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Role of Culture in the Lives of Latino Central Coast High School Students and Their Perceived Barriers to Academic Success

do not necessarily reflect the views of



At a time when California’s Latino students are disproportionately represented in colleges and universities and require differentiated services to achieve academic success, the role of their high schools must be supportive (Downes, 2011). Understanding how to best support Latino students in advanced classes requires educators to provide more than improved pedagogical strategies; they must also provide social and emotional support, reinforced with cultural competence (Dufour, 2006; Marzano, 2003; Hattie, 2009). Without paying deliberate attention to the needs of Latino students, they encounter barriers that hinder their progress toward academic success in advanced classes and meeting college entry eligibility criteria. Although studies have been conducted that identify strategies, policies, and practices to address successful academic outcomes, additional studies are needed to determine the role of culture as a possible barrier. The current crisis in Latino student education speaks to the urgent need to examine this cultural phenomenon  (Noguera & Wing, 2006).

Chapter III of this study discusses the methodology and procedures used to examine and describe the role of culture as a perceived barrier for Latino students in achieving academic success in advanced classes and in the greater school environment in a Central Coast California high school. The chapter begins with a restatement of the study’s purpose and the central research questions that provide the basis for the study. The chapter describes the study’s selected research design as well as the instrumentation and procedures used to collect and analyze the data.

Purpose Statement                                  

The purpose of this ethnographical study was to examine and describe the role of culture in the lives of five Latino Central Coast high school students with a focus on perceived barriers to academic success that hinders Latino students from achieving a passing score on the AP exam. The study also examines the role of culture as a perceived barrier that hinders Latino students from meeting college entry eligibility criteria.

Restatement of Research Questions: This study was guided by two central questions that are the basis for this study as follows:

Central Questions

  1. What is the role of culture in the lives of five Latino students with a focus on perceived barriers to academic success that result in achieving a passing score on the AP exam?
  2. What is the role of culture in the lives of five Latino students with a focus on perceived barriers to academic success that result in meeting college eligibility criteria?

Research Design

To best support a study that examines the role of culture as a perceived barrier to academic success that results in achieving a passing score on the AP exam and meeting college entry eligibility criteria, the researcher selected the qualitative, ethnographical design with a cultural perspective.

Activity Theory

The activity theory subscribes to the idea that a collective activity with a shared purpose is undertaken by people, who have a common problem to solve. They navigate a solution with specific tools used to achieve the goal. The collective activity may be hindered by cultural factors, rules, or social organizations within the context of the participants’ immediate environment (Fitzsimmons, 2011). The activity theory provided a conceptual framework for the study’s components – the relationship between the subjects and their motivation, goals, and overall experiences in their natural learning environment.

The framework for this study draws on the activity theory approach to best examine the role of culture as a perceived barrier that hinders Latino Central Coast high school students in passing the AP exam, meeting a-g eligibility, and experiencing the broader school environment. It suggests that students’ culture is an important consideration when aligning the participants intended goals to objectives of scoring a 4 or 5 on an AP exam, meeting the California university system’s entry eligibility criteria (a-g eligibility), and experiencing the broader school environment to their objectives. In particular, it is necessary to take into account Latino students’ experiences, where academic performance may be transformed into a particular score on the AP exam and achieving a-g college eligibility. This study takes its findings from the activity theoretical and ethnographical views and presents them in a narrative format.

Exhibit ____

Qualitative Research

The researcher viewed this study through the experiential knowledge of its participants. Making meaning of their experiences and connecting them to academic success through a cultural lens, required a design that offered the best approach to hearing the participants’ voices and observing them in their natural school environment. Creswell points out that we use qualitative research when “we want to empower individuals to share their stories, hear their voices,” (2013, p. 48). In Research in Education: Evidence-based Inquiry, McMillan and Schumacher (2010) note that qualitative methods support collecting data on a naturally occurring phenomenon. This study engaged subjects with a shared cultural experience that led the researcher to a deeper understanding of the participant’s experiences. The study is conducted in the subject’s natural environment, determines how human beings make sense of experiences in their natural environment, and transform those experiences into consciousness (Patton, 2015). In qualitative research, the researcher retells a story to enable the reader to get a sense of the time and place where the experience began (Patton, 2015) and who the players are in the story. Using a qualitative study allowed the researcher to explore the meaning of the experiences studied and their similarity through the common cultural lens of the participants. (McMillan and Schumacher, 2010). Also, the researcher is considered the instrument of the study, which operates within the field of the subjects being studied, paying close attention to themes that emerge during interviews, and details, during observations, which guide the design and collection of the data as it surfaces.


Determining the type of ethnography that best suited the study required a close examination of the study’s purpose. As a marginalized group with disproportionately evident in advanced classes and in meeting a-g eligibility, Latino students’ experiences are best examined through the role that culture plays in their overall academic success (p. 94). The researcher selected ethnography as the qualitative approach to inquiry as a means of exploring the role of culture as a barrier that Latino students experienced in common with their peers.

Because the ethnographical approach focuses on how human beings make sense of their experiences, (Patton, 2015), the goal of this ethnographical study was realized with the understanding of the subjects’ everyday experiences and what perceived barriers impact their success (Creswell, 2013). The ethnographical method is different in its approach than content analysis as it may require the researcher to sacrifice personal experiences to focus on cultural and social realities (van Manen, 1990). This is not to say that ethnographical studies do not have a prescribed method; they do. However, the method is not based on fixed information, instead, information must be explored and discovered through the study’s authentic subjects and then categorizing cultural perceptions (1990, p. 178).

This study led the researcher to discover how Latino Central Coast high school students made sense of their experiences using narrative responses through initial and follow-up interview questions. Central to the study’s findings was an understanding about how the role of culture is perceived as a barrier that Latino students experience and what cultural context they perceive impacts their achieving a passing score on the AP exam and meeting a-g eligibility.

An ethnographical study also allowed the researcher to find the commonalities among the participants’ experiences and understand its effects on their academic success (Creswell, 2013).  Since ethnography is characterized by its common cultural experience as realized by the subjects, the method lends itself to exploring Latino students’ lived cultural experiences. According to van Manen (1984), the ethnographical method serves as a guide for the researcher to construct a cultural reality that even a non-member of the culture can internalize (p. 178). Therefore, the goal was also to explain the lived experience of subjects from their common cultural perspective in a way that non-Latinos can understand without prescription or predictions (1984). In addition to supporting a study reliant upon engaging Latino students in sharing their experiential knowledge, the ethnographical approach also provided a framework for the researcher to discover and make sense of how Latino students’ perceived the role of culture as a barrier to their academic success (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995).

Overall, the justification for this approach lies in using a strategy that best relates to

the research questions, has the degree of control over the participants, and sets a timeframe of the phenomenon under investigation (Yin, 2003). These experiences take place in both classrooms and broader school environment daily and can not be manipulated. Setting a timeframe during a four-week period of the school calendar gave the researcher maximum control over participant engagement and completion of the interview process. During the same timeframe, the researcher was able to gain additional perspectives through observations that allowed the researcher to triangulate the collected data, adding to the validity of the study (Creswell, 2014).

The design included both group interviews with six semi-structured questions focused on the subjects’ experiences in advanced classes, meeting a-g eligibility, and experiencing their culture in the broader school environment. All interviews were recorded and transcribed immediately following each interview session with the required consent procedures followed.


McMillian and Schumacher define population as a group of individuals that conform to a common and specific criterion (1997). This study’s population was based on 2016 data provided by the California Department of Education (CDE) (2014). In the CDE report, Latino students made up 51.4% of high school-age children in California and 74.6% of those in Monterey County, where this study was conducted.  According to an additional report, only 34.6% percent of Monterey County Latino students completed college preparatory courses (Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, 2015).  As a result of the data provided, the researcher determined that Latino Central Coast high school students in advanced classes is an appropriate population from which to select the study’s sample to examine the role that culture plays as a perceived barrier to success in passing AP exams and meeting a-g eligibility.

                                                                   Sample Population              The purpose of determining a sample is to gain information about the population (McMillian & Schumacher, 2001). The sample from which the data was collected was Latino students participating in advanced classes at a California Central Coast (Monterey County) high school. Students were in their senior year of high school and had taken a previous Advanced Placement exam on which they scored a 3 or less.

To gather an appropriate sample, the researcher used purposeful sampling (Creswell, 2013), which met the researcher’s criteria since “in purposeful sampling the researcher selects particular elements from the population that are representative or informative about the topic of interest” (McMillan & Schumacher, 2010, p. 138). Both the target population and the selected sample had similar characteristics. The sample was selected based on the researcher’s familiarity with the target population and the sample that was best informed about the role of culture as a perceived barrier to Latino students’ passing the AP exam and meeting a-g eligibility.

The researcher eliminated from this study the school at which she was previously employed to avoid data collection from known subjects and thus reduce potential bias.

Table ___   Characteristics of Participating School


                                         California Central Coast High School


Location         Monterey County

Grades Served                   9-12

Enrollment                   553

Free/Reduced Lunch                68.17%

Hispanic/Latino                46.65%

English Language Learners                  9.76%

Programs                                Dual Enrollment­­­­­­__________________

Note. Data retrieved from Monterey Peninsula Unified School District’s Illuminate data system, 2016                                                 


Strong qualitative inquiry involves successfully gathering, focusing, and analyzing the data (Lofland, Snow, Anderson, & Lofland, 2006). The instruments used to gather the data are of great importance in providing the researcher with sufficient and in-depth data for analysis. This section discusses the tools the researcher used to collect data and the validity, reliability, and inter-coder reliability of the instruments (2006). The instrumentation in this study was designed with an informal, interactive protocol using semi-structured interview questions (Creswell, 2004; Patton, 2002). Semi-structured interview questions allowed the researcher to discover new questions, probe, and seek clarification as a part of the inquiry journey (Patton, 2002). Each focus group was asked six interview questions within a scheduled timeframe not to exceed 45 minutes. Follow-up questions were individual and open-ended to encourage expanded emotional reactions to subject’s experiences as warranted. The researcher used an observation log for collecting and edifying field notes.

After collecting data, the researcher examined it repeatedly to gain a better understanding of participants’ perceptions. The researcher acted as the ethnographer to gather, analyze, and interpret the data.

Researcher as Instrument

In an ethnographic study, the researcher represents and interprets the data, makes meaning of the participants’ experiences, and convinces the reader that what the researcher has seen and heard has more depth than the text (Fetterman, 2010).

Expert Panel as Instrument

To improve this study’s validity, educational researchers who were familiar with the crisis in under-represented Latino students in advanced classes, reviewed the interview instrument. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and reviewed with participants to ensure accuracy and to ensure that the researcher captured the participants’ intent. Additionally, two doctoral colleagues coded interviews to ensure inter-coder agreement, which requires that “coders are able to reconcile through discussion whatever coding discrepancies they may have for the same unit of text” (Morrissey 1974, pp. 214-15).

Test as Instrument

The researcher conducted a test interview to determine the extent that the measure related to the outcome. The goals of the test interview were to increase the likelihood of success by providing insights about the instrument’s design for the researcher. A test was an important part of the research project and was conducted to identify potential problem areas and deficiencies in the research instrument before full implementation. It also helped the researcher become familiar with the protocol procedure. Testing the measurement instrument (interview) also ensured that the interview questions accurately addressed the research questions and provided a measurement for validity. The test interview was conducted with a Brandman University doctoral student and a recent doctoral graduate from San Jose State University. The same interview questions used in the test were used with each focus group to heighten validity.

When conducting a qualitative study, the researcher must reveal any potential bias when determining internal validity, reveal the participants’ role, the researcher’s background, the object of the research, and how the results will be used (Orb, Eisenbuaer, & Wynaden, 2001). Here it should be noted that the researcher was employed previously as a principal with the Central Coast school district in which the study was conducted. However, the specific school in which the researcher served was excluded from the study to avoid contact with Latino students with whom the researcher was familiar. The researcher spent the last 25 years in education, as a classroom teacher, a high school assistant principal, and a high school principal. At the time the study was conducted, the researcher was retired from the school district.

Cultural Informant as Instrument

The researcher selected a cultural informant from among the participants to prevent misunderstandings between the researcher and participants. The cultural information provided an important view from a cultural perspective to assist both the researcher in understanding the cultural norms accessed by the participants in their answers to questions and the participants if a question was asked that they had difficulty understanding.

The cultural informant was qualified as someone who had taken an AP course at the school site of the study, was familiar with the target group, and understood the role of culture in Latino Central Coast high school students’ academic success.                                                         Validity               Validity refers to an instrument measuring what it is intended to measure (Patton, 2002). Interview questions were selected as the instrument and were reviewed by a researcher, expert in the field of ethnographic studies, specifically to give feedback on the quality of the questions, questions that could be answered within the scheduled timeframe, and that would encourage authentic responses from the participants. The researcher participated in test interviews practicing and developing interview skills, so the protocol would be more meaningful and less scripted, thus increasing their validity and relevance. McMillan and Schumacher (2010) further explain validity as the “congruence between the explanation of the phenomena and the realities of the world” (p. 330). Validity can be improved as a result of congruence, especially when it determines whether the research truly measures that which it was intended to measure (Golafshami, p. 599).

Reliability                   A test that yields stable and consistent results are considered reliable (Patton, 2015). During the entirety of the interview and observation process, the researcher gained a clear understanding of the perspectives and cultural interpretations from each subject’s experiences that helped explain the role of culture as a perceived barrier to Latino students academic success in passing the AP exam and meeting a-g eligibility. Further, the researcher chose a methodology that would ensure reliability through data collection from interviews and observations. Reliability was enhanced by detailed observation field notes, using a high-quality recording device for interviews, and transcribing frequently, immediately following the observations and interviews with specific notations describing body language, pauses, and facial expressions (Creswell, 2013). Although reliability does not ensure validity, reliability is crucial to establishing a valid study (Neuendorf, 2002). A comprehensive review of all data was achieved by triangulating the data collected and dividing the coding among coders.                                                                                                                                            Internal Reliability.  Internal reliability  relies on consistency of the data collection, data analysis, and interpretation. The important question is would another researcher reviewing the data come to the same conclusions? In this study, the researcher used triangulation techniques from interviews and observations that strengthen the internal reliability (Creswell, 2013).

  External Reliability. External reliability considers the research design to determine if it is generalizable to a larger population. Transferability in qualitative research is synonymous with generalizability. Although a small sample often found in qualitative studies cannot assure generalizability, it may provide enough authentic data for transferability. According to Lincoln & Guba, “It is not the [researcher’s] task to provide an index of transferability, it is his or her responsibility to provide the database that makes transferability judgments possible on the part of potential appliers” (1985, p. 316).

Establishing criteria for transferability is difficult in qualitative research; nevertheless, Lincoln and Guba (2010) recommend providing thick descriptions of the phenomenon, a technique used by qualitative researchers. “Specifically, thick description is a technique in which a qualitative researcher provides a robust and detailed account of their experiences during data collection” (2010, p. 8). A qualitative researcher makes explicit connections to the cultural and social contexts that surround data collection. This means talking about where the interviews occurred, when the participants participated in the interviews, and other data collection details that help provide a more robust understanding of the natural environment of the study.

Although the goal of a qualitative, ethnographic study is not to generalize its findings, providing the information could help the reader determine the relevancy of the environment, circumstances that surround the research study, and any implicit biases that may have affected the subjects’ responses. Understanding the cultural context of the overall school environment in which the research was conducted allows other researchers and readers to determine the validity of transferability to their schools’ Latino students in advanced classes.

Intercoder Reliability. Intercoder reliability relies on coding agreement among multiple coders (Creswell, 2013). The researcher gathered two Ed.D. students and one recent conferred graduate, who established a list of potential codes under which to classify information. After the primary classifications were completed using the major codes, the coders gathered again to look at the broad themes and determine if there was consistency or the need to break down the themes further until agreement was reached. After the interview transcriptions were coded, the researcher used NVivo, a qualitative analysis software coding program, to establish the clusters (nodes) of the data (

Data Collection

Data was gathered on Latino California Central Coast high school students in advanced classes through a dual lens. First, the researcher gathered data from two small focus groups on the role of culture as a perceived barriers in passing the AP exams and meeting a-g, followed by individual interviews as needed. Data collection took place at one California Central Coast high school in Monterey County between September and November during regular school hours.

The district’s superintendent served as the researcher’s sponsor throughout the Brandman University enrollment period, thus was familiar with the study. The researcher contacted the principal by email and telephone to request participation. Upon approval, two meetings were scheduled with the school’s principal to discuss and schedule the content of and dates for the meetings with students. The researcher and principal clarified the role of students in the sample and determined how teachers would be notified of their students’ participation, the interview, and observation schedules, and the average time students would participate. The researcher requested testing schedules to ensure sensitivity toward time constraints on students before and during planned test review and administration.

Types of Data

In order to increase the study’s validity, the researcher used multiple sources of data. “Researchers locate evidence to document a code or theme in different sources of data for the purpose of triangulating information…” (Creswell, 2013, p. 250). Using focus group interviews, individual interviews, and observations broadened the scope and gave meaning to the study, while aligning to its purpose. Specifically, the purpose of the study was to examine the role of culture as a perceived barrier for Latino students in passing the AP exam and meeting a-g eligibility.

Interviews. Some participants’ experiences may be unclear and difficult for them to articulate. To help address their possible uncertainties, the study included multiple semi-structured interview questions that allowed the participant to explore their thoughts mostly uninterrupted, with some guidance. Captured in distinct sessions that enabled participants and the researcher to gain perspective and context, the researcher focused first on the participants’ life history within the topic of the study and specifically the role of culture in meeting academic success. In a second session, participants responded to questions that were explicit about experiences in taking the AP exam and meeting a-g eligibility and what role their culture played as a perceived barrier to success. If necessary, additional interview questions were designed to give the participant time to reflect and clarify their perceptions. This design provided appropriate time for participants to reconstruct their experiences as well time to reflect. The timing and increasing depth of thought converted possible obscurity into focus, bringing “nearness to that which tends to evade the intelligibility of our natural attitude of everyday life” (van Manen, 1990, p. 32) allowing the researcher to ponder more deeply on the cultural connections to the subjects’ experiences.  During this study, reflecting on and understanding the role of culture as a perceived barrier that impacted Latino students’ academic success was an integral part of the process for the researcher, herself, to make sense of their experiences.

Observations. In addition to interviews, the researcher also gathered data through an indirect method of close observations. The data was collected during the regular school day. The goal was to add interview data to the collection and triangulate the data and add to the study’s validity. The researcher observed the target group in advanced classes on three occasions during lectures, group work, and assessment. The schedule for observations was determined with both principal and teacher input and approval. Field notes were collected during each observation using a technological note-taking system, dated, and timed by activity. In doing so, the “researcher becomes a gatherer of anecdotes, developing a keen sense of the cogency that the anecdotes carry with [them]” (van Manen, 1990, p. 69). Using anecdotal information also allows the researcher to record personal reactions to student behaviors and interactions (Creswell, 2013).

Data Collection Procedures

Before the researcher began data collection, the research method and instruments were evaluated and approved by the Brandman University Institutional Review Board (BUIRB; Appendix___ ). The researcher protected all participants’ rights by following the IRB rules and regulations. Following both verbal and written agreements from the school principal to participate in the ethnographical study, the school’s principal contacted potential participants to discuss the purpose and their involvement in the study. The procedures were outlined into three distinct categories: focus group interviews, individual interviews, and observations.

Preparation for data collection. The researcher used the following steps during the planning process:

1. The researcher shared the study’s purpose with the district superintendent and the school site principal in May 2017 in face-to-face meetings.

2. The researcher requested use of subjects from a specific site as a potential sample for the study.

3. A draft calendar was presented for discussion and revision, if necessary.  In August 2017, a revised version was sent through email under separate cover to school site principal. Along with calendar, the researcher also sent a summary of conversations with both superintendent and school site principal.

4. August – September 2017. Hard copies of consent forms were hand-delivered to the school site, followed up with emailed electronic copies to school site principal. The researcher and the site principal viewed several possible locations for the researcher to conduct interviews until they decided on one that provided privacy, easy access, and warmth.

5. Researcher met with potential subjects before the scheduled interviews began. During the initial meeting, the subjects were given opportunities to ask clarifying questions.

6. The study described its value and intended purpose in discovering the role of culture as perceived barrier to academic success in passing AP exam and meeting a-g eligibility.

7. The researcher collected signed forms from potential subjects and thanked them for their assistance.

Interviews. After the preparation steps, distribution, and the return of consents were

completed, between September and November 2017, the researcher conducted interviews using the following steps:

1. Before participating in the study, all participants received research invitation letter

that provided an overview of study with the detailed outline of purpose and procedures (Appendix__ ).

2. Participants provided with researcher’s contact information that invited them to ask questions through email or telephone.

3. Each participant, who completed participation in the study, was given a $10 MYO Yogurt Shop gift card.

4. Each participant was given an interview schedule that provided for 72-hour notice.

The researcher also scheduled 24-hour email and text reminders for each participant  (Appendix__).

5. The researcher conducted interview data collection with audio recording.

6. The researcher sent interview audio recordings to professional for transcription.

7. The researcher reviewed transcriptions when they were returned.

8. The researcher reviewed transcriptions with participants to ensure accuracy.

9. The researcher scheduled follow-up interviews with participants deemed necessary.

10. The researcher conducted follow-up interviews as needed.

11. The researcher provided a secure e-file for each interview created individual coded identification to ensure security and privacy for all participants.

On the day of interviews, the researcher met each of the two focus groups, reviewed the research data collection protocol, and confirmed that all consent forms were signed and returned (Appendix__), including consent to be audiotaped during the interviews. Additionally, the consent form reviewed potential risks and benefits of participation in the interview process. Protocols were followed for all participants through the use of uniform instructions (Appendix__). The researcher stored the signed consent forms in a secure location. The researcher explained that participation was voluntary, participants’ names would remain anonymous, and that participants could take breaks as needed.

The researcher maintained an electronic journal throughout the interview process to document reflections and insights. Once the interviews were completed, participants were thanked and reminded that they would be provided with a copy of the completed transcription for their review.

Observations. Observations were conducted from September – October 2017. The following procedures were adhered to for conducting the observations:

1. The researcher provided a research study invitation letter to the prospective teachers


2. The researcher set up an observation schedule in collaboration with the school site’s                teachers with which participants study in the AP courses.

3. The researcher provided teachers with contact information and invited them to ask questions through email or telephone.

4. Each participant was given 24-hours notice prior to the observation to confirm  participants’ school attendance (Appendix__).

5. The researcher conducted the observations (Appendix__).

6. The researcher conducted scheduled follow-up observations when needed (Appendix__).

7. The researcher reviewed the field notes, and maintained secure, individually coded e-files to ensure security and privacy.

Participants were observed in their natural environment (class setting) during regular school hours. Each observation period was scheduled for no more than 30 minutes, during which the researcher remained alert to nuances that could provide additional insights that Latino Central Coast high school students at the school site perceived as the role that culture played as a perceived barriers to their academic success.

The researcher collected data in the form of notes on the classroom environment, dialogue between students, between students and teacher, as well as among students in collaborative groups. The researcher paid particular attention to emerging themes after gathering the material and reflecting. “Sometimes the best anecdotes are re-collected as one tries to make sense of things that somehow seem interesting now, in hindsight” (van Manen, 1990, p. 69).



Data Coding and Analysis

Data coding and analysis are processes of organizing, structuring, analyzing, and in general, making sense of data. The analysis phase results from coding data into units of meaning (topics) and then grouping them into larger clusters to determine recurring themes  (McMillan & Schumacher, 2010) to make sense of a cultural norm or a groups’ experience. Working with collected data includes developing theories and making connections (Glesne, 2016). In this study, data collection took place at a specific school site where the researcher conducted observations simultaneously to searching for meaning from the participants’ stories. Considering and analyzing both processes together allowed the researcher to focus and shape the study as it proceeded, “thus accessing and analyzing the perspectives of several members of the same social group about some phenomena can suggest some cul­tural patterns of thought and action for that group as a whole” (2016, p. 9).

Data Coding

After each visit, the researcher organized and sorted data. Coding data accurately requires the researcher to spend time with the data – reviewing, reading, skimming, and rereading it to see the themes emerging Creswell (2012). The process requires deep reflection. In this study, recordings from interviews were transcribed and sorted after each interview session. The next step in the protocol and to begin understanding the data was to complete the coding using NVivo, a qualitative software program. The researcher found a “word or short phrase that symbolically assigndc a summative, salient, essence-capturing, and evocative attribute for a portion of language-based or visual data” (Saldana, 2016, p. 4).  Further, interviews and observations were scanned and reviewed several times to determine recurring themes. The researcher repeated the process and engaged the assistance of two other research students to increase the study’s validity. The nature of an ethnographic study allows the researcher to move between data gathering and coding throughout the analysis. Although the NVivo provided a management system for organizing the data, the researcher made the final determinations regarding patterns and themes that emerged after a careful review of the inter-coded data.

Data Analysis

To support a theme, it needed to be reinforced by data from multiple sources. Triangulation of data, which is an approach where the researcher used multiple methods of data collection to seek a convergence of results (Creswell, 1994), followed the initial reviews. For this reason, interviews and observations were collected. Evaluating multiple resources strengthened

the research, ultimately leading to more definitive conclusions. Findings were positioned

into a matrix to explore patterns and relationships that emerged between the school sites.


A limitation is a potential weakness of the study (Creswell, 1994). Multiple limitations were considered in evaluating conclusions during this research study. Understanding how students of a single culture perceive it as a barrier that impacted their academic success requires a consistent sample to consider the connection between cultural norms and academic success by passing the AP exam and meeting a-g eligibility. The sample size and maturity of the participants was a potentially limiting factor. Additionally, the researcher is familiar with district’s student data reports as a result of having been an administrator previously employed the same district.  Measures were taken to minimize risks in those regards.

Researcher Bias

When the researcher is an instrument of a study, bias exists in the interpretation of data.

The researcher designed the research questions were noted and interpreted observations, and search for recurring themes. were noted and interpreted by the researcher. The researcher did not include in the study participants from the school site of prior employment. Although procedures were enacted and followed to limit bias, there remained potential for research bias.

Participant Bias

Participant responses were evaluated based on their academic experiences, cultural experiences, and maturity. For example, participants could have been uncomfortable responding to questions about their cultural and academic experiences to a researcher with whom they were unfamiliar. As a result, it is possible that participants did not offer the full perceptions of their experiences. Responses were also limited to participants’ recollection of events and their willingness to share them.

Reducing Limitations

To reduce the effects of potential limitations, the researcher made every attempt

to cause participants to feel comfortable communicating. The school site principal and researcher located a warm, inviting space for interviews and gathered beforehand to provide an opportunity to meet each other. The researcher provided time for participants to ask clarifying questions to ease any anxiety regarding their participation in the study. Additionally, to avoid over familiarity with participants, the researcher excluded a school site in the district where the researcher was previously employed. Another delimiting factor was addressed by collecting data from interviews and observations giving the researcher data for multiple methods triangulation. To further avoid

bias, an additional researcher was used to review interview questions, data coding, and theme analysis.


The purpose of this ethnographical study was to examine and describe the role of culture in the lives of five Latino Central Coast high school students with a focus on perceived barriers to academic success that result in achieving a passing score on the AP exam. The study also examines the role of culture as a perceived barrier that hinders Latino students from meeting college entry eligibility criteria. This chapter reviews the study’s research questions as well as provides the rationale for using the research method selected. It describes the procedures, provides an explanation of the sampling techniques used in the study and data collected and used to outline the description, and finally, the procedures used to analyze the data collected. An ethnographical approach is described as a design that places an emphasis on understanding the meaning experiences have for the persons studied in one common group, which explains their perspectives and behaviors (Patton, 2015).

Use of this methodology allowed this researcher to collect descriptive information about a particular school’s population, explore the role of culture as a perceived barrier that hindered Latino Central Coast high school students in passing the AP exam and meeting a-g eligibility.


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