The orientation curriculum in a community college: An interpretive approach

Patricia A Gutierrez-Hartell, University of Texas at El Paso


This study focused on curriculum used in a community college orientation program classroom where most of the students were Hispanic. Curriculum for the purpose of student orientation has become an essential tool for increasing student retention rates at institutions of higher education (Hendel, 2007; National Research Council Publications, 2009). While the objectives of orientation courses and their curricula have been documented, not much is known about how these objectives unfold in classrooms, particularly in classrooms serving Hispanic students. Qualitative inquiry was the basis for my study. I relied on an ethnographic approach to conduct research that involved gathering data by observing the routine ways in which people make sense of their everyday life (Spindler & Spindler, 1987). Given that I was interested in what and how a professor and students produced as a local version of an orientation course curriculum, how they enacted the curriculum in practice, and with what outcomes, qualitative inquiry using an ethnographic approach was appropriate for my study. To gain an understanding of the meaning imposed on curriculum in a particular classroom, I examined the three layers that constituted the curriculum in total: the formal curriculum, the enacted curriculum, and the experienced curriculum (Glatthorn, Boschee & Whitehead, 2005; Mendez, 2006; Page, 1991). What the curriculum says should be taught and how it gets taught in the classroom along with what the student hears, learns, and creates are almost always very different things (Sizer, 1999).

Subject Area

Community college education|Curriculum development|Hispanic American studies|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Gutierrez-Hartell, Patricia A, "The orientation curriculum in a community college: An interpretive approach" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3525765.