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Ideas and beliefs about the nature of bilingualism must inform each Subject’s sense of the Object of the activity of program review and implementation. After all, the aim of TWI education, often called dual language education, is to learn content in and use two languages, to function, if not bilingually, then at least as serial monolinguals. As I have discussed in Chapter 4, the Object (or goal) of the Spanish Immersion program was generally understood by some as leading students to become bilingual, while the Object of World Language education was much less clear, at least in the mind of Mr. Mann, the Spanish Language AP teacher. Ms. Fisher, Mr. Bell and Mr. Worth touched on some of the same themes as they responded to questions about the nature of bilingualism, but their viewpoints emphasized different qualities of the bilingual individual.
Elementary TWI community: Ms. Fisher. Even though Ms. Fisher frequently pointed to language learning and use outside of school as being central to her thoughts about her own language learning and her children’s language education, when she discussed the concept of bilingualism, she pointed to the ability to use language in academic contexts as the marker of “true” bilingualism. Using her son’s struggle with Spanish literacy as her touchstone, Ms. Fisher made a clear distinction between “the oral [and] the written” in defining what it meant to be bilingual, perhaps a reference to the dichotomy between BICS and CALP in language development. She viewed learning a second language as following “the same stages [when] children learn any language when they’re very young.” This view had led her to see a “continuum of how ‘bilingual’ people are,” with literacy further along the continuum toward true bilingualism. She felt that people who are “truly” bilingual “have the ability [to] use academic language in two languages,” a definition grounded in schooled forms of language use. The source of the duality in her thinking about the outcomes of middle school TWI education may have resided in her dual focus in defining bilingualism and its connection to school settings and academic achievement. While she felt her own language learning would have been more successful had she learned it outside school, and her son had experienced more success in language learning outside school, she still valued most highly the use of language inside school, for school purposes.
High school World Language community: Mr. Bell. Mr. Bell’s definition of bilingualism represented an elite view of language development, whose implication would be that very few people would qualify as bilingual. Mr. Bell defined bilingualism as an “arrival” point at which an individual “shows no effort whatsoever in being able to use and apply everything you need to use and apply” in order to be “communicative.” His belief in the ability to “show no effort whatsoever” in bilingual language use, may have proceeded from his view of the cognitive development of bilinguals, whose language “systems are so hardwired in the brain that you are speaking as though you have actually grown up within that culture.” His language and focus seemed to reflect an idealized view of what it means to be bilingual.
While he emphasized the goal of being “communicative” in a general sense, like Ms. Fisher, he also referred to the “entire continuum [of] students’ developmental stages” of language learning. Bilingualism involved not only being able to manage all the particulars of a language for Mr. Bell, but also demonstrating an understanding of the language and culture learned. As a bilingual, “you understand the vocabulary or the usage, the structures, all of those things. You understand the cultural home of the language. And how that is used and all the many varying different situations, the appropriate application of vocabulary structures.” In this discourse, Mr. Bell represented bilingualism in such as way that very few second language learners would qualify to be described as bilingual as few would have learned “all” of the language, culture, and communicative situations he seemed to have in mind. He held a view of bilingualism that could easily have come into conflict with the ways of viewing bilingualism held by the teachers, parents and students in the Spanish Immersion program. He defined bilingualism in such a way to open up questions about how Midville’s TWI students would be assessed in their own language learning and use, what system of assessment he would put in place as the district manager charged with developing a language assessment plan.
Middle school community: Mr. Worth. Mr. Worth’s experience teaching English in Indonesia led him to a definition of bilingualism that recognized that bilingualism can develop in different ways, not following the continuum that Ms. Fisher and Mr. Bell referred to. In general, he saw bilingualism as the ability to communicate in two languages, specifying that to communicate meant to “speak, listen, read and write.” Like Ms. Fisher, he saw these different modalities of bilingualism as indicators that “obviously there’s gonna be […] different […] levels or gradations to someone’s proficiency.” At first he seemed to share the same point of view as Ms. Fisher, that “speaking and listening […] come first,” adding that they “are a little more easy than reading and writing.” But he quickly qualified that position based on his teaching experience, pointing out that “it depends upon how you learn the language,” referring to how “a lot of my students in Indonesia had done a lot of their English learning through book learning and were more proficient at reading and writing than […] speaking and listening.” Careful to point out that though it is not “universally true,” he saw language education in the U.S. as “favor[ing] speaking and listening.” Mr. Worth’s experience of teaching English among future English teachers provided him a similarly academic source for thinking about bilingualism as we see for Ms. Fisher.
Language experience and ideology: Goals of TWI education and concerns about the middle school program.
As Lindholm-Leary (2001) and other experts in TWI or Dual Language education indicate, the goals of TWI programs are multiple, and connect language learning and use with the development of cultural knowledge and appreciation, both inside the classroom as students from different language and cultural backgrounds interact, and as they learn about the cultural meanings and practices involved in the languages they are learning.
Both Ms. Fisher and Mr. Worth expressed an understanding of the full range of goals within a TWI program, while Mr. Bell focused on the sorts of concerns characteristic of the World Language classroom.
Elementary TWI community: Ms. Fisher. Though Ms. Fisher obviously saw the goals of TWI education involving language learning and use, she connected students’ language learning and use to their developing awareness of culture on the small scale, in the classroom community, where students from different cultural and language groups mixed. Ms. Fisher focused her thinking about the goals of TWI education on the “blend of native speakers and non-native speakers” in TWI classrooms for the purpose of “really understand[ing] one another, to learn about one another and to grow up together,” presenting a vision of social equality and understanding. It was easy to imagine Ms.
Fisher picturing the Spanish Immersion students in the same way she represented her son’s experience in Chile, emphasizing social equality and understanding.
High school World Language community: Mr. Bell. It was not surprising, given Mr. Bell’s own language learning experiences and his beliefs about bilingualism, that he expressed his understandings of the goals of TWI education strictly in terms of language acquisition. Mr. Bell focused his consideration of goals around the Englishdominant students in the Spanish Immersion program. He saw those students as having already acquired “great facility” in speaking, and as having at that point an “opportunity with their classmates to really get into what I call true language communication,” an “opportunity to practice […] to have the ear accustomed, so that they don’t look quizzically at accents.” Mr. Bell referred to a social process of interaction between English-dominant and Spanish-dominant students in the program, but never referred to the second group, nor suggested what opportunity the Spanish-dominant students would have.
Middle school community: Mr. Worth. Mr. Worth also embedded his understanding of the language learning goals of TWI within the students’ “skills and knowledge [and] understanding of the world so that they are […] not just bilingual but […] bicultural.” He further framed his understanding of the social goals of TWI education in terms of multiculturalism, and the need for students in an “increasing[ly] multicultural society” to have “communication skills as well as cultural understandings in a […] culture and language other than their own.” Like Mr. Bell, he saw the Spanish Immersion program as having opportunities for “modeling” language, but on “either side of […] the two way model,” in which both Spanish dominant and English dominant students serve each other as language models. One of the challenges of the program then would be for students to “build trust” with each other, “so that the Spanish speakers felt comfortable trying English and the English speakers felt comfortable trying Spanish.”
Individual subjects’ language experience and ideologies in brief.
Each of these three Subjects in the activity of program review and policy enactment retained a consistent stance toward the Spanish Immersion middle school program, the value of TWI education, the interests of their school and professional communities, and the work of the program review process, including the focal metaphor of the bridge. Ms. Fisher’s duality of thinking about the nature of language learning in TWI settings, Mr. Worth’s focus on how the Spanish Immersion program would fit into the structures of the middle school, and Mr. Bell’s orientation toward the Midville World Language community and its concern with the quality of students’ language imply a lack of unifying vision of the outcomes of the program for students. While some might see their division of labor within the activity system as practical and natural, that division is connected with a division in the ways they conceive of the Object of the activity system as well, and contributes to the failure to achieve the expansive learning necessary to bring about real program reform. That failure is evident in the activity that proceeds from the effort to reform, curriculum development, and was observable in the discussion of curriculum that took place in May when three teachers met to make a curricular plan for the following year.
Conflicting Objects among Subjects: The Problem of Metaphor as a Policymaking Tool In any group with such a broad range of interests, priorities and beliefs, the members will search for ways to resolve differences and solve problems, sometimes sooner than is productive for bringing about the expansive learning necessary to make significant programmatic change. Many of us have experience with reading policy statements that clearly mean to resolve differences of opinion or priorities through accretion of value statements, but which only serve to delay resolution of conflicting points of view. The conversations that took place during Program Review meetings revealed substantive differences in understanding of the Object of program reform among members. Those differences were further revealed in the subsequent policy statement the group produced for the Superintendent. At the same time that their differences and tensions were evident in their report and plan, the document featured a language Tool the group used to try to bring about some unity out of their diversity, a metaphor to describe the nature of the middle school program they envisioned. In the end, the reliance on that metaphor meant that a point of view, a frame, prevailed and was formulated and crystallized into a policy document. While the participants in the Program Review seemed to believe that the document represented the collective thinking of the whole group, and that the concerns they needed to address from the end of the review onward, while significant, were mostly logistical or practical, the policy statement still revealed a troubling mixture of differing points of view. That the document did not resolve the conflicts between the elementary school TWI Community and the Secondary World Language Community became apparent several months later, during their spring meeting to discuss and finalize curriculum for the sixth and seventh grade Spanish Immersion middle school classes. The metaphor of the middle school Spanish Immersion program as a “bridge” did not satisfy everyone’s desire for unity and clarity of thinking, and contributed to the failure of expansive learning in activity of Program Review.
Metaphor in the Program Review meetings: Middle school as “bridge.”