Wallace & Chhuon Proximal Processes in Urban Classrooms
Wallace, T. L, & Chhuon, V. (2014, October). Proximal processes in urban classrooms: Engagement and disaffection in urban youth of color. American Educational Research Journal, 51(5), 937-973. DOI: 10.3102/0002831214531324
Summary: This study reports on the qualitative, semi-structured interviews of 28 students of color from urban high schools. The study identified processes that led to engagement or disaffection. The processes for engagement included: (1) feeling heard, (2) going all in, and (3) taking students seriously. Engagement creates a developmental alliance with the teacher, but disaffection creates a rejection of the relationship with the teacher. Therefore, engagement affects teacher/student relationships. Knowing your students, but not pretending to know them, their backgrounds, and experiences as urban youth of color, was equally important.
Purpose: “Specifically, we examine urban adolescents’ interpretations of instructional interactions to understand the academic and developmental implications of pedagogy for youth of color. In doing so, we seek to advance the existing knowledge base regarding student engagement in two ways – enhancing the ecological validity of such theories and making explicit and robust connections to teacher practice” (p. 939). “In this article, we explore how and why certain teacher practices are interpreted by adolescents as either engaging or inhibiting their academic striving” (p. 940).
- Engagement = behavior (what students do) + emotion (what students feel) + cognition (what students think) (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004) + agency (what students contribute) (Reeve & Tseng, 2011)
- Disaffection: “Disaffection refers to a broad range of actions and reactions that include boredom, anxiety, and alienation” (p. 943).
- Going all in: “moving beyond surface, inauthentic ways of interacting and connection with students and course materials” (p. 955)
- How do adolescents make meaning of the proximal processes occurring in urban high school classrooms?
- In what ways do these proximal processes relate to engagement and disaffection orientations for urban adolescents of color, as perceived by youth?
- In what ways do adolescents’ perceptions of being known relate to proximal processes in the urban high school classroom and engagement orientations of urban youth of color? (p. 945)
- “An overwhelmingly positive (or negative) moment of experience results in an engagement orientation switch that is likely not to reverse without new (and disparate) source material being generated within subsequently experienced proximal processes” (p. 945).
- The processes for engagement included: (1) feeling heard, (2) going all in, and (3) taking students seriously.
- Engagement creates a developmental alliance with the teacher, but disaffection creates a rejection of the relationship with the teacher. Therefore, engagement affects teacher/student relationships.
Feeling Heard In Class
- “We learned from our participants that well attuned teachers made good on opportunities to simultaneously challenges students to foster skill development, but also to learn from their students. Students were interested primarily in academic learning in order to ‘pass the class,’ but at the same time adolescents sought a kind of holistic knowledge brokering within instructional interactions that transcended subject matter content” (p. 951). In essence, good teachers challenge urban youth of color.
- Knowing your students, but not pretending to know them, their backgrounds, and experiences as urban youth of color, was equally important.
- “Unfortunately, much evidence suggests that classroom environmenst for urban students are more often focused on issues of teacher control and custodial perspectives of classroom management rather than proactively attending to fostering student initiatve and thinking (Evertson & Weinsten, 2006; van Tartwijk, Brok, Veldman, & Wubbels, 2009)” (p. 952).
- “Teachers’ willingness to adapt instructional practice to better meet the needs of their students provided a tangible source of evidence to adolescents that signified intentionality on the part of the teacher to co-construct instructional interactions and, more broadly, learning environments” (p. 952).
- “While smaller class sizes can certainly be helpful for better engaging students, participants emphasized more their teachers’ attitudes and dispositions toward students as most significant for positive and meaningful instructional interactions” (p. 954).
- “While they recognized teachers’ role as institutional agents, and even gatekeepers, adolescents in our student wanted to be acknowledged as viatal partners in the teaching and learning process” (p. 957) (MY THOUGHTS – relates to my notion of communal power (Burns, 2012))
- “What we really need to positively shift the quality distribution of urban educators, but do not quite have yet, is a practice-oriented training model focused on (a) embedding the relational aspects of teaching into cognitively rich learning activities and (b) enhancing teachers’ capacity to engage in nonjudgmental information processing within the instructional dynamic in order to effectively attend to the multiple, competing demands of self, adolescent(s), and content” (p. 965).
Evertson, C. M., & Weinstein, C. S. (2006). Classroom management as a field of inquiry. In C. M. Evertson & C.S. Weinsten (Eds.), Classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (pp. 3-15). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59-109. Doi:10.3102/00346543074001059
Van Tartwijk, J., Brok, P. D., Veldman, L., & Wubbels, T. (2009). Teachers’ practice knowledge about classroom amangemetn in multicultural classrooms. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(3), 453-460. Doi:10.1016/j.tate.2008.09.005