«A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education in the Graduate Division of ...»
Through these examinations of the activities of program review and curriculum development, I will argue that the Subjects who form part of an activity system will have different perceptions of the Object of that system, and each Subject’s understanding of the Object/Goal depends upon not only discussions of the Object/Goal with other members of the activity system, but their individual prior experiences and their ideologies (beliefs, world views) related to the system. The Subjects and their different perceptions of the Object of an activity can inhibit resolution of the problem they are addressing, with the learning necessary to resolve it. The Tools used in the activity, specifically language Tools, can also inhibit expansive learning, if they represent unexamined frames that poorly represent the actual problem and solutions to it. While Engestrom (1999) points to the possibility that expansive learning in an activity system can lead to new thinking, new ideologies, in contrast, I will argue that old thinking, old ideologies based on prior experience, or close alignment with a particular Community can lead to failure in an expansive learning cycle, even when all the Subjects involved express a desire for change and even a belief that they have successfully achieved the Object of their activity system.
The Activity of Program Review: Multiple Activity Systems Representing Multiple Communities The Midville Spanish Immersion Program Review represented a clear activity system, in which the object was presumably to understand the nature of the conflict that led to the suspension of the middle school element of the SI Program, and to consider the problems that needed resolving in order to reinstate the middle school SI Program. As I indicated above, the Subjects of the Program Review activity had been selected from each of the Communities considered stakeholders within the program, and brought with them the values and concerns of their respective Communities (Figure 5.1). As I will discuss later in the chapter, in order to understand the Object of the activity of Program Review, and to achieve that Object in a way that satisfied all the Subjects involved, the group used various Tools, including documents relating to the history of the SI Program, information about language assessment, discussions during their Program Review meetings (language, including metaphors), and a final report to the superintendent. As the activity of Program Review came to a close, as I will discuss later in the chapter, a new activity, the development of a new curricular model for the middle school Spanish Immersion 6th and 7th grade classes, took place.
Multiple Communities in Program Review: Conflicting Objects Among Subjects Considering the fact that the Midville Spanish Immersion Program had spanned two school sites, an elementary and middle school, and taking into account the role that the Midville High School World Language Department played in the Program Review, and in the academic lives of former Spanish Immersion students, I viewed the Program Review as involving multiple activity systems (See Appendix Q). The activity system of Spanish Immersion, as we saw in Chapter 3, involved a model of language learning and use that emphasized language as a medium of instruction, while the activity system of high school AP Spanish Language class focused on traditional World Language models of language learning and use, including those represented by the AP course and exam.
As I discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, the goals (or Objects) of these two educational models differed, as did the language beliefs and ideologies of the teachers. As Appendix Q indicates, both the elementary Spanish Immersion activity system and the high school World Language activity system, through their representative Subjects in the Program Review activity, exerted pressure on the middle school Spanish Immersion program during and after the middle school Program Review.
Members of each of these activity systems, and their constituent communities, were involved to varying degrees in the activity of program review in an effort to involve all the stakeholders in programmatic change. Representatives of each group of stakeholders attended the series of meetings, as represented by Appendix D, a map of the meeting room on 11/6/08, the second of three meetings of all stakeholder groups, at which the largest number of stakeholders were in attendance. Members of all three educational settings, as well as district administrators, representatives of the parent association, and a university consultant familiar with the program’s history, were all present. These individuals represented sometimes their school setting, sometimes another Community, whether parental or professional, sometimes both. Often the school setting to which a member belonged coincided with membership in a professional community as noted in Appendix R. Generally, the professional Communities to which school district participants belonged broke down along the lines of Elementary Two-Way Immersion Education, Secondary World Language Education, and general Middle School Education.
As will emerge in the following discussions of each of the Communities and the Subjects representing them, the Elementary TWI Education Community and the Secondary World Language Education Community had been engaged in a struggle over the nature of the middle school Spanish Immersion program for several years, and that struggle had been manifest in the middle school 7th and 8th grade Spanish Immersion classes, as well as at the moment of students rising to high school Spanish Language classes. 25
Community 1: Midville Elementary School/Two-Way Immersion education.
While multiple representatives from Midville Elementary School and its Spanish Immersion program were included in the list of program review participants given out at the first meeting, none of these representatives were present at the first two planning meetings. In fact, all of the program review meetings from September to December 2008 had been planned for Tuesday afternoons, the day for regularly scheduled faculty meetings at Midville Elementary School. Not even the principal, Mr. Foster, was able to attend the whole of the meetings, and when elementary representatives did attend, they arrived late. After one of the program review meetings adjourned, Ms. Fisher held the elementary representatives, along with a few others, to review what they had missed earlier in the afternoon. During the weeks surrounding the planning meetings, Mr. Bell, Director of Secondary Education, and Supervisor of World Language instruction, had been charged with meeting with the elementary participants to discuss the review process and inform them of plans. He was called on in program review meetings to report on his meetings with them.
The decision to schedule meetings for the Program Review group on days when the elementary Spanish Immersion teachers and Mr. Foster had previously scheduled staff meetings was surprising, and gave the impression from the beginning that this Community was not as highly valued in the Program Review process as were the other Parents formed another community involved in the Program Review, and while several parents representing the MISIPA attended the Program Review meetings, they had very little say in either the policy statement the group produced, or the new curriculum developed for the middle school classes. While some of the Program Review participants might have said that parents had played a major role in the crisis in the middle school program, and participants seemed to be aware of the importance of parents in the program, they had a very limited role in this activity system.
Communities. During most of the Program Review process, the elementary Spanish Immersion Community seemed to play a peripheral role. However, during the times when they did participate in Program Review meetings, they clearly articulated the values and ideologies of their Two-Way Immersion Community.
Two-Way Immersion teachers: Advocates of Spanish Immersion in middle school core courses. All of the participants from Midville Elementary School were strong advocates of this Spanish Immersion program and of Two-Way Immersion education in general, as they understood and had experienced it. The two teachers, one 3rd grade and one Kindergarten, were long-time Spanish Immersion lead teachers, having responsibility for coordinating teaching efforts and professional development alongside the principal, Mr. Foster. One of them had seen her own child proceed through the elementary program. In the past, both had been involved in discussions with site and district administration arguing for the extension of the Two-Way Immersion model of language education all the way through high school. They were also critical of the choice Midville Middle School teachers and administrators had made to program the 7th grade Spanish Immersion class as an elective rather than as a course based on core curricular materials. From their point of view, the choice to make the middle school TWI course an elective meant that it would not be given the same importance as core courses like Language Arts, Math, Social Studies or Science. In such an elective course, emphasis would traditionally be placed on language acquisition, not on the use of language as the medium of instruction for some core content. The two teachers indirectly raised this issue during the first meeting they attended when they both commented on the problem of Spanish Immersion having been structured as an elective in 7th and 8th grades, a structural choice they felt reflected the way the district had made “programmatic decisions for students.” They were concerned about the inequities created because, in these elective courses, Spanish Immersion students had been not only graded in ways most elective students are not, and had been held to a higher academic standard than in most elective courses, but had not been given the opportunity to use their language resources for important core content purposes. This historical conflict over policy decisions that affected language learning and use for Spanish Immersion middle school students more clearly surfaced as Mr. Bell adamantly responded to them, declaring that the option of extending the TWI model into high school was simply not available, that “the idea that the immersion program will go all the way through high school [was] not on the table” (Fieldnotes, 10/21/08).
Midville Elementary Principal, Mr. Foster: Spanish Immersion students and families across three school sites. Mr. Foster had been Midville Elementary School’s principal since before the Spanish Immersion Program was located there in 1997. He had worked alongside parents and students as they had struggled to ensure that the program would be extended from grade to grade, and to see it advance from pilot to permanent program status after six years of effort. Mr. Foster had also known the program as a parent as his son had completed it and was a senior at Midville High School at the time of these meetings. As the administrator with the most experience with the Spanish Immersion program, Mr. Foster expressed a wide range of concerns during the three meetings he attended: how to understand the needs and motivations of students and families as they made their way through the program and on to secondary school; what the overall outcomes should be for Spanish Immersion students and how those outcomes would provide clear articulation from grade to grade and school to school; how they should be assessed and placed in high school World Language courses; how to think about the relationship between curriculum design and the hiring of a new teacher for the middle school program. Mr. Foster consistently raised questions and brought discussion around to the overall functioning of the three educational settings as they served Spanish Immersion students. Frequently, Mr. Foster raised concerns which got no definitive answer, and the resolution of many of them depended upon the future implementation of assessment tools being considered, the development of middle school curriculum by district faculty and administrators, and the efforts on the part of teachers at the three sites to understand the differences and overlaps in the teaching they do.