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Lisceth Cruz
UC Davis/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2013


Kathryn Hayes
UC Davis/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2013


Joanna Wong
UC Davis/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2013


Juliet Wahleithner
UC Davis/education

Dissertation Fellow

High School Teachers’ Instruction of Writing: Negotiating Knowledge, Student Need, and Policy

Abstract: Knowing how to write is critical to students’ postsecondary success, yet concerns with students’ writing have persisted for nearly four decades. Few reports, however, document high school English teachers’ lack of preparation to teach writing or the pressures they face as they negotiate accountability policies and diverse student need. This negotiation directly impacts teachers’ instructional decisions and, ultimately, the conditions in which students learn to write. Using a two-phase, mixed-methods approach, this study examines how writing is taught; tensions that arise as teachers negotiate knowledge, accountability policies, and student need; and how and why these tensions vary across teachers and sites. The first phase included a survey administered to 171 high school English teachers. Preliminary findings informed participant selection for phase two—case studies of eight teachers. Together, the two phases will yield nuanced understandings of the interplay of teacher knowledge, student need, and accountability policies on writing instruction.


Manuelito Biag
UC Davis/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2011

Dissertation: Adolescent Well-Being and School Connectedness: Implications for School Practices and Policies

Abstract: My dissertation employs quantitative and qualitative approaches to examine how schools influence adolescents’ health, emotional well-being, and feelings of attachment to the school community. The project consists of two studies. The first study is an in-depth, multi-perspective case analysis of school connectedness from the viewpoints of students, teachers, and administrators in one urban middle school. The second study uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to profile the individual and ecological characteristics of school health service users and non-users. Findings from these studies aim to: 1) identify factors that create engaging school environments in which young people feel connected, and 2) better recognize vulnerable youth that may benefit from on-site supports, thereby reducing the gap between need and service access for those living with health concerns. Evidence from this research can inform school practices and policies designed to improve students’ physical, psychological, behavioral, and academic functioning.

Elizabeth Gilliland
UC Davis/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2011

Dissertation: Talking about Writing: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Adolescents’ Socialization into Academic Literacy

Abstract: Taking a language socialization perspective, my research describes conditions for academic language development in culturally and linguistically diverse adolescents through a multi-case ethnographic study of high school writing instruction in California. I observed and recorded classroom talk about writing over one year in English language arts and English language development classes. Follow-up interviews with graduated seniors consider their transition into college writing. Data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach (Strauss, 1987). Further deductive analyses consider classroom discourse patterns (Bloome et al., 2005; Gibbons, 2006). The study examines consistencies and inconsistencies in curriculum from ELD to mainstream, ninth to twelfth grades, and from high school to college. This study traces ways students learn to talk about writing and proposes ways for schools to better address culturally and linguistically diverse students’ learning needs around academic language and writing in the face of accountability pressures and limited resources.



Cynthia Pickett, Ph.D.
UC Davis/psychology

Faculty Seed Grantee, 2008

Title: Social Identification and the Successful Transition to College

A UC/ACCORD Faculty Research Seed Grant is being requested to develop a proposal that examines how social identities can help buffer minority students from the stress, loneliness, and uncertainty that often accompany the transition from high school to college. Although previous research has studied how factors such as social support, belonging, and racial climate impact the transition process, the proposed research takes a different approach by focusing on the benefits that can accrue from adopting particular social identities. A longitudinal study of incoming freshman will be conducted testing the hypothesis that a critical predictor of the well-being and academic achievement of minority students is the extent to which the identities that these students possess fulfill basic needs for self-esteem, certainty, assimilation, and differentiation. Study results will be used to develop a full research proposal that can yield insights into how to promote successful academic transitions for minority students.



Melanie Toshiye Jones
UC Davis/sociology

Dissertation Fellow, 2007

Dissertation: Educational Advantages: Race, Class, and Teacher-Student Relationships

Abstract: Past research emphasizes the importance of teachers in motivating students in school, especially African American students. However, we know little about why or how teacher-student relationships help students gain educational advantages or additional support from teachers. We also do not know how race and social class faciliate or impede teacher-student relationships or how students benefit from such relationships. This dissertation uses ethnographic methods, interviews, and observations at a public high school in California with a substantial African American population and diversity in social class to examine how race and social class shape relationships between African American students and their teachers. This project also investigates how teacher-student relationships help students gain increased support in planning course schedules and preparing for higher education. In doing so, this project will highlight the specific roles teachers play in reinforcing or moderating the relationship between social class and preparation for college among African American students.



Adrienne Nishina, Ph.D.
UC Davis/human and community development

Junior Faculty Fellow, 2006

Title: Successful Pathways to High School Completion in an Ethnically Diverse Population


This study seeks to broaden knowledge of the effects of ethnic and racial diversity at the high school level on academic achievement. The study addresses two critical questions. First, how does the ethnic composition of the school influence academic trajectories in high school? Second, how does the timing of academic milestones, for example passing the California Exit Exam, impact academic performance and psychological adjustment. The sample consists of 1400 ethnically diverse 11th and 12th grade students from the Los Angeles area and is drawn from a larger longitudinal study that from began in their sixth grade year and will continue to follow them one year after high school graduation. The sample is dispersed in over 100 high schools across Los Angeles County. Research findings are based on students reports of school attitudes and experiences, psychological adjustment, and social experiences, as well as data from school records and high school characteristics.



Anysia Mayer
UC Davis/education

Dissertation Fellow, 2005

Dissertation: Interrupting social reproduction: An International Baccalaureate program in a diverse urban high school

About: My dissertation research will examine the development and outcomes of a high quality academic program, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB), in two contrasting schools.  One school serves a community that is relatively disadvantaged according to a wide range of social and economic indicators. The other school serves a community at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum. This study seeks to determine if an IB program established in a low performing school provide the same kinds of educational opportunities to students as an IB program in a high performing school. And to identify the relative importance of both SES and program design in shaping the educational futures of diverse students. Our understanding of these issues bear directly on one of the most critical social and educational dilemmas of our times: educational inequality, manifested in this case in college-going rates.



Haley Seif, Ph.D.
UC Davis/anthropology

Postdoctoral Fellow, 2003

Title: Undocumented Latino Youth, Higher Education Access, and California’s Assembly Bill 540:  An Ethnographic Perspective

Assembly Bill (AB) 540, which waives out-of-state college and university tuition for many undocumented California youth, was signed into law in 2001. Based on participant-observation and interviews, this project records and analyzes the successful legislative and grassroots struggle for AB 540 despite the obstacles facing this highly vulnerable student population. It studies the community outreach and training activities of two LA-based non-profit organizations that help undocumented Latino youth avail themselves of increased access to higher education afforded by this law. From this organizational perspective, it also elucidates the continuing barriers to entering California’s public higher education institutions for this student population.


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