Bête noire no more: The effects of code switching in a high poverty, urban high school in Tennessee

Meghen L Sanders, Tennessee State University


The study was conducted to investigate how African American (AA) teachers’ use of code switching during instruction impacted student achievement, student-teacher relationships, and the educational environment. The study explored sociolinguistic and sociopolitical phenomena by using an ethnographic approach by conducting two case studies that generated four theoretical propositions using Grounded Theory that answered two overarching research questions and two sub questions. Data sets included discursive interviews, the researcher’s fieldnotes, audio transcription analyses, and collected artifacts and documents. The researcher found that AA teachers use code switching as a means of communicating concepts and reinforcing sociocultural norms; consequently, the teachers implemented teaching strategies specifically targeted towards AA students in order promote student learning and academic achievement. AA teachers integrate code switching as a component of their classroom management strategies, and two dominant strategies are forming interdependent relationships and a community-like atmosphere in their classrooms. Instead of explicitly code switching between Standard American English (SAE) and African American Vernacular English (AAVE,) the AA teachers more often combine SAE and AAVE during instruction, creating a hybrid of the two dialects. AA participants shared ambivalent attitudes towards professional development about sociolinguistics and AAVE, due to the absence of training or support from the district and other educators. The findings suggested more research should be conduced on the sociolinguistic concepts of diglossia and language mixing as they pertain to second language acquisition.

Subject Area

Language arts|African American Studies|Black studies|Sociolinguistics|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Meghen L Sanders, "Bête noire no more: The effects of code switching in a high poverty, urban high school in Tennessee" (2011). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3433422.