Date Thesis Awarded


Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Studies


Anne Charity Hudley

Committee Members

Christopher Howard

Jeremy Stoddard


I address the question, “How do experienced high school English teachers respond to students’ cultural and linguistic variation to maximize learning?” by applying community studies, sociolinguistic, and policy frameworks to the experiences of high school English teachers in southeastern Virginia schools. Abundant sociolinguistic research (Bernstein, 1971, 1973, 1977, 1990) argues life circumstances largely determine academic achievement, but my work adds to the scholarship on the negative implications of this line of reasoning through the collection of in-depth qualitative data on teachers’ viewpoints. A literature review of criticisms and arguments from sociolinguists (Boyle-Baise & Kilbane, 2000; Labov, 1975; Rickford & Rickford, 2000) and education policy experts (Darling-Hammond, 2010; Ravitch, 2010) add to my knowledge base and enhance this research. I worked with high school English teachers involved in the School University Research Network (SURN) at the William & Mary School of Education to evaluate their knowledge of cultural and linguistic variation, their reactions to such variation, and how they seek to maximize student success regardless backgrounds and circumstances. This research explores important implications surrounding socioeconomic status, language patterns, and educational opportunities. The findings highlight effective learning strategies, such as multifaceted classroom activities and individualized help to students, for culturally and linguistically diverse classes. My results apply to the education system’s deficiencies in multicultural instruction. My research gauges the extent to which teachers consider student variation when managing their classrooms and the extent to which they believe life circumstances, like poverty or minority status, make it hard for students to succeed.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.