Acting to learn: The place of performance in university retention for African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos

Linda Piper Price
Native American Studies, University of New Mexico
July, 2005


The purpose of this research is to examine how performance in the arts effects college admission, success, and retention for African Americans, Native Americans and Latino students. For the purposes of the study, the arts are defined as a performative act of culture. The fields of inquiry investigated are: culture and performance, acting and learning, aesthetics and artistic production. This study also examines the cultural indicator used to identify at-risk students; the nature of institutional education; the social and emotional lives of the students while attending school; choice, freedom, and identity in academic study; motivation and self-regulated learning and the empowering and transforming aspect of the arts.
The study was conducted primarily during the Fall 2003 and Spring 2004 school terms. A survey in the Spring of 2003 was given to a random sampling of fifty students from the target groups. Seven students were selected from those completed surveys for the study---three African-Americans, two Native Americans and two Latinos. Another group of six students in the target cultures were interviewed once for the purpose of triangulation. I completed the group as researcher-participant bringing the total number of actors in the study to fourteen. All participants currently attend or have attended Southwestern University in New Mexico. This research follows an arts-based qualitative methodology called 'portraiture.' This methodology captures the reflective nature of the arts to magnify human understanding and focuses the study on participant expertise. Acting to Learn explores the roles the arts play in the successful education of people from these three cultures and as a means of self-advocacy at university.