Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

The [de] construction of institutional representation of student achievement: An ethnographic case study of an ELL student's academic growth

Pierre W Orelus, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Student academic growth is one of the most heated issues surfacing in the frequent debates revolving around school reforms, particularly since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind mandate. Often missing in such debates is a clear articulation of what available resources students have drawn on to grow academically. Informed by socio-cultural theoretical and systemic functional linguistic frameworks and drawing on data collected in a three-year ethnographic case study, this study explores what contributed to the academic growth of Pablo, a middle school English language learner, who was institutionally recognized as an "achiever." Specifically, this study examines in what ways and to what extent school resources, such as teaching practices, enabled Pablo to grow academically. This study also explores how and to what degree outside resources, such as parental involvement and support from the community, led to his growth. In addition, this study examines to what degree Pablo's level of motivation contributed to his growth in academic writing. To determine whether or not Pablo's writing changed over time and whether Pablo made progress with his academic writing, I performed a textual analysis of a selective set of essays Pablo wrote over the course of one academic year. Findings suggest that Pablo's institutional status as an achiever stems from his ability to find ways to produce essays that were institutionally valued, recognized, and defined as "good essays." Findings also suggest that while such a status helped Pablo maintain his institutional identity as a "good student," it may at the same time have slowed down his learning process, prevented the school personnel from exploiting his full potential as a student and, worse yet, led to the over-generalization of student achievement.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Teacher education|Secondary education|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Orelus, Pierre W, "The [de] construction of institutional representation of student achievement: An ethnographic case study of an ELL student's academic growth" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3336996.