Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Wesely, Pamela M.

First Committee Member

Plakans, Lia

Second Committee Member

Schmidt, Renita

Third Committee Member

Thein, Amanda Haertling

Fourth Committee Member

Otto, Sue


This qualitative research aims to investigate identity positions of elementary school students with culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) background in an afterschool book club. The increasing population of CLD students and their learning needs have become a national focus in American schools. Scholars have highlighted that understanding students’ identity positions and their interactions in social communities benefits teaching practices (Norton, 2013). Although the number of studies investigating identity in language and literacy education is increasing, most focus on English language learners (ELLs) who are currently enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) or ELL programs and few examine these students’ learning trajectories once they exit elementary school ESL programs. Research has shown that although the ELLs exit ESL programs, their culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds continue to impact their learning.

This study attempts to investigate (a) what social practices contribute to elementary school students’ participation in the afterschool book club (b) how CLD students position their identities, (c) what discourses about CLD students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds emerge and shape their identities, and in an elementary school afterschool book club. The data sources of this study include audio and video recordings, observation field notes from the book club, semistructured interviews, and students’ written responses. I draw on Gee (2011) and Fairclough’s (2001) critical discourse analysis concepts and guidance to interpret responses during the data analysis process.

The findings show that the afterschool book club provides multiple social functions that allows CLD students assume multiple identities, utilize their agency to negotiate, and create possible identities. For instance, this space allows the members of this book club to share their personal stories, challenge the conventions of a book club, maintain and expand their friendship circles, and share and listen to their peers’ diverse backgrounds. In addition, the discourses that emerge in the book club illustrate that the CLD students are keenly aware of their identities. However, power relations at different social levels also challenge these multiple identities.

The findings of this study offer nuanced perspectives into the fields of foreign and second language education and literacy education. This study will contribute to teachers’ understanding of CLD students’ identity positions and to respond to Norton and Toohey’s (2011) call for a better understanding of how students learn in globalized sociocultural worlds. Implications for educators, teacher education programs, and researchers are also discussed in this study.

Public Abstract

As an educator and international student in the United States, I understand the importance of being aware of and valuing students’ diverse backgrounds in the classroom. I understand that paying attention to students’ cognitive development and sociocultural factors can positively influence their learning development and trajectories. Language is powerful, but we often take it for granted. It can encourage and hinder students’ participation in schools. Therefore, I have become sensitive to the languages that we use to shape who we are and who we want to be.

As the population of immigrant students has continued to grow, scholars and educators are paying increased attention to this population’s unique needs in the United States. Although many researchers and educators have worked hard to provide equal learning opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds, they often do not have enough experiences working with students from diverse cultural and linguistic background. As a results, researchers and teachers often focus on students’ learning in formal school settings, and how learning takes place outside of school settings, especially for students with culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds, is often ignored by researchers and educators.

The purpose of this study is to understand elementary school girls’ participation in an afterschool book club. I afford systematic attention to how three CLD elementary school girls talk about their stories related to their cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In addition, I wonder how their multiple backgrounds and people’s perceptions of them affect their understanding of who they are and what their relationships to U.S. society.

From my observations and interactions with the girls in the afterschool book club, I find that the three CLD elementary school girls perform multiple identities during the reading and writing activities. They also share stories of their heritage cultures when opportunities are offered. Additionally, I find that although the three girls are willing to talk about their diverse backgrounds, they are sometimes challenged by people who carry stereotypes of who they are and where they are from. I hope the findings of my study can draw more educators’ attention to students’ diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and use this information to encourage and help students’ learning.


Afterschool book club, Elementary School, Identity, Language Education, Literacy


xvi, 237 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 218-231).


Copyright © 2016 Yu-Chi Wang