Appalachian studies in grades 6-12 language arts and English curricula in central Appalachia

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Virginia Tech

The primary purposes of this study are to determine the extent to which Appalachian studies courses or units have become part of the middle and secondary public school English curricula in Central Appalachia and, in relation to these courses, to describe content and learning activities, to assess the effectiveness of school library media centers as resources, to identify major institutions and individuals who influence teachers, and to ascertain the extent to which young adult literature is used.

Surveys were sent to English teachers and school librarians in 305 schools in 86 counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Response rates were 52% for teachers and 60% for librarians. Frequencies and cross tabulations were computed for variables; the chi-square test for independence was also applied to selected variables. A case study accompanied the statistical data.

Major findings include: over a third of the schools include Appalachian studies as part of their English curriculum, though far more as units within other courses than as separate Appalachian studies courses; a vast array of Appalachian authors are represented, many of them very local in nature; most teachers and librarians view the general library collections as adequate, but over half the teachers described the Appalachian collection as inadequate; librarians are viewed more as support staff than as coeducators; several institutions of higher education, public libraries, publishers and bookstores were identified as particularly influential; much confusion exists about what young adult literature is, and it does not appear to be widely used in the curriculum; because of the shared sense of place and culture, a meaningful connection exists between teachers and students.

Recommendations for change included strengthening ties between higher education and public school education, implementing telecommunications technology to increase the possibility of greater communication among teachers and access to resources, and establishing an Appalachian resources clearinghouse for teaching materials. Further research should be directed toward surveying a larger geographical area as well as elementary school teachers, and exploring the issue of the effect of Appalachian studies courses on the self-concept of Appalachian students.