Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Linda Silvernail


Canonical literature is typically featured on the required texts list of secondary English classes while culturally relevant literature is frequently eschewed. Students struggle to understand and connect with the canonical literature as there are limited cultural connections that are relevant to their lives. As a result of this lack of culturally relevant literature in modern English curriculums, there has been a decrease in student engagement. The purpose of this study was to determine whether students’ engagement and their academic performance increased through the inclusion of these culturally relevant texts. Two research questions guided this study: (1) What effect does the inclusion of culturally relevant literature have on student engagement? (2) How does pairing culturally relevant texts with canonical texts affect students’ academic success? This action research study utilized a convergent, mixed methods experimental design approach and included 91 student participants who were taking either English 2 Honors or English 2 College Prep classes at a suburban high school in the southeastern region of the United States. Participants engaged in an intervention unit study that paired a canonical text and a culturally relevant text; data was collected through pre- and post-intervention surveys, summative scores, weekly exit slips, and observations. The results of the study indicated that the use of culturally relevant texts had a positive impact on both student engagement and, to a lesser degree, student achievement. Following a review of the data analysis, implications and recommendations for future research are discussed.


© 2024, Katherine Burdick Ramp