Education has been slow in response to the changing needs of our increasingly diverse student populations. One such population is that of immigrant children. With the estimated 15.1 million refugees worldwide, issues of acculturation have close links with education, child development, and cultural sensitivity (Drake, 2017). Additional social services are called for in an effort to help immigrants acculturate into their adopted cultures, but few are available (Ghuo, 2017). The arts have long been a model for multicultural, diverse inclusiveness, and my research centers around how the arts can help address the issues associated with acculturation in immigrant youth.
In my proposed area of research on the arts addressing acculturation issues, I have created three probing questions which to center my research around. The first question looks at the connections between arts for social change and young people in educational settings. The second question investigates how artistic activities challenge negative stereotypes and biases for both immigrant and community members. Lastly, I will examine ways the arts promote cultural reconciliation between socially excluded immigrant youths and the community. These questions all serve as focal points providing examples of arts for social change.
I will conduct a qualitative study investigating arts programs offered within schools and selected community organizations. Considering the topic and research questions, qualitative design is the most appropriate tool which to conduct this research (Bas & Kivilcim, 2017). Specifically I would like to focus on immigrants from 11-14 yrs old and 14 – 18 years of age within a community setting either a school (middle or high school) or community organization providing social services for immigrants. The purpose of the research is to identify what impact as a stand-alone activity the arts can have on acculturation. Through ethnography, I hope to identify commonalities amongst three culturally different immigrant focus groups in an effort to develop cultural awareness and sensitivity in communities (Trnka, 2017). Utilizing phenomenology design will enable me to identify the perspectives, perception, and cognitive awareness of immigrants acculturating process (Koops, 2017). I will then study the impact the arts have had on their perceived acculturation.
My method of collecting data will be through structured, semi structured, and non-structured interviews to illuminate biases, beliefs, and cultural context in person and telephone interviews (Sivakumar & Nakata, 2001). Utilizing an interview protocol that includes set questions, a script to detail the interview and research process and purpose will enable me to identify potential non-structured questions that probe deeper into participant’s responses. After the initial structured questions pre-arts involvement, I will have follow up questions to measure efficacy of the arts process on acculturation during and post project. Upon gaining permission from the participant, I will record all interviews and observations.
The study will cover six months of observations, interviews, and follow up questions. Starting with immigrants who have yet to engage with the arts but have been identified at risk by school or organizations, I will start with diagnostic interviews for a baseline which to measure changes. While engaging with the arts at three months I will again conduct a series of interviews and observations to track any potential changes and identify any follow up questions or support needed. At the end of the project that theoretically would end in the fifth month, I will again follow up with questions and observations. At the sixth month, I will conduct a series of conclusive interviews centered around reflecting the experience and any effect it has had on their adjustment. Collecting all of this data from over the course of the study, I will synthesize and summarize my findings.
I anticipate that I will find clear ties that support previous research that shows a connection between the arts and issues of acculturation. My research will focus on finding concrete examples of practice and methodological approach that will add to the body of knowledge already existing about the arts for social change (Farrugia, Petrisor, Farrokhyar, & Bhandari, 2010). I also believe the results will show how the arts can be utilized as part of social services afforded to immigrants as well as potential ties to socially excluded youth. I anticipate this research will advocate for both support for the arts and social services for immigrants and has a global application (Cabedo-Mas, Nethsinghe, & Forrest, 2017).
A number of issues will need further investigation and consideration before this project is feasible (Carroll, Toumpakari, Johnson, & Betts, 2017). First is deciding upon a community or educational organization that works with immigrants from the ages of 11-18. Decisions on whether to conduct study on individuals or focus groups and their cultures of origin is to be decided and which arts disciplines will be involved in the art making will have an impact on the study. Financial concerns include cost of art making, artists, immigration and social services professionals, facilities and my own time away from my current teaching. In addition to my own synthesis of data collected, I will require colleagues whose specialize in immigration and social services in Atlanta to help outline, identify, and synthesize current practices and cross reference collected research data. Though there are several factors that need resolving, I believe that the project is feasible and would contribute to the body of knowledge and social services currently offered to immigrants.
There are a number of ethical concerns that I must be mindful of in my research. Hofstede defines culture as “mental programming” and my proposed topic of study will include participants struggling with leaving one culture and how to make the norms, beliefs, and values of that culture fit within a new framework (Sivakumar & Nakata, 2001). Additional cultural issues include withholding personal bias towards one culture over another and ensuring that factors that represent systems of beliefs surrounding gender, race, sexuality, and religion are ethical. It will be important to understand cultural context that immigrants are coming from and how that can redefine itself to function within the adopted culture. With the help of the immigrant services and social service professionals, I will need to consider what long lasting impacts the research will have on the participants, and how can I ensure that they are given continued support.
Creating a safe environment for immigrant youths to address issues such as identity, cultural blending, context, a new set of norms of behavior and education is something that the arts can provide. Through the process and the product of art making can address underlying issues of acculturation. My proposed topic of research and questions is designed to identify practices that are applicable to socially excluded youth and communities (Hopkins, 2008). The results intended use is to inform policy, practice and advocate for the arts and immigrant community. The arts ability to inform, inspire, and educate personal stories is something that is inherent to every culture. When multiple cultures must coexist, the arts provide an appropriate platform for it to do so.