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20.03.2017 | Original Paper | Ausgabe 1/2019

Cultural Studies of Science Education 1/2019

Latinas’ heritage language as a source of resiliency: impact on academic achievement in STEM fields

Zeitschrift:
Cultural Studies of Science Education > Ausgabe 1/2019
Autoren:
Alma D. Stevenson, Alejandro José Gallard Martínez, Katie Lynn Brkich, Belinda Bustos Flores, Lorena Claeys, Wesley Pitts
Wichtige Hinweise
Lead editor: E. Dopico.

Abstract

This article highlights how the preservation of heritage languages is essential in the construction of three Georgia Latina participants’ cultural identities and the creation of support networks that allow them to develop resiliency and achieve academically. We conceptualize resiliency as a strategy developed by the Latina participants using contextually mitigating factors during their STEM education. The findings presented in this manuscript are part of a larger, ongoing study of Latina resiliency and their paths to success in STEM fields in two states: Georgia and Texas. Following James Spradley’s guidelines, data were collected via three separate semi-structured interviews with each participant. Intrinsic, multiple case studies were used to find both commonalities and differences, as well as to deepen our understanding of the role of the participants’ heritage language in their development of resiliency in each particular case. The findings presented here were not part of a preconceived research hypothesis, but rather a theme that emerged while analyzing data collected in the state of Georgia. Georgia is not home to a long-established Hispanic/Latino population, but rather is part of the New Latino Diaspora (Wortham, Murillo and Hamann in Education in the new Latino diaspora: policy and the politics of identity. Ablex Publishing, New York, 2002), and therefore local natives do not necessarily perceive Latino immigrants and the Spanish language either as long-standing or permanent features of the state. In fact, in response to the growing diversity of the state during the past generation, Georgia has implemented multiple educational policies hostile toward immigrants and linguistic diversity (Beck and Allexsaht-Snider in Education in the new Latino diaspora: policy and the politics of identity. Ablex Press, Westport, 2002). Our findings suggest that the Latina participants’ heritage languages allow them to engage in cultural traditions, encouraged by their families, that are central to their heritage and identity and, thereby provide a medium for the development of the resiliency they need for academic success. The Spanish language allows them to maintain communication with their families and communities, enabling them to participate in a set of interactions and relationships. These, in turn, form the support networks needed to enact resilience in overcoming obstacles to pursuing their interest in STEM—an interest seen by society as incongruous with their gender and ethnicity.

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