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The Program Review policy statement attempted to further define the bridge in several ways, as a “pathway,” a “transition” and an “experience to connect” the two ends of students’ language learning. Each of these definitions proceeds from the nature of the metaphor they are using, a Location-Event Structure Metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). In such a metaphorical framing, we use the literal domain of motion-in-space, what we know about how we move in and through space, to understand and explain events and how changes occur. Many of the movements we experience in the literal domain take us to destinations, locations to which we desire to arrive. Sometimes we move from one bounded space to another bounded space, for instance, in the case of a bridge, from one land formation to another land formation. We conceive of the movement from one location to another as following a path. And we conceive of problems or impediments that keep us from arriving at our destination as obstacles or land features that stand in our way. Within this metaphorical system, various elements of the framework correspond to the way we perceive reality. Each of the following elements, and perhaps more, are activated in the Program Review statement’s use of the bridge metaphor, as outlined in Table 5.2.
Table 5.1: Location-Event Structure in Middle School Bridge Metaphor
In the frame activated by the bridge metaphor, various kinds of impediments to motion can arise to keep someone from making headway to the desired destination. In this case, the impediment is the chasm of middle school, and the bridge is the means for overcoming that impediment, for continued self-propelled motion toward the land formation of high school World Language courses.
In the event structure represented by the bridge between Elementary TWI and Secondary World Language, we understand that the movement involved in crossing the bridge is one-way motion, proceeding along a developmental path from childhood and elementary school to adolescence and high school. While, in theory, a bridge can enable bidirectional movement, this bridge must lead one direction only, to high school. So while the policy statement affirmed the value of “honoring [students’] current competencies” in Spanish, the skills, knowledge and experience they bring with them from their elementary TWI experience, the middle school bridge fairly compels them toward what will be expected in high school, where their most reasonable option for continuing to develop their Spanish language knowledge and experience is in World Language classes.
This movement across the bridge to high school World Language classes also involved the movement away from the content of learning within the TWI model in elementary school. That learning focused on a variety of content areas and, as I demonstrated in Chapter 3, a wide range of language uses, both in and out of classrooms.
In Chapter 4, I argued that the content of language learning in high school World Language classes became focused on encapsulated forms of school learning, including testing. The bridge metaphor makes clear what was being traded in the movement from elementary Spanish Immersion to high school World Language: the possibility of learning and using language for real-life purposes vs. the reality of learning and using language for limited school-oriented purposes, like tests, grades and college credits.
While we understand the bridge in terms of elementary TWI students moving toward high school World Language classes, we could also envision the bridge of middle school as enabling the movement of teachers back and forth from both land formations, since teachers are not involved in the same developmental journey that students are. In fact, professional development could easily involve TWI teachers crossing over to the high school Spanish Language side to understand where their students will head after middle school, and the high school Spanish Language teachers crossing over to the elementary TWI program to participate in professional development to help them gain the “over-arching vision” Mr. Mann felt would “help high school teachers know what [TWI students] are coming with.” However, in its section on “Professional Development,” the policy statement only mandates that TWI teachers/administrators receive professional development, all of which focuses on “understanding how students acquire language proficiency using the content subject matter as the vehicle to building a second language.” The statement argues that TWI teachers/administrators “need to have additional time for professional learning, curriculum development, and attendance at professional workshops/conferences.” Recommended professional development focuses on three different areas: assessment training to learn to use the yet-to-be chosen assessment tools; curricular and pedagogical development that “align[s] with best practices in immersion delivery systems and […] with Midville SD World Languages best practices”; and program implementation reviews based on “student achievement assessment data and staff reflective practice observations.” No professional development is recommended or required for high school Spanish Language teachers/administrators to understand the nature of TWI education or the language experience with which Midville’s Spanish Immersion students enter high school. Thus, movement across this bridge happens in only one direction, favoring the high school World Languages model of education.
Several other elements of the bridge metaphor reveal problems in the representation of the students’ experience of language learning and development. First, in terms of how it presents Changes as Movement, the bridge metaphor implies smooth, untroubled movement across the years of middle school. The Program Review group put into place mechanisms through its policy statement that they meant to ensure student movement across the bridge. However, what the specific changes associated with this movement might have been remained undefined, despite the effort to put into place mechanisms that would guide and measure student movement across the bridge.
However, TWI students might need to change in different ways depending upon their Purpose for learning their second language, a question of what their final Destination is in the metaphor. The policy statement once again attempted to reconcile differences between the TWI teachers/administrators and the high school World Language community by pointing to the Program Review group’s understanding that The program focus and intent is to provide a meaningful transition for students honoring their current competencies in Spanish language through the K-5 Midville Elementary program and the operating structures in Spanish language studies in Midville SD middle schools and high schools. Assessment data demonstrating student achievement in both content acquisition and Spanish language competencies will inform program design […].
Despite the effort to explain this “transition” and its curriculum design as “a balanced pathway between second language acquisition and content specific learning in the middle school,” the predominance of the guiding principles, student achievement being assessed and tools for assessment, gives greater weight to the second language acquisition side of the balance. In particular, the policy statement provided the greatest detail in discussing the projected focus of student assessment, “language acquisition in the following modalities[…]:”
Though these modalities of assessment are characteristic of the progressive movement of World Language instruction away from grammar/translation pedagogy toward valuing multiple language competencies, they all focus on the material of second language acquisition, not toward domains of “content specific learning” nor even specific genres of language acquired through that content. Only one of the suggested assessment tools focused on content learning assessment, APRENDA, the Spanish Language equivalent of California grade level standardized tests, which had been used in the Midville Spanish Immersion program since 1997. The bulk of assessment of TWI students would, then, focus on their language acquisition in ways traditionally associated with World Language education, and could, therefore, overlook some of the “current competencies” TWI students carry with them, competencies associated with domain specific experience with language.
Various assessment tools can measure the change Spanish Immersion students should undergo during their middle school years, but curriculum they are offered can also shape the change in their language development. The policy statement acknowledged the importance of curriculum, and outlined the courses the middle school program would offer them. Spanish Immersion A (6th grade) and B (7th grade) were both presented as a “literacy enrichment class” with no reference to specific content of either course. Neither course description mentioned any specific focus for language acquisition, but each focused on the use of “interactive strategies” such as “drama, simulations, field trips, guest speakers, and collaborative projects” to “provide an immersion experience.” These strategies are characteristic of many World Language classrooms, and imply more concern with language acquisition than with student interaction with specific content. In contrast, Spanish C (8th grade) would focus clearly on “language structures covered in the high school courses Spanish 2 and Spanish 3,” the actual content of the Spanish Language classes. The problem of what changes students should go through in 6th and 7th grade was, therefore, deferred to the moment of curriculum development, and the conflict over the day-to-day shape of the program would surface again in the spring curriculum development meeting, as we will see later in this chapter.
In the bridge metaphor, as in all Location-Event Structure metaphors, the Destination of the bridge is an expression of the Purpose of the movement, in this case, as explicitly stated, to successfully enter high school Spanish Language courses. However, in Program Review meetings, members frequently questioned that Purpose as the only natural Destination of the middle school bridge. Ms. Fisher repeatedly stated that AP Spanish Language courses were not the automatic outcome of participation in TWI courses, and argued for opening up the middle school TWI courses to broader outcomes.
One of the elementary TWI teachers went so far as to assert that TWI education “has never been about the pursuit of language” alone. Ms. Fisher’s discussion of her own children’s experience seemed to focus on a Purpose outside of or beyond schooling, one characterized by personal growth and social service, connection to experiences and needs in the world outside of classrooms. This sort of Purpose would imply language learning that focuses on language use in a wide variety of domains, more socially than academically driven, though certainly not excluding various academic domains. While the Program Review group made an effort to affirm different trajectories of student language learning and use, to acknowledge that the “bridge “ or “pathway” could lead to more than one Destination, they did not engage in discussions of how those destinations might differ or overlap, and how the bridge to them might be different.
Though the group may have affirmed the value of broader Purposes for participating in the Spanish Immersion program, and for continuing to foster students’ long term relationship with the Spanish Language, I believe it is difficult to re-conceive of language learning in high school outside the structures of World Language courses, and the lack of a programmatic focus that opens up another way of interacting in and with Spanish during high school means that the default choice for most families and students will be traditional World Language courses. As I have discussed in Chapter 4, the culmination of language study in the traditional World Language program is the AP course, whether the student has pursued the AP exam or not. Inasmuch as colleges encourage students to take a healthy number of AP courses for admission, and former Spanish Immersion students have an advantage in completing World Language AP courses successfully, they will be naturally drawn to them. If, as Ms. Fisher argued, the natural outcome for Midville Spanish Immersion students should not be to take Spanish AP courses, some other clear-cut sequence of high school courses or experiences would be needed as an alternative to traditional World Language learning. Otherwise, former Spanish Immersion students and their families would be left to figure out their own ways of continuing their language learning and experiences.
As a result of the complex, conflicting understandings of the “bridge” metaphor among the Program Review group members, the expansive learning necessary for true programmatic reform failed to occur. The metaphor contributed to the failure of expansive learning because of its confounding entailments, and served as a code for a disunified corporate understanding of the Object of TWI education and the changes necessary for students to arrive at the different possible Destinations at the end of that bridge. The Program Review policy statement deferred many important decisions regarding the nature of the bridge to the future work of implementation of the new program. That implementation depended most heavily upon the three individuals presented earlier in this chapter, Ms. Fisher (curriculum development), Mr. Bell (assessment plans), and Mr. Worth (site administration and supervision), each of whose views of the Purposes and Means of achieving them were influenced by their own language learning experiences and beliefs/ideologies of language learning, as I have discussed earlier in this chapter.
Individual subjects’ use of the bridge metaphor.
In moving from their understandings of the goals of TWI education to their current concerns about the Spanish Immersion middle school program, each of the Subjects I interviewed returned directly or indirectly to use the bridge metaphor for understanding what needed to happen to the program moving forward. However, each saw the bridge in quite different ways.