Date of Award

12-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Shannon Cleverley-Thompson

Second Supervisor

James Hurny

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine academic discourse as a factor contributing to the lack of persistence for African American students in community college. The participants for the study consisted of eight students currently enrolled at a midsized community college in Western New York. The participant’s experiences revealed four major themes that cut across the entire sample with a consistent pattern of students reporting both benefits and consequences in relation to academic discourse. These included: (a) Break this down please!- which examined how understanding and comprehension of language can be a barrier for African American community college students; (b) The Comfort Zone- demonstrated how students felt a certain level of comfort in classes and situations where they had some familiarity with the words used, the topics covered, and what was being asked of them; (c) Extra Mile vs. Sink or Swim- identified students’ beliefs around the propensity for some faculty to go the extra mile to support African American students; and (d) Real Me vs. College Me- was a reoccurring concept throughout the study where students described having dual identities where they had to speak and act differently. Understanding how academic discourse was experienced by this unique population added to the body of literature and equipped institutions of higher education with knowledge to combat academic discourse which may be contributing to the low rates of persistence among African American students in community college. The study also has the potential to create awareness around discourse for students, providing a basis to inform institutional and programmatic best practices.

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