his final paper:

Through my research, I noticed that all of the one-and-half-generation have very similar situations. They all learned English from people around them, and in most cases they learned English from their friends. Also their discourses and values are very similar to locals…Fortunately they have the advantage of being able to get better jobs because they are able to speak both languages. Especially in Hawaii, there are great opportunities to get jobs that use Japanese and English.


Himeji’s analysis indicates that participation in social communities contributed to language development and use and to the formation of the “local” identity of the G1.5 subjects in his study. Furthermore, his analysis highlights the economic forces at play that influence bilingualism among his group of subjects.

From the outset of the G1.5 curriculum course, Renae encouraged bilingual language use. She explained her philosophy to the students at the beginning of each semester that bilingualism is an advantageous life skill, and that students should never be discouraged from using their languages when necessary and appropriate. Regarding necessity and appropriateness, Renae told the students that although the course was technically ESL with a focus on developing English writing, students should feel free to use their first languages for taking notes, brainstorming ideas, and for clarifying ideas with other students who share the same first language. However, she also discouraged inappropriate language use when doing group work that excludes others who do not share the same first language. Over the course of the project, many of the students were observed speaking their first languages with classmates to clarify or discuss ideas, and several of the students were observed taking notes and writing in their first languages.

In her study of the nursing program at ACC, Diana, another freshman G1.5 student, uncovered a number of rules of behavior found in this social setting associated with success. She touched on these rules in her observation write-up:

I interviewed two students including successful and unsuccessful students. They said that they did almost the same things in the classroom, like do homework, practice in the Lab, pay attention, being on time, etc. They didn’t have to write any papers, they just practiced. After I interviewed the two students, I went to observe the class, and saw that the successful student paid attention to the teacher, she often asked the questions about what she didn’t understand, and she turned the assignments on time. But the unsuccessful student did the opposite. He fell asleep in the class, didn’t turn in the assignments on time, and bothered other students.


Diana observed that there were major differences in the quality of participation in classroom discourse between the two students. While the successful student adhered to behavioral norms of the social group and participated in the accepted discourse of the classroom, the other student did not and was identified as unsuccessful.

These findings from the Investigations of Language Use component of the G1.5 curriculum shed light on the students’ developing awareness of discourse, domains, and genres found in the community college, and of the textual, rhetorical ,and discursive features of language use as discussed by McComiskey (2000).

Ethnographic Research Project

The goals of the Ethnographic Research Project component of the G1.5 curriculum are based on a student-as-ethnographer approach to language development, a process in which students learn ethnographic techniques in order to investigate the culture of academia. Through this process, the G1.5 curriculum students learned techniques to conduct a research investigation, conduct observations and interviews, collect research materials, and analyze data. The main course project required the students to apply these techniques in order to conduct their own ethnographic investigation of academic culture. The overall goal of this investigation was for the students to better understand the educational and social expectations of academia. The culmination of the course project was an ethnographic paper that documented and reported students’ research findings. The goals of this curriculum component are

I)      to learn how to conduct an ethnographic research project;

II)    to submit an ethnographic study of academic culture; and

III)   to understand the educational and social expectations of academia.

The following objectives were designed to help achieve the goals of this component:

A)    investigate the components of an ethnographic research project;

B)   develop field research techniques;

C)   develop observation techniques;

D)   develop interview techniques;

E)   develop artifact and materials collection techniques;

F)    conduct ethnographic research;

G)   develop data analysis techniques;

H)   develop research reporting techniques;

I)      develop meta-awareness of oral and written academic genres; and

J)    develop meta-awareness of educational and social expectations of academia.

The ethnographic research project was designed so that students would work through each part of the ethnography with appropriate scaffolding; as students learned new techniques, they applied these techniques to their field research, and as they gathered data, they analyzed and documented their findings. As was the case with the first curriculum component, activities were designed for each objective, thereby supporting each goal of the Ethnographic Research Project component. The flowchart in Table 4 is provided to show the connections between the goals, objectives, and activities.

Table 4: Goals, Objectives & Activities Flowchart for Ethnographic Research Project Component

Component Goals






Learn how to conduct an ethnographic research project

A)    investigate the components of an ethnographic research project

1)     genre analysis of ethnography

2)     read and discuss materials about ethnography genre and its components

B)    develop field research techniques

3)     read and discuss ethnography handout: field notes

4)     create log for organizing field notes

5)     practice note-taking skills

C)    develop observation techniques

6)     read and discuss ethnography handout: observations

7)     group observation activity: campus culture

8)     observation activity using video clips

D)    develop interview techniques

9)     read and discuss ethnography handout: interviews

10)  observe teacher’s interview role-play

11)  create practice interview questions

12)  practice interview techniques with classmates

E)    develop artifacts and materials collection techniques

13)  read and discuss ethnography handout: artifacts and materials collection

14)  library research workshop

15)  Internet research workshop

16)  practice gathering Internet and library artifacts


Submit an ethnographic study of academic culture

F)     conduct ethnographic research

17)  decide research focus, then contact course instructor by email: make arrangements for research

18)  develop research project outline

19)  develop interview questions

20)  observe classes

21)  interview instructor and students

22)  collect classroom artifacts

23)  collect Internet and library artifacts

G)    develop data analysis techniques

24)  analyze ethnography genre for evidence of data analysis

25)  develop annotating and double-entry note skills

26)  organize, code, and categorize data to search for major findings

H)    develop research reporting techniques

27)  analyze ethnography genre for evidence of reporting style

28)  write up drafts of ethnography sections: intro, conceptual framework, methodology, analysis, discussion, conclusion


Understand the educational and social expectations of academia

I)      develop meta-awareness of oral and written academic genres

29)  combined previous activities of ethnographic research project

J)     develop meta-awareness of educational and social expectations of academia

30)  combined previous activities of ethnographic research project

Renae introduced the ethnography assignment by using materials that described the goals and requirements of the project, defined ethnography, discussed ethnographic research methodology, and presented the aspects of thorough ethnographic data collection. Some of these introductory materials were presented in class and some were presented in the computer lab via Power-point presentation and the Internet. For example, the students analyzed a Web-based ethnography of Mexican-American gang culture to develop a feel for ethnographic research style, to conceptualize the various sections of an ethnographic research paper, and to understand the ways in which ethnographic data contributes to the research paper. With this knowledge foundation, the students began planning their individual ethnographic research projects.

Ethnographic research project planning. In the original conceptualization of the G1.5 curriculum, Renae and the other CSLR research members designed it such that each student would conduct the ethnographic research project in a writing-based content-area course that would be taken concurrently with the G1.5 course (e.g.: history, religion, anthropology). The idea was that the content-area course would facilitate and support the ethnographic research project. Each student would have easy access to a course, an instructor, and other students to observe, interview, and collect artifacts. Additionally, each student would be in a position to gain a deep understanding of the rules of communication and writing requirements in academia as a continuous insider participant of a core college course. As it turned out, none of the G1.5 curriculum students were eligible to take writing-based content-area courses because these courses required as a prerequisite placement in or completion of the advanced-level ESL course. Instead, the students were concurrently enrolled in arts, mathematics, food service, foreign language, and elective classes that did not have English language prerequisites or academic writing requirements.

Therefore, at the beginning of the first semester of the G1.5 curriculum implementation, the ACC ESL program director gave Renae a list of e-mail addresses of writing-based content-area course instructors who had indicated their willingness to participate in the ethnographic research project. This move was intended to help each student find a course to observe and an instructor to interview. Renae sent an e-mail message to the instructors on this list, informing them of the project and its requirements, asking for their participation, and telling them that the G1.5 curriculum students would be contacting them by e-mail soon. However, this process proved to be problematic for the students. Most of the instructors on the list either did not reply to the student e-mails or said that they were too busy at that point of the semester to get involved in the project. As a result, many of the students settled with a course in which they were currently enrolled and that did not have academic writing requirements.

After each student had selected the course to study for the ethnographic research project, the next step was to develop a research plan and an ethnography outline. To facilitate this part of the project, Renae assigned a class activity in which the students reviewed outlining skills and began working on their preliminary research outlines. Once the students had their outlines somewhat developed, they were ready to move on to the data collection phase of the project.

Data collection. One aspect of data collection that the students learned and practiced from the beginning of the semester was working with field notes. The students learned a number of general note-taking skills as well as techniques for collecting, recording and organizing their notes. Over the course of the semester, Renae assigned a number of activities for the students to practice their note-taking skills. For example, the students watched a documentary about teen culture and were told to take notes for class discussion and a follow-up writing assignment. As another type of activity, Renae presented 5-minute lectures on various aspects of ethnographic and language research (e.g: work by Clifford Geertz and James Gee). Although the topics were new to the students, they were told to take notes as thoroughly as possible, and afterwards, the students worked together to reconstruct the lectures.

Responses to survey questions over the course of each semester indicated that the students developed their note-taking skills through these various activities. In a self-evaluation log entry at the beginning of the fall semester, Diana wrote

The activities that I didn’t enjoy in class were taking notes. Because I took the notes very slow. But I will do my best and I will learn how to take notes fastly.


The following week, soon after a lesson on general note-taking skills, Diana provided this response to another self-evaluation survey question:

I learned some new things this week in class…I learned how to taking notes fastly that I didn’t know before. Because I knew the note-taking tips, in my academic career, I think these new concepts will help me to do better and remember fastly.


Several weeks later, on her mid-term self-evaluation form, Diana commented

I think my note-taking skills are better than before. I tried to do the same things from the teacher. I highlight the main points, underline the unknown vocabulary, and write down my feelings in the domain [margin]. I take good lecture notes, because I write down the main point after the teacher say it.


Diana’s reflections illuminate the value of instruction in general academic skills for G1.5 students and the importance of multiple opportunities to practice developing skills.

To help students record and organize their notes, Renae provided instructions for creating a field-note journal. She showed the students a basic page format for recording notes each session, which included a section for the setting, date, time, location, and participants, a section for the field notes, and a section for reflections. Additionally, she showed the students the double-entry method for recording notes, in which one half of the page is used for recording the field notes and the other half of the page is used for the subsequent analysis. The general format is shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Field-note Journal Entry Format

Journal Entry #:






Field Notes:

















The next technique for gathering data that the students learned and practiced was conducting field observations. Renae introduced the topic in a handout that defined observation and described observation techniques. To provide a model of the observation techniques in use, Renae conducted a think-aloud observation of the classroom. Immediately afterwards, she sent the students out into the college community to conduct their own observations of campus culture. Working in small groups, the students were given 30 minutes to observe a campus location of their choosing. Different groups did their observations in the campus cafeteria, in the library, on the campus mall, outside a building entryway, and in the student services courtyard. Once the students returned to class, they worked together in their groups to compile their observation notes and prepare a brief presentation to the class about the campus culture that they observed. After every group presented, Renae led a class discussion of their observation and reporting experiences.

At the end of the class period, Paulo, a non-traditional immigrant student, told me that he thought the exercise was interesting and useful. His group had observed the cafeteria and noted how quiet it was in the late afternoon. The room was empty except for a few students who were studying. He also observed for the first time sunlight streaming through the stained glass mural along the eastern wall of the cafeteria. The setting sun was in position to shine through the glass and cast colorful shapes across the room. His observation led him to realize that the cafeteria was a peaceful place to do homework at that time of the day. Paulo concluded that observation is a useful technique for viewing familiar things differently.

Lee also provided comments about the benefits of observation in response to the journal question, “What are some of the things you learned this week”:

A good ethnographer use observation to get their data. I had learn how to do a observation well. I know that observation is a very important process in a research because you could feel the culture by yourself when observing a class or a place. Observation could also help you understand a culture well by observe a culture that you want to know.


Lee had recognized that observation is an important technique for taking an insider’s perspective in a cultural setting while gathering data. An international student in the course, Chiyo, put these ideas into practice while conducting her classroom observation for her research project. In her observation write-up, Chiyo said

My group observed history 151 class again. At this observation, I wanted to find out new information such as…their register between students and between a student and the professor…The register was un-formal between students. When they discussed in their discussion group, the use slang. However, their register was different that they used formal register when they talked with the professor because the professor was high position than the students and she was also strict teacher for them.


By narrowing her focus during her observation, Chiyo was able to discover some rules of communication implicit in this unique college culture.

In close succession with the observation lesson, the students next learned and practiced techniques for conducting interviews. Renae introduced this topic through a handout that listed interview skills and strategies. Part of this introduction also concerned different types of interview questions, such as guiding, open-ended, and close-ended. After the introduction, Renae and I did a brief role-play in which we demonstrated interview techniques as a model for the students. Immediately afterwards, the students were assigned a role-play activity to interview each other in pairs. The purpose of this activity was for the students to practice some interview skills and strategies and to get a feel for the different roles of interviewer and interviewee.

For the ethnographic research project, each student was required to interview the instructor of the chosen course and one or more students of the course. Before beginning the interview portion of their projects, the students worked together to brainstorm ideas for appropriate interview questions. Then they worked individually to develop their own questions. They submitted these questions to Renae for feedback before using them in their interviews. Afterwards, each student was required to submit a write-up of each interview to Renae for comments and review.

Overall, the G1.5 students in the course expressed positive reactions to the interview activities and requirements of the ethnographic research project. The following are some of the comments provided by the students about interviewing:

I learned about the tips of interviewing. I didn’t know how to interview a professor, because I was afraid to ask question and I didn’t know how to ask. (Diana, classroom evaluation)


I think the interviewing was useful. Because I think it’s gonna help me to talk to professors in future…I have some strategies now and I can have more confidence. (Eric, personal interview)


Lee supplied the most extensive comments in his mid-term evaluation about his developed understanding of interviews, ways that he would conduct them, and their possible benefits to his academic career:

I have learned survey questions, specific questions, and openended questions. I think the specific questions is the best to use when doing ethnographic research because I can get a lot of specific information for my topic. In the interview, I would use survey questions to get the background information first. Then I would use openended or close-ended questions to lead the interviewee into the topic. At last, I will use specific questions to get the answers that I didn’t get from the open-ended questions…I had learned a lot of respect in the interview. The most important think to do in the interview is to shake the interviewer’s hand, ask the permission for tape recording because that make him think I’m respecting him. You don’t interrupt a good response because your interviewer is straying from your planed outline, and also don’t let periods of silence fluster you. I haven’t do a interview yet, but I think I will use all the techniques I learned from this class. I think I will work on the respect of the professor. I will try to be as polite as I can.


His use of question types and politeness strategies were evident in the detailed write-ups of his interviews with his participating instructor. This was also the case with many of the interview write-ups from the other G1.5 curriculum students.

The final aspect of data collection that the students learned and practiced was artifacts and materials collection. As was the case with the other techniques, Renae began by supplying the students with a handout that defined and provided the purpose of this type of data collection. The handout also listed possible kinds of useful artifacts and materials for the ethnographic research project. Artifacts included items gathered from the classroom and students, such as syllabi, assignments, exams and papers. Materials included items gathered from outside sources, such as library books, articles, Web-pages, and brochures.

To assist students with library searches, Renae arranged a library orientation session through the head librarian’s office. This orientation included all of the library’s resources and was followed by an application activity to practice using the resources. In addition, Renae scheduled several other class sessions throughout the semester as library research days. Most of the G1.5 students said that they liked learning about using library resources for research. One of the students even said that he spent time doing research at the main UHM library, Hamilton Library, even though he did not have classes on that campus. Renae also scheduled several class sessions in the ESL computer lab to discuss Internet research. She covered topics such as useful search engines, keyword searching, evaluating appropriate information, and plagiarism.

Data analysis and ethnography writing. Once the students had gathered data for their ethnographic research projects, they began the lengthy process of analysis and ethnography writing. To facilitate their analyses, Renae provided the students with a grid sheet for organizing and categorizing their data. She also scheduled class periods just for data analysis, and spent class time circulating around the classroom, providing advice and comments to the students as they worked with their data. At this same time, the students also began working on the different sections of their ethnographies. Renae took a process approach to the writing phase of the project, giving feedback on multiple drafts of the different ethnography sections. During this time of the project, all of the students were at different stages of data analysis and of the writing process and were spread out between the classroom, the computer lab, and the library.

At the culmination of the course, each student was required to submit an ethnography of the class that they researched. All of the G1.5 students submitted papers that were acceptable by the teacher’s standards, although each paper varied in content, length, and quality. Paper topics included History (Roy), Business (Cindy), Nursing (Diana), Japanese 101 (Lee and Eric), and G1.5 Japanese students (Himeji). Himeji’s ethnography of G1.5 Japanese students was the most detailed and lengthy at 13 pages, and also received the most praise from Renae, who called it “a model of what the curriculum can produce”.

Of the 37 students participating in the G1.5 curriculum over the two semesters, 33 students submitted complete ethnographies. All of these papers were assessed by the teacher as adequate enough to receive a grade of “Pass” for the course, equivalent to at least the 80% minimum required to receive such a grade. Therefore, the students’ overall passing rate in this course was 89%, considered well above average for the ACC ESL program.

All of the G1.5 students said that they felt that the different aspects of the ethnography were challenging yet very helpful, particularly the observations and interviews. While observing their classes, the students were able to analyze the dynamics of classroom interaction in ways that were not possible before. The students were able to identify unique characteristics of academic communication in their classes and were able to examine teaching style. The students’ interviews with their instructors helped many of them overcome their apprehensions about asking questions of and getting information from teachers. Additionally, the analysis and write-up portions of the ethnographic research project made many students feel like they were doing something challenging at the college level. This emphasis on research was viewed by many students as “real” work expected of them in college. Furthermore, the students indicated that they liked the project writing requirements because they felt that writing a detailed research paper would help them with their future college writing requirements.

Overarching Themes

Course expectations. At the beginnings of both semesters, some of the students enrolled in the G1.5 curriculum course had low expectations of the purposes and difficulty of the class. Several of the students said that they had expected the class to be similar to other ESL classes they had taken before: somewhat easy and relying on a class textbook with an emphasis on grammar development. However, as both semesters progressed, all of the G1.5 students reported that they were surprised and happy about the kinds of writing assignments they had to do and the rigorous research and writing required of them. Each week, the students had a different kind of writing assignment, several homework assignments, and several reading assignments. By the end of each semester, the G1.5 students felt that the course was very challenging and practical.

During individual and group interviews over the mid-term period of the fall 2001 semester, I sought to find out what the students believed were the primary objectives of the course. While the students overwhelmingly expressed positive attitudes about the course in general, many students said that they were unclear about the purposes of some of the course lessons and the overall goals of the course itself. Eric, a G1.5 student, expanded on the common response of, “I don’t know,” by saying

I’m not really sure why we’re learning this kind stuffs, but I do know it’s different. I never learn this things in high school. I’m sure it’s gonna be good for my future…


In a group interview with several students from the course, Diana provided the following insight:

My friend is took the other (ESL) class, and she told me the instructor lecture like this, so when I heard that… I thought, oh, my class is a little bit different from her class…because you know the other class is focus on the textbook. They take a test or they are reading the textbook or something. But my class, just one time we study the textbook or something, so even though we bought the textbook but we didn’t have any chance to use the textbook… we just use some papers and turn in or something… So, I was so confused, why she want to teach this one… why she don’t use the textbook? But…later I got understand, oh, what is her purpose in the class…she just want to teach us how to write the research paper. And then I understand her class activity.


These comments are not surprising considering the conditioning that these students have received throughout their schooling. Due to his high school experience, Eric expected the course to emphasize grammar instead of its focus on actual language use and production. In Diana’s case, her initial confusion stemmed from the absence of textbook use in the G1.5 curriculum class as compared to her friend’s experience in a standard section of the same course. Perhaps she had been conditioned that teachers and students should follow the textbook ordering of lessons and activities instead of a divergent lesson plan. Part of this situation may have been due to the ACC ESL program’s instruction that teachers make a textbook a requirement of each ESL course. Teachers in the program were also told that they should use specific textbook sections for their courses. However, the section of the textbook designated for the G1.5 curriculum course was found by Renae to be incongruent with the curricular objectives; therefore, it was used infrequently during the first  semester. This situation lead to students questioning the necessity of the textbook and the overall goals of the course when the textbook was not being used.

Additionally, Diana reached the conclusion that the overall purpose of the course was to learn how to write a research paper. This goal was in fact just the end result of a curriculum designed to improve students’ discursive and linguistic proficiency and help students develop an improved understanding of the social and educational expectations of teachers at U.S. colleges. Diana’s conclusion indicates that at the time of the interview, she was still unclear about some of the activity purposes and course goals.

As an integral aspect of a formative evaluation process, Renae and I continually discussed the course and implemented solutions in an effort to improve the G1.5 curriculum. During a meeting at the end of the first semester to discuss preliminary research findings, we discussed the notion of explicit awareness of goals. In response to my suggestion that every aspect of the course should be made as explicit as possible, Renae responded

Yes, I think that is true, but at the same time, I think that understanding some of this stuff is a process, and that even if I’m explicit about what I’m trying to accomplish they may not really understand it till toward the end.


This highlights some of the challenges associated with implementing an innovative curriculum such as this. Since an integral part of this curriculum was to develop meta-cognitive and academic awareness, the students must go through a process of exposure, practice, and discovery before ideas become their own and they truly understand the nature of the complex task in which they are apprenticed.

To address the issue of students’ understanding of the goals of the G1.5 curriculum, Renae made an effort to describe the relationships between individual lessons and curriculum objectives. In addition to a thorough introduction to the course and its overall goals at the beginning of the second semester, she explicitly stated how each new activity would link to previous activities and to the course goals. It was hoped that by consistently showing these relations, students would have a much better understanding of how the entire course would contribute to their academic careers.

Regarding the textbook requirement, Renae also negotiated the G1.5 curriculum to include more use of the textbook. She decided to use a different section of the textbook that focused on language and culture for her class. These topics were much more consistent with the lessons, activities, and overall goals of the G1.5 curriculum.

Renae also assigned several articles from academic journals for the students to read as a means of examining certain concepts more in-depth and of providing material for text analysis. One article was written by a South Asian immigrant to America and was used as a means of discussing cultural awareness and analyzing text structure. Another article was the ethnography of Mexican-American gang culture that was used to analyze the ethnography genre. These articles proved to be difficult for the students, but many of them indicated that the articles were good because they were so challenging. Echoing previous sentiments, the students said that they felt like they were reading “real” college material of the kind that they thought would be expected of them.

Identity formation. Some G1.5 students in the course also demonstrated a growing awareness of their identity formation. Several of these students articulated this awareness through journal entries prompted by questions about past and future language use. In one journal entry, Diana wrote

I never learned or read any English in China…that’s why I was so glad that I would come to Hawai‘i for study. On my evolving language, the major influences to my family, because I had to teach my brother, he never learned the 26 letter before he came here, so I had to improve him. Until now, I want learn more about the oral and written language. Becoming a college student, the oral and written languages are very important to improve myself in…my college life.


It seems that this student’s identity as an English speaker and as a student was influenced by her experiences and responsibilities regarding language use in her family and in society. She was aware of the need to develop the specific language skills and abilities demanded in U.S. college courses. These thoughts were echoed by Himeji who touched on similar issues when he wrote in his journal

I learned how to speak English from my ex-girlfriend. But she speaks Pidgin, so many people tells me I speak like Hawaiian. But she wasn’t that good in writing, and also I hate study. I never tried to study grammar. But now I am trying to study grammar seriously, because I am planning to get a job over here.


This student, as with the previous one quoted, seems to have made the connection that, as discussed by scholars such as Delpit (1998) and Gee (1996), acquisition of the dominant discourse of power will contribute to future academic and career success. This may be due in part to the language awareness activities that Renae provided designed to help students critically reflect on the dominant discourse of academia and the politics of practice inherent in educational institutions as they developed their own language skills in secondary Discourses. This practice of developing and critically reflecting on the dominant discourse of academia enabled the students to value their own hybrid identities and as they engaged in academic endeavors.


Summary of Findings

Over the course of the evaluation project, many findings emerged that pointed to the overall success of the G1.5 curriculum. Concerning their investigations of language use, findings indicate that the students overall achieved the goals of the curriculum component. The students showed a developing understanding of the concepts of discourse, domains, and genres. This included learning implicit rules of communication in academic language use. The students also showed a developing awareness of the textual, rhetorical, and discursive properties of language and the ways in which they interact and influence one another. At the textual level, the students acknowledged their sensitivity to the role that grammar played in their language development. At the rhetorical level, they exhibited their increased understanding of audience and purpose in language use. And at the discursive level, the students displayed their awareness of the various social factors that contribute to language use. The students’ increased awareness of the textual, rhetorical, and discursive properties of language was manifest through different language use activities such as genre analyses, role-plays, and presentations.

Regarding the ethnographic research project, overall findings also indicate that the students achieved the goals of the curriculum component. By engaging in the different activities of the curriculum component, the students learned techniques associated with ethnographic research such as collecting field notes, observing, interviewing, gathering artifacts and materials, analyzing data, and reporting. The students practiced these techniques as they conducted their own ethnographic studies of college culture. In the process, the students developed their understandings of the educational and social expectations of academia. The students’ increased understandings were evident in response to journal, survey, and interview questions, and in their ethnographies, in which many of the students explored the educational and social expectations found in their research classrooms.

Several overarching themes suggest that the students were challenged academically beyond their expectations due in part to previous schooling experiences that emphasized rote memorization and manipulation of grammar. Findings in this area led to curriculum negotiation that resulted in weekly, focused grammar lessons and additional textbook assignments. Additionally, G1.5 students showed an awareness of their evolving identities as they acquired new secondary Discourses and developed their academic language use.

Additional Recommendations

One major challenge that emerged at the outset of the curriculum implementation project was associated with the institutional constraint that did not allow students to enroll simultaneously in writing-based content-area courses. This constraint created a less than ideal situation for the ethnographic research project. In addition to the fact that the students did not have ready access to appropriate courses in which to conduct their research, the students had to find instructors willing and able to assist them with their projects. This proved difficult for many of the students who selected non-writing-based courses, in which they were currently enrolled, for their projects.

In future implementations of this curriculum, the original recommendations of the CSLR research team should be followed with regards to the research requirements of the ethnographic research project. If students are unable to enroll simultaneously in a writing-based content-area course, one suggestion is to link the G1.5 curriculum course to one of the few college core, content area courses that does not require qualification for the advanced-level ESL course (e.g: Philosophy or Religion). Another option would be to secure commitment well in advance from instructors willing to participate in the project and establish a close working relationship between the G1.5 curriculum instructor and the participating instructors. These suggestions should alleviate the difficulties connected to college enrollment and course selection.

Another challenge that arose from journal entries, classroom evaluations, and student interviews was related to student misunderstandings of various aspects of the course, including activity directions and objectives, and overall course goals. Part of the students’ misunderstandings was due to the fact that most of the activities, and indeed the G1.5 curriculum itself, were new and had never been assessed and revised to emphasize goals and objectives. Students’ misunderstandings were also compounded because of the curriculum topic (investigating the rules and requirements of academia) and concepts that they had not experienced before. Another factor that affected students’ misunderstanding was a concern on Renae’s part to avoid student burnout. Because of the complexity of the course research focus and the ideas related to it, she tried to provide enough explicit instruction so that students could complete activities while not providing too much explicit instruction, which could lead to student confusion and resistance.

Through the formative evaluation process, the issue of student misunderstandings about aspects of the course was addressed for the most part by implementing, assessing, and changing G1.5 curriculum materials based on evaluation findings. Additionally, Renae addressed this issue by providing more explicit directions for the activities, explaining the purposes of the activities, and making connections between the activities and the ethnographic research project. Findings from the second semester of the curriculum implementation suggest that many of the students’ misunderstandings evident during the first semester were not evident, possibly through this increased attention to explicit instruction.

Yet another challenge that arose during the course of the curriculum implementation had to do with the make-up of the students who participated in the project. Originally intended for implementation in a class composed predominantly of G1.5 students, the curriculum was implemented in a very different classroom during the first semester of the research project. Of the 19 students continuously enrolled in the course during the Fall 2001 semester, only five were G1.5 students, all of whom had graduated high school within the previous year. The remaining 14 students were either exchange students or recent immigrants. Of these 14 students, nine had graduated from high school only, and the remaining five had received varying degrees of college education prior to enrolling in ACC. In addition, the 19 students enrolled in the course during the first semester came from a variety of countries and had different first language backgrounds. During the following Spring 2002 semester, an even more diverse classroom consisted of six long-term non-traditional students, ten foreign students, and only one G1.5 student.

This student diversity suggests that the G1.5 curriculum may have been applicable to more college ESL contexts than for which it was originally intended. However, this was not necessarily the case. Whereas the G1.5 and other immigrant students overwhelmingly exhibited positive reactions to the curriculum activities and project, the international students often showed resistance to various aspects of the course. For example, most of the international students felt that the grammar workshops were not very useful since they had already studied the grammar points in their previous academic careers. Also, many of the international students said that they appreciated group discussions much less than class lectures. One of the students added that it was not beneficial to learn from peers. Several of the international students believed that the instructional time devoted to different ethnographic techniques, such as observing, interviewing, materials collection, and analysis, were not useful since they had learned those strategies in their previous educational experiences. In fact, several international students had already received junior college degrees in their home countries. Furthermore, many of the international students expressed a need to learn different kinds of written genres in addition to the ethnography. These students identified the final ethnographic research paper as the only academic writing assignment of the course.

This contrast of experiences between the G1.5 and international students in the curriculum implementation project is consistent with previous research by Bennet et al. (2000), Blanton (1999), Ferris (1999), and Muchinskey and Tangren (1999) who find that G1.5 students’ years of schooling in the U.S. educational system did not prepare them adequately for college, whereas international students are better prepared for college-level work mainly because of their years of consistent schooling in their home educational systems. The resistance expressed by the international students may be due to the fact that the curriculum was designed to counteract the inadequate college preparation of the G1.5 students, which is not consistent with the experiences of the international students. It is clear that these two groups of students have different academic preparation and needs. Therefore, it is understandable that the international students would have negative reactions to the G1.5 curriculum. As a solution to this challenge, I suggest that international students should be excluded from enrolling in courses based on the G1.5 curriculum. If this is not possible, then the curriculum should be modified to address the divergent needs of the student populations enrolled in the course.


The previous findings indicate the success of the collaborative and formative evaluation process discussed previously in this paper. The interactive nature of the PACE model allowed for continuous development and negotiation as the project participants engaged with the curriculum on a daily basis. As successes were encountered, they were identified and recycled back into the curriculum. As difficulties emerged, they were noted and discussed by the project participants in an effort to further curriculum development. This ongoing process of observing- reflecting- changing represents the core of participatory theory (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000) and relies on contributions by all those involved for a complete picture of the curriculum evaluation. This study shows that participatory curriculum evaluation not only is a viable option, but it is the ideal approach for understanding the complexities of a curriculum implementation project such as the one previously described in this paper.

Furthermore, the research findings indicate the overall success of the G1.5 curriculum. Grounded in theory and previous research, the curriculum addressed the unique needs of G1.5 students, who overwhelmingly reacted positively to the curriculum and showed evidence of academic and linguistic development. Future implementations of the curriculum that take into consideration the previous research findings and recommendations should result in even greater student and curricular success. The results of this participatory curriculum evaluation project seem promising for further development of the G1.5 curriculum. It is hoped that this evaluation project will provide information on curriculum and pedagogical practices that foster improved educational practices for G1.5 college students in Hawai‘i and nation-wide.


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Generation 1.5 Curriculum Mission Statement


The Generation 1.5 Curriculum strives to prepare its students for rewarding college careers by developing academic literacy through a wide range of research-based language activities. These activities are designed to increase awareness of discursive and linguistic differences by studying about and analyzing language found in the college community, and in turn promote metacognitive awareness and development of students’ own language use. The curriculum seeks to encourage academic apprenticeship through student interviews, research, and presentations, thereby developing students’ communication skills in various domains using different discourse styles. Through the curriculum and its range of activities, we hope to foster the development of students’ life-long learning skills and their critical awareness of skills necessary to succeed in the college community.


Generation 1.5 Curriculum


Course Title

Developing Language and Literacy Skills for Academic Purposes


Course Description

This course is designed to:

1)    promote students’ linguistic proficiency through language analysis exercises that develop meta-linguistic awareness which, in turn, improves reading and writing abilities;

2)    increase students’ discursive proficiency through:

a)    developing meta-awareness of oral and literary genres within educational institutions and

b)    expanding repertoires of academic oral and literacy genres; and

3)    help students develop an improved understanding of the social and educational expectations of teachers at U.S. colleges, in general, and within and across disciplines, specifically.


Course Design

The following course project, topics, objectives, and activities are intended to complement the course text by focusing on concepts related to certain chapter topics. The activities are generally intended to link the course material to students’ lives, promote self-discovery, and enhance life-long language and literacy learning.


Course Final Project

The main assignment for the course is an ethnographic research report that each student will develop over the course of the semester through individual assignments, class work, and group work. This research report, including all course work related to the report, will be submitted as a final portfolio project at the end of the semester during finals week.


Course Evaluation

Students will be evaluated throughout the semester on all individual and group assignments required in addition to the final course portfolio project.


Course TopicS, Objectives, and Activities


I. Introduction to Course and Topics

Week 1:

Objective 1.1 Clarify course goals and procedures.

Objective 1.2 Develop students’ meta-cognitive awareness.

Objective 1.3 Introduce “student as ethnographer” concept.

Objective 1.4 Develop awareness of different styles and expectations between

different courses and teachers.

Objective 1.5 Clarify journal requirements for course.


II. Language Awareness- Textual

Weeks 2- 4:

Objective 2.1 Develop ideas of conceptual and theoretical definitions.

Objective 2.2 Develop meta-cognitive awareness abilities.

Objective 2.3 Identify individual language strengths, needs, and usage.

Objective 2.4 Introduce ethnographic research and analyze example projects.


III. Language Analysis- Social and Rhetorical

Weeks 5- 7:

Objective 3.1 Develop understanding of different social functions of language.

Objective 3.2 Ability to analyze different rhetorical uses of English.

Objective 3.3 Develop meta-linguistic awareness.

Objective 3.4 Introduce concept of “student as ethnographer”


IV. Discourse Styles

Weeks 8- 10:

Objective 4.1 Continue to develop “student as ethnographer” skills.

Objective 4.2 Identify interpersonal and individual discourse styles.

Objective 4.3 Identify different discourse styles by course and discipline.

Objective 4.4 Analyze different courses for ethnographic research project.

Objective 4.5 Develop ability to conduct observations, interviews and analysis of

teachers, students, and classes in the college.

Objective 4.6 Begin ethnographic research projects.


V. Doing Ethnography

Weeks 11-15:

Objective 5.1 Conduct all classroom observations and gather data.

Objective 5.2 Conduct all interviews with teachers and students and gather data.

Objective 5.3 Collect artifacts and secondary resources.

Objective 5.4 Write-up, code, and analyze data.

Objective 5.5 Write ethnographic research reports.


VI. Final Presentations/ Wrap-up

Week 16:

Objective 6.1 Present individual final projects and conclude semester.



Generation 1.5 Curriculum Planner


Goal/ Objective


Pedagogical Activities


Assessment of Students

Evaluation of Process

Increase linguistic proficiency

Meta-linguistic awareness

Language analysis exercises

Real documents, texts, student papers

Writing assignments, portfolios, quizzes

Learning log, teacher’s field notes, student surveys, researcher notes

Increase discourse proficiency

Meta-awareness of oral and written academic genres

Interviews with teachers, classroom observations, analysis of student papers

Tape recorders, handouts, sample student papers

Essays of research (ethnographic reports), presentations, small writing assignments

Literacy questionnaires, classroom speech assessment, learning logs

Develop understanding of social and educational expectations of teachers

Meta-awareness of social and educational expectations

Interviews with teachers and students, observations, analysis of written expectations

Tape recorders, syllabi

Research reports and presentations, writing assignments of data, syllabi assignment reports

Syllabus discussion, learning logs, portfolios, field notes





CLASSROOOM ASSESSMENT - WEEK                     














































































G1.5 Curriculum Evaluation Schedule Fall 2001









First day









6 Journal Review





13 Teacher Journal



18 Videotape


20 Log Review/ Journal Review/





27 Teacher Journal






Journal Review



9 Videotape


11 Teacher Journal


15 Begin Student Interviews



18 Log Review/ Journal Review



23 Mid-term Assessment


25 Teacher Journal





30 Videotape


1 Journal Review





8 Teacher Journal






Log Review/ Journal Review



20 Videotape




Teacher Journal





29 Journal Review


3 Student Interview Make-ups



6 Teacher Journal



11 Videotape/

Final Assessment



13 Log Review/ Journal Review






20 Teacher Journal


Š       Student Portfolios

G1.5 Curriculum Evaluation Schedule Spring 2002









First day









24 Teacher Meeting





31 Teacher Meeting



18 Videotape


20 Teacher Meeting





27 Teacher Meeting






21 Teacher Meeting


25 Begin Student Interviews



28 Teacher Journal





7 Teacher Meeting


11 Videotape


13 Videotape

14 Teacher Meeting


18 Mid-term Assessment



21 Teacher Meeting














4 Teacher Meeting







15 Videotape


17 Videotape

18 Teacher Meeting





25 Teacher Meeting








6 Teacher Meeting w/ Administrators


8 Presentations








15 Presentations





[1] a pseudonym

[2] see Appendix 1 for the G1.5 Curriculum Mission Statement

[3] see Appendix 2 for G1.5 Curriculum text

[4] refer again to Appendices 1 and 2 for mission statement and curricular objectives

[5] “non-traditional students” in this sense refers to older immigrant students who have lived in the US for an extended period of time, who have not been exposed to an educational system for a number of years, and who are returning to school possibly for career changes or for other economic advantages

[6] “foreign students” in this sense refers to non-native English-speaking students who enter UHM from foreign countries and who are seeking a UHM degree

[7] see Appendix 4 for an example of the form used

[8] see Appendix 5 for the G1.5 Curriculum Evaluation Schedules


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