Engagement experiences of Hispanic Generation 1.5 English language learners at a Massachusetts community college

Jacqueline Pena, Florida International University


Hispanic Generation 1.5 students are foreign-born, U.S. high school graduates who are socialized in the English dominant K-12 school system while still maintaining the native language and culture at home (Allison, 2006; Blumenthal, 2002; Harklau, Siegal, & Losey, 1999; Rumbault & Ima, 1988). When transitioning from high school to college, these students sometimes assess into ESL courses based on their English language abilities, and because of this ESL placement, Hispanic Generation 1.5 students might have different engagement experiences than their mainstream peers. Engagement is a critical factor in student success and long-term retention because students’ positive and negative engagement experiences affect their membership and sense of belonging at the institution. The purpose of this study was to describe the engagement and membership experiences of Hispanic Generation 1.5 students’ at a Massachusetts community college. This study employed naturalistic inquiry within an embedded descriptive case study design that included three units of analysis: the students’ engagement experiences in (a) ESL courses, (b) developmental courses, and (c) mainstream courses. The main source of data was in-depth interviews with Hispanic Generation 1.5 students at Commonwealth of Massachusetts Community College. Criterion sampling was used to select the interview participants, ensuring that all participants were native Spanish speakers and were taking or had taken at least one ESL course at the institution. The study findings show that these Hispanic Generation 1.5 students at the college did not perceive peer engagement as critical to academic success. Most times the participants avoided peer engagement outside of the classroom, especially with fellow Hispanic students, who they felt would deter them from their English language development and general academic work. Engagement with ESL faculty and ESL academic support staff played the most critical role in the participants’ sense of belonging and success, and students who were required to engage with faculty and academic support staff outside of the classroom were the most satisfied with their educational experiences. While the participants were all disappointed with some aspect of their ESL placement, they valued the ESL engagement experiences more than the engagement experiences while completing developmental and credit coursework.

Subject Area

Community college education|English as a Second Language|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Pena, Jacqueline, "Engagement experiences of Hispanic Generation 1.5 English language learners at a Massachusetts community college" (2010). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3447786.