Enrolling Arabic heritage language learners in Texas community-based schools: Examining the attitudinal and motivational factors impacting parental choice

Date
2012
Authors
Aburumuh, Hamsa
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Abstract

To date, there has been a dearth of research on areas that focus on Arabic heritage language (AHL) learning, AHL learners, and parents of AHL learners, as well as community based schooling. This dissertation contributes to fill the gap in these areas. The conceptual framework for the dissertation draws upon principles of socio-cultural theory (Vygotsky & Kozulin, 1986) and Gardner's (1985) socio psychological theory. These theoretical frameworks were used as a lens through which to view and analyze the attitudinal and motivational factors that influence the choice parents of AHL learners make regarding the type of schooling in which their children receive Arabic language instruction. Given that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has offered an initiative that authorizes the teaching of Arabic as a foreign language in public schools (TEA, 2007), this choice lies either in any public school in Texas that offers Arabic as a foreign language courses approved by the TEA or in community-based schooling. The unique contribution of my study is that it explored the significant impact of ethnicity in combination with other attitudinal and motivational factors on parental choice. I utilized a non-experimental, cross-sectional quantitative research design. Factor analysis and logistic regression analysis were conducted to indicate the ability and accuracy of a set of socio cultural and socio-psychological factors in predicting parental choice. Furthermore, a qualitative examination was incorporated to help in the interpretation of the quantitative findings. The data was collected using a newly-constructed survey: "Aburumuh Attitudes and Motives of Parental Choice" (AMPC) survey. Using a purposive sampling procedure, data was drawn from seven Islamic community-based schools in Texas. A total of three hundred eighty-seven (n = 387) parents of AHL learners who actually enrolled their children in seven community-based schools in Texas were surveyed. The research sample consisted predominantly of Muslim parents; the majority of them fell into the category of a non-Arab ethnic background with a high representation of Asian parents (e.g., Pakistani, Indian). Findings from the factor analysis identified eleven latent constructs among the items in the survey instrument. Values derived from the factor analysis supported the psychometric soundness of scales extracted from the AMPC Survey. The results of the logistic regression analysis indicated that ethnicity was the strongest predictor of parental choice. The following four attitudinal and motivational factors were also found to be statistically significant and represented a good fitting model in predicting parental choice; these included developing Arabic and literacy skills, followed by perception toward bilingualism, then utilitarian reasons, and finally, dissatisfaction with public schooling. Findings from regression analysis suggest re-conceptualizing Gardner's theory so that motivational and attitudinal constructs incorporate individual multiple identities and the surrounding socio cultural environment. This re-conceptualization demands a more holistic approach when examining HL learning and the various factors impacting parental choice. Moreover, implications from the analyses propose redefining the term `heritage language' (HL) so that it will encompass a wider range of HL learners. Districts would be well-advised to consider the findings when deliberating on the development of Arabic language programs for public schools.

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Keywords
Arabic HL Learners, Community-based Schooling, Heritage Languages, Language Attitude, Motivation, Socio-psychological Theory
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Department
Bicultural-Bilingual Studies