“Part of the Family”: Understanding the Perceptions and Experiences of Students and Faculty in a Culturally Inclusive Learning Community Located in a Texas Community College




Sarker, Amber L.

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This instrumental case study is an attempt to better understand how students and faculty in a learning community perceived and experienced inclusive and representative curriculum through developmental literacy instruction. I used Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (CSP) as the theoretical framework for this instrumental case study because of its specific practices of honoring and valuing varied cultures and languages. I conducted five focus groups with fifteen students and interviewed five learning community faculty members. All participants were part of the same learning community situated in a southern Texas community college. I conducted focus groups, interviews, and observations so I could better understand the student and faculty perceptions of inclusivity and representation in the learning community. Specifically, my goal was to better understand how students and faculty perceived the representation of students’ cultures and identities in developmental literacy courses. I outlined the findings section using within-case analysis, followed by cross-case analysis. The cross-case analysis of findings from this instrumental case study highlighted similarities and differences between the values and experiences of participant groups. Students and faculty valued the learning community’s program aspects, including the codes Validation, Culturally Relevant Aspects, and Familial Aspects. All participants also noted the codes Scaffolding and High Expectations. However, the two participant groups each foregrounded three unique codes in conversations. Students discussed the codes Valued Aspects of Learning Community, Meaningful Instruction, and Future Goals. Although student participants mentioned program aspects they valued, their perceptions and experiences often focused on Meaningful Instruction. The faculty participants had conversations about the unique codes Auxiliary Actions, Growth of Program, and Changes Regarding Acceleration. These three combined faculty codes shared the story of “what happens behind the curtain” when facilitating the learning community’s curriculum and outside activities while simultaneously meeting the demands of the college. Students shared the Meaningful Instruction they connected with and faculty shared their instructional approaches and Potential Stressors they navigated. This study contributes to the understanding of the perceptions and experiences of students and faculty in a learning community that used CSP. This study also explores the impact of instructional choices at a classroom level. Specifically, student participants outlined how Meaningful Instructional practices, Familial Aspects, and Culturally Relevant Aspects impacted their educational experiences. Faculty shared the labor that happened behind the scenes to create these positive educational experiences for students. My instrumental case study was not a program evaluation. Rather, this study provides researchers and educators with the perceptions and experiences of students who identify as Hispanic, noting what these particular participants valued in their learning community. These student perceptions of program aspects and instructional choices can help guide future research on this growing population of college students. My instrumental case study is unique because it addresses how a learning community used CSP in DE literacy courses. Additionally, this study provides a window into the instructional choices and possible stressors that learning community faculty navigate, which is a departure from studies focused on educational program implementation at a systemic level.



Developmental education, Developmental literacy, Culturally sustaining pedagogy, Community college, HSI, Hispanic, Texas, Validation, Postsecondary, First-year college students, Instrumental case study, Focus groups, Interviews, Qualitative research, College literacy, Postsecondary literacy


Sarker, A. L. (2019). <i>“Part of the family”: Understanding the perceptions and experiences of students and faculty in a culturally inclusive learning community located in a Texas community college</i> (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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