Appalachian Language in the Two-Year College Composition Classroom
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation discusses the intersection of first-year composition instructors and Appalachian language and culture at the two-year college level. Very little of the existing literature discusses pedagogy as it pertains to Appalachian students, and virtually none of the literature focuses on either instructors or the two-year college. This study attempts to address that gap and to explore the attitudes about Appalachia that accompany the teaching of writing in two-year colleges in agricultural (as opposed to coal) Appalachia. This study finds that professors express very negative ideas about Appalachian culture and language, and sometimes about Appalachian students themselves. These attitudes do not, however, contribute dramatically to differences in grades and pass/fail rates for the region as a whole. Appalachian students overall are slightly more likely to fail and less likely to make A grades. The more surprising finding, perhaps, is that students from certain either highly stigmatized or highly isolated communities are far less likely to pass the courses, with failure rates between 50-68%. These rates are far higher than non-Appalachian failure rates, and substantially higher than the rates for non-stigmatized communities and do, perhaps, stem from their instructors' inherent biases. The privileging of standard academic English above other Englishes informs the teaching of every respondent in this study and invites a consideration of how a more rhetorical approach to composition pedagogy might change outcomes for Appalachian students in writing classes and in college itself.
General Audience Abstract
This dissertation examines the attitudes of composition professors at the two-year college level toward Appalachian language and culture to determine if there is a correlation between professors' beliefs and students' grades and success rates. First-year composition courses are required of all students at the community college level, and these courses are designed to prepare students for the kinds of writing expected of them in college, both at the two-year level and after they transfer to four-year institutions. The study determined through interviews that professors tend to stigmatize both language and culture, but these attitudes do not necessarily result in a higher failure rate for students. While Appalachian students are 16% more likely to fail and 17% less likely to earn A grades, they still pass first-year composition courses at roughly the same rate as their non-Appalachian peers. The more successful students, however, are those who are willing to code-switch—that is, to exchange their Appalachian English for standard academic English The study also determined that students who participate in incentivized tuition reimbursement plans (like the Access to Community College Education program) are more likely to be successful in composition courses and in college in general.
- Doctoral Dissertations