Stewart, Shawanda Joy (2017). 'Taking an Anti-Deficit Approach to Investigating African American Male Success in First Year Composition' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.
Current research about the success of African American (AA) male students consistently reports that an achievement gap exists between them and their White counterparts, and although extensive research has been done related to African American males’ overall college success, little has been conducted in regard to their success in first year composition at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Thus, there is need for a comprehensive investigation—approached from an anti-deficit framework (perspective)--of the factors which contribute to African American males succeeding (scoring a B or higher) in first-year composition at HBCUs.
For this reason, it is imperative that we (scholars) intentionally include the voices of African American males in our research in order to “question the supposed universal truth promoted by master narratives” (Zumudio, Russell, Rios, & Bridgeman, 2011, 125) about them. Much of the research that includes AA males’ perspectives can be found in case study dissertations; however, there is a need to not only hear their voices but to also better understand what they value in first year composition, the ways by which these values are provided, and how their capabilities to utilize these values align with instructors’ values and provided resources.
Consequently, for my PhD dissertation, I am interested in hearing from the perspectives of African American males what contributes to their success (scoring a B or higher) in first year composition at a private, liberal arts HBU (Historically Black University) in central Texas. I would like to frame my research design using the human development and capability approach (HDCA) and contextualize it from a critical race theory (CRT) standpoint.
Taking this approach for investigating the successes of African American males in first year composition will involve questioning and observing the ways that functionings, capabilities, and agency are institutionally provided via the university, professors, and pedagogy in relation to AA males’ success in first year composition. As explained by Unterhalter (2009) about implications for the human development and capability approach in education, one approach to “evaluating education is based on what people say they want from their schooling” (219). To this end, I am interesting in hearing firsthand from AA males
- What functionings are (are not) provided to them that enable (interfere with) their success?
- In what manner do capabilities (instructor, content, instructional methods, university practices) enable (or interfere with) their capabilities to utilize these functionings?
- In what ways do the intersection of these functionings and capabilities assist in (take away from) their agency as successful writers?
Fortunately, there is presently a movement toward antiracist practices in first year composition: yet, there is still a need for research that focuses specifically on the successes of African American males from a framework that considers the ecology of writing and “opportunities each person has for converting…resources into valued doings and beings” (Unterhalter, 2009, 271). Thus, because little work has been done in the area of rhetoric and composition from a human capability and development approach, I believe that this research responds to a teaching and learning concern in this discipline by taking a social justice approach that has not yet been explored.
Alkire, S. & Deneulin, S. (2009). The human development and capability approach. In S. Deneulin & L. Shahani, (Eds.), An introduction to the human development and capability approach: Freedom and agency (pp 22-48). Sterling: IDRC.
Unterhalter, S. (2009). Education. In S. Deneulin & L. Shahani, (Eds.), An introduction to the human development and capability approach: Freedom and agency (pp 22-48). Sterling: IDRC.
Zamudio, M., Russell, C. C., Rios, F., & Bridgeman, J. L. (2011). Critical race theory matters : Education and ideology. New York: Routledge.