Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Eliciting and activating funds of knowledge in an environmental science community college classroom: An action research study
by Van Niel, John J., Ed.D., University of Rochester, 2010, 219; 3421829
Abstract (Summary)

Many non-traditional students are currently underperforming in college and yet may have untapped knowledge and skills that could support their academic success if appropriately utilized. Previous practices that students experience as a part of their lives are what Gonzales and other researchers call "funds of knowledge" (FOK). There is ample evidence to show that utilization of students' FOK in K-12 instructional contexts can be beneficial. In contrast, little formal FOK research has been done with higher education students. To address this gap, this study explores how environmental college courses could be designed so as to better elicit and capitalize on students' FOK, with the ultimate goal of increasing student engagement and learning.

More specifically, using an action research paradigm, I designed, implemented and studied an intervention in two sections of the required environmental science course I taught in Fall 2009 at the community college where I am employed. The intervention consisted of two phases: (1) eliciting FOK from the students enrolled in one section of the course through a draft survey, and (2) refining that survey tool in order to better elicit FOK, development of other methods of elicitation of FOK and activating (or incorporating) the FOK thus identified as relevant to enhance the learning experience of the students in both sections of the course.

The designs of the intervention as well as data collection and analysis were informed by the following research questions: Q1. What are effective strategies for eliciting FOK that may be generalized to the practices of other college instructors? Q2. What relevant FOK do students bring to this class? Q3. What were instances where FOK were activated in the course? Q4. What are effective strategies for activating FOK that may be generalized to the practices of other college instructors? Q5. What evidence was there that students took up new practices due to the intervention?

Data were collected from a variety of sources including an audio recorded small-group session where FOK were elicited, surveys compiled by all students to point to potentially relevant life experiences and practices, audio recorded classroom lessons where FOK were utilized, audio recorded final class reflections on the experience, and my own teacher log. Data were qualitatively analyzed first to identify the range and frequency of students' relevant FOK, then to identify and characterize effective activation of these funds in a classroom setting.

Findings highlight the breadth of relevant FOK present in a given class as well as strategies shown to be effective for both elicitation and activation of these funds. Implications are drawn for future research into FOK as well as for other instructors wishing to explicitly draw on students' FOK to enrich their learning experiences.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Luehmann, April, Borasi, Raffaella
School: University of Rochester
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Community college education, Educational psychology, Science education
Keywords: Action research, Community college, Environmental science, Funds of knowledge, Higher education
Publication Number: 3421829
ISBN: 978-1-124-22195-3
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