LINGUIST List 32.1826

Tue May 25 2021

Review: Applied Linguistics: Henderson, Palmer (2020)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <jecoburnlinguistlist.org>



Date: 31-Aug-2020
From: Noah Verboon <nverboonufl.edu>
Subject: Dual Language Bilingual Education
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message


Book announced at https://linguistlist.org/issues/31/31-1368.html

AUTHOR: Kathryn I. Henderson
AUTHOR: Deborah K. Palmer
TITLE: Dual Language Bilingual Education
SUBTITLE: Teacher Cases and Perspectives on Large-Scale Implementation
SERIES TITLE: Bilingual Education & Bilingualism
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2020

REVIEWER: Noah Verboon, University of Florida

SUMMARY

The education system in the United States within recent history has seen growth and transformation within its bilingual education programs, most notably, the transition to Dual Language Bilingual Education (DLBE) programs to foster bilingualism and biliteracy in all students. While the Texas school district investigated in this book was using the Gómez-Gómez program model for its DLBE curriculum and the languages of the program were English and Spanish, the focus of this book is not on a specific program model or language but rather on the educators and teachers themselves as they work within the DLBE program.

In this book, the authors Kathryn I. Henderson and Deborah K. Palmer pull the content of this book from their data from a larger four-year study of a Texas school district. The authors present the readers with overall data on topics such as program investment and implementation issues from survey responses and interviews. The authors also present six case studies to provide their readers with a more detailed look into the real-world of DLBE within a classroom.

As such, the book is divided into seven chapters, but what I would describe as 3 parts: background, case studies, and conclusion. Each part builds on the others to help the reader fully understand the context of the case studies.

In Chapters 1-3, the authors provide us with background to DLBE programs, language policy, and background to the study. In Chapter 1, Henderson and Palmer present a condensed historical background to language diversity and language educational programs within the history of the United States. While the United States has always been a country of great linguistic diversity, languages associated with whiteness, i.e. European languages, have always been placed in a more prestigious place than languages associated with non-whiteness, i.e. native, Asian, and African languages. Spanish holds a unique place as being associated with immigrants and people of color and therefore not as prestigious, even though it is a European language. This racism caused a strong English-only stance within education especially near the end of the 19th century. After the two world wars, this attitude strengthened by emphasizing the American identity and promoting English only within schooling. In the 1960’s, there was a turn to bilingual education, but the emphasis was not so much in promoting bilingualism as it was in transitioning emerging bilingual students to be English proficient. Transitional bilingual education programs became prominent in schools to “fix” students who were “English deficient”. After a resurgence of anti-bilingual education and a return to English-only sentiment in the latter part of the 20th century, bilingual education tried to re-brand as dual language education emphasizing that all students would be able to receive education in two languages and not just the students who spoke another language before learning English in school. However, as the authors cite, the term Dual Language Bilingual Education is a deliberate choice to not cover the complicated history and subtractive nature of the term bilingual education. Dual Language Bilingual Education tries to promote bilingualism and biliteracy, and to do so, the program models attempt to create a 50/50 balance of the English and the target language (in this book Spanish). However, there are various factors which affect the efficacy of DLBE programs. One factor that had not been explored much before this book was teachers, and this book attempts to shed light into what a DLBE program will look like in a classroom.

Chapter 2 focuses on language policy, theory, and ideologies from the authors’ perspective that influence DLBE. The authors prescribe to a viewpoint of multilayered language policy, from national to local governments, to school administrations and down to teachers. Each layer can interact and cause tension with the other, meaning that enacted language policy can look different not only across districts but also within districts. Teachers as a layer within language policy and are therefore language policy makers. As this chapter states, the purpose of the book is to add to the literature studying the importance of teachers in language policy. Language policy is not the only factor that affects DLBE programs but also language theories and ideologies. The authors hold the perspective of ecology of language, that is, the preservation and diversification of languages. Here the authors align with the perspective of translanguaging, that language is not fixed within the speaker but rather that they both interact with each other and that speakers can use one or the other or both in certain situations. The authors hold that this practice is beneficial and valuable to language ecology. Language ideologies also affect language policy. Ideology about a language can be that there is a hierarchy of language, one being better than the other. This ideology can be held by individuals and shared in groups. DLBE programs represent a pluralist ideology in contrast to the monolingual assimilationist ideology generally held in the United States. Teachers’ ideologies should be aligned to the pluralist nature of DLBE, as their ideologies permeate the actual program. And finally, the success of DLBE program implementation also requires a strong program design with administrative support and adequate teacher support in understanding the goals of the program. However, the ideologies of the schools and standardized testing seem to be an obstacle to creating an effective program.

Chapter 3 is the background to the study and overall survey data. The data presented in this book comes from the authors’ four-year study of a Texas school district. They conducted interviews, surveys, and classroom observations. The results reveal both assimilationist and pluralist ideologies, with the assimilationist ideologies going against the nature of DLBE programs. Teachers also identified issues with program implementation such as lack of investment, logistical issues, and structural issues. With the issue of investment, teachers identified that fidelity to the DLBE model relied on the teacher but also community support of the program. Logistical issues included lack of teaching materials and time constraints. Structural issues included testing and assessment pressures, mixed messages between administration and teaches, the student body with mixed levels of competency, and equity across the program to meet the needs of the target community. While overall attitudes toward DLBE implantation were positive among the teachers surveyed, the experiences with DLBE were mostly negative.

In Chapters 4-6, the authors introduce us to case studies of six teachers using DLBE programs in their schools.

In Chapter 4, the case study focuses on two instructors following the DLBE program loyally. The two instructors, Marisol and Rachel, followed the language guidelines of using one language at a time for a particular subject. They meet the program expectations, but their ideologies match the idea that each language must be separate and learned separately. Neither teacher, although skilled and loyal to the model, promoted a language learning environment that allowed for translanguaging, code-switching, or hybrid language practices. The environment within the classroom still represented a monolingual standard.

In Chapter 5, the case study focuses on two instructors, Mariana and Lisel, struggling to implement the DLBE program due to issues such as conflicting policy or administrative issues. While both expressed desire to follow the DLBE program, in Mariana’s case, she had to sacrifice subject and language use time to have her students focus on testing preparation. Lisel similarly focused on testing preparation and achieving high scores over language development.

In Chapter 6, the case study focuses on two instructors, Olivia and Michael, modifying the DLBE program to fit their classroom needs. With her experience, Olivia would modify the program to meet her students’ needs and abilities. Olivia would allow translanguaging in her classroom and even encourage her students to switch between languages essentially giving the students her power in their language practices. Michael would also skillfully navigate translanguaging in his classroom and did not follow the DLBE program’s strict separation of language. Both teachers subverted the rules of the DLBE program in their classroom. Olivia had a supportive administrative staff in her school which allowed her to complete this, while Michael learned to work around the less supportive administration at his school.

And finally, Chapter 7 offers a summary of the book and what the case studies reveal about the classroom settings within DLBE programs. It reiterates positive support for DLBE, but it also provides considerations for how to improve. The authors recommend that in large scale development, program investment and support from administrative levels is necessary. The authors critique the pressures of high stakes academic testing and suggest that standardized testing should be improved to properly assess students’ abilities. The chapter also stresses the importance of ideology in the design and execution of DLBE programs. The authors emphasize that such programs need to be implemented with the ideology of promoting bilingualism/biliteracy, cross-cultural competence, and critical consciousness and not with the ideology of improving test scores. Teachers’ ideologies also must be aligned with promoting a safe space for language cultivation, with students’ bilingual language practices, with avoiding rigid scores and testing as proof of competency, with being connected to their students, the families and the community, and with promoting critical language awareness. And finally, the authors conclude by reminding their readers of the importance of the individual educators as they are the ones who can skillfully put into practice the DLBE program.

EVALUATION

Dual language education in the United States’ education system has been a point of discussion amongst educators for many years. Henderson and Palmer effectively personalize DLBE programs by not focusing solely on program design and implementation but by focusing on the teachers themselves at the “boots on the ground” level. Instead of attempting to prove the efficacy of one DLBE program over another, they present how successful but also complicated DLBE can be in the classroom from both internal and external factors. That said, to give the necessary background within the first two chapters, I would caution readers that it is dense reading at first.

Chapter 2 is daunting as it introduces theory and linguistic terminology. The authors do describe the concepts in ways that can be understood by educators without a background in linguistics. However, I would recommend further reading into translanguaging and code switching to get a broader understanding of these concepts.

Additionally, the primary audience for this book is educators. This book challenges previously held ideologies. It is possible that an educator with a more “traditional” view of language education might find it hard to agree with the concepts and theories presented. My recommendation is that readers take the time to read the studies referenced to broaden their view and challenge previously held beliefs about language education.

The case studies themselves are well presented and true to source material, including Spanish interactions with translations in parenthesis. I find the case studies themselves to be the most interesting part of the book. After reading the background, readers can see the concepts in action within the classroom. I commend the authors and researchers for their work in creating an accurate picture of what a DLBE classroom can look like.

The end of Chapters 4, 5, and 6 include discussion questions which can be used by a reader alone or a group of readers. The discussion questions are thought provoking, and if this book were to be used in a language education class, they would promote discussion between the students. That being said, the first three chapters do not have discussion questions. If this book were to be used in a classroom, the instructor might want to supplement the readings.

In all, Henderson and Palmer have created a fascinating book, which is well worth the read for those educators recently involved in dual language education, educators just beginning in dual language education, and students interested in the field of dual language education. Those looking to implement a DLBE program should also have the administrators read this book as it truly gives an idea of what a program would look like and the issues that may arise.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Noah Verboon is a second year graduate student, working toward a Master's Degree in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Florida. His main interests are language acquisition, bilingualism, Heritage Speakers, Heritage Language education and code-switching.



Page Updated: 25-May-2021