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2019 Dissertations

2019 Dissertations

Improve or Perish: Making the Case for Enrollment Management at California Community Colleges

David Mosely Booze

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Vega, William

Abstract

The California Community Colleges (CCC) is the largest system of higher education in the United States. In the past two decades, CCC has effectively shut hundreds of thousands of students out of higher education by increasing the cost of tuition. The drop in student enrollment resulted in fewer students meeting their educational goals within a reasonable time or at all. Lower student enrollment has also caused budget cuts and course cancellations. Consequently, CCC is being prodded to increase access to quality educational programs, improve student outcomes by shortening the path to completion for degrees and certificates, and improve operational efficiency. A means to each end is enrollment management.  

If student enrollment is not effectively managed, leaders at California community college campuses will be faced with the prospect of canceling more courses, offering fewer academic programs, and closing under-enrolled campuses. This qualitative, single-case study was conducted at a California community college in Southern California that is representative of other campuses in the CCC system. The participants in this study were managers and faculty from both the counseling and instructional ranks who share responsibility for managing student enrollment. Participants were selected because of their respective responsibilities and areas of expertise within the organizational structure of the site for this study. Participants included academic deans, student support services deans, an academic senator, and the chair of the academic senate. Although each participant brought a different perspective to the practices that work together to manage student enrollment, their ideas converged around fundamental principles of service and organizational theory that promote student success. Participants identified seven enrollment management strategies utilized at the study site to manage student enrollment and shared their perceptions about the alignment of these strategies with California’s Student-Centered Funding Formula. The results of this study are transferable and will provide California community college leaders with an example of effective enrollment management strategies from which to model equally successful student and institutional outcomes.

Unhidden and Unrelenting Figures: The Persistence of Black Women in STEM Disciplines

Tashiana Bryant Myrick

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Locks, Angela

Abstract

Black women and girls should be considered when stories of success are highlighted for aspiring Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) students given the essential need for STEM workers in the United States to remain competitive in the global marketplace (Perna et al., 2009; Xue, 2015). Moreover, studies show Black women are just as interested in math and science during their pre-college education as their White and Asian counterparts (Charleston et al, 2014; Ellington & Frederick, 2010). The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the experiences of Black women in STEM disciplines who successfully persist and on course to attaining their STEM degree at four-year universities.  A conceptual framework was developed employing Black Feminist Thought (BFT) (Collins, 1986, 1989, 1997, 2002, 2009) and the Anti-Deficit Achievement Framework (Harper, 2010).  The experiences of Black women was presented with an anti-deficit approach, rather than an emphasis on the disparities they may experience in their STEM journey. This framework guided the interview protocol to concentrate on systems of support of Black women who persist in STEM and acts of resistance from Black women during their educational journey. The sample included 15 students who self-identified as Black women in one or more of the STEM disciplines and enrolled at a California State University. 

The findings revealed six themes (financial factors, self-efficacy, familial support, academic support, finding community, and advocacy) and one additional finding (responding to microaggressions) were common aspects that contributed to the success and academic achievement of Black women in STEM disciplines from preK-12 education through post-college planning in STEM fields.   

The findings provide a greater understanding of the experience of high-achieving Black women who are successfully persisting in STEM. Based on the results, recommendations are made for the development of culturally relevant STEM-focused programs for Black women and girls, the use of meaning-making pedagogy and curriculum for STEM topics, the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty in math and science subjects for preK-12 education and STEM disciplines in higher education, and the increase of student exposure to Black women who are professionals in STEM.

A District’s Journey of Transformative Leadership: Moving Beyond Open Access to Improve the Inclusion and Success of Students of Color in Advanced Placement

Edgar Cartagena

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Reese, Leslie

Abstract

Educational leadership is a critical component of creating and sustaining a school culture that promotes the inclusion and success of students in any program.  This case study aims to examine how school leaders at one mid-sized urban district in Southern California utilized transformative leadership practices that helped enact and sustain a reformed Advanced Placement culture designed to increase participation and success of students of color. Building on existing work of Transformative Leadership, this study describes the experience and challenges of educational leaders to understand how transformative leadership practices have changed the culture of the district's AP program. Data collection for the case study included fifteen open-ended interviews with educational leaders in a variety of capacities (i.e. district leadership, school administrators, counselors, and teacher leaders), observations of AP meetings with parents and teachers, and district AP documentation. A focus of the study was on the role of the district leaders in fostering an open-access AP culture.

Analyses of responses demonstrated critical components that lead to deep and meaningful cultural change in AP. The results indicate that educational leaders in this district who sought equity were driven to create meaningful change and were grounded in the community. Groundedness in the community had a great impact in promoting a transformed culture at the classroom, site and district level. Additionally, the role of the district was found to be of particular importance in regards to building synergy and being committed to improvement. On these bases, it is recommended that educational leaders revisit their vision throughout the school year, and are mindful of financial commitment for the success of their vision. Lastly, it is also recommended that the College Board and higher education institutions refocus the purpose of Advanced Placement and rethink current practices. 

Exploring the Best Predictors of High School Achievement for English Learners

Wendy Rebeca Chaves Noguera

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Richards-Tutor, Cara

Abstract

There has been a persistent achievement gap between English Learners (ELs) and their English only peers.  Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics indicated that EL fall behind peers at each grade level and in both language arts and mathematics [NCES] (2018). Most ELs live in inner cities, and in 2014, 21 percent of children in the inner cities were living in poverty (NCES, 2018) which contributes to the persistence of the achievement gap.  Additionally, inadequate supports that ELs and reclassified fluent English proficient (RFEP) students receive in classrooms also play a large role in the academic achievement gap. 

The purpose of this research was to explore predictors of high school achievement for ELs  and RFEP students.  The aim of this research was to explore student variables that predict academic achievement, specifically   SES, gender, ethnicity, home language, language proficiency, and special education status.

Participants include 764 students from a diverse southern California school district. 200 students were EL, and 562 students were RFEP. There was not a statistically significant difference in the achievement scores, as measured by CAASSP, between ELs and RFEP students. The multiple regression model for ELs was not significant, F(4,164) = 1.54, p >0.05, R2 = 0.036 indicating that the predictors collectively do not account for a significant amount of variance in academic achievement.  The multiple regression RFEP students was significant, F(2,152) = 5.51, p <0.05, R2 = 0.053. Both SES (β = 76.86, t(573) = 2.99, p < 0.05) and Gender (β = 19.47, t(573) = 1.02, p < 0.05) were significant predictors of achievement for the RFEP students.  These findings indicate that students in terms of achievement ELs and RFEP students are not performing differently from each other.  While RFEP students are considered proficient in English this is not having an impact on their achievement outcomes.  While the regression model for EL was not significant, instructional variables were not available and likely play a major role in these outcomes.  For RFEP student’s SES and gender were significant but only accounted for a small amount of variance, again indicating that it is likely that instructional factors play a bigger role in the achievement outcomes.

The Influence of Faculty Authenticity of Latinx Students in Higher Education

Leobigildo Cota

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Perez-Huber, Lindsay

Abstract

Research has shown the volume of bachelor’s degrees conferred to Latinx students more than doubled between school years 2004–2005 and 2014–2015, a 115% increase from 101,000 to 218,000 (NCES, 2015).  Despite the influx of Latinx student enrollment in higher education institutions, graduation rates for this student population have persistently remained low and stagnant.  Research indicates that faculty play a critical role in shaping students’ overall college experience and success (Anaya & Cole, 2001).  More specifically, studies that aim to uncover the effects of faculty authenticity on students in institutions of higher learning (Cranton & Carusetta, 2004; Newmann et al., 1996), but there are no studies honing in on the collegiate experience of Latinx students who foster a relationship with authentic professors or the ways in which faculty authenticity supports their success. 

This qualitative interview study obtained experiential accounts of Latinx college students at a comprehensive 4-year higher education institution located in California, referred to as California University (CU).  This study operationalized faculty authenticity in interactions with Latinx students and characterized the racialized Latinx student experience with faculty perceived as authentic by the participants.  This study revealed that for the study’s participants perceived faculty authenticity as care developed through relatability, which combined to develop a deeper and better quality relationship and a socialization process guided by faculty.  For the participants, faculty authenticity promoted their own authenticity through validation that created a welcoming environment where their contributions and ideas were encouraged.  Through interactions with authentic faculty, the perceived power dynamics diminished or eroded, creating a sense of belonging and a safe space and humanizing faculty.  Findings suggest that, regardless of student campus involvement, having an authentic faculty member with whom to connect is comforting and can support students in their navigation through CU, create a more positive experience and promotes their success. 

Undocumented Students at the College Window Investigating the Perspectives of Student Service Staff

Maria Elena Cruz Santoyo

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Symcox, Linda

Abstract

The state of California has enacted legislation and institutional policies geared toward improving the higher education opportunities of undocumented students, yet these are not being systematically accessed by this student population. Undocumented students consistently report experiencing a lack of guidance, misinformation, or altogether not being informed of these policies in their exchanges with higher education student service staff (Conger & Chellman, 2013; Suarez-Orozco et al., 2015; Salinas, 2013). Failure to effectively inform these already at-risk students further hinders their prospects. Only 5-10% of undocumented students in the United States continue their education past high school, and even less (1%) reach Bachelor’s degree completion (Darolia & Potochnick, 2015; U.S. Department of Education, 2015). 

This qualitative study explored the accounts of those from the other side of the counter. The narratives of twenty-five counselors, advisors, and financial aid and enrollment specialists from seventeen California Community Colleges were examined through Collins (2000) and Anthias’ (2012) notions of domains of power and social arenas. By taking a look at the reasons undocumented students are not being served well by student service staff, the ways in which undocumented students are represented in the media and within their institutions, the inadequacies in policy and processes that deter them, as well as the psychological stressors they are facing, a more holistic and accurate picture of the undocumented student college experience is revealed. Findings indicate that student service staff are not being provided with adequate training and support so as to effectively serve undocumented students, and that there are shortcomings in policy implementation and messaging that are hindering the success of this student population. Recommendations to address and improve these aforementioned areas are presented.

A Case Study Analysis of the Online Teacher Certification Course Offered at South County Community College

Mark C. Fields

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Vega, William

Abstract

As the demand for online higher education increases, community colleges find themselves under pressure to secure qualified faculty members to deliver courses in that modality. The challenge, however, is that there is a dearth of qualified faculty members who are familiar with online instruction tools and who can deliver quality online instruction. To meet that need South County Community College (pseudonym) created the Online Teaching Certification (OTC) course designed to prepare faculty to teach in the online classroom. 

This qualitative case study sought to examine the experiences and perceptions of 16 South County Community College faculty members who completed the Online Teaching Certification (OTC) course to determine the extent to which the OTC course effectively contributed to the improvement of their ability to teach online courses. Data included interviews with the participants, site observations, and an analysis of existing documents in order to triangulate perspectives from multiple sources. Malcolm Knowles Adult Learning Theory provided the framework to analyze the data. 

Participants felt the OTC had overall success in preparing them to teach online. The most effective components of the OTC course identified were the structure of the course which was aligned with best practices including the Online Education Initiative’s Course Design Rubric, the activities in the course which mirrored those that faculty would use in their own online classes, and the sense of learning community enhanced by classroom activities including discussion forums, peer-to-peer feedback, and instructor interaction with the students. The least effective component was the self-paced format (no firm due dates for assignments) which some of the participants believed impacted the building of community in the course due to irregular participation. 

Recommendations for policy from the results of this study include that the OTC course be required for college administrators who evaluate faculty who teach online. Participants believed that most instructional administrators were unfamiliar with the more recent pedagogical methods for online instruction as well as the course structure elements that align with best practices including the Course Design Rubric. Participants also suggested that the self-paced format of the class be changed to a fixed due-date format mirroring what occurs in most college courses and has the potential to add value to discussion forum postings. This study also provides research recommendations including studying a larger statewide population.

College and Career Transition: A Bridge to Postsecondary Success for High School Special Needs Students

Stephany L. Glover

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Scott, James

Abstract

Three of four high school students with special needs become unemployed after graduation.  These students, referred to as bridge students as they transition into postsecondary life, seldomly escape lifestyles of criminal, sedentary or dependent behavior.  Certain protocols enacted at the high school level may act as either barriers or facilitators to the academic and transitional growth of bridge students.  A qualitative cross-case analysis of two high schools was conducted in an effort to explore those practices of teachers, counselors and administrators that may either help or hinder a bridge student’s ability to cope with the transition into college and/or a career.  An examination of the institutional protocols that are performed to service these students was performed.  Emphasis was placed on identifying specific transitional, inclusive, and social-emotional supports that were evident in the data.  Higher functioning students with special needs were selected as participants for this study. 

A combination of interview, observational and document analysis data was collected from both schools.  Two administrators, four teachers and four counselors were interviewed between both sites.  The following themes emerged upon analysis of all data: (a) culturally relevant skill building among bridge students is crucial to their academic and transitional success, and (b) teacher training and buy-in are necessary to effectively nurture the self-advocacy skills that are required for bridge students to transition successfully into postsecondary life.  The theoretical framework, Schlossberg’s (2011) Transition Theory, guided the discovery and exploration of those institutional protocols that act as either facilitators or barriers to the overall advancement of bridge students. 

Each One, Teach One: The Impact of Hip Hop Learning Community on the Cultural Capital of Foster Youth in Higher Education

Tasha Iglesias

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Locks, Angela

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine if a culturally relevant and responsive intervention (i.e., the Hip Hop Learning Community) could develop a foster youth’s cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005). The Hip Hop Learning Community intervention was developed using a Hip Hop Empowerment Model, combining Yosso’s (2005) Community Cultural Wealth Model and Hip Hop Pedagogy. Drawing on interview data, document analysis and observations of the Hip Hop Learning participants, this study found that foster youth experience anxiety, and a sense of confusion, when they first apply to college and as they prepare for their transition after graduating from college. Foster youth reported a lack of familial support while navigating higher education and relied on peers or individual staff members from student support services for assistance.   

Due to the demands of work and balancing school obligations, attending mandatory meetings held by student support services staff was reported by foster youth as causing further anxiety. Findings also show that foster youth are not knowledgeable in how their major will lead to their desired career, or how to access graduate school after completing their undergraduate degree. Additionally, foster youth in this study prefer individualized support when accessing and navigating higher education. The use of action research comprehensively captured the experiences of foster youth as they accessed higher education and their existing anxiety over their transition post-graduation. The Hip Hop based intervention in this study, including individual assistance from the researcher, created a sense of belonging and safe environment for foster youth to critique their social capital, and improve their resistant and navigational capitals.    

The use of Hip Hop as a support mechanism allowed the researcher to mentor foster youth using an anti-deficit and individualized approach and was shown to be a promising intervention for foster youth in higher education. Findings suggest, colleges must view foster youth through an anti-deficit lens and consider their individual cultural wealth and potential prior to providing support. It is also recommended that this practice of individualized support be practiced in their pre-college experience by educational advocates in order to better foster youth accessing and navigating higher education.

Putting it Together: A Grounded Theory Approach to Exploring the Role of Performing Arts Studies in Educational Leadership Development

Jenny Jacobs

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Vega, William

Abstract

Evidence exists that the performing arts (dance, music, and theatre) foster skills, qualities, and capacities that are vital to a 21st century education. However, despite being known to promote essential learning experiences, the performing arts are often overlooked, underfunded, and undervalued across institutions of higher education because of disciplinary hierarchies, which ebb and flow with the tide of workforce demands, and cultural values. As the nature of higher education leadership continues to shift, concerns about how to prepare leaders for the ever-evolving demands of institutions grow, and the pool of qualified potential educational leaders shrinks; all of which is contributing to a looming leadership crisis in higher education. The purpose of this research was twofold: (a) to understand the value of the performing arts in higher education by exploring the intersection of the performing arts and leadership, and (b) to develop a better understanding of the contributions the performing arts make to leadership development in the hopes of expanding the notion of who is capable of leading and of dismantling problematic valuations of performing arts studies and programs.  

A conceptual framework, composed of AdaptiveAuthenticCharismaticServant, and Transformational leadership theories, was used as a lens for the literature review and discussion of findings related to the literature. A grounded theory approach was used to explore how 18 educational leaders (e.g., presidents, provosts, deans), who have completed at least one graduate degree in the performing arts (dance, music, theatre), understand the relationship between their leadership and performing arts backgrounds. Participants completed semi-structured interviews and a short demographic questionnaire. An interpretive symbolic interactionism perspective guided the dramaturgical analysis of interview and questionnaire data that had been coded by hand and in NVivo during a four-phase coding process that employed initial, focused, axial, and theoretical coding. 

Participants described their performing arts education as influencing and impacting their leadership development and career trajectory, as well as shaping the style and effectiveness of their leadership. Participants ascribed considerable personal and professional meaning to their performing arts backgrounds, and made direct connections between their performing arts studies and current leadership competencies. Findings suggest the performing arts are fitting training grounds for leaders, which may even result in a distinct leadership style that is highly effective for educational leadership.  

This research has contributed to a deeper understanding of the intersection between performing arts and leadership by revealing that the processes performing artists navigate in their studies and careers mirrors those of educational leaders. This research implies that encouraging more performing arts educators and practitioners to step into leadership roles could be beneficial for higher education because their unique qualifications are in high demand, especially when considering the looming educational leadership crisis. Recommendations include suggestions for policies and practices related to pedagogy, curriculum development, hiring, and funding, as well as suggestions for future research about perceptions of and the moral and ethical development of leaders with performing arts backgrounds. 

Climate Change: An Analysis of the Relationship Between School Climate and Academic Achievement in the Common Core Era

Jason Johnson

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Scott, James

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between school climate and academic achievement in the Common Core State Standards era. This quantitative study involved seventy-nine high school level school districts from five counties in the Southern California area. The essential research questions used to guide the study were designed to explore whether the academic achievement scores on the California Assessment for Student Performance and Progress possessed a correlational relationship with school climate survey results on the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS). In addition, the research questions were designed to determine which school protective factors on the CHKS possessed the greatest/strongest predictor of academic achievement. To address the research questions, data was obtained from the California Department of Education and WestEd in order to conduct a Pearson correlation and multiple regression analysis.  

The results of this study demonstrated that the relationship between school climate and academic achievement continues into the Common Core era. This finding appears to validate the theoretical framework of resiliency and the importance of social emotional learning alongside 21st century learning. Implications include that policymakers should mandate the CHKS be performed annually and included on the California School Dashboard. Additionally, researchers and educators should continue to consider school climate as an important facet of the existing achievement gap.

Title IX Policy in the California Community Colleges

Carla Renee Martinez

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: O’Brien, Jonathan

Abstract

Due to the ongoing problem of sexual misconduct and changing requirements from both the state and federal governments it is important to assess how the California Community Colleges (CCC) are meeting Title IX obligations through policy. This study employed multiple methods of data collection including a policy analysis, interviews with Title IX practitioners, and written feedback from a Title IX expert panel. The policy analysis revealed that districts were using multiple policies to meet state and federal regulations; and most districts relied on policy templates from the Community College League of California. Title IX’s obligations were not fully realized in the majority of policies. Districts were more likely to be compliant with provisions from California Senate Bill 967. Title IX practitioners viewed their primary duty was to promote safe learning environments and eliminate sexual violence. In order to meet those obligations, practitioners need support from the state and federal governments in terms of funding, direction, and leadership. Implications for policy include creating a standalone policy for Title IX complaints, adding sexual harassment as a prohibited behavior, naming Title IX Coordinators and their duties, and creating equitable and transparent processes for the adjudication of sexual misconduct cases. Implications for practice include support from both the CCC Chancellor’s Office and Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in terms of training, infrastructure, assessment of campus needs, creation of a policy taskforce, and development of a Title IX Coordinator job description.

Exploring the Long-Term Impact of an Institutional Agent: Success of the Freedom Writers

Jessica Martinez

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Hansuvadha, Nat

Abstract

Demonstrated by this study, teachers as institutional agents can make a significant difference in the lives of their students during their educational endeavors and beyond. However, institutional agents remain rare within urban education, and adolescents’ access to these individuals in low-income communities is particularly low (Croninger & Lee, 2001; Drewry et al., 2010; Stanton-Salazar, 2001, 2011). This study used Stanton-Salazar’s (2011; 1997) theory of social capital and construct of institutional agents as a lens to understand the experiences of 14 individuals who participated in the Freedom Writers program. By giving a voice to students, especially two decades after completing high school, this study conveys a critical perspective to the urban educational field. Especially, there being a limited understanding of the lasting impact of such individuals on students as they transition onto adulthood. Participants personal accounts were explored to better understand their experiences.  

As a qualitative study, this research inquired into the actions that guided the participants at the individual and situational level into having successful experiences. Data collection occurred through the utilization of an in-depth, semi-structured interviewing method, which provided rich data of the of roles and functions of their high school teacher, Erin Gruwell as an institutional agent. Additionally, providing data of their use of the certain supports as provided by or made possible through Gruwell. Four themes emerged from the findings of this study: 1) survival mode, 2) journey to Freedom Writers, 3) finding support, and 4) life after Freedom Writers. Within these themes, an in-depth exploration of the findings indicated the careful attention Gruwell placed in assessing the needs of students in order to provide the necessary supports as permitted by her social network and available resources, which involved access to additional institutional agents or other networks; significant forms of information; and other supportive forms of resources. The findings further indicated there being a critical impact to participants’ social development; and academic and career success. Through positive teacher-student relationships teachers can provide positive educational experiences that can have lifelong implications to empower students and create opportunities for life changes. Through the perspectives of the 14 participants, this study can influence the work of practitioners and policymakers in focusing on the needs and concerns of students attending urban high schools. Also, supporting teachers as institutional agents at the high school level.

Their Voices: African American Elementary Students’ Experiences with Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Oluwakemi (Kemi) Mustapha

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Davis, Shametrice

Abstract

African American students have historically attended schools that have traditionally proven unable to meet their needs.  By the time these students reach middle and high school their educational performance is determined to be lower than that of a majority of their peers.  Evidence that teaching practices are not optimal for African American students’ learning can be observed not only by standardized test scores, but also in low graduation rates and the persistent lack of representation of African Americans in diverse job fields and even college campuses.   

Researchers use various terms to describe this disparity, however, all recognize that the disparity exists.  Ladson-Billings (1994) asserts that Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) can address the needs of African American students through empowering them and incorporating their cultures, relevant topics, and building sociopolitical awareness. CRP seems ideal for elementary school, as it is the foundation of one’s education.  This case study gathers data from South Los Angeles Elementary School through observations, interviews, and student focus groups to shed light on African American elementary school students and their experience with CRP.  The following themes emerged from the data, (1) Strategies for academic success, (2) cultural competence, and (3) sociopolitical awareness are used as themes.  The sub-themes of (1) Strategies for academic success include problem solving and tools and student choice, of (2) cultural competence include validation of students and empowerment of students, of (3) sociopolitical awareness include relationships and parent and community involvement. 

I Resist: Strengths and Coping Strategies that Promote the Success of African American Elementary Students

Chaleese Norman

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Perez-Huber, Lindsay

Abstract

The academic success rates of minority students in the United States is lower than their White peers from kindergarten through college, with 86% performing below proficiency in English (ELA) and Math (Carnevale & Strohl, 2013; Howard, 2010; Klopfenstein, 2005; Lee, 2002; Noguera, 2003).  In particular, African American students are not performing as well as their same age White peers or other minority groups (DeBrey, C., Husser, W., McFarland, J., Musu-Gillette, L., Sonnenberg, W., and Wilkinson-Flicker, S., 2017; Howard, 2010).  This dissertation looked at the strengths and coping strategies of African American students, from 3rd to 5th grade, as tools that empower them to achieve and increase the likelihood of traditional academic success.  These strengths and coping strategies also allow them to maintain their self-efficacy; a factor that has shown to increase the likelihood of traditional academic success (Pajares 2016; Smith et al., 1999).  This study elicited the voices of African American elementary students to identify how their strengths and coping strategies manifested to successfully navigate their school experience and the factors impacting the use of these strategies.  For the purpose of this study, successful navigation is defined as the ability to end the year of elementary school at any point between third and fifth grade and maintain a high sense of self-efficacy.    

The study was conducted using basic qualitative research, in the form of individual interviews, review of an artifact, and a focus group (Saldana, 2009).  Individual interviews allowed me to capture first hand information on the strengths and coping strategies children believe they have as it relates to their ability to successfully navigate school.  This information helped me answer my two primary research questions; How do strengths and coping strategies manifest at a predominantly African American elementary school? and What are the factors that affect African American elementary students being able to use strengths and coping strategies in schools? 

The findings suggested five main points in relation to students’ strengths and coping strategies.  Students had re-defined success on their own terms to focus more on strengths and positive relational characteristics.  Interpersonal strengths were the most prevalent among all of the students.  The students engaged resilience strategies the most when faced with frustrating situations, which were mainly academic task or classwork.  The students also identified positive verbal encouragement from adults as the most significant promoter of them being able to use their strategies.  Finally, many students at this school seemed to be in the internalization stage of their racial identity development. The recommendations include policy on integrating the study of strengths and coping strategies and racial identity development for minority students into new teacher training programs, incorporating Africentric values, including frequent purposeful collaboration time, into schools and the use of constant verbal acknowledgement of students perceived strengths and coping strategies. 

Cambodian American Voices: The Educational Experiences of Successful Cambodian American Parents

Soraksa Norng-Angeles

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Slater, Charles

Abstract

Asian-Americans are perceived to be highly educated; however, Cambodian Americans are still facing educational challenges (Tang & Kao, 2012). The documentary film, “Pass or Fail in Cambodia Town,” by Gladsjo (2014), supports the claim that Asian-Americans are the best educated in the United States. Although the data is accurate, there are other subgroups of Asian-Americans, such as Cambodians, Laotians, and Hmongs who are not among the best-educated category (Chhuon & Hudley, 2008; Dinh, Weinstein, Kim & Ho, 2008; Tang & Kao, 2012; Wallitt, 2008). Reeves and Bennet (2004) reported that only 6.9 % of Cambodians in the United States have attended college and received a degree. 

While recent studies and findings revealed that Cambodian Americans are not as successful as their other Asian American peers, research regarding successful Cambodian Americans is scarce. The primary purpose of this study was to explore the educational experiences of successful Cambodian Americans. This study was conducted using a basic qualitative method and one-on-one interviews were utilized to gather the data. Individualized interviews allowed the researcher to build rapport with the participants and to listen to their unique stories.  

The findings indicated that children were more academically successful when their parents were more involved in their education and had high expectations for them. The study also revealed that having the support of teachers also played a crucial role in the academic success of Cambodian Americans. The study also described the challenges and barriers of the Cambodian American participants and how they overcame them. Recommendations include suggestions for policies and practices related to professional development for teachers, community resources, data collection and further research regarding parents’ perceptions of their children’s college experiences.

Analyzing The Influence of Campus Climate on Persistence for Women Pursuing a STEM Degree

Melissa Allyn Ann Norrbom

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Olson, Avery

Abstract

Despite national ongoing efforts to increase diverse representation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduate degree programs, not all women who begin their first year in STEM will graduate in STEM (Handelsman & Smith, 2016). Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics reports a national persistence rate for undergraduate women in STEM of only 11.4 percent (Chen & Weko, 2009). This problem presents inequities at the institutional level, continues a national gender wage gap, and contributes to an overall homogenous STEM workforce. Many foundational studies (e.g. Bandura, 1986; Smart & Pascarella, 1986) have shown a strong relationship between student academic self-concept and achievement outcomes, such as persistence, (e.g. Lent, Miller, Smith, Watford, Lim, & Hui, 2016). This research shows that academic self-concept is an important factor in student success outcomes, yet more research is needed on the influence of campus climate on academic self-concept.  

The overall purpose of this study was to better understand how undergraduate campus climate influences the academic self-concept of undergraduate women pursuing a STEM degree.  The Multi-Contextual Model for Diverse Learning Environments (Hurtado, Alvarez, Guillermo-Wann, Cuellar, & Arellano, 2012) conceptual framework guided the variable selection and data analysis for this quantitative study. Using a non-experimental correlational research design (Plano, Clark, & Creswell, 2010) with a longitudinal data set, analysis procedures included an dependent samples t-test, independent samples t-tests, a one-way analysis of variance, and a hierarchical linear regression (Yockey, 2011).  

Results demonstrated campus climate was not correlated with academic self-concept, which could be due to the variables comprised within the composite. Men had significantly higher academic self-concept scores than women at both first-year entry and at graduation. In addition, significant differences arose in women’s academic self-concept scores by ethnicity. Regression analysis showed that student-faculty interaction was the most significant predictor of positive academic self-concept for women graduating with a STEM degree. Each increase in student-faculty interaction score contributed to an increase in academic self-concept, meaning faculty play a critical role in women’s perceptions of their academic abilities in STEM. This study presents important implications for Deans, Associate Deans, and other educational leaders of STEM undergraduate programs for developing new initiatives and engaging faculty members. Recommendations include a review of institutional admissions policies, more intentional student-faculty interactions with women in STEM, and the inclusion of more specific variables in future campus climate research. 

Interprofessional Education: Finding the ‘Sweet Spot’ between Centralization and Independence in Higher Education – A Case Study

Theodora Papachristou

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: O’Brien, Jonathan

Abstract

Conservative estimates rank medical error attributed to ineffective collaboration among health care team members as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. (Institute of Medicine, 1999; Grober & Bohnen, 2005; Makary & Daniel, 2016).  Recognizing the dual concerns for patient safety and cost-containment the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. § 18001 seq., 2010) catalyzed innovative health care delivery models and demonstration projects that require a transformation of health professions’ education to enable students to engage in interactive learning with those outside their profession as a routine part of their education (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015; WHO, 2010; IOM, 2003).  Yet, despite policies, professional accreditation requirements, and the industry itself stimulating interprofessional education (IPE), institutions of higher education are lagging behind in adopting IPE practices to prepare a “collaborative ready” (WHO, 2010, p. 9) health workforce.   

This instrumental single case study explored the opportunities and challenges of IPE implementation as perceived by faculty (n=12), managers (n=6) and administrators (n=4) in a College of Health and Human Services located in a large urban 4-year public university.  A conceptual framework integrating the Interprofessional Socialization Framework (Khalili, et al. 2013) with Bolman and Deal’s (2013) Organizational Frames guided data collection and data analysis.   

Four major findings emerged from the study: (1) administrators utilized IPE to promote unity and a common vision for the diverse College through convenings of all stakeholders to (a) develop core values and core themes of collaboration and (b) plan for an interdisciplinary building for teaching and research.  (2) Managers agreed with IPE conceptually but pointed at the need for (a) resources and incentives, (b) validated mechanisms for IPE implementation, (c) clarity of IPE goals and objectives and (d) IPE professional development.  (3) Faculty expressed (a) the need for incentivized IPE professional development, (b) the need for explicit guidance on IPE by College leadership, (c) concern about the significant investment of time for successful outcomes of IPE efforts.  (4) An emergent model of IPE implementation. Despite differences in perceptions and experiences, participants endorsed the idea that strong, visionary leadership in the context of trusting collaborative environments make IPE a compass that orients the organization toward a sweet spot – the middle ground between centralization and independence, where administrators, managers, and faculty feel comfortable with the outcomes, expectations and their associated risk.  Implications for research, policy and practice are discussed. 

Higher Education Administrative Office Staff Perceptions of Career Advancement: A Case Study

Robyn Pennington

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: O’Brien, Jonathan

Abstract

This mixed methods case study examined career advancement at a business office supporting a large comprehensive public university system in the southwestern United States to understand better the meaning of career advancement opportunities, understand what workplace factors are perceived to support or hinder opportunities for career advancement, and understand if perceived career advancement opportunities differed by gender, ethnicity, gender, employment classification, or years of service. Self-Determination Theory (SDT), a motivational theory developed by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan that posits people desire to develop and grow to realize their fullest potential, was used to examine employee motivation and analyze aspects of literature related to career advancement. 

This study explored perceptions of career advancement by analyzing four years of existing quantitative employee satisfaction survey data obtained from the office and through in-depth qualitative interviews with participants from the office. Key findings from data analysis revealed participants made meaning of career advancement with four themes that included climbing up the organizational hierarchy, increases in pay, developing competencies and skills, and interesting work. Workplace factors that are perceived to help or hinder opportunities for career advancement included organizational characteristics, supervisor support, and practices that enhance employee happiness.  

Independent samples t-test and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) were used to compared the means for independent groups to determine if perceived career advancement opportunities differed by gender, ethnicity, employment classification, or years of service. No statistical significance in scores existed between males and females but did exist between management and staff for both supervisor and organizational support for career advancement. Results for other groups were less conclusive. Based on the findings, 10 recommendations for practice and two suggestions for further research were developed.

Please Don’t Go: An Examination of Teacher Retention in High Needs Schools

Angela Carter Rodriguez

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Slater, Charles

Abstract

This investigation examines the issue of teacher retention in high needs schools. The issue of teacher retention is one of national concern.  Teachers are leaving the profession at alarming numbers, approximately 33% leave the field in the first three years and 50% leave in the first five.  The situation is even more perilous in high needs schools where the rate of teacher attrition is 70% higher, particularly in high poverty areas or schools with large concentrations of students of color. 

 Research indicates that there are personal qualities and institutional factors that contribute to teacher retention, with principal leadership among the most salient factors related to teachers’ decisions as whether to leave or remain in the profession.  Utilizing the theoretical framework of Applied Critical Leadership, this study examined the personal qualities and institutional factors that contribute to teacher retention in high needs schools. This qualitative interview study interviewed 25 participants, 14 teachers and 11 principals, all of whom have worked in high needs schools.  An optional reflective journal was provided for each participant for reflection after the interview.   

This investigation found the most salient personal qualities contributing to teacher retention in high needs schools were the ability to establish relationships, compassion and love, self-efficacy, having a sense of mission, and the X-factor.  The institutional characteristics that most contributed to retention were salary, working conditions, and teacher education programs. Principal Leadership was found to be the most important factor informing teacher retention in high needs schools. 

Approach to Instruction after the Implementation of the NGSS: A Focus on Academic Language and Literacy in Differing Socioeconomic Settings

Nancy Ruvalcaba

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Reese, Leslie

Abstract

Teachers are not just teachers of content. Educators lay the groundwork for how students make sense of the world around them by focusing on tools and strategies that emphasize awareness of knowledge and the application of it. A key factor in engaging in that process is understanding how language and literacy develop in students. The development of language and literacy does not just occur within the four walls of the English language arts classroom but takes place in all content areas. The Next Generation Science Standards highlight the role of language and literacy in the science classroom. This qualitative study examines how science teachers understand the Next Generation Science Standards and the application of metacognitive strategies that target language and literacy within school sites of differing socioeconomic backgrounds. Applying the theoretical framework of metacognition, this study explores teachers’ understanding of metacognitive development and whether or not students are tasked with gaining awareness of how they process information. Data collection for this study included teacher interviews, two classroom observations, and post-observation interviews of five public middle school science teachers in two districts.  

The data collected from teacher interviews and classroom observations suggest that there have been a number of instructional challenges faced by middle school science teachers when implementing the new standards ranging from simply learning the new standards and understanding the integrated science content, to applying a focus on academic language and science literacy in their classroom. The findings suggest that there is a basic understanding of a metacognitive approach to instruction, but teachers struggled to identify whether or not they effectively implemented the approach. Participating teachers were challenged with their own level of confidence in regards to the successful application of metacognitive strategies. Furthermore, findings indicate that regardless of the socioeconomic setting students in middle school are all developing their ability to reason, posing an instructional challenge to educators. However, students with low-SES backgrounds require more instructional supports in order to access academic language, develop literacy, and build background knowledge of the content. Considering the findings of this study, the researcher recommends continuing to support education policy that validates and advances the work of the new standards, making explicit the need for metacognitive practice and strategies within teacher preparation programs, and developing targeted professional development to spur professional collaboration and application of best practices within the science content. 

Women’s Experiences and Perception of Training Programs and Careers in Historically Male-Dominated Industry Sectors

Douglas Sallade

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Biolchino, Erin

Abstract

Since the inception of career technical education in community colleges and the building trades, women have been severely underrepresented in male-dominated training programs and careers. Many initiatives have been introduced over the last 45 years to remedy this disparity and include women in high paying careers in the building trades and other industries represented by career technical education. In spite of the outreach, recruitment programs, and laws intended to improve women’s participation in these occupations, the industries have made very little progress in increasing the number of female participants.  

This qualitative case study was guided by a conceptual framework that synthesizes two theoretical constructs: liberal feminist theory and chilly classroom climate. Utilizing interviews, observations, and a review of documents the research focused on the members of a building trades organization in the southwestern United States. The participants consisted of 16 women in various phases of their building trades career. The interviews were conducted in both a focus group and one-on-one format.  

The study results reveal that women in high school are not exposed to potential careers in the building trades or other options outside of attending college. Further, the patriarchy and cultural resistance to women in the building trades was confirmed from the interviews. The research concludes that three corrective approaches should be considered: Students should be exposed to alternative career options from an early age (junior high school), career guidance counselors should be educated and trained in offering students alternative career options, and school districts and building trades organizations should collaborate in the creation of a short-term training program for junior high and high school students to introduce them to the various disciplines of the building trades and other CTE related career pathways. 

Early Indicators of Risk: How to Identify Students on the Brink

Julie Sparks

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Hsieh, Betina

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to examine to what extent the predictive factors of attendance, suspension, grades in math and English, and standardized test scores and achievement levels at the elementary level, place students “at-risk” for later academic challenges.  This quantitative study of 8th grade students from one large urban school district (N=4910) examines the role of specific predictive factors connected to high school readiness from the 5th to 8th grade levels using Chi-square, independent t-tests, and logistical regression analysis. The key findings from the research demonstrated that the relationship between attendance, grades in math and English, suspension, standardized test scores and achievement levels in the fifth grade predict high school readiness in the eighth grade with 70.7 percent accuracy (as compared to a 54.7 percent accuracy of the null hypothesis). The findings provide support and advance our understanding of how the framework of the Conceptual Model of High School Performance (CMHSP) supports the use of HSR at the elementary level. The research model supports the exploration of predictive factors at the elementary level using HSR to identify possible student-at-risk indicators earlier than prior studies at the high school level.

Navigating Through a Doctoral Program When the Ship is Sinking: A Black Woman’s Journey

Charise Ivone Williams

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Li, Xin

Abstract

The percentage of African American women (AAW) who have matriculated in graduate studies have grown considerably in the last decade. Despite the increase, literature shows that AAW are still more prone than other women to withdraw from doctoral programs.  

Reasons for withdrawal included: family duties and responsibilities, work-related pressure and stress, financial hardships, unclear expectations, need of community, and lack of mentoring and support (Kerlin, 1997; Lovitts, 2001; Smallwood, 2004).  

The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to explore the factors that contributed to the social, emotional, sacrificial, and overall educational experiences of five AAW who completed a doctoral program in Educational Leadership; and the impact the doctorate degree has had on their lives in the various stages of the doctoral process and post-completion.   

Black Feminist Thought (BFT) was utilized as the theoretical framework to investigate, analyze, embody, and validate the connection between the research and the unique life experiences of these women. This narrative inquiry included two open-ended, 90-minute interviews of each of the five AAW participants. Five major findings were derived from the data analysis: Influence, Challenges and Barriers, Motivation, Can and Will Do-it-ness, and Purpose. 

Study participants recommended that persistence of re-entry AAW in doctoral programs and the frequency of interaction between AAW doctoral students and faculty, staff, and university in relationship to mentoring and other support services should be further researched. Further research may be of significant importance to doctoral programs on the various types of support or encouragement their nontraditional AAW doctoral students need during vital and timely processes in the doctoral stages. 

Hungry for a Higher Education: A Case Study on the Undergraduate Student Experiences with a Campus Food Pantry

Connie Moreno Yamashiro

California State University, Long Beach 2019

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Davis, Shametrice

Abstract

Food insecurity is a problem that significantly impacts student success and well-being.  Nationally, household food insecurity is 12.3% (Coleman-Jensen et al., 2017) while in the California State University (CSU) system college food insecurity is 41.6% (Crutchfield & Maguire, 2018), making food insecurity in the CSU over three times the amount of the national household food insecurity rate.  The most common approach to combat food insecurity is to establish a food pantry (Maroto, 2015).  However, as campuses are being tasked to address food insecurity through campus food pantry efforts, there is not enough literature on college food pantries to support their endeavors. 

This case study research at one CSU, referred to as CSU Pantry, is intended to better serve students by understanding what is effective and could be improved about food pantries in higher education.  Bandura’s (1986) Triadic Reciprocal Causation of personal, behavioral, and environmental factors guides the research in holistically understanding the process of using a campus food pantry from start to finish.  Findings from this study provide an illustration of the student experiences from feelings before visiting the pantry (e.g. vulnerable to free food: “why wouldn’t you go?”), going to the pantry (e.g. going with someone else or going alone), interaction with pantry workers (e.g. positive interactions and constructive feedback on workers), and lastly leaving the pantry (e.g. commuter vs living on campus, not just for “poor” students, and campus cares).  Through implications and recommendations for practice, policy, and research, it is the hope to learn more about the student experience to then enhance the services offered in a campus food pantry.