Arnetha F. Ball, PhD

Selected Courses

Race, Ethnicity, and Linguistic Diversity in Classrooms & Communities: Sociocultural Theory and Practices—EDU 103B/337; AAAS 106; CSRE 103B

Course Objective: This course focuses on classrooms serving students from diverse racial, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. National attention has turned to issues of education in urban classrooms and communities and the recent discussions have raised important questions in the minds of many. We will look at how teaching and learning in urban and diverse school settings has been studied, written about, and represented in the media, as well as the implications of this work for transforming teaching and learning in diverse schools and the preparation of teachers to teach in diverse schools and classrooms.

Using sociocultural theory as a framework, we will consider issues related to successful teaching and the development of teachers who have the attitudes, dispositions, and skills necessary to teach diverse students effectively in urban classrooms. We will also look closely at the actual real world of teaching and learning as it is occurring in urban settings through a service-learning component.

This course will be organized around fundamental questions that arise from enduring questions in education. We will explore questions 1, 2, and 3 below over the course of this quarter as we look at issues of race, ethnicity, and linguistic diversity in urban classrooms. Framing the course around these fundamental questions will allow us to consider broad issues in education that all teachers should understand while drawing on the specific knowledge you are gaining from our readings and the observations you are involved in over the course of the quarter.

  1. How do people learn?
  2. a. How do people learn? How do we define “learning”? How do people learn best?
    Can some patterns of classroom dynamics support student learning while others inhibit it?
    b. What does sociocultural theory say about learning within the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and what students are capable of learning in classrooms that are designed to meet their needs?
    c. How can teachers structure instruction to teach within students’ ZPD?
    d. What role does home and community learning play in the school?

  3. What gets taught and why?
  4. a. What gets taught in many urban classrooms? What should get taught to whom and why; and how are decisions about these matters made?
    b. Where does the knowledge students bring from home and community fit in here?
    c. What does socio-cultural theory say about heteroglossia and the design of effective learning environments?
    d. What should be the forms of teaching for advancing this kind of knowledge?

  5. How do teachers teach, why do teachers teach, and how do they learn to teach?
  6. a. How should teachers teach? How might teachers learn to teach more effectively?
    b. What do teachers need to know and how do they learn what they need to know?
    c. What does socio-cultural theory say about internalization and teacher learning?
    d. What do policymakers need to know and how can policies support good teaching?

    Students will have an opportunity to consider their own interest in becoming effective teacher educators and/or teachers of students from diverse backgrounds. For those of you who have been teachers, this course will provide a forum for considering teaching by effective teachers. For those who have not, we will consider important challenges facing our society.

    We will use socio-cultural theory as a lens through which we can make sense of our own work in diverse classrooms and communities. For students who plan to conduct research on teaching and/or teacher education, this course provides opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of socio-cultural theory and to consider how it can inform our work. All students will have opportunities to think about the questions that most interest them and one tradition of research that can speak in compelling ways to your own interests and concerns. We will pose compelling questions about teaching diverse students and consider different ways of investigating them. We will question how different sources have contributed to our understanding of the complex phenomenon of teaching diverse student populations. There are no prerequisites for this course.

Urban Education—EDUC 112/212; AAAS 112; CSRE 112; SOC 129/229

Course Objective: Increasingly, the term “urban education” has become code for various social categories. Particularly, it is often invoked to signal “poor,” “minority-dominant,” and “underperforming” schools and districts, to name a few. What is it about “urban education” that makes it critical social terrain to examine? How does urban education in this contemporary era differ from its original incarnation? What challenges does it face today? Through various lenses, we will survey the landscape of urban education in the United States and explore myriad theories or explanations for existing conditions, crises, and policies. Such explanations and issues may transcend specific national boundaries and could be applicable in any contemporary urban education setting.

EDUC 212 (112); SOC 229(129); AAAS 112; CSRE 112 has a demanding reading load, and we will expect all students to keep up with the reading to facilitate full participation in the course. We will read articles, books, policy reports, chapters, and other seminal works ranging in focus from the ecological context (i.e., the multiple environs of the educational system—the economy, poverty, residential segregation, and racial and ethnic relations) to the cultural (the different mechanisms such as the organization of school space, curriculum and pedagogy that produce notable differences among various social groups in terms of how they communicate, learn and attain) to the micro-level interactions (such as teacher-student interactions, educational expectations, norms and values about linguistic practices, and dominant achievement ideology). Moreover, we will focus on some studies and policies that have proven to be either efficacious or ineffective in ameliorating the educational conditions within urban educational contexts. Regrettably, we do not have much time in the quarter to cover all of the bases, but we will pay specific attention to key theoretical frameworks, designs and empirical findings. This course will be both lecture-based and participatory, oriented towards generating discussion about various issues arising within the urban educational sphere.

Writing Across Languages & Cultures—EDUC 243/CSRE 243

Course Objective: In “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” Gloria Anzaldúa says, “So, if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity¬. I am my language.” Anzaldúa goes on to detail her language, with its mix of Tex/Mex, English, and Spanish, and to map the borderland territory those she calls “new mestizas” must inhabit. Today, classrooms are alive with students from such borderlands, from widely varying cultural and language backgrounds. Yet most professors and teachers of English have been trained to teach to a monocultural and monolingual population. This course aims to challenge old assumptions and paradigms of writing and teaching writing and to investigate what we now know about teaching writing across cultures and communities. We will begin at home, with the languages and cultures students bring with them to the classroom, focusing particularly on the struggle of African Americans, Latino/Latinas, Chicano/Chicanas, and Native Americans, and move to broader transnational contexts as we go along. Our focus will be resolutely on equipping ourselves to teach on the borderlands and on developing materials for use in classrooms. As final projects for the class, participants in the seminar can present plans to implement changes at a school site that encourages a “culture of writing” at the school, present plans to implement a writing center at a school site, carry out a major project, which might be a research study design (or its execution), or write an essay/project intended either for conference presentation or publication.

Community-based Research As A Tool For Social Action: The Discourse of Liberation and Equity in Communities & Classrooms—EDUC 322/CSRE 130/AAAS 130

Course Objective: This seminar is designed for students interested in engaging in community-based research and/or classroom-based research as a tool for social action. Topics covered in this course will prepare students to conduct research designed to take place in collaboration with community or classroom partners with three goals in mind: to build new knowledge and skills on the part of students, to respond to community and classroom needs, and to ultimately contribute to improved life for community residents and student populations. This course provides Stanford students with the frameworks, strategies, tools, and understanding they will need to embark on community-based/classroom-based partnership research that a) brings greater clarity to the challenges these institutions face, and b) considers effective strategies for resolving them. By the end of the course, students will be enabled to enter a community-based organization or classroom setting and establish a research partnership. Advanced students will embark on or advance a research project by collecting and analyzing data that will assist them in serving the community and society at large. We hope students will take these research proposals/projects to the next level of implementation during subsequent academic quarters.

The principal objective of this course is twofold: to develop skills for conducting community-based or classroom-based research and to develop a proposal for research or make progress on research that utilizes those skills. The hands-on components of the course are paired with readings that examine the conceptual underpinnings of using discourse analysis in the research. Students should be prepared to critically examine the readings for assumptions about the nature and reality of conducting research in communities and classrooms for social justice, and the implications of these assumptions for their future practice. Part One of the course provides an overview of the modes and ethics of inquiry associated with community-based and classroom-based research. We will review several complimentary research methods, their rationale and design. Part Two of the course allows students to engage with guest speakers from local community-based organizations and classrooms – to discuss their perspectives on the conduct of research that is valuable to the community or classroom partner as well as to the researcher. We will also explore complimentary research methods and the use of discourse analysis as one approach to analyzing the data. In Part Three of the course, we consider the insights gained from our readings, engage in data collection and analysis, and report on the development of a research proposal or give an update on our research in progress. Students are free to take the class for 3, 4, or 5 units. However, all students are expected to complete all assignments and participate actively in class. Students are encouraged to take the course for credit/no-credit.