Students' Experiences Studying African American English
Key finding #1: Enrolled students understood the seriousness of racism. Students' ideas about the seriousness of racism in the U.S., measured using an item from the color-blind racial attitudes scale or COBRA (Neville et al., 2000), demonstrated high and stable student ratings of the seriousness of racism. At the institution which generated the largest number of matched pre- and post-course surveys, there was a statistically significant increase in students' perceptions of the seriousness of racism, t(15)=1.775, p<.05, one-tailed.
Key finding #2: Conversations about language can create opportunities for recognizing, discussing, and critically analyzing racism. Students discussed racism as interpersonal prejudice mediated by language (e.g., when watching videos depicting linguistic discrimination), but also as a set of broader systemic and structural phenomena tied to unequal power relations in public discourse, judicial systems, and mass media.
Key finding #3: Surprisingly, there was no systematic shift in the ways that students defined racism following their participation in courses with AAE content. This was true across public and private institutions, 4-year and 2-year institutions, and Minority-Serving Institutions as well as Predominantly White institutions.
Key finding #4: Students appreciated instructors who were knowledgeable but also instructors who decentered their own intellectual authority. For instance, numerous participants described the opportunity to learn from specific, highly knowledgeable instructors as one of the major factors motivating their course enrollment. At the same time, participants also identified moments when their instructors showed vulnerability and created opportunities for students to engage in their own sensemaking. As one interviewee remarked, "I was really happy that [our instructor] was willing to, kind of delve into it with us, you know it wasn't like this...really formal like ‘Oh this blah blah blah blah blah, this is what it is,’ you know, it's like, ‘Well I don't really know all that much about this but this is what I found,’ and [they] kind of shared it with us and let us interpret in different ways.”
Data collection for SESAAME was unfunded. However, subsequent analyses of de-identified data were made possible by a generous grant from Southern Methodist University's Summer Research Intensive program.