«A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education in the Graduate Division of ...»
Mann’s students have practiced with these tape recorders in this room in order to reduce the strangeness of the situation. Today, these students are met with one oral exam that seems fairly familiar, responding to a friend’s telephone invitation to meet for dinner at a local restaurant, La vaca loca. However, the other oral task, the short speech, must be based on two readings about the history of Spanish as a language, and one audio text, entitled Español: Una lengua mestiza, a radio interview of a linguist who discusses her relationship to the Spanish language, and her career as a linguist, the honors she has received. An observer might be left pondering whether these students have ever heard about or discussed the history of the Spanish language, linguistics or linguists before in their Spanish classes? How could their Spanish Language 4 AP class possibly prepare them for the range of topics they might be tested on during the exam? How will the Spanish Language AP teachers who will grade the exams in June receive their efforts?
What does such decontextualized language production say about these students’ abilities to engage in other discourse in Spanish? It would seem that the student with the widest range of language experience, the longest exposure to written and spoken Spanish would be the one who would dominate this test.
Despite the challenging and perplexing nature of the exam, the former Spanish Immersion students leave the exam fairly confident, if a bit bemused by the topics they had to read, write and speak about. One of them comments that she was glad she at least recognized that one of the major readings for the essay had to do with “red tides” and not butterflies as one of her friends thought, a friend who had not been through the immersion program. In general, they seem upbeat about how the test went, though they confess not knowing very well how to deal with the final oral topic, what the readings, and especially the audio text was really about. But later in the summer, most of these students will hear that they have passed the AP exam with a score of 4 or 5, enough to get them college credit that will allow them at many colleges to pass out of any further language study requirements.
But Mr. Mann’s time with these students is not over yet; they still have a month or more of class to go and he will provide them with another culminating activity for the course. Together they will read La casa de Bernarda Alba, by 20th Century Spanish poet and playwright, Federico García Lorca. This will be their longest reading all year, though they have read short stories, poetry and essays earlier. For former Spanish Immersion students, who during their elementary and middle school years regularly read multiple novels, memoirs, and non-fiction books in Spanish, and write extensively about them, reading a play does not present too much of a challenge. Day-by-day, in short sections, Mr. Mann guides the class through the reading, asking questions, explaining terms, interpreting characters’ behavior, in an engaging academic discussion, and following each section with the corresponding portion of a film version of the play, the sort of discourse and activities one might imagine in a college literature course.
In his practice, Mr. Mann, one of the former Spanish Immersion students’ favorite high school teachers, seems unaware of the differences in experience the former TWI students have had from the other students in his course. He knows that a couple of them, from Argentine and Venezuelan families, practice bilingualism at home, but he is not aware of several others of his former immersion students. They don’t seem to stand out in his thinking as having different needs or experiences, nor do they seem to be identified to the other students, as having resources the other students could benefit from. In one of his classes, twin Mexican-origin students, Mateo and Marcos, graduating seniors, have not been identified as former immersion students by the end of April, and when they are, Mr. Mann expresses surprise. Earlier in her high school career, Vanessa, now a sophomore, was approached by Mr. Mann as a good candidate for his Spanish-forSpanish-speakers class. When she realized that the course was aimed at Spanishspeaking students with little or no literacy experience in the language, she declined, inasmuch as she perceived she would have to “start all over again” in instruction in reading and writing in Spanish. Even by the end of the school year, Mr. Mann had not identified her as having been through the Spanish immersion experience. Mr. Mann’s main point of reference with regards to former SI students is their parents’ desire to see them enter Spanish 4 AP as freshmen, something Mr. Mann discourages, and which has caused significant conflict in the past. He knows well the former SI students whose parents have advocated their early entry into the course. And one wonders why he sees these students, who seem to pass the AP exam in consistently high proportion, as not fitting into the course until they are at least sophomores. His explanation is developmental; they are not ready for the sophistication of the material they will be presented or for the sort of synthesis expected of their writing efforts. But others might say they are not prepared in other ways, that their SI experience has left them with gaps in their language development, gaps that should have been addressed during their upper elementary or middle school education.
Two Learning Settings, Two Ideologies
The differences that stand out between the Midville 5th grade Spanish Immersion elementary school class, and the high school Spanish Language AP class draw attention to historical tensions over the nature of language learning and the question of language use in this program. In this study I will explore the differences between the two learning settings, two activity systems, to try to understand the sources of the tensions that have occupied much of the conversation and educational efforts of parents, teachers, administrators in the Midville School District. To try to understand the effects of the tensions on students, I will examine the trajectory of Spanish Immersion students’ experience of language learning and use as they move from the culmination of their elementary TWI experience, toward their traditional high school World Language2 courses, represented by the Spanish Language AP course. During the period of this study, the historical tensions in this program erupted into a crisis during which the middle school segment of the program was put on hiatus so that the district could engage in a prolonged program review and reform of the middle school segment. Using data from program review meetings, I will examine the process of program review, the ideologies (beliefs) about language learning and use that emerged among all the constituent members of the program, and the sources of continued impact de facto language policies on the program. I will employ Cultural Historical Activity Theory as an analytical tool to consider the differences between the activity systems represented by the elementary and high school settings, as well as to consider the possibilities for and obstacles to the achievement of expansive learning in the activity of program reform. As in any language education setting, both overt and covert language policy play a role in the shape that language learning takes. This study will consider the impact of both overt attempts to affect language policy and covert forms of language policy on students’ language learning and use.
Review of Literature
In this review, I will theorize how and where to look for de facto language policy in Two-Way Immersion (TWI) programs, focusing on specific language policy models (Spolsky 2004) and theorized mechanisms of language policy (Shohamy, 2004) and argue that using Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a framework can aid in further defining what those mechanisms may be in a TWI classroom and program. But first I will review literature related to specific areas of study pertaining to TWI education.
Two-Way Immersion Language Education Characteristics of TWI education: Dual language or elite immersion education?
Two-way immersion (TWI) or dual language education programs distinguish themselves from other types of language education programs by their use of two target languages as the mediums for instruction in all the major curricular areas characteristic of monolingual schooling. Language arts, social studies, math, science, art, even music and physical education may be conducted in two languages, one of which is English, the other of which is most frequently Spanish or Chinese in the U.S. TWI education differs from both Foreign Language in Elementary Schools (FLES), aimed at teaching a second, foreign language to elementary school students, and traditional bilingual education, often What I refer to in this study as “World Language” education might traditionally be referred to as “Foreign” or “Modern” Language education. Though the origins of the use of the term is not clear, in recent years several Western U.S. states (Alaksa, California, Colorado, among them) have adopted the term for their efforts to instruct students in languages other than English to better represent the global social realities of the languages being learned.
aimed at transitioning non-English-dominant students to English-only education, a subtractive model of bilingualism. (Lindholm-Leary, 2001) suggests that a two-way immersion program is a form of dual language education, whose aim is to provide the opportunity for English speakers “to learn a second language through immersion, with the added advantage of using the language with, and learning about the culture from, target-language speakers” (p. 30). For minority language-dominant students, TWI can represent an additive model of bilingual education, encouraging development of academic language and school literacies in both target languages. Lindholm-Leary prefers the name “dual language” and suggests that the term “immersion” is used “to affiliate [a program] with enrichment or elitist programs” as well as to “de-emphasize the ‘bilingual’ nature of the program because of the political connotations of bilingual education as compensatory or lower quality education program” (p. 30). These dual language programs also differ from other types of bilingual or immersion education programs in their student composition: “In dual language programs, English-dominant and target-language-dominant students are purposefully integrated with the goals of developing bilingual skills, academic excellence, and positive cross-cultural and personal competency” (p. 30). However, Lindholm-Leary also points to the existence of what she calls “elite” programs that do not serve a “diverse population” of students.
Further, various models of TWI education apportion different amounts of time spent in either language over the course of a school day/week, year, and from year-toyear. One model is the 50/50 model… But the model which Lindholm-Leary and (Howard & Sugarman, 2007) most affirm, and which (Thomas & Collier, 2002) point to as the most effective in aiding academic achievement of all its students, is the 90/10 model, in which language immersion begins with Kindergarten and 1st Grade classes dedicating approximately 90% of their school day to learning through the target second language (Spanish, Mandarin, etc.). As students proceed through the grades to the end of their elementary school experience, the amount of time spent learning in the target second language is reduced by 10% each year, until 5th grade when, in theory, students are spending an equal amount of time in each language. In this model, literacy in English is delayed until second or third grade in order to focus on developing literacy in the target minority language. By the end of 5th or 6th grade, TWI students have accumulated a significant amount of experience in learning in the full array of academic subject areas in two languages, have read many books, both for pleasure and academic purposes, have produced many types or genres of written work, have participated in many classroom discussions about a range of topics, belonging to both personal/social and academic domains. By some definitions of the term, they have become bilingual3.
As (Myers-Scotton, 2006) and (Wei, 2000) point out, though we use the terms “bilingual” and “bilingualism” to refer generally to individuals or groups who know and/or use two languages on a regular basis, what is meant by those terms is open to interpretation. As I will discuss in Chapters 3, 4 and 5, individuals will have different definitions of these terms, often referring to what it means to be “truly” bilingual, implying the possibility of varying degrees of bilingualism. Definitions of bilingualism, then, are often influenced by the variations in language beliefs and ideologies individuals hold about language learning and use.
Recent research into four model TWI programs and schools (Howard & Sugarman, 2007) revealed that several qualities characterize the most effective TWI programs. These programs promote bilingualism through developing a culture of intellectualism, which includes a “commitment to ongoing learning,” to “collaboration and the exchange of ideas,” to the “fostering of independence,” and to the “promotion of higher order thinking” (pp. 82-83). They also encourage a culture of equity that values and protects time spent in the minority language, includes students with special needs, addresses the needs of English-dominant and minority language-dominant students in a balanced way, and fosters an appreciation of the multiple cultures represented in the classroom. Finally, these successful schools develop a culture of leadership, challenging teachers, administrators and students alike to take initiative in their own learning, make public presentations, respond to the needs of others, and build consensus and share leadership.
Many proponents of TWI education see it as having potential to produce students well on their way to becoming bilingual and biliterate, whether they entered as Englishdominant or minority language-dominant students. However, few TWI students have the opportunity to continue with this model of language and literacy acquisition into secondary school, so that potential is limited. Later in this review, I will discuss secondary language education for TWI students as a language policy question.
Growth of number of TWI programs nationwide.