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Languages of Schooling: Exploring the Connexions between Research, Theory and Policy in an Ideologically Complex Environment Jim Cummins University of.

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Presentation on theme: "Languages of Schooling: Exploring the Connexions between Research, Theory and Policy in an Ideologically Complex Environment Jim Cummins University of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Languages of Schooling: Exploring the Connexions between Research, Theory and Policy in an Ideologically Complex Environment Jim Cummins University of Toronto The right of learners to quality and equity in education The role of linguistic and intercultural competences Intergouvernemental Policy Forum, Geneva, November 2010

2 Some Themes: Research and Policy Dimensions Council of Europe’s insistence on the fundamental right of all students to a high quality education which includes support for the development of plurilingual and intercultural competencies. Prominence of “identity discourse” in CoE documents – the right of all students to express their identities through language.  Research dimension: These are social values but they are also strongly supported by research on (a) the benefits of bilingualism, and (b) the centrality of identity negotiation in school to vulnerable students’ success or failure.  Reality check: To what extent do students of migrant backgrounds get the opportunity to showcase their linguistic talents and develop a sense of pride in their linguistic accomplishments and cultural identities?

3 Some Themes: Research and Policy Dimensions Clarification of the nature of academic language and the need to teach students how language operates in subject areas across the curriculum. This focus on developing language awareness and extending language expertise applies to all students but is particularly important for students from migrant backgrounds and/or vulnerable learners who are learning the language of instruction and whose prior exposure to literate forms of language may have been limited.  Research dimension: The complexities of academic language are reflected in the fact that it typically takes immigrant L2 learners at least 5+ years to catch up academically (compared to 1-2 years in everyday conversational aspects of language proficiency);  The nature of academic language is also reflected in the fact that literacy engagement is the strongest predictor of literacy attainment;  Reality check: “Language across the Curriculum” has been around since the Bullock Report (1974) in the UK and yet we are still very far from implementing these instructional strategies in any coherent way.

4 Some Themes: Research and Policy Dimensions The OECD PISA research and other international studies have highlighted the variability in achievement among students of migrant background. In some cases, 2 nd generation students perform worse than newcomer 1 st generation students.  Research dimension: This variability highlights the fact (shown in many other studies) that language spoken at home does not exert any independent negative effect on achievement in L2 (the school language); where a correlational relationship is observed (as in the OECD studies), it disappears when other background variables such as SES and length of residence are considered.  The variability in academic outcomes and the lower performance of 2 nd generation students in some contexts also highlight the fact that power relations in the wider society influence what happens in school; specifically, exclusionary structures and discourse are frequently manifested in educational structures (e.g., curriculum, assessment, teacher education etc.) and teacher-student interactions that devalue student identities.  Reality check: When it comes to migrant students and vulnerable learners we are still a long way from implementing pedagogies that challenge coercive relations of power in the wider society.

5 Adding to the Council of Europe’s Toolkit? The knowledge base relating to the achievement of migrant students and vulnerable learners is sufficiently robust that we are in a position to articulate theoretical frameworks that express this research in pedagogically useful ways; On the basis of the existing research and theory, we are in a position to articulate procedures whereby school communities can develop a Pedagogical Portfolio. This would involve undertaking a collective pedagogical inquiry of their own policies and instructional practices in order to advance the academic achievement of migrant students and vulnerable learners; The Council of Europe is in an excellent position to take the lead in developing concrete tools to support schools in developing a Pedagogical Portfolio.

6 So What Is the Knowledge Base? Academic language is fundamentally different from everyday conversational language. Academic language is found in 2 places: classrooms and text. Consequently, access to print and engagement with reading are fundamental to developing academic language proficiency. Extensive research demonstrates very strong relationships between literacy attainment and both access to print and literacy engagement. Linguistic mismatch is not a cause of underachievement. All of the research on bilingual education and L2 learning supports the principle of interdependence (transfer) across languages. Therefore, promotion of migrant students’ L1 will not impede L2 and may increase students’ opportunity to benefit linguistically and cognitively from an additive form of bilingualism. Reinforcement of coercive power relations in the school is a cause of underachievement. Identity affirmation challenges the devaluation of migrant/vulnerable students’ language and culture in the wider society.

7 Understanding Literacy Development in Multilingual School Contexts: An Empirically Grounded Framework Literacy Attainment ↑ Literacy Engagement ↑ Scaffold Meaning (input and output) Affirm identity Extend language ↔ ↔↔ Activate prior knowledge/Build background knowledge

8 Proposition 1. Bilingual Education is a Legitimate Policy Option in Contexts where it is Feasible Research Evidence on Bilingual Education (1) “In summary, there is no indication that bilingual instruction impedes academic achievement in either the native language or English, whether for language-minority students, students receiving heritage language instruction, or those enrolled in French immersion programs. Where differences were observed, on average they favored the students in a bilingual program. The meta-analytic results clearly suggest a positive effect for bilingual instruction that is moderate in size.” (Francis, Lesaux, and August 2006, p. 397)

9 Research Evidence on Bilingual Education (2) F. Genesee, K. Lindholm-Leary, W. Saunders, & D. Christian (Eds). Educating English Language Learners. (pp ). New York: Cambridge University Press. “[T]here is strong convergent evidence that the educational success of ELLs [English language learners] is positively related to sustained instruction through the student’s first language.... most long-term studies report that the longer the students stayed in the program, the more positive were the outcomes”. (Lindholm-Leary & Borsato, 2006, p. 201)

10 The Interdependence Hypothesis “To the extent that instruction in Lx is effective in promoting proficiency in Lx, transfer of this proficiency to Ly will occur provided there is adequate exposure to Ly (either in school or environment) and adequate motivation to learn Ly.” (Cummins, 1981, p. 29) In concrete terms, what this principle means is that in, for example, a Turkish-German bilingual program in Germany, Turkish instruction that develops Turkish reading and writing skills is not just developing Turkish skills, it is also developing a deeper conceptual and linguistic proficiency that is strongly related to the development of literacy in the majority language (German). The interdependence hypothesis explains why L1-medium instruction for minority students does not result in adverse effects on L2 academic development.

11 National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth (2006) Findings on Transfer and Linguistic Interdependence (Dressler & Kamil) In summary, all these studies provide evidence for the cross- language transfer of reading comprehension ability in bilinguals. This relationship holds (a) across typologically different languages...; (b) for children in elementary, middle, and high school; (c) for learners of English as a foreign language and English as a second language; (d) over time; (e) from both first to second language and second to first language; (p. 222)

12 Petra Stanat and Gayle Christensen Proposition 2. Home Language Use of a Minority Language Is Not a Cause of Underachievement

13 PISA Data on First and Second Generation Migrant Student Achievement

14 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).

15 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 ). 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.

16 Proposition 3: Literacy engagement plays a key role in promoting reading comprehension OECD’s PISA Study 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).

17 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.”

18 “Reports of studies that do use rigorous research designs do show that increasing children’s access to print material generally does improve children’s outcomes. … Increasing children’s access to print material appears to produce more positive attitudes toward reading, increases the amount of reading that children do, increases children’s emergent literacy skills, and improves children’s reading achievement” (Lindsay, 2010). Higher Reading Achievement results in Access to Print

19 Proposition 4: Devaluation of Identity Is a 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 in the wider society tend to experience disproportionate academic failure (Ogbu). 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).

20 The Deeper Roots of Underachievement Isidro Lucas (1981): Study of Puerto Rican drop-out students in Chicago: “All my dropout respondents spoke good understandable English.They hadn’t learned math, or social sciences, or natural sciences, unfortunately. But they had learned English…No dropout mentioned lack of English as the reason for quitting. As it evolved through questionnaires and interviews, theirs was a more subtle story—of alienation, of not belonging, of being ‘push-outs’… To my surprise, dropouts expressed more confidence in their ability to speak English than did the stay-ins (seniors in high school). For their part, stay-ins showed more confidence in their Spanish than did dropouts…I had to conclude that identity, expressed in one’s confidence and acceptance of the native culture was more a determinant of school stay-in power than the mere acquisition of the coding-decoding skills involved in a different language, English”. (p. 19)

21 Framing a Pedagogical Portfolio Literacy Attainment ↑ Literacy Engagement ↑ Scaffold Meaning (input and output) Affirm identity Extend language ↔ ↔↔ Activate prior knowledge/Build background knowledge

22 Collaborative Pedagogical Inquiry A. 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?

23 Collaborative Pedagogical Inquiry B. Literacy Engagement To what extent are students immersed in a literacy-rich environment throughout primary school?  Are they listening to and dramatising stories from the earliest days of schooling?  Do they have access to a well-stocked classroom library and the opportunity to borrow books to take home to read with their parents?  Does the school library have books in the multiple languages of the school and/or dual language books?  Does the school library encourage parents to come in and check out books with their children (e.g., by staying open after school hours to accommodate parents’ schedules)?  Are students discussing books they are reading on a regular basis within the classroom?  Is technology being used in creative ways? For example, are students uploading book reviews to appropriate web sites? Are they videotaping scenes or adaptations from books they have read?  Has the school forged connections with the local public library to explore ways of promoting literacy engagement? Etc. etc.

24 Collaborative Pedagogical Inquiry C. Identity Affirmation To what extent is the school enabling students to connect academic work to their own developing identities with the result that students develop a sense of pride in their linguistic talents and intellectual and literary accomplishments?  To what extent do students and parents see signs and student work in multiple languages displayed at the school entrance and other public spaces (e.g., corridors) throughout the school?  To what extent are newcomer students encouraged to use their L1s for completion of academic work and creative writing?  To what extent are students’ dual language books or projects displayed publicly (e.g., on a school web site) and showcased in a positive manner (e.g., on parents’ nights etc.)?  To what extent are students enabled to engage in sister class projects with multilingual speakers from other countries or regions using multiple languages to carry out collaborative projects?  To what extent are students encouraged to compare their L1 with the school language in order to develop greater language awareness?



27 Tomer’s Perspective 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.

28 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.

29 Identity Texts: a tool for cognitive engagement and identity investment Identity texts refer to artifacts that students produce. Students take ownership of these artifacts as a result of having invested their identities in them. Once produced, these texts (written, spoken, visual, musical, or combinations in multimodal form) hold a mirror up to the student in which his or her identity is reflected back in a positive light. Students invest their identities in these texts which then become ambassadors of students’ identities. When students share identity texts with multiple audiences (peers, teachers, parents, grandparents, sister classes, the media, etc.) they are likely to receive positive feedback and affirmation of self in interaction with these audiences.

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





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

36 Creating an Identity-Affirming School Environment (d) Linking Literacy Engagement with Identity Affirmation


38 Reading makes me powerful because… When I grow up I can find a better job than people who can’t read. Somebody can also trick you to do something that will get you in trouble. Reading gives you new words to learn. It gives my brain new ideas. It helps your vocabulary so when you need to write something you can use longer and harder words. In school you can get a better mark using more words. By Tasneem

39 An Instructional Framework for Literacy Promotion in Multilingual School Contexts Literacy Attainment ↑ Literacy Engagement ↑ Scaffold Meaning (input and output) Affirm identity Extend language ↔ ↔↔ Activate prior knowledge/Build background knowledge

40 Creating a Pedagogical Portfolio: Articulating Choices and Taking Collective Action Instructional Options Current 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?

41 Resources (Multiliteracies project) (webcast on Teaching and Learning in Multilingual Ontario) (short pdf files on “what works” including Literacy Development in Multilingual Schools by Jim Cummins) (Many Roots, Many Voices) (lots of useful video and print resources for use with immigrant parents) (resources for teacher education and for use with newcomer families) (fun site to create “word clouds” and explore vocabulary)

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