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Educational Policies and Linguistic Diversity: Resolving the Tensions between Ideological Narratives and Research Evidence Jim Cummins The University of.

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Presentation on theme: "Educational Policies and Linguistic Diversity: Resolving the Tensions between Ideological Narratives and Research Evidence Jim Cummins The University of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Educational Policies and Linguistic Diversity: Resolving the Tensions between Ideological Narratives and Research Evidence Jim Cummins The University of Toronto LEARNMe Workshop 2, Stockholm, 8 May 2014

2 “She thinks she’s great because she’s good at Irish” (Dr. Dympna Devine, presentation at St. Patrick’s College, Dublin, 2006) This resentful comment was made by an Irish primary school student in relation to a student of African refugee background who was in the same class. It reflects the fact that for many Irish students, the policy of teaching Irish as a school subject has not led to fluency in the language (outcomes are much better in Gaelscoileanna). It also reflects the fact that newcomer students often welcome the opportunity to learn Irish as a means of staking an identity claim to their new country. Whose claims to Irish identity are more legitimate—a native-born Irish student whose fluency in Irish is minimal and who resents the requirement to learn the language or a student whose family is of African origin who embraces the opportunity to learn the language? Suggests that identity enhancement is a driving force fueling students’ investment in learning non-dominant languages.

3 Overview My mandate is to provide an “international” perspective on issues of language policies and language learning that pertain to European realities; I will focus on the issue of how research evidence and “ideological narratives” intersect to influence both language policies and language pedagogies; Policies that pertain to issues of linguistic diversity typically have two major goals:  Ensure that all students have equitable opportunities to succeed academically, including low SES “immigrant” and minority group students;  Ensure that all students have opportunities to develop proficiency in both their L1 and languages of significance in their countries or communities.

4 Overview (continued) What research evidence is relevant to ensuring equitable educational outcomes for all students in societal contexts of linguistic diversity? What ideological narratives are operating to deflect this research evidence from policy impact and rationalize the implementation of potentially counter-productive policies? What research evidence is relevant to ensuring that all students have opportunities to develop proficiency in languages of significance in their communities? Why do policy-makers in many countries ignore this research evidence?

5 Some Examples of Ideological Narratives Clashing with Research Evidence In the U.S. since the 1970s, there has been fierce opposition to bilingual programs for minority groups (e.g., Spanish-L1 speakers) but general endorsement of bilingual programs for dominant group students. The research shows clearly that bilingual programs have similar positive outcomes for both groups. Is bilingualism good for the rich but bad for the poor? In Ontario, Canada, Deaf children who receive cochlear implants are effectively prohibited from acquiring ASL (AVT therapy is withdrawn if children are exposed to ASL). Research shows strong positive relationships between ASL and English reading proficiency and also positive cognitive outcomes resulting from bilingualism. Is the discredited ideology of L1/L2 interference being used the rationalize the economic interests and territorial claims of AVT therapists? Over generations in contexts such as Canada, Ireland, and elsewhere, policy- makers have ignored the massive evidence that teaching L2s as subjects of instruction is ineffective for a large majority of students. By contrast, bilingual/CLIL programs show much better outcomes. Why do we continue to implement evidence-free language teaching policies?

6 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) (OCDE/OECD)

7 PISA Data on First and Second Generation Migrant Student Achievement


9 From Research to Problematic Interpretation PISA (Stanat & Christensen, 2006): In both mathematics and reading, first and second generation immigrant students who spoke their L1 at home were significantly behind their peers who spoke the school language at home. This suggested to the authors that insufficient opportunities to learn the school language may be a causal factor in students’ underachievement. “These large differences in performance suggest that students have insufficient opportunities to learn the language of instruction” (Christensen & Stanat, 2007, p. 3). Esser (2006) went further and argued on the basis of PISA data that “the use of the native language in the family context has a (clearly) negative effect” (p. 64). He also argued that retention of the home language by immigrant children will reduce both motivation and success in learning the host country language (2006, p. 34). These interpretations have resulted in calls (e.g., Christensen & Stanat, 2007) to immerse immigrant children in L2-only preschool environments as early as possible in order to provide sufficient opportunities to learn L2 (and by implication reduce the negative effect of L1). “Monolingual habitus” ideology (Gogolin) applied to “immigrant” students but not to majority/dominant group students.

10 Critique: Home Use of a Language Other than the School Language is Not a Cause of Underachievement No relationship was found between home language use and achievement in the two countries where immigrant students were most successful (Australia and Canada); Furthermore, the relationship disappeared for a large majority (10 out of 14) of OECD-member countries when socioeconomic status and other background variables were controlled (Stanat & Christensen, 2006, Table 3.5, pp. 200-202). The disappearance of the relationship in a large majority of countries suggests that language spoken at home does not exert any independent effect on achievement but is rather a proxy for variables such as socioeconomic status, length of residence in the host country, and parental push for educational success.

11 So What Does Research Say about Enabling All Students to Succeed Academically? Literacy engagement is crucial Numerous studies have reported that students from middle-income communities have significantly greater access to print in their homes, communities, and schools than did students from lower-income communities (e.g., Duke, 2000; Neuman, 1999; Neuman & Celano, 2001). Identity affirmation is crucial Students from marginalized communities whose identities have been devalued in the wider society tend to experience disproportionate underachievement (e.g., Roma in Europe; African Americans in U.S., First Nations in Canada). In order to reverse this pattern, schools need to implement pedagogies that promote “identities of competence” (Manyak, 2004).

12 What the Research Actually Says: The Neglected Impact of Print Access/Literacy Engagement on Reading Comprehension OECD’s PISA Studies Data on the reading attainment of 15-year olds in 27 countries showed that “the level of a student’s reading engagement is a better predictor of literacy performance than his or her socioeconomic background, indicating that cultivating a student’s interest in reading can help overcome home disadvantages” (OECD, 2004, p. 8). The authors point out that “engagement in reading can be a consequence, as well as a cause, of higher reading skill, but the evidence suggests that these two factors are mutually reinforcing” (p. 8). OECD (2010) – about one-third of the negative impact of SES is mediated through reading engagement (or lack thereof). In other words, schools can significantly reduce the effects of SES by strongly promoting literacy engagement

13 Brozo, Shiel, & Topping, K. (2007/2008). Engagement in reading: Lessons learned from three PISA countries. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 51(4), 304-315. PISA youth from the lowest socioeconomic status (SES) who were highly engaged readers performed as well on the assessment as highly engaged youth from the middle SES group and youth with medium levels of engagement in the high SES group (Kirsch et al., 2002). Using regression analysis, it was found that engagement in reading was the student factor with the third largest impact on performance (after grade and immigration status). It accounted for twice as much of the difference in performance as SES. What this suggests is that highly motivated youth may compensate for low family income and parents' limited educational attainment--two prominent risk factors in the lives of adolescents. Keeping students engaged in reading and learning might make it possible for them to overcome what might otherwise be insuperable barriers to academic success.” (pp. 307-308)

14 Literacy Engagement What Is It? Amount and range of reading and writing; Use of effective strategies for deep understanding of text; Positive affect and identity investment in reading and writing; Drawing on both the 1998 NAEP data from the United States and the results of the PISA study of reading achievement among 15-year olds in international contexts, Guthrie (2004, p. 5) notes that students “…whose family background was characterized by low income and low education, but who were highly engaged readers, substantially outscored students who came from backgrounds with higher education and higher income, but who themselves were less engaged readers. Based on a massive sample, this finding suggests the stunning conclusion that engaged reading can overcome traditional barriers to reading achievement, including gender, parental education, and income.”


16 Extending the Literacy Engagment Framework to TL Teaching More Generally TL Attainment ↑ Active Engagement with the TL (input and output – listening, viewing, reading + speaking, emailing, texting, and writing) ↑ Scaffold Meaning (input and output) Affirm identity Extend language ↔ ↔↔ Connect to students’ lives/Activate prior knowledge

17 The Role of Identity Affirmation and Enhancement Devaluation of identity in the wider society and in school is a major cause of underachievement Extensive evidence from both the sociological/anthropological and psychological research literature demonstrates the impact of societal power relations on minority group achievement. Students who come from social groups whose identities (culture, language, religion, etc.) have been devalued and subordinated in the wider society experience disproportionate academic failure. The experience of these “internal colonies” parallels that of “external colonies” Gloria Ladson-Billings: “The problem that African-American students face is the constant devaluation of their culture both in school and in the larger society” (1995, p. 485).

18 What Do We Mean by “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

19 Affirming Identity = Challenging the Legacy and Current Operation of Coercive Relations of Power Take away identity and what do you have? If you have a student that doesn’t know who they are, do you think they care about what goes on in the classroom? Cassandra Bice-Zaugg, Mississauga of the New Credit First Nations, Ontario


21 School Based Language Policies Are a Prerequisite for Effective Language Teaching and Promotion of Equitable Academic Outcomes Every school has a language policy—unfortunately in many schools this policy is implicit, unarticulated, and incoherent; Effective school language policies are visible and audible; a visitor should be able to see the policies in action on the walls and hear multiple languages being used by students (and teachers) within the school.


23 Set up by Peel ESL teacher, Patricia Chow, in 2002

24 Creating an Identity-Affirming School Environment (Crescent Town PS, TDSB) Validating Home Language and Culture

25 Creating an Identity-Affirming School Environment (a) Validating Home Language and Culture


27 Creating an Identity-Affirming School Environment (b) Capable of thinking about and finding solutions to social issues? (c) Capable of higher-order thinking?


29 How Do We Apply this Framework to the Learning of Regional/Minority Languages? Literacy engagement is important—enable students to read extensively in the TL, engage in critical discussion about what they have read (in L1 or L2-- translanguaging is OK) and use the TL for powerful purposes that affirm/enhance their emerging identities. Transmission approaches to L2 teaching or approaches that are superficially communicative have not been particularly successful in teaching L2. The major problem with these approaches is that students often become discouraged because most never reach a level of proficiency where they can use the target language in any meaningful way. My central argument is that students will learn target languages effectively only when they are enabled to engage in powerful uses of these languages. Powerful uses connect with students’ lives and interests, enable them to use their cognitive, linguistic, and artistic talents, and create outcomes that reflect students’ identities in a positive light. Creative use of technology can amplify instruction and enhance learning.


31 Resources (Multiliteracies project) (Dual Language Showcase) Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society (Jim Cummins; California Association for Bilingual Education, 2001) Literacy, Technology and Diversity: Teaching for Success in Changing Times (Jim Cummins, Kristin Brown, & Dennis Sayers; Allyn & Bacon [Pearson Education], 2007) ( ) IdentityTexts: The Collaborative Creation of Power in Multilingual Schools (Edited by Jim Cummins and Margaret Early; Trentham Books, 2011)

32 Resources (continued) Celic, C. & Seltzer, K. (2012). Translanguaging: A CUNY-NYSIEB Guide for Educators. New York: CUNY/NYSIEB. ( Chumak-Horbatsch, R. (2012). Linguistically appropriate practice: A guide for working with young immigrant children. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. McWilliam, N. (1998). What’s in a word? Vocabulary development in multilingual classrooms. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books.


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