Date of Award

12-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Patricia Davis-Wiley

Committee Members

Edward Counts, Ilona Leki, J. Amos Hatch

Abstract

In today’s educational arena, English Language Learner (ELL) children have to exert a great deal of energy to be accepted by their mainstream peers. They often shun their primary languages and cultural practices in an effort to become assimilated into the mainstream.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the current socialization practices experienced by particular Japanese ELL intermediate schoolchildren in Masonville (pseudonym), East Tennessee. Much of my interest was sparked by Vygotsky’s (1978) work on the sociality of learning. Through this qualitative research study, I was able to present an in-depth understanding of issues surrounding these children and describe how the children, parents, and classroom teachers dealt with these issues.

The participants in the study were five Japanese ELL children, their mothers, and two mainstream classroom teachers. I used a naturalistic inquiry (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Data were collected through two individual interviews with each of the participants and 10 unobtrusive classroom observations of each participant student.

Focusing on the analyses of observations of and interviews with the five participant students, I was able to identify and discuss five themes: the differences of school cultural tendencies, emotional support of friends and teachers, identity and self- confidence, parental support, students’ access to resources, and anxiety over the children’s development in Japanese. The participant students perceived major differences between American schools and Japanese schools, yet, bonds between the Japanese students and the emotional support they received from peers and teachers were helpful in easing the children’s challenges they experienced in their new school life. They maintained a strong Japanese ethnic identity and degree of self-confidence due to their belief that diligent work would always lead to success. The five Japanese students were academically successful, and supported by their families, who spared neither time nor effort and provided abundant resources for their children. Finally, both the children and their parents experienced anxiety over readjustment to the Japanese school system upon re-entering Japan. Their anxiety mainly came from the delay of the children’s development in Japanese and their perceptions of the difference of the two cultures between the U.S. and Japan.

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