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In her original plan, she had suggested having them write essays, but during the conversation, she had suggested that essays could be replaced with other projects, videos or various forms of multimodal composition. So it wasn’t clear why Mr. Sanchez placed such strong emphasis on the use of “projects.” However, this emphasis opened up the opportunity to introduce the role of grammar instruction and production in his curricular vision, to return to his World Language ideology which valued language correctness over language use.
Would a compromise be reached?: Continued prevalence of conflicting models of language learning and use.
During the remainder of the meeting, the three teachers fluctuated between approaching a compromise in the development of the curriculum for 6th grade, and for part of 7th grade, and getting derailed because of significant differences in their vision.
Ms. Gomez continued to hold firm to her culturally-sensitive, content-driven curriculum, making some concessions to Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Morelli in the specifics of how the curriculum would be designed, but also sometimes emphasizing Ms. Fisher’s endorsement of the plan. At times, Ms. Morelli seemed to capture the vision that Ms.
Gomez was offering, adding in suggestions of books that focused on some of the content themes, and contributing significantly to the discussion of aspects of the social studies curriculum, but getting off course when the question of the availability of materials came up. Mr. Sanchez even began to grow in his enthusiasm for the curriculum, though he continued to return to the question of how grammar instruction would be incorporated into it. Despite their differences, they reached some hopeful notes at times during their discussion, but ended closer to earlier views of the Spanish Immersion middle school program and its students than to the new paradigm Ms. Gomez was proposing.
A review of the second half of their nearly two-hour meeting revealed the consistent prevalence of their differing points of view that required Ms. Gomez to reemphasize several times the overall vision of the curriculum. During the closing minutes of the meeting, Ms. Gomez summarized their discussion.
Gomez: So now you have one-two-three-four-five-six books of literature to choose for 6th grade that you can hand to a teacher and say. “Here,” you know, “this is how you do book groups twice a week. Here's some, you know, social applications that need to go with that and the kids are gonna have to, you know, use technology to find information or you use technology to present information to the kids and they're supposed to be doing responses to that and applyingapplying it to the world around them and the school around them and their community around them. Figure out a current event-a weekly current event that goes with your theme and have the kids reflect on that or write-or write a current event or something like that or that kind of thing, and you've got five weeks to get through the book. Write an essay at the end and do a project.” I mean it's like badabing badaboom and then you move on to the next book. So it sounds like you have six titles fo- that make sense in sixth grade.
In this discourse, she emphasized the organized approach to literacy, the ease of following the model she proposed, but most of all she focused her comments on the socially relevant nature of the curriculum that involved “applying it to the world around them and the school around them and their community around them.” She envisioned a curriculum that would escape the classroom, and help the kids use language to take on the problems around them, using it to build knowledge they could use to live, and be enjoyable for them. She presented an expansive vision of language education that built on what students brought with them to 6th grade, and her choice of materials followed that vision.
In contrast, Mr. Sanchez and, to some extent, Ms. Morelli, returned to concerns related to school structures, materials, specific activities, and generally encapsulated forms of school learning. During the discussion of novels to use for the 6th grade reading, a great deal of the discussion revolved around either whether the school already had class sets of the texts and exactly how many copies they owned, or whether the students would be reading or studying something in their English or Social Studies classes. They never suggested that they might purchase a set of books they did not have if it would serve the purpose of the curriculum. Mr. Sanchez was particularly concerned with teachers not having to produce materials for some of the social studies units being proposed.
Sanchez: One of the problems we have is that we don't want to teach units if we don't have the materials-the appropriate materials, including the development of the materials. We're going to get into the same problem we got when [the first 6th grade Spanish Immersion teacher] was here, the translation, the-this-that-that was a big problem.
Though he seemed satisfied with Ms. Gomez’s solution to turn to technology to answer the problem, to have students find appropriate materials on Spanish-language Internet sites, he found other problems related to materials and textbooks. Specifically, he raised the issue of what they would use for assigning homework Sanchez: So the way we see it now 6th grade is-they wouldn't have a book where you can assign homework from.
In this comment, we can see Mr. Sanchez’s encapsulated view of language learning, the same view that the former Spanish Immersion students in high school struggled with in their Spanish Language classes.
Immediately, the connection between encapsulated forms of language learning and grammar instruction made its way back into the focus of their discussion, when Mr.
Sanchez brought up new materials being adopted by the district for Spanish Language classes.
Sanchez: You know there is one thing that might happen to us that I was thinking about that the other day. Uh we just adopted a Spanish book [for] One and Two and covers all the basic grammar and it's One and Two and hopefully we'll get even though we are not using Level Two in high school it's just-we're gonna make the transition. It does have wonderful online resources.
… Sanchez: It's a lot of stuff in there: good authentic commercials, videos and then you have tons of activities that we assign students to do and they get graded immediately. It can be something that will give feedback.
While Ms. Gomez responded with an affirmative “Yep” as Mr. Sanchez enthused about this new language learning resource, she was quite silent as Mr. Sanchez continued on about the capacity of the program to provide instruction on the subjunctive, its availability to students who had been absent from class, the humorous teacher who presented material through PowerPoint and videos. While they would not use the books that accompanied this new program in 6th grade, clearly Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Morelli both saw these online resources as a solution to the problem of grammar instruction, in particular, as Ms. Morelli pointed out, “if you have lower kids,” who need more direct grammar instruction. Mr. Sanchez seemed particularly enthusiastic about the automated nature of the program.
Sanchez: It allows you to assign stuff and the students have to do it and all you have to do is click and it tells you the time they are-what their grade-youWhile the three seemed to have made some progress toward understanding the new literacy-based, content-driven curriculum Ms. Gomez proposed for 6th grade, this return, in the last few minutes of the meeting, to the view of language learning that predominated in Spanish Language classes seemed like a throw-back to an earlier view of the Spanish Immersion middle school program. Their return to such a focus on grammar instruction seemed to justify Ms. Gomez’s earlier adamant explanation of how to present grammar to Spanish Immersion students.
Gomez: I start my mornings-I'm not gonna, you know, have an entire class dedicated unless it's extremely necessary. They just need these warm-ups that focus on things because, quite honestly, as far as the grammar and the spelling and the accents and whatever is concerned, they need a little warm-up, a little reminder, and then lots of application and their application isn't gonna be as effective coming from the Immersion program, you know, with, you know, forty exercises that they do and call it a day and that was their school class.
By the end of the meeting, though all the individuals involved in the development and implementation of the new curriculum received an outline of the curricular elements from Ms. Gomez, the question of whether this curriculum would be implemented effectively or not remained open. Given the fact that Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Gomez would be the two teachers left in charge of daily implementation of this new curriculum, its fate and the fate of the next year’s 6th grade Spanish Immersion students seemed extremely unclear.
The Precarious Bridge: How Expansive Learning and Reform Could Fail
This chapter has focused on the long, complex process of Program Review, from review of the reality of the problems facing the Spanish Immersion middle school program to the development of new curriculum for its reinstatement, as well as the many places at which the expansive learning necessary to bring about real reform could fail.
By using Cultural Historical Activity Theory, I have identified the various Communities whose language ideologies and beliefs came into conflict leading up to and during the Program Review meetings. Those Communities, while engaging in discussions meant to resolve the historical problems of the program, actually simply reinforced the same structural and attitudinal problems the program had suffered from for several years leading up to the crisis they were trying to address. Though they believed that they had come upon a metaphor that would help them resolve the conflict between the Elementary TWI Community and the Secondary World Language Community, their use of it and the policy document built upon it, did not bring about or reflect real expansive learning. My interviews with the principle administrators responsible for the implementation of the program also revealed persistent differences in language ideologies that could be the source of future unresolved conflicts. And the conflictive discussion of a new curriculum for the Spanish Immersion middle school program, while providing “a new paradigm” for the 6th and 7th grade classes, also pointed to future problems that might result from unresolved differences in teacher ideologies of language learning and use. A great deal of effort, time and attention had been invested in reforming the Spanish Immersion middle school program, but little had really changed in the conditions that contributed to the conflict between the Elementary TWI Community and the Secondary World Language Community. The change in ideologies necessary for expansive learning had not occurred, and, in contrast, those ideologies had interrupted the process, leading to the forced changes represented by the new curriculum developed and presented just a few months before the new program would begin. This study ended before that new curriculum was implemented, but in the final chapter I will touch on one version of what occurred in the two years following.
Chapter 6: Conclusion
Language teachers, whether they work in the context of TWI or traditional World Language education, hope to see their students learn their target language to be able to use it inside and outside the classroom. However, what “learning” and “use” of a language means varies greatly from one language-learning context to the next, from one teacher to the next. Those meanings differ because of differing understandings of what the object of the activity of language learning might be. These differing understandings are also informed by teachers’ own experiences of language learning and use, as well as their deeply held, but often unexamined language ideologies and beliefs.
A TWI program that spans more than one school site, and that interacts with traditional World Language programs at the secondary school level (whether middle or high school), involves a complex network of stakeholders, including elementary and secondary teachers, site and district administrators, parents, students, and community members. All of these individuals also have language ideologies and beliefs that affect the development of a TWI program. As Valdés (1997) points out, all of these individuals and groups are engaged in the process of language policy formation, sometimes de jure or overt, but more often de facto or covert. Therefore, to understand this complex language policy ecology, one must examine the language ideologies and beliefs of individual and groups of stakeholders as they interact with each other. These stakeholders make day-today decisions about what language learning and use should and will look like in a TWI program, and beyond, in the World Language environment into which most TWI students will enter as they seek to extend their learning of the target language into adolescence and adulthood.
The purpose of this study has been to bring to light some of the elements of language policy formation in a TWI program by examining the variety of understandings of the object of the activity system of language learning across the school sites involved in Midville’s TWI program. Through it, I hoped to gain understanding of the problems that might arise when different language learning activity systems come into contact, and to see more clearly what elements of the activity systems might have contributed to the crisis this program experienced. By focusing on the language ideologies of individuals responsible for language policy formation and enactment, as well as practices in classrooms, and domains of language use obtained in them, I hoped to be able to characterize the differences between TWI and World Language education in this school district, and, perhaps, in general.