«A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education in the Graduate Division of ...»
Engestrom focuses his concern on the presentation of a concept from astronomy, the phases of the moon, in textbooks and the way the concept is misconceived in them, so that students disassociate that presentation with the reality of the moon they see in the sky. Using CHAT, Engestrom identifies the problem of this mis-learning as related to a change in the Object of the activity system, from developing a realistic explanation for the phases of the moon as motivated by curiosity, to mastering knowledge of the textbook’s explanation of the phases of the moon as motivated by desire to successfully answer the teacher’s questions about it. In Chapter 4, I will demonstrate student perceptions of encapsulation of school learning in the context of high school Spanish Language courses, and contrast it with language learning in the TWI context.
Speech genres, their domains, and their orientations toward differing views of language become a means of understanding language policy in an educational context.
The secondary genres consumed and produced (and by extension, the primary genres of which they are composed) are Tools in the activity systems to which they pertain, inasmuch as they are used to accomplish specific Objects, or social actions, as (Miller,
1984) would see it. At the same time, they are also mechanisms of language policy in a classroom, since decisions about which genres to use and teach, and which domains will be relevant in a classroom, relate to how students will acquire language, what they will “master fluently” and be able to use in the future. In a TWI classroom, the question will be which language to use for which domains. As (Horner & Trimbur, 2002) point out in their study of U.S. monolingual English language policy, in many World Language classrooms, language use is limited to the domains of language arts (linguistics), history and national literatures. Even if students have the opportunity to use a World Language for a wider range of domains, most World Language teachers have not received formation in the use of their language in domains such as the sciences and mathematics.
While the common practice in TWI classrooms seems to be to use the minority language for a wide range of domains and secondary genres, little, if any, attention has been paid to the connection between minority language learning and use and the academic domains of the TWI classroom. For this reason, in this study I will pay particular attention to the “spheres of human activity” or language domains that obtain in a 5th grade classroom and its culminating experience, as well as in a high school Spanish Language AP class. I hope that this attention to language domains and genres will expand upon (Potowski, 2002) study of language use in a 5th grade TWI classroom, in which she argues that students follow a diglossic pattern of use of Spanish and English. She observed students using more or mostly English in peer-to-peer social situations, while they used mostly Spanish in their academic tasks and with their teacher. As I will try to argue in Chapter 3, the 5th grade students in this study sometimes did not use Spanish in social situations (such as playing soccer) because those situations represented language domains with which they were not familiar in Spanish.
The Current Study and Research Questions
In this study, I will examine both de jure and de facto language policy formation and enactment in relationship to a TWI program in the Midville School District. Using CHAT, I will identify three school-based activity systems involved in policy formation and enactment, and will attempt to characterize language learning and use in two of them, a 5th grade SI class, and a high school Spanish Language AP class, in order to understand the differences and conflicts in language ideologies and practices between the two systems. Those differences and conflicts, I will argue, asserted themselves in the TWI middle school program, and led to a crisis that brought the district into a Program Review aimed at reforming the middle school program. CHAT will again serve to reveal persistently varying language ideologies among the stakeholders that prevented them from achieving the expansive learning necessary to enact real reform in the SI Program.
This study will be guided by the following research questions:
Question 1: What are the conceptions (beliefs, ideologies) and practices of language learning and use in the Midville Elementary TWI program?
• What are the conceptions of language learning and use held by teachers and administrators in the Midville Elementary TWI program?
• What does it mean to be a competent learner and user of language in the final year of the Midville Elementary TWI program?
• What “spheres of human activity” or domains are related to the language learned and used in the 5th grade class (final year of the elementary program)?
Question 2: What are the conceptions and practices of language learning and use in the Midville High School Spanish Language Program?
• What are the conceptions of language learning and use held by teachers and instructional supervisors in the Midville Spanish Language program?
• What does it mean to be a competent learner and user of language in the Spanish Language AP class?
• What “spheres of human activity” or domains are related to the language learned and used in Spanish Language AP classes (final language course for many language students)?
Question 3: How did conflicting conceptions of language learning and use among members of the Midville TWI Program Review group affect the reform of the Midville Middle School TWI Program?
• What are the conceptions of language learning and use held by constituent members (district admin, site admin, teachers [elementary TWI, secondary World Language]) of the Midville TWI Program Review group and the Communities they represented?
• What conflicting conceptions of language learning and use emerged during the process of program review, policy formation, and curriculum development?
• How did the lack of resolution of these conflicts lead to continuing production of de facto language policies in the Midville Middle School TWI program?
Chapter 2: Models of Language Learning and Use Study Methods
To answer my research questions, I used multiple qualitative methods in the context of two school sites and a district-wide Program Review for the Spanish Immersion program. The qualitative methods I used included in-depth interviews with teachers and/or administrators from two school sites, the elementary school that houses the immersion program and the secondary school into which these students feed. In addition, since the middle school program was suspended during the research year, I collected data at meetings related to its suspension. I was a participant observer in the fifth grade Spanish Immersion class and their culminating experience at El Molino; in the high school Advanced Placement Spanish Language class and in the May 2009 Advanced Placement (AP) test for Spanish Language. I conducted a focus group with former Spanish Immersion students on the day of the Spanish Language AP exam; and observed during the course of the Spanish Immersion middle school Program Review in fall 2008.
Finally I conducted a series of interviews with administrators concerned with the varied programs. This study utilized a comparative approach, in which teacher/administrator language beliefs and ideologies were brought alongside classroom practices and culminating experiences to analyze the possible sources of conflict among the various constituents in this multi-site program. To fully comprehend the methodology of this study, one must understand the nature of the crisis that led to it.
Background: The Middle School Crisis
The crisis this 8-year-old middle school Spanish Immersion program was undergoing had been ongoing, even though it only manifested itself publicly in spring
2008. It had been requiring the active intervention of district personnel for the previous several school years, as Midville middle school TWI teachers, parents and students had expressed growing dissatisfaction with the quality/ies of the educational experiences in the varied programs. Teachers had complained of being burdened with having to develop many of their own materials for their courses, including translating English-language social studies and language arts materials into Spanish, and of the isolation that came with being in a small bilingual choice program within a traditional monolingual middle school. Some of the teachers found the students that came to them from Midville Elementary School’s program annoying (the result of the kids’ having been together in class for six years already) and ill-prepared for the level of language development they expected of students who had been using Spanish since Kindergarten. A series of teachers had worked in the middle school TWI classrooms, but no one had continued in the program more than five years, most fewer than that. Several stayed in the middle school after leaving the program, moving into other positions with better support, positions that fit more clearly into the school structure and culture.
Parent dissatisfaction with the program played a part in these teacher decisions as well. Parents fretted about many things related to their students’ middle school experience: the fact that to continue in Spanish Immersion classes, students had to give up one of their much-coveted electives in 7th and 8th grades; that students expressed a sense of boredom with the repetitive quality of their 7th and 8th grade curriculum, and even with each other after six or seven years of being together; that there seemed to be little oversight of the program that would resolve problems affecting the quality of instruction in the classrooms; that the quality of the language modeled by the Spanish Immersion teachers (grammar, usage and accent) did not meet the high standards of some Spanish-speaking parents. Still, as one parent expressed it in the program review meetings, they “felt it was their patriotic duty to keep kids in the program so that the program will continue” (Fieldnotes, 10/18/09). Persistent messages from the Midville School District administrators and board about the necessity to maintain a minimum number of students in the Spanish Immersion classes had taken their effect on these parents, who were very aware of how many parents before them had fought with the district to establish the program, and how many more parents down the line would like to see their children participate in the program. Teachers, at once dependent upon parents for funding and resentful of their empowerment in the program, had to find ways to manage not only their classrooms, but their relationship with parents as well.
The growing tensions of the previous eight years came to a head in the spring of 2008 when the middle school found itself without a teacher for the 6th grade class for the following year. Though the district had realized that the teacher who was currently filling this position needed support and had begun to work with her, providing her training, funding and mentoring, she announced that she would not participate in the Spanish Immersion program soon after a confrontational meeting with school administrators and a small group of parents of incoming 6th grade Spanish Immersion students. While the specifics of that meeting have not been made public, the thenAssociate Superintendent for Educational Services sent her letter out to the school communities and Spanish Immersion Parent Association to inform them that the district had decided to put the entire middle school Spanish Immersion program on hiatus for the 2008-2009 school year, and to convene a group of program stakeholders to reconsider the whole of the middle school program before reinstating it.6 The advent of this crisis both confirmed the need to study the nature of the conflict that led to it, and affected the shape that this study would take.
Rationale for Study Design
This study was originally prompted by earlier participant observation work I had done in the Midville Middle School Spanish Immersion classes as part of my graduate courses in Language, Literacy, Society and Culture. During 2005-2006, I participated and observed in both the 6th (spring 2005) and 7th (fall 2005-spring 2006) grade Spanish Immersion classes, and while my participation in those classrooms did not result in any formal findings with regards to the teaching and learning that took place in them, they did leave me with questions about the differences between the two learning settings, about the factors, aside from individual teacher differences, that exerted influence upon each of This is the narrative I heard from a variety of sources over the course of months of research. While this story includes many of the sources of conflict related to the middle school program, it does not include the complaints secondary teachers made about some of the issues that this study will reveal in Chapters 4 and 5.
the two classes. Having seen the tensions teachers, students, administrators and parents experienced in the middle school Spanish Immersion program, I began to wonder to what extent those tensions proceeded from differences between the Two-Way Immersion model of language education characteristic of the elementary program (and extended into 6th grade) and the Spanish as a World Language programs into which many of the Spanish Immersion students entered in high school, and after which the 7th and 8th grade courses offered to Spanish Immersion middle schoolers were modeled. I had heard many teachers, parents, and students make distinctions between the two models, and wanted to understand their different characteristics, practices, and ideologies of language learning and use. Further, I had begun to hypothesize that 7th grade had become the year in which tensions between the models were at their most intense, and wanted to test that hypothesis through more focused research.