«A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education in the Graduate Division of ...»
Connected to the use of specific literacy activities, specific domains of language learning and use also serve as language policy mechanisms. As I have indicated previously, Garrett (2005) points to domains of language use (and the spoken genres associated with them) in connection with cultural conceptions of what specific languages “are good for.” Students learn from the identification or non-identification of domains of language use, either that language is always the same, no matter what domain of use, or that privileged domains count more than others. For instance, if a student never sees Spanish used to teach science or math, but only literature, culture or history, she could exit her language learning experience ignorant of how Spanish functions for the purposes of knowledge-making in science and math. The non-identification of domains of language use, that is the promotion of autonomous views of language, denies students the opportunity to learn language uses that might lead them to knowledge-making in a variety of specific domains.
Language testing, most specifically, the Spanish Language AP exam, course, and the structure of the World Language AP system served as a third language mechanism relevant to language policy in TWI settings. Though the exam and preparation for it could expose students to language across a wide domain of uses, the exam presents language use as essentially decontextualized, never providing sufficient contextualization for the language students take in and produce. This policy mechanism did not seem to put Midville’s former TWI students at a disadvantage themselves, likely because of their long-term exposure to language use in the context of many domains. However, the former SI students in the post-exam focus group perceived that it did perhaps put the nonTWI students at a disadvantage in their completion of the tasks of the exam.
In addition, the capital (both cultural and material) benefits of AP tests, I would argue, also serve as a mechanism of de facto language policy. Students who take AP courses receive positive evaluation by colleges, and when they take and pass the AP exam, they receive at least college credits, and sometimes credit for having taken specific required courses. The appeal to take AP courses is strong, and so is the pressure on AP teachers to make sure their students take and pass the exam. In addition, if Spanish Language and Literature AP courses are the highest-level courses offered at a high school, former TWI students, who leave their programs with long-term experience with Spanish, and generally higher levels of competency than most of their peers, may be drawn to those courses. If no other courses of equal or greater challenge are offered, the only choice students may have would be to continue language studies through the AP structure. This is not to say that the AP course or exam are inadequate for learning and using language, only that if passing the exam becomes the primary focus of the course, students who are interested in language learning and use outside the confines of schooling and testing may feel the sort of dissatisfaction the former SI students felt toward their secondary World Language experience. Spanish Language AP teachers have a great deal of leeway in how they teach their courses, making the test itself more or less the object of the course, so they engage in their own de facto language policy through their teaching choices. Further study of how language teachers engaged in de facto language policy in World Language classrooms is needed.
Valdés (1997) cautionary note about the possible unanticipated consequences of TWI education, and its de facto language policy, on Mexican-origin students is reasonable, and should make educators involved in the TWI project think carefully about the impact of programmatic and policy choices on all minority-language students. Her point that changing bilingual language policy is not enough to bring equity to Mexican-origin students also should cause TWI educators and parents to pause. (Moll, 1992) points out the value of bringing minority students’ “funds of knowledge” into educational settings in ways that connect homes and classroom. Since home or heritage language is one of those “funds of knowledge,” a powerful one that can either stand between minority-language dominant parents and English monolingual school structures and personnel, or serve as a tool of communication between these same groups, I believe its potential is worth the hard work necessary to ensure equity for all students. More research is needed on the ways in which the minority language in TWI settings can be lifted up or devalued through de facto language policy decisions.
Though this study was limited in reference to minority-language students, the finding that a World Language teacher associated language “deficits” of TWI students with “deficits” of heritage language students raised concerns about the situation of minority or heritage language students in World Language classes in general. Finally, much more research into the variety of language ideologies and attitudes within minority-language communities (such as Freeman’s  middle school study) is needed to understand the motivations of minority-language families and students as they make de facto language policy choices. Finally, further research into the language ideologies that surround both TWI programs and minority-language students in English dominant schools would help us see how minority-language students may be framed in deficit terms.
Contribution of this study to theories of learning and activity.
Cultural Historical Activity theory has served in this study to examine language policy formation (both de jure and de facto) as an activity, specifically serving as a means to look at multiple language policy activity systems (such as de jure policy activities and de facto responses to them) as they come into contact and conflict with each other.
Inasmuch as language policy formation involves different Communities (of speakers of different languages, of language educators from different educational contexts and professional groups), CHAT provides an analytical tool for examining the differing understandings of the Object of language policy formation, and of seeing patterns in ideologies associated with specific Communities, or in considering the different Tools used in the activity of language policy formation. Future studies might also focus on “third spaces” (Gutierrez et al., 1999) in language learning and policy activity systems where problems of language learning and policy are solved through the opening up of new ways of understanding between groups with stable ideologies, scripts or roles (Engestrom, 2001).
While I have not framed my discussion of the Program Review process Midville School District undertook specifically in terms of the learning of the participants, I have consciously applied Cultural Historical Activity Theory to it to illuminate places in the structure of activity and activity systems where expansive learning was (and might be) put at risk. As I have done so, I have had in mind Engestrom’s (2001) study of expansive learning in the resolution of problems related to costly health care delivery for chronically ill children in Finland. In it, Engestrom (2001) presents a portrait of individuals from three different activity systems (a children’s hospital, primary care clinics, and children’s families) as they come together to resolve the complex problem of tracking the health care delivered to children by different activity systems. At the same time that all of the members of the different activity systems recognized the perceived “double bind”29 in which they found themselves, their multivoiced discussion of that historical problem took the form of defensive positioning, or blaming members of the other activity system for their failures in their respective activity systems. Expansive Bateson (1972) points to the source of “double binds” as being “contradictory demands imposed on the participants by the context” (Engestrom, 2001:142).
learning only took place between the connected activity systems when the participants came to see the problem in its historical context, as well as the contradictions between the various activity systems involved with the problem. Learning in this study took place when the participants openly questioned each activity systems’ contribution to the problem, including their positions toward the problem, when they began to move through an ideological process from understanding the problem as a “double bind,” resistance to change, to realignment of their views, and when they began to model new solutions to the problem.
Using Engestrom’s study allows us to see many places at which expansive learning in the Midville context failed. Though they brought together all the important participants in relevant activity systems (what they called “stakeholders”) for the Program Review, their discussions never moved effectively past the defensive position stage, and in their effort to shorten, simplify and control the process of review and reform, district officials only reinforced that same defensive positioning throughout the process. At the end of the process, during the curriculum development meeting, I could see the same tensions and disagreements over the nature of immersion education and language learning and use as had characterized the problem in the first place. District officials who removed from discussion the questions of what had actually contributed to the middle school crisis in the past, and why members of the Elementary TWI Community would want to see the SI program extended into high school, only delayed reform and the expansive learning necessary to accomplish it to some future time.
Engestrom’s health care study took place in the context of multiple activity systems in which practical and experiential problems within the individual activity systems were the focus of study. While members of each activity system carried with them the worldviews or ideologies characteristic of their activity system, based on the practices and experiences within those activity systems, they were examining a “double bind” in which those worldviews or ideologies did not clearly overlap with worldviews, ideologies or power structures at work in society-at-large. Everyone involved in the study seemed to have the same overall Object in mind, provide better health care for children while reducing the cost of services. In contrast, this current study took place in the context of multiple activity systems in which the focus of the study involved an Object less easy to define, and ideologies or worldviews influenced by both personal experiences outside the activity system of Program Review, as well as by social values related to the meaning of bilingualism and language learning and use. The language ideologies of the members of each of the Communities in Program Review were recognizable as connected with issues of social power and control, authority and hierarchy, language purity, and social construction of meaning and knowledge.
Engestrom (1999) asserts that expansive learning (or Learning III) “may now be characterized as the construction and application of world outlooks or methodologies – or ideologies, if you will” in which imagination and consciousness allow learners to master activity systems “in terms of the past, the present and the future.” Expansive learning, thus, means transformation of worldviews or ideologies. However, I hope this study demonstrates that ideologies or worldviews that go unexamined, or are highly durable because of an individual’s strong association with a particular Community, can be the reason that expansive learning does not take place between activity systems. If ideologies are clearly representative of social values and beliefs, such as English-only language policies or problematic views of bilingualism, they can stand in the way of the process of expansive learning. In short, ideologies can be transformed through expansive learning, or they can shut down that transformation. Further study might bring together Bakhtin’s concept of “ideological becoming” (1981) in the context of multivoiced activity systems and efforts to achieve expansive learning, to examine how dialogism can produce new ideological stances, or simply reinforce old ones.
I hope that this study also contributes to our understanding of the importance of modeling in the expansive learning cycle, and reveals ways in which the study of metaphor and framing can help us see how modeling can contribute to expansive learning or how it can bring about failure in expansive learning cycles. Engstrom (1999) suggests that “momentary withdrawals” from professional activity (such as the suspension of the middle school SI program) “play a crucial role as the professional enters into a 'framing experiment', a reformulation of the problem with the help of analogy based on a 'generative metaphor'.” However, as I hope to have shown in this study, not all “framing experiments” are the same and not all metaphors are as “generative” as others, or generate what the participants in an activity system of learning hope it will. If modeling is as crucial a part of expansive learning, as Engestrom presents it, we must continue to examine how metaphor is formed and used in bringing about expansive learning and the change it promises.
Limitations of the Study
This study presents various limitations, the first of which is that my observations only took place in each classroom during a limited time period during the school year in anticipation of what I had identified as the culminating activity of each class. I was aware of this limitation and tried to extend my time in each classroom by making observations after the culminating experience had ended. In my efforts to characterize language learning and use in each setting, I also added to classroom observations what teachers told me about their classes and practices, as well as what the former SI students told me about their experiences in their Spanish Language AP class earlier in the school year. I was able to see the language learning and use of the SI 5th graders over the course of the school year through their Libretas de lectura and materials from their Club de Libros; however, I did not have the opportunity to observe their language learning and use in other ways in their classroom earlier in the year.