«A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education in the Graduate Division of ...»
The research design I would have proposed to answer my research questions necessarily included data collection in three school settings, Midville Elementary School’s Spanish Immersion 5th grade class, Midville Middle School’s Spanish Immersion classes, and Midville High School’s Spanish Language Advanced Placement course, in order to provide data on the full trajectory of language learning and use many Midville Spanish Immersion students experienced in school. Aside from the classroom work students participated in, each setting had provided an outside culminating experience for students, and each of those experiences would provide data that would illuminate the ideologies, beliefs and practices characteristic of each setting. Each year since 2000, the 5th grade class had attended El Molino, a language immersion science/culture camp in Michoacán, Mexico for a week in mid-Winter; the 8th grade class began organizing what was originally intended to be an annual graduation trip to Spain in 2004; and the final experience for many Midville Spanish Language AP students had been the Spanish Language AP exam each school year in May. I had hoped to participate in each of these culminating activities to add non-classroom language use data to what I would gain from classroom observations and teacher and administrator interviews.
However, as the program underwent its crisis in spring of 2008-2009, the year of my data collection, I was forced to consider other ways of gathering data on the middle school program. When I was informed that the district would be engaging in its own study of solutions to the middle school program, that they would hold a complete program review aimed at revising and reconstituting the middle school program, I sought permission from the district to participate in the Program Review group meetings, and to interview select participants in the process. While I was not able to see classroom practices, student language learning and use in the middle school Spanish Immersion classes, I did participate in conversations that focused on the goals for the middle school program, and highlighted the various ideologies and beliefs of site and district decision makers, administrators, teachers and parents. This situation allowed me to see both the creation of de jure language policy through the development of policy statements, as well as the movement from de jure to de facto language policy through curriculum development.
The process of Program Review surfaced some of the very tensions I was interested in understanding, the desires of elementary Spanish Immersion teachers and some parents to see the TWI model of language learning extended into high school, and the sense of dissatisfaction of secondary school teachers with the quality of Spanish learned in the Spanish Immersion program. It involved a research setting which brought together members of all three school sites, three broad activity systems, to which I was able to apply Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) to consider the role that identification with a particular professional or school Community affected individual Subjects’ views of the Object of TWI education. In his study of expansive learning in a Finnish hospital setting, Engestrom (2001) applied CHAT to a “collaborative redesign effort” aimed at resolving problems related to the treatment of children with long-term illnesses who were moving between health care entities that were not tracking together the trajectory of a child’s treatment. Together with researchers from Engestrom’s Boundary Crossing Laboratory, members of the different medical service entities involved worked together to try to resolve the internal contradictions in their interactions with patients. Engestrom points to five principles of CHAT and expansive learning that were in operation during this process: 1) the prime unit of analysis is a “collective, artifact-mediated, object-oriented activity system; 2) an activity system is always multivoiced, “always a community of multiple points of view, traditions and interests”; 3) an activity system is historical, so that “[t]heir problems and potentials can only be understood against their own history”; 4) the central sources of change and development within an activity system are the contradictions, that is “historically accumulating structural tensions within and between activity systems”; and 5) the potential for “expansive transformations in activity systems” exist as individuals in them begin to question the contradictions and take action. Expansive transformation is accomplished when “the object and the motive of the activity are reconceptualized to embrace a radically wider horizon of possibilities than in the previous mode of the activity” (pp.
136-7). I began to see the possibility that these principles of expansive learning were at work in the middle school Program Review process, and wanted to understand what the process of expansive learning might look like in the context of educational reform.
In the end, this study involved collecting data from all three sites: Midville Elementary’s 5th grade Spanish Immersion classroom and its experience in El Molino (Winter/Spring 2009, Chapter 3); one Spanish Language AP class at Midville High School and the final experience of taking the Spanish Language AP exam (Spring 2009, Chapter 4); and Midville School District’s Spanish Immersion middle school program review meetings and the final policy documents and curriculum development efforts resulting from them (Fall 2008-Spring 2009).
Based on data collected from each of the three major settings, this study focuses on the differences between language learning and use in the 5th grade Spanish Immersion class and the Spanish Language AP class, and in their respective culminating experiences. It also examines the various ideologies of language learning and use of members of the middle school Program Review group and how unresolved differences in those conceptions affected the effort to achieve program reform, the development of de jure language policy, and the continued reliance on de facto language policies. In analyzing the data, I focused on elements of expansive learning and CHAT, specifically the role that differing language ideologies and classroom practices have played in both the conflict between two Communities, TWI and World Language educational Communities, and in the failure to achieve expansive learning through the Program Review. As I presented in Chapter 1, very little research has been conducted in secondary TWI programs or classrooms (Montone & Loeb , Freeman , McCollum ), and, to my knowledge, none has spanned TWI program sites, or connected TWI programs to other language learning programs. Since so few secondary school TWI programs exist, and students have to access World Language classes to continue their study of minority languages in secondary school, it is crucial to study the articulation between TWI and World Language programs.
Background on the Spanish Immersion and Spanish Language Programs in thisStudy
The Spanish Two-Way Immersion program, a choice program of the Midville School District, was initiated in 1995 at the request of parents. In 1995, the program began with one Kindergarten class, and grew by one grade level each year until 2000, when the 5th grade class was added. It was initially resisted by the Board of Education because of its concern about the cost of choice programs in the district. In fact, the Spanish Immersion program remained in pilot status from 1995-2000, when the Board finally determined that it should become a permanent district program. This extended pilot status, and the district’s emphasis on keeping costs to a minimum contributed directly to the crisis in the middle school, as Spanish Immersion parents, teachers and Mr.
Foster, the elementary principal, received almost no direct support from the district during those years.
In 2000, the Board of Education approved the expansion of the program to include 6th-8th grade classes at Midville Middle School at which time an intense period of contentious debate over the nature of the middle school program took place; since then, it has spanned elementary and middle school sites, drawn children from all over the district, as well as from a neighboring district, Cross-Midville, and involved many parents through its active parent association. While the Spanish Immersion program officially ends at 8th grade, for all practical purposes students no longer receive TWI model education after 7th grade, as their 8th grade class has been a traditional World Language Spanish class that prepared them for high school World Language courses.
Most of the former Spanish Immersion students entered high school Spanish Language courses, many eventually completing the Advanced Placement Spanish Language course, some continuing on to Advanced Placement Spanish Literature, and some even to a special Spanish 6 class held during lunch time once a week. The first group of former Spanish Immersion students graduated from high school in 20087.
Midville Unified School District has not kept clear records on the movement of SI students through their schools. The records I gathered for the discussion of former SI students’ performance on the Spanish Language AP exam from 2006-2010 for Chapter 4 indicate that a total of 68 former SI students took the Spanish Language AP exam between these years. However, an undetermined number of other former SI students may have taken the Spanish 4AP course, but did not take the exam, took a Spanish for Spanish Speakers course at one of the district’s high schools, or ended their Spanish Language studies after either Spanish 2 or 3 courses. It was even challenging determining the number of students who had passed through the elementary program since its inception.
Having received class photos from Midville Elementary School, I found that from 2001the first five years that 5th graders were promoted from the program, only one class The Midville Spanish Immersion Parent Association (MISIPA) was formed at the inception of the program to be a support structure for all levels of Spanish Immersion education in the district. While it is most active at the elementary school, parents are also involved in the middle school program, and care a great deal about the whole of the program, as well as about what happens to students when they enter high school and leave the program. Run by a small board of officers, MISIPA holds monthly meetings open to all parents, and has been instrumental in raising funds for Spanish language materials, library books, and field trips, including the annual 5th grade trip to El Molino in Michoacán, Mexico. During its first six years, MISIPA officers made a great effort to include low-income Spanish dominant parents in meetings and leadership by providing child care for parents who couldn’t afford their own, and making sure all materials and meetings were translated into Spanish. The effort to provide translation has fluctuated over the years, depending upon the availability of bilingual parents who could serve as translators.
To understand the experience of language learning and use for current and former Spanish Immersion students, I had to become familiar with three settings, determine key participants to include from each in the study, and gather and analyze appropriate data from each. My aim has been to examine how the activity systems associated with the three settings interact with each other, how their language ideologies, policies and pedagogical practices support or conflict with each other. I have organized the following presentation of study methods, therefore, by the study setting in which it took place.
Each of these study settings corresponds to the findings chapters of this study, as I will discuss at the end of this chapter.
Setting 1: Midville Elementary School, Spanish Immersion 5th Grade Students complete their first six years of the Spanish Immersion Program, from Kindergarten to 5th grade, at Midville Elementary School. Midville Elementary is a neighborhood school serving the northwestern segment of the city of Midville, an uppermiddle class community in Northern California. It serves about 500 students, 30% of whom come from outside the neighborhoods surrounding the school, including from the (2001) consisted of only 5th graders who numbered 26. Each year after that until 2010, at least one class with 5th graders was a combined 4th/5th class. From 2002-2005 there were no single grade classes for 5th graders, but each year two or three combined classes were formed, with the total number of 4th and 5th graders fluctuating between a high of 56 (three 4/5 classes in 2005) and a low of 31 (two 4/5 classes in 2003), with the 2004 class consisting of 38, and the 2002 class consisting of 50 4th/5th graders. If the numbers of 4th and 5th graders were equal in these combined classes, we could approximate that from 2001-2005, 114 5th grade SI students had been promoted to middle school. These students would have entered high school between 2004-2009. Since I could not locate data on former SI students who took the Spanish Language AP exam in 2005, I am estimating that more than the 68 students I could account for had taken the exam, a majority of those who were promoted from 5th grade between 2001-2005.