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‘Now I see how my students feel’: expansive learning in a language awareness workshop

Abstract

This study looks at a case study research on a language awareness workshop in a New York public school with a dual language (Spanish/English) program. A learner-centred lesson, taught in Spanish, focused on basic personal information exchanges for inservice teachers who taught only in English and who had some limited knowledge of Spanish. The instructors’ charge was to teach participants how to exchange basic personal information in Spanish. Working from a cultural historical activity theory perspective, the interactions that took place in a videotaped session were analysed, using tools from discourse analysis, conversation analysis, and linguistics. The focus was set on the interactions of the instructors with one of the teachers in the workshop to examine how she moved from resisting a new language to embracing an understanding of the role of a new language in learning by paying attention to the dynamics of identity production.

Ruiz Fajardo, Guadalupe, and María E. Torres-Guzmán. “‘Now I See How My Students Feel’: Expansive Learning in a Language Awareness Workshop.” Language Awareness. (2016): 1-19. Print.

When learning a new language, an individual engages in producing and reconstructing new ways of thinking, saying, behaving, organising, and evaluating human activity (Goodenough, 1981). Vygotskyan-based theories of learning and the communicative approach to language teaching have supported this understanding. The context of language learning is important. In foreign language teaching and learning, for example, a commonplace belief is that teaching in the target language has cognitive advantages. It avoids constant code switching, provides a mental space for the new language, and enforces the maxim that learning new languages is quicker when there is greater time of exposure (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages [ACTFL], 2010). In contrast, in the context of bilingual education, in which both languages are used as mediums, the beliefs are different. Discourses of equality in education, such as those that advocate for the right of the minoritised communities to use their language, reinforce the value in respecting language learner preferences. Accordingly, researchers have increasingly upheld the importance of using the minoritised language to support the learning of a new language, stressing the need for the mother tongue and the second language to co-exist (Martın Rojo, 2010). The rationalisation of the use of the minoritised language is beyond the classroom effectiveness argument and believed to be an issue of power and equality socially, educationally, and linguistically…

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