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Brave New Schools: Identity and Power in Canadian Education Jim Cummins Ontario Institute for Studies in Education 2008 R.W.B Jackson Lecture.

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Presentation on theme: "Brave New Schools: Identity and Power in Canadian Education Jim Cummins Ontario Institute for Studies in Education 2008 R.W.B Jackson Lecture."— Presentation transcript:

1 Brave New Schools: Identity and Power in Canadian Education Jim Cummins Ontario Institute for Studies in Education 2008 R.W.B Jackson Lecture

2 The Toronto District School Board wins the Carl Bertelsmann Prize 2008 The Prize honors exemplary work in fostering integration and promoting equal opportunity in education Students at the Don Mills Collegiate Institute. The Bertelsmann Foundation has announced that the Toronto District School Board has won this year's Carl Bertelsmann Prize of €150,000 for its exemplary work in promoting social integration and improving equal learning opportunities at its schools. “The equity policy of the TDSB represents a holistic, systemic approach to ensuring equal participation and chances especially for students of migrant origin.”


4 PISA Data on First and Second Generation Migrant Student Achievement


6 Overview From Effective to Inspirational Pedagogy Pedagogical orientation pedagogy as instrumental pedagogy as personal pedagogy as political How linguistic and other forms of diversity are constructed in school policy and practice diversity as problem to be resolved diversity as resource for learning How educators individually and collectively position themselves with the matrix of societal power relations coercive relations of power collaborative relations of power

7 Power and the Negotiation of Identity in Classrooms Societal power relations are flowing through the teacher to his or her students. However, through their pedagogical choices, teachers can seize this power and re- direct it so that it becomes collaborative and promotes “empowerment”. Coercive Relations of Power = exercise of power by a dominant individual, group, or country to the detriment of a subordinated individual, group, or country (power over); Collaborative Relations of Power = collaborative relations of power operate on the assumption that power is not a fixed pre-determined quantity but rather can be generated in interpersonal and intergroup relations. Participants in the relationship are empowered through their collaboration such that each is more affirmed in her or his identity and has a greater sense of efficacy to create change in his or her life or social situation (power with); Empowerment = the collaborative creation of power




11 Power and Identity in “Brave New World” "We also predestine and condition. We decant our babies as socialized human beings, as Alphas or Epsilons…” “There was a pause; then the voice began again. ‘Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able …’ “ Fiction? One of the most consistent research findings across international contexts is that schools largely reproduce the social class divisions and power relations of the society. Is this because we lack instructional techniques or because we choose as a society not to challenge established systems of power and status relations?

12 Power and Identity in Teacher Education: The OISE Policy (from the 2009 Applicant Profile) “OISE is strongly committed to social justice in everything it does. This means that we are committed to the just treatment of each individual member of our community and the communities we serve.” This question is an opportunity for you to show that you understand that who you are will affect your work as a teacher. Each person's social identity is influenced by gender, race, socio- economic status, sexuality, religion, geographic region, ethnicity, age, dis/ability, and other characteristics. The students in every school are diverse in at least some of these ways. Describe your social identity. How and why do you think your social identity will influence your work as a teacher with groups of students who are diverse in their social identities?

13 Identity Destruction in Residential Schools Dolphus Shae’s testimony to the Berger Inquiry (1977) of his experiences at the Aklavik Residential School: ‘Before I went to school the only English I knew was “hello” and when we got there we were told that if we spoke Indian they would whip us until our hands were blue on both sides. And also we were told that the Indian religion was superstitious and pagan. It made you feel inferior to whites...We all felt lost and wanted to go home...Today I think back on the hostel life and I feel furious.’ (p. 90)

14 American Sign Language and Cochlear Implants: Evidence and Ideology Hard-of-hearing children and deaf children with cochlear implants also benefit from exposure to a signed language (Preisler, 1999; Preisler & Ahlstrom, 1997; Spencer, 2002). Perhaps, especially for this group of children with some hearing abilities, acquiring a signed language early in childhood can assist spoken language development in significant ways. Yoshinaga-Itano (2006) cites three case studies of infants, involved with the Colorado Home Intervention Program, who acquired ASL and simultaneously received cochlear implants and auditory-oral stimulation. These young children’s broad ASL vocabularies became a foundation for developing spoken English word perception and production skills. (Kristin Snoddon, Canadian Modern Language Review, 2008, 64:4, p. 594)

15 Two Scenarios Diversity as a problem Diversity as a resource

16 Diversity as Problem In recent years, increasing numbers of ESL students have come into my [science] classes. This year, one of my classes contains almost as many non-English speaking students as there are English speaking ones. Most of the ESL students have very limited English skills, and as a result are not involved in class discussions and cannot complete assignments or pass tests.

17 Diversity as Problem (cont.) I respect these students as I recognize that often they have a superior prior education in their own language. They are well-mannered, hard-working and respectful of others. I enjoy having a multiracial society in my classroom, because I like these students for themselves and their high motivational level. However, I am troubled by my incompetence in adequately helping many individual students of that society. Because of language difficulties, they often cannot understand me, nor can they read the text or board notes. Each of these students needs my personal attention, and I do not have that extra time to give.

18 Diversity as Problem (cont.) As well, I have to evaluate their ability to understand science. They cannot show me their comprehension. I have to give them a failing mark! I question the educational decisions made to assimilate ESL students into academic subject classes before they have minimal skills in English (extracted from "A teacher's daily struggle in multi-racial classroom", Letter of the Week, Toronto Star, 1994, April 2, p. B3).

19 What’s Wrong with this Scenario? Isolation – no evidence of any communication with ESL teachers or other content teachers; Leadership vacuum – why is this issue not being discussed at school level? No awareness of relevant research – at least 5 years is typically required for ELL students to catch up academically – can’t be “fixed” in 1-2 years of ESL; No awareness of scaffolding strategies to make content comprehensible for ELL students; No conception of possible alternative assessment strategies.

20 Uncomfortable Questions This classroom reality can be understood only at the institutional level. It reflects the curricular and organizational choices made at multiple levels of the educational hierarchy. These choices reflect the priorities and values of our society – in other words, they reflect the power relations in our society. In a context where half the students in the school system have learned or are learning English as an additional language, how do we explain the fact that many teachers may still lack the knowledge base to teach these students effectively? How do we explain the fact that there is typically very little attention paid to issues of linguistic diversity in Principals’ courses? If principals are unaware of what constitutes effective content teaching to ELL students, how can they evaluate whether teachers are instructing these students effectively? To what extent are Faculties of Education preparing new teachers to teach our current student body rather than an imagined “generic” student who is white, middle-class, monolingual, monocultural and heterosexual?

21 The Collaborative Creation of Power in One Classroom Lisa Leoni: Year 1 – Grade 7/8 mainstream class; Year 2 – Grades 4-6 ESL; Large Muslim student population from Pakistan; Lisa explored implementation of bilingual instructional strategies as a way of enabling literacy engagement from a very early stage of students’ learning of English; Video clips are from a presentation at the Ontario TESL conference in November 2005;

22 Identity Negotiation in the Classroom The way I see it everything has to relate to the identity of the students; children have to see themselves in every aspect of their work at school. My overarching goal as a teacher is to uncover all that is unknown to me about my students–linguistically and culturally, and especially to understand the community they are part of (their parents, their friends, their faith) and the list goes on. So when a student enters my class, I want to discover all that I can about that student as a learner and as a person. For example, when Tomer entered my class last year, a lot of the work he produced was in Hebrew. Why? Because that is where his knowledge was encoded and I wanted to make sure that Tomer was an active member and participant in my class. It was also a way for me to gain insight into his level of literacy and oral language development.

23 Tomer’s Identity Text I think using your first language is so helpful because when you don’t understand something after you’ve just come here it is like beginning as a baby. You don’t know English and you need to learn it all from the beginning; but if you already have it in another language then it is easier, you can translate it, and you can do it in your language too, then it is easier to understand the second language. The first time I couldn’t understand what she [Lisa] was saying except the word Hebrew, but I think it’s very smart that she said for us to do it in our language because we can’t just sit on our hands doing nothing.



26 Kanta’s Perspective And how it helped me was when I came here in grade 4 the teachers didn’t know what I was capable of. I was given a pack of crayons and a coloring book and told to get on coloring with it. And after I felt so bad about that--I’m capable of doing much more than just that. I have my own inner skills to show the world than just coloring and I felt that those skills of mine are important also. So when we started writing the book [The New Country], I could actually show the world that I am something instead of just coloring. And that's how it helped me and it made me so proud of myself that I am actually capable of doing something, and here today [at the Ontario TESL conference] I am actually doing something. I’m not just a coloring person—I can show you that I am something.

27 Kanta’s and Tomer’s Pedagogical Theory Effective pedagogy aims explicitly to promote cognitive engagement and identity investment on the part of students. Effective pedagogy constructs an image of the student as intelligent, imaginative, and linguistically talented. Lack of English does not imply less intelligence, imagination, or linguistic talent. Effective pedagogy acknowledges and builds on the cultural and linguistic capital (prior knowledge) of students and communities. if students’ prior knowledge is encoded in L1, then L1 should be encouraged as a cognitive tool; Knowledge and skills transfer across languages – teachers should encourage and enable that transfer rather than restricting it; This orientation to the teaching of linguistically diverse students is very different from what is being proposed within the discourse of “evidence-based” ‘ school effectiveness research.

28 Emerging Policy Framework for Educating Immigrant Children Based on OECD Data Migration Policy InstituteBertelsmann Stiftung The Transatlantic Task Force on Immigration and Integration Language Policies and Practices for Helping Immigrants and Second-generation Immigrant Students Succeed Gayle Christensen and Petra Stanat September 2007

29 The Construction of Students’ Home Language as a Cause of Underachievement The Transatlantic Task Force on Immigration and Integration articulated the policy options of Christensen and Stanat’s (2007) paper, together with two others they commissioned (Crul, 2007; Lesemann, 2007), in the following way: The reports recommend that lawmakers focus on policies that bring children of immigrants into the education system by the age of three, immerse them in the language of their host countries, provide language support through both primary and secondary school within a clear framework, and afford more flexibility to move between academic and vocational education. ( The unspoken logic here is that total immersion of immigrant students at a very early age in the host country language will ensure cultural and linguistic assimilation and get rid of the “problem” of children’s home language.

30 Pedagogies of Choice: School Improvement through Teacher Agency Instructional OptionsCurrent Realities Where Are We? Vision for the Future Where Do We Want To Be? Getting it Done How Do We Get There? Content How do we adapt curriculum materials to link with students’ prior knowledge and cultural background (e.g. purchase dual language books) and also to promote critical thinking about texts and issues (e.g. whose perspectives are represented in a text)? Cognition How can we modify instruction to evoke higher levels of literacy engagement and critical thinking? Tools How can we use tools such as computers, digital cameras, camcorders, web pages, etc? Assessment How can we complement mandated standardized assessments in order to present to students, parents, and administrators a more valid account of student progress? (e.g. a role for portfolio assessment?) Language/Culture What messages are we giving students and parents about home language and culture? How can we enable students to use their L1 as a powerful tool for learning? Can we increase students’ identity investment by means of bilingual instructional strategies (teaching for transfer)? Parental Involvement How can we engage parents as co-educators in such a way that their linguistic and cultural expertise is harnessed as fuel for their children’s academic progress?

31 What Image of the Child Are We Sketching in Our Instruction? Capable of becoming bilingual and biliterate? Capable of higher-order thinking and intellectual accomplishments? Capable of creative and imaginative thinking? Capable of creating literature and art? Capable of generating new knowledge? Capable of thinking about and finding solutions to social issues?

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