Title page for ETD etd-01102007-171455

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Pyron, Mary
URN etd-01102007-171455
Title "I hear you, but I don't understand you": The Effects of Peer Tutoring For Helping Secondary ESL Students Achieve Academic Success.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Sarah Liggett Committee Chair
John May Committee Member
Malcolm Richardson Committee Member
Susan Weinstein Committee Member
Ann Trousdale Dean's Representative
  • peer tutoring
  • secondary
  • high-stakes testing
  • ESL
Date of Defense 2006-11-21
Availability unrestricted
When I began teaching 11th grade English in Houston, Texas, I quickly discovered that students who speak English as a second language are sometimes drastically under-prepared for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test, the state’s high stakes test required during the 11th grade year. The result of their inability to pass the test is that they do not graduate, which limits their future career and academic choices.

In a semester-long research study at a typical high school in Houston, Texas, I explored the possibility of assisting ESL/LEP students transplanted to Houston as they struggled with English proficiency through a peer tutoring program. I outline the difficulties these students face, including personal and familial difficulties with acclimation to a new environment, repeated testing, and special needs (both personal and academic). I also examine the difficulties I faced with accountability and misunderstanding from other teachers, administrators, and the students themselves as I tried to develop a program to help these and future students become fluent in English.

To conduct this study, I designed a tutoring program for ten ESL/LEP students and seven tutors, and we found that discovering who we were as a center was a never-ending process. Though not a typical writing center, our “space” was a place based on typical writing center philosophy, and our goal was to assist these students, through tutoring in English, as they prepared for their futures. Our center was originally intended to serve those LEP students who had taken and failed the test at least once, but these case studies show how we had to change that conception as we struggled with class sizes, scheduling, budget cuts, teacher and administration misunderstanding, and time constraints.

Although the results of this study seem negative, as only two of our students passed the TAKS test at the end of the year, the case studies presented show that peer tutoring can and does work for increasing the language proficiency of ESL students. Test scores did not necessarily show the students’ progress, but progress is evident in their development of social capital and through their linguistic gains.

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