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Dueling Models of Dual Language Instruction

Article Continued - Part III

Bilingual (dual or two way) Immersion

Authentic bilingual immersion is designed to serve majority and minority students. This is one program model with three different names: Two-way bilingual education, dual immersion, and French Canadian immersion. The program's goals are bilingualism and biliteracy, high academic achievement, and positive intergroup relations. Bilingual immersion programs generally cover a span of seven years of schooling, usually from kindergarten through the sixth grade. The model presupposes that teachers are credentialed (or certified) bilingual (or multilingual) speakers of the target language (L2) and that students' share a common native language (L1). In some cases, students with different native languages may be grouped together to learn a target language.

At times bilingual immersion is referred to as two-way bilingual education when students are from two different language groups, each learning the language of their peers as a second language. The goal of the program is to develop proficiency in both languages for both groups of students using L1 and L2 as a medium of instruction for delivery of the core curriculum. (August & Hakuta, 1997). In other words, in this one program model, two groups of students (majority and minority language students) learn together in the same classroom; they learn two languages and they learn in two languages. A key component in this program's design and implementation is the use of students' L1 and L2 as a medium of instruction and as the vehicle for academic content. Consequently, the role of specific second language instructional methodology is limited to strategies for making the content comprehensible without narrowing the focus of instruction to discrete points of language or vocabulary development.

French Canadian Immersion

French Canadian Immersion is a term used in the United States to refer to a dual language program that historically serves only language majority students. The goals are bilingualism/ biliteracy, and high academic achievement in seven years. The teachers are credentialed (or certified) bilingual (or multilingual) teachers. Students enrolled in these programs tend to be from middle- or upper-class families and are predominantly members of the language majority. This program model is often what the public means when speaking of "that immersion program in Canada that works." The reality is that this type of immersion works for those who are allowed to enroll: language majority students. Participation is voluntary, which leads to high levels of parental involvement and support for program goals, but also contributes to high attrition rates in the upper elementary grades (Cummins, 1995).

Dual-Language Program Implementation

Effective Program Implementation

In order for any dual language program to be effective, these characteristics must be present:

  1. A pedagogically-sound model of instruction that fits the demographic realities and resources of the school community;
  2. Fidelity to the model of instruction in all aspects of implementation, that is, congruence;
  3. A means of assessing and addressing appropriately and in a timely manner any incongruity between the model of dual language instruction, the needs of the school community, and the systems created to faithfully implement the model.

The first step in sound program implementation is selection of a contextually-appropriate model and a clear articulation of how its principles are applied to meet the needs of language minority and language majority students. We focus here on some of the pitfalls of dual language program implementation that we have observed in our research, even when programs are based on sound pedagogical models and appear to be appropriate for the target population. However, all educational programs encounter implementation problems due to lack of coherence and continuity in program design, lack of sufficient and appropriate resources, inadequately trained and unqualified teachers, and lack of thorough administrative leadership. Dual language programs potentially face all of these problems, plus the additional challenges of differential power and status between and among the students. Furthermore, the sociocultural understandings necessary to implement quality dual language models add additional layers of complexity. Therefore, bilingual program administrators and teaching staff must be constantly aware of aspects of actual program functioning that do not support or that are inconsistent with the espoused goals and objectives of the program. A theoretically sound program can be taken off track when there are conflicting interpretations of program goals and requirements among and between administrators, teachers, and parents Miramontes, Nadeau, and Commins (1997) describe poor congruence between theory and practice as it is expressed through contradictions regarding what is espoused as good educational practice and the policies and instruction that are actually implemented in schools serving language minority populations (p. 10).

Congruence, or program quality, is achieved through on-going assessment, adjustments, and refinement of a sound model of instruction in a program with continuity from year to year as students progress academically. Language and content learning must be tracked and evaluated through multiple forms of language, literacy, and content knowledge assessments, as educators continually seek to make the implementation reflect the theoretical model. Oftentimes, there will be a mission statement or policy document in a school district that clearly defines the underlying principles and values of the dual language program (Brisk, 1998). The values embodied in the mission are then expressed through policies that support a positive school climate, staffing patterns, curriculum and instructional practices, student assessment and program evaluation.

The profession has learned over the past 100 years that it is educationally defeating to isolate language from its social, cultural, and political surroundings (Cummins, 2000; Freire, 1985; Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000; Vygotsky, 1962). High quality programs somehow manage to balance the tension between social and political concerns and effective schooling practices for educating language minority students.

Pitfalls of Program Implementation

Effective dual language program implementation depends on the level of "fit" or "match" between program guidelines, teachers' instructional strategies, and actual use of the languages as a medium of instruction to achieve the programs' specified goals and objectives. Contrarily, a lack of consistency, or incongruence, between the theoretical principles and the programmatic practices results in a failure of a dual language program to achieve the desired linguistic and academic outcomes (Kerper, 1985). Therefore, if a program's theoretical model is sound, incongruence results from faulty or inconsistent program implementation. This can occur at different points and levels of the implementation process, such as through inadequate or contradictory administrative guidelines and policies, or at the classroom level through improper or inadequate instruction in either or both languages. As teachers interpret the theories and philosophical assumptions that are articulated in a dual language instructional model into classroom practices, oftentimes something is "lost in the translation" (García, 1994; Woods, 1996). The National Association for Bilingual Education (1995) reported a compendium of research findings concluding that when taught by teachers who understand and believe in the important role of primary language in literacy learning, ELL students showed higher levels of achievement in school.

There are three program implementation factors that are considered in determining the congruence between a theoretical model of dual language instruction and actual classroom practice. These are the dual language program model itself, teachers' beliefs about dual language instruction, and patterns of L1 and L2 language use in the classroom. The interrelationship between these factors represent a paradigm for evaluating program quality at three different levels: (a) The level of congruence between the dual language model and teachers' beliefs about dual language instruction, (b) the level of congruence between teachers' beliefs about the program and patterns of use of the two languages as mediums of instruction, and (c) the level of congruence between teachers' actual language use patterns and the guidelines of the dual language program model.

In the discussion that follows, we present examples from case studies of programs that illustrate a high level of match between the dual language instruction model and implementation. Following each example of congruent implementation, we describe a case where there is a lack of congruence between the espoused goals and principles of bilingual education and what actually occurs in classrooms and with program participants. The set of values and beliefs about the role of the languages of instruction in implementing a bilingual program is defined as the Teacher's Language Use Policy (TLUP). The actual use of the languages for management and instructional purposes is defined as the Classroom Language Use Pattern (CLUP).

Levels of Model-Implementation Congruence

Congruence between Program Model and Teachers' Beliefs

Congruence Level 1: Program Model--Teacher Language Use Policy (TLUP).

This level represents a match between the program guidelines articulated in theoretical model for using the languages of instruction and teachers' beliefs about dual language instruction.

In curriculum design, a theoretical model is translated into program guidelines (standards, performance objectives, timeline and schedules, required teaching and learning activities, student assessment procedures, etc.). To ensure efficacy of implementation, these guidelines must be congruent with teachers' own beliefs about the value of bilingual instruction and their understanding of effective classroom practices. Teachers' philosophy of bilingual instruction must be consistent with these program guidelines if they are to demonstrate a high level of commitment and utilize classroom practices that are consistent with the goals and objectives spelled out in the program's mission statement or other policy documents. If teachers' use of students' L1 and L2 is inconsistent with the philosophical underpinnings, students may pick up on unconscious messages about the value of bilingualism for all and the relative prestige of the two languages. These implicit messages may cause inequities in classroom participation and disrupt group cohesion and interaction (Legaretta-Marcaida, 1977).

Calexico School District

An example of a dual language program with a high level of congruence between the program guidelines and teachers' language use is Calexico's K-12 maintenance bilingual education program. Calexico is a rural district with a predominantly Latino population located on the U.S.-Mexico border in southern California (Jones, 1998; Mora, Jones, & Palacio, 1999). The goals of the program reflect a strong ethic supporting bilingualism and bicognitive development in students throughout their schooling. The program focuses on Spanish literacy and English language development in the elementary grades. Students learn to read and write in Spanish while the amount and complexity of instruction in English increases as students develop higher levels of proficiency. However, Spanish is maintained as a medium of instruction in "Spanish for Spanish speakers" courses in middle school and high school. These courses include study of composition, rhetoric, and classic and contemporary literature from Spain and Latin America.

An ethnographic case study and a survey of teachers' attitudes and beliefs about bilingual education and biliteracy instruction in Calexico (Mora, Jones, & Palacio, 1999) described how teachers' language use in classrooms reflected equal affirmation for the primary language and English. Teachers were highly aware of issues of the unequal status of Spanish and made conscious efforts to elevate Spanish as a basis for learning and thinking. Teachers emphasized the development of primary language skills for communication, analysis and metacognition with the aim of long-range academic achievement and biliteracy.

Dorado School District

An example of a lack of congruence between the program model and teachers' beliefs about dual language instruction is taken from a case study of a school district in central California, which we will give the pseudonym "Dorado School District" (Wink, 1998). In this context the guidelines of the theoretical model are solidly grounded in a pluralistic perspective of providing quality service to language minority and majority children. However, as will be seen in the following data, if the teachers' beliefs are not a good fit, or are not congruent with dual language instruction, the stated goals are irrelevant to actual program practice.

All language learning is cultural learning (Brice-Heath, 1986). Children do not merely learn sounds, words, and order. They also learn appropriate language use for specific situations within their cultural context. Most Anglo-American students begin in a Dorado School District elementary school with the cultural capital needed to succeed. In the current structure of Dorado's immersion program, Spanish-dominant students begin school without that cultural capital and background knowledge.

Monica, a native speaker of Spanish, was in the dual language program since kindergarten. Her family initially came to the United States as migrant farm workers and followed the crops. Initially, they lived in migrant labor camps on the outskirts of towns, but her family chose to break the migrant cycle for their children's education, and more specifically, because of the dual language program this town offered. They now live in an apartment. The youngest child in the family of 10, Monica was born in the United States.

Monica was bilingual and could converse easily in both English and Spanish. She had been labeled a 'low reader' in school. Wink (1998) often heard her fourth grade teacher make negative appraisals of Monica's motivation and achievement, such as these comments: "She is just lazy. She won't do any of her work." The researchers' visits with Monica provided a better understanding and deeper insight into the reality of school for this bilingual learner that contradicted the teacher's assessment of this student's motivation to learn English and the causes of her lack of engagement with the academic content and learning tasks in this classroom context.

Based on interviews with Monica, the research concluded that there were a multiplicity of specific incidents the student remembered and described to support her feelings of marginalization in the dual immersion program. The researcher found a common theme among the Latino students in the program of feelings of isolation and discrimination, similar to Monica's accounts of blatant discrimination against her and her classmates. Monica' described the teacher's attitude toward the students of Mexican origin with these words: "Las maestras piensan que los mexicanos somos más sucios. (The teachers think we Mexicans are dirtier.) Monica's reaction to the teacher is an example of a teacher's implicit message that clearly contradicted the dual language program's goal of providing equity and parity of participation for both majority and minority language students.

Congruence Between Teachers' Beliefs and Patterns of Language Use

Congruence Level 2: Teachers' Language Use Policy (TLUP) and Classroom Language Use Patterns (CLUP).

Level 2 is the match between teachers' beliefs regarding dual language instructional strategies and their behaviors based on what they are allowed to, and are able to do, to adhere to the program guidelines.

Several studies of teachers' beliefs about bilingual and second-language instruction (Karna & Lara, 1992: Kerper, 1985) suggest the powerful influence of their belief system on their classroom practices regarding the use of language as a subject and dual languages as a medium of instruction. Woods (1996) described bilingual teachers' belief system as a "finely and elegantly interwoven design" underlying their perceptions of the second-language curriculum and how it was implemented in the classroom, from overall organization of units down to specific classroom activities. A language teacher's belief system appeared to shape their interpretation of curricular mandates and requirements. These interpretations in turn influenced interactions in the classroom between teacher and learners. García (1992) found that teachers of language minority students who were characterized as "effective" were able to clearly articulate what they were doing in their classrooms with distinct beliefs about their teaching role and strategies. Kerper (1985) concluded that teachers' language use in bilingual instruction is a manifestation of their judgments about affective factors such as patterns of teacher-student interaction, and academic learning factors based on the needs and abilities of their students. Consequently, in dual immersion programs that serve both majority and minority language students, teachers' beliefs about the importance and efficacy of each of the languages of instruction for different purposes will result in different patterns of language use within a particular classroom setting.

Taylor School District

An example of this level of congruency between teachers' beliefs and their patterns of dual language use can be seen in the Taylor (pseudonym) School District (Wink, 1998). Two major shifts in policy regarding language minority students in California have contributed to incongruence between teachers' beliefs and their patterns of language use in the classroom. Passage of Proposition 227 in June 1998 made dramatic changes in services provided to language minority students (Mora, 2000). That same year, California instituted a new accountability system, called the Student Reporting and Accountability System (STAR) that mandated annual standardized testing for all students in grades 2-11 (Zehr, 2000).

Prior to 1998, Taylor School District had a dual language program for an equal number of language minority and language majority students in a middle- class community. This relationship is evident in various ways: The guidelines of the theoretical model and this particular bilingual credentialed teacher are in harmony. The students scored high on the standardized test last year and the community took pride in the bilingualism/biliteracy of the students. The teachers were satisfied with their school assignments and their positions in the dual language program. However, with the increased pressure on this program to do even better, changes were instituted. The language minority students previously had 60 minutes of English language development daily; since the advent of emphasis on only specific standardized test scores, more value was placed on English language acquisition.

In the Taylor School District, the teacher referred to it as "the great groan" of test pressure that had caused the district to make changes. Since the advent of more testing requirements, instead of oral language development for 60 minutes a day, both groups of students used this hour to practice test-taking skills from a specific program, purchased by the district. One teacher told the researcher, "Now, my class sits for an hour a day practicing test-taking skills, instead of developing language. They are bored, and I am frustrated. We know that language develops cognition, but at this rate, I have no idea what I am developing in my students in the dual language program."


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