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Review of Teaching and Learning in a Multilingual School
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 23:04:38 -0400 From: Fernanda Ferreira Subject: Teaching and Learning in a Multilingual School
AUTHOR: Goldstein, Tara TITLE: Teaching and Learning in a Multilingual School SUBTITLE: Choices, Risks, and Dilemmas SERIES: Languages, Culture and Teaching PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR: 2003
Fernanda L. Ferreira, Bridgewater State College.
OVERVIEW This book is intended for teachers and teacher educators who are either presently working or who intend to work in multilingual communities. The core of the book focuses on findings from a four-year critical ethnographic case study (1996 to 2000) of Northside High School. The name is a pseudonym given to a Canadian high school with a large student population from Hong Kong. Following the book abstract, it deals with the multitude of ways in which teachers and students thought about, responded to, and negotiated the issues and dilemmas that arose in this multicultural environment. The insights they derived from their experiences of working across linguistic, cultural, and racial differences are the essence of this text.
The book is divided into two parts, the first titled ''Dilemmas of Speech and Silence'' and the second '' Dilemmas of Discrimination''. Although specific in many ways, the content extrapolates to issues generally present in English-speaking schools that serve a population of students whose first language is not English. Each chapter contains four components as follows: an excerpt from the ethnographic study, an analytic commentary on the ethnographic texts, a pedagogical discussion, and lastly, suggestions for further reflection and discussion.
The book also includes three separate and important appendices. In Appendix A, Goldstein includes a play she has written called ''Hong Kong, Canada''. The inspiration for the play and some of its words come from the ethnographic study itself. Appendix B is titled ''Critical Education Ethnography in Postmodern Times'' and deals with the details of the ethnographic study, the research team, and the theories involved in developing the study. Appendix C is titled ''Developing Oral Presentation Skills'' and deals with a workshop given by Judith Ngan, one of the research assistants in the project. Finally, there is a short but important prologue that deals with the author's choice of language, encompassing racial, ethnic and linguistic descriptors.
CHAPTER 1. Introduction: Bilingual Life and Language Choice at Northside. This chapter starts with a description of the school, its reputation for excellence and a shift to a linguistically diverse student body. Following a 1995 review of the school, the district decided to provide ''a major focus on oral [English] language development'' (p. 6). This introductory chapter shows how, after a change in linguistic policy in Toronto schools, teachers and administrators were faced with the almost impossible task of fostering institutional English learning while maintaining the multilingualism of the student body.
The chapter includes a detailed description of the Cantonese-speaking student population and a theoretical discussion of language choice. Here Goldstein explains the impetus for undertaking the ethnographic study, which was to understand the linguistic choices of the teachers and students and their effect on academic success. She describes her theoretical affiliations as a mixture of anthropological research perspectives and interactional sociolinguistics. The concepts of ''cultural capital'', as put forth by Bourdieu (1993), are mentioned as a basis for some of the discussions in the book. Overall, the ethnographic study found that, although the use of Cantonese helped students achieve success, it contributed to linguistic and academic dilemmas for the students as well as for teachers.
CHAPTER 2: Accepting and Legitimizing Multilingualism. This chapter deals with the positive as well as negative consequences of an open linguistic policy in the classroom. It focuses on the way a math teacher, Mrs. Lo, used English, Cantonese and Mandarin in her classroom. It initially details the positive outcomes of students who were allowed to communicate in their first languages in order to resolve difficult math problems in small groups. The chapter includes excerpts of interviews where the teacher explains her use of Language: English while presenting materials (''center stage''); Cantonese or Mandarin on a one-to-one basis when students encountered difficulties (''shared stage''); and Cantonese or Mandarin while providing academic and personal advice to students beyond classroom hours (''off-stage''). The author explains that the teacher's use of these three languages is a reflection of her various roles as a teacher, helper and ''counselor''. As she points out, the more recent views on the connections between collaborative learning and race relations informed Mrs. Lo's creative use of space and languages.
In ''Pedagogical Discussion: on linguistic accommodation'', Goldstein discusses negative consequences of linguistic accommodations. She agrees with the value of fostering multilingualism in the classroom, but suggests that teachers provide a frank discussion of linguistic practices in the classroom before each semester, in order to deal with issues of exclusion and resentment.
In ''Further Reflection and Discussion'' Goldstein refers readers to her play ''Hong Kong, Canada'' and suggests reflection exercises based on the themes presented. She creates activities that explore concepts such as ''private'' and ''public'' spaces. More importantly, she brings to the fore the pedagogical and theatrical practices put forth by Augusto Boal (1979).
CHAPTER 3: Promoting and Legitimizing English. This chapter is dedicated to issues regarding the pedagogical approach of Mrs. Anne Yee, a teacher who promoted English monolingualism in her classroom. It starts with an excerpt from an interview with the teacher, who implemented the policy primarily as a way of providing her ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) students with more opportunities to practice English. Goldstein points out that the ''maximum exposure argument'' has been articulated before and is reinforced by the media and academic discourses. In addition, the teacher's defense of her policy enlists the concept of ''articulation flexibility'', as in the speaking component of language as the only parameter for proficiency. This view of language learning also disregards any variations between language learners. In her critical discussion of this teacher's pedagogical approach, Goldstein offers the more recent advances on theories of language learning, where the learning is instilled as a result of the construction of social identities and ''investment'' in this complex social process.
In the section ''Pedagogical Discussion: Learning from the American 'Ebonics' debate'', Goldstein provides parallels between Northside and the Oakland School Board decision to use African American English to help students achieve oral and written proficiency in Standard English. She reviews the ideas put forth by educators regarding this issue, as well as how the decision was misinterpreted by mainstream media. Goldstein then relates her own experience in an English-only program at the University of Manitoba, in which she was forced to uphold a policy of linguistic coercion, with negative or opposite effects. Later, she adds excerpts of interviews with English teachers involved in the Ebonics debate as a means of fostering discussion. In the section ''For Further Reflection and Discussion'' Goldstein integrates her analysis with activities based on the play. She brings together ideas and remarks by antiracist thinker Beverly Daniel Tatum.
CHAPTER 4: Responding to Silence. This chapter, written by Goldstein and research assistant Gordon Pon, deals with the issue of silence in the multilingual classroom. It integrates interviews with a Cantonese- speaking student and a Canadian-born student of Indo-Caribbean ancestry. It focuses on the ways in which students in Mrs. Yee's English class dealt with silence and the concept of the stereotype of ''model minority'' assigned to Asians. The text provides insight into the Canadian-born students' view of silence exercised by the Hong Kong-born students. The chapter presents a discussion of different modes of silence, as proposed by Asian-American scholar King-Kok Cheung. Later, the chapter focuses on the issue of ''whispered'' conversations, as part of the Cantonese students' fear of sounding ''uncivilized''.
In the section ''Pedagogical Discussions: silences in the multilingual classroom'' the authors explore ways in which silences can be dealt with. They do this by first presenting the biographical information of each of the teachers in order to contextualize their pedagogical approaches. In the following sections, Goldstein and Pon offer some successful strategies for alleviating tensions in small group work. They also propose alternative grading strategies in order to lower expectations and subsequent conflicts generated in such learning situations. Under ''For Further Reflection and Discussion'', the authors propose strategies that challenge the mainstream discourse about language, such as the idea of standard versus non-standard, dialectal variation, and linguistic discrimination.
CHAPTER 5: Resisting the Anti-Immigrant Discourses and Linguicism. In this chapter Goldstein recounts the journey of a young Chinese-Canadian artist named Evelyn Yeung, who participated in a transforming art class at Northside. The art teacher, Ms. Edgars, had required that students produce journal entries about their visual work. Evelyn decided to produce a work called ''Journey to Acceptance'', and this chapter traces her self-discovery by presenting excerpts of interviews, journal entries and artistic texts. In the commentary section, Goldstein analyzes the student's final reflection piece as a pedagogical project. She brings to the fore ideas by Cummings (1996), who argues that the negotiation of identities at school is central to student learning. In her critical analysis, Goldstein draws not only from Cummings' work on language and power but also from Lippi-Green's (1997) work on language subordination processes as well as the cultural theorist Homi Bhabha's metaphor of ''third space''.
In the pedagogical discussion (''On Rejecting Linguicism''), the author draws largely on the work and strategies established by the art teacher. Here, she reflects on what educators can learn from the antiracist stance of this teacher at Northside. She purports that teachers need to develop their own critical literacy skills and recognize the discriminatory discourses facing students. The concept of critical literacy as developed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1970) is crucial in this discussion. Under ''Further Reflection and Discussion'', Goldstein reflects on the work of Tatum (1997) and the concept of identity. She devises activities in which students explore the different cultural images of language identities that are presented in the media. Other activities also connect with the play, in discussing racial and linguistic tensions in the school.
CHAPTER 6: Oral Presentations, Accent Discrimination and Linguistic Privilege. In this chapter, Goldstein calls attention to the emphasis given to the display of strong English oral presentation skills at the school. The chapter begins with a play written by Asian student Timothy Chiu called ''No pain, no gain''. The play dramatizes the challenges of organizing oral presentations in a second language, and the disappointment of giving a performance that does not live up to the presenter and his family's expectation of excellence. The assignment is part of a workshop conducted by Mrs. Yee, the English teacher who wanted to provide more opportunities for the Asian students to use English.
In the commentary section (''Speaking with Different Accents''), the author utilizes the student's play to explore the issues that arise when students speak in different accents and teachers must evaluate students who speak English as a second language. Again, Goldstein reminds us of the idea of ''cultural capital'' as put forth by Pierre Bourdieu in discussing the students' ability to access knowledge. She also uses Lippi-Green's concepts of mutual responsibility in the act of communication as well as the ''myth of the non-accent''.
The pedagogical discussion (''Anti-Discrimination Education in Multilingual Schools'') explores ways teachers might respond to issues related to accent discrimination and linguistic privilege. Finally, the chapter includes ideas given by Judith Ngan in preparing an oral presentation. It brings to the fore ideas by Gee (1996) who emphasizes that students learn school ''discourses'', not language.
CHAPTER 7: Challenging Linguistic Inequities in Multilingual School Communities. In this chapter, Goldstein starts with an excerpt of the play in which the idea of ''opening and closing doors'' is used to exemplify the conflicts involved in language policies. In this short conclusion, the author summarizes the different ways in which the assumptions behind the established language policy for the school district (which defended multilingualism) were both embraced and contested by teachers and students.
In the section titled ''Challenging Linguistic Inequities in Multilingual School Communities'' the author discusses some pedagogical approaches that support student multilingualism. Following sociolinguists Heller and Martin-Jones, she looks at approaches in terms of whether or not they encourage the use of languages other than English in the ''center stage'' or ''off-stage'' of the classroom floor. In the section titled ''From 'What Is' to 'What it Could Be''', the author argues for the possibility of a language policy in which both teacher and student multilingualism is supported. In the final section of this chapter (''Pedagogical Discussions: Promoting Multilingual and English Learning Activities''), the author discusses her own decisions in language policy in the classroom, which takes into account the lessons learned from the teachers at Northside.
CRITICAL EVALUATION This book is a powerful educational tool for the 21st century classroom. Working in multilingual settings has become the overwhelming reality in the United States and abroad, as is clearly demonstrated in Sonia Nieto's series foreword. To that end, the book combines scientific ethnographical work with insights derived from playwriting, participant observation and critique. Only such a multifaceted approach can answer the question as to what makes an effective educator today. The book finds counterparts in the work of Brazilian linguist Marcos Bagno, who wrote what he defines as a ''sociolinguistic novella'' and a groundbreaking text called ''Linguistic Prejudice: what it is and how it's done'' (my translations). Both authors deal with issues of linguistic privilege and the use of artistic text for pedagogical purposes. The title Goldstein's book is perhaps the best summary of its contents. There one will find topics related to teaching and learning in a multilingual school, where language choices, risks derived from those choices, and dilemmas that often affect students and teachers are discussed. In the critical evaluation that follows I will refer to the very few shortcomings of the book and also point to its many merits.
The organization of the book has its advantages and its disadvantages. There is some repetitiveness between the excerpts, the interviews and the commentary sections. The many metalinguistic references to different parts of the text can be a bit distracting. However, the inclusion of a preface about language choice is a very wise decision by the author. I especially liked the discussion of the word ''oriental'' and her decision to leave the word in the text, in order to foster classroom debate. As far as the organization of the chapters, the first part of the text is dedicated to the language policies in different classrooms at Northside. The second part of the book is more content- based, and it relates to the consequences of linguistic policies, from various points of view. The book in fact challenges the original idea of a textbook, in as much as it deconstructs the established prescriptive organization and embraces constant evaluation and critique.
Although the author is very careful on the use of language, a few statements such as ''Evelyn needed to work through the uneasiness and discomfort of ... [the fact that she] could not read or write in Cantonese, her own dialect of Chinese'' (p. 90) should be avoided, since it is generally accepted that Cantonese and Mandarin are two different languages. To be fair, throughout the book and in Appendix B the author makes references to the differences between Cantonese and Mandarin.
In chapter 7, Goldstein refers to Gee's 1996 work on school ''discourses'', which are ''acquired'' and not ''learned''. It would have been helpful to include a critique of the conceptual differences between ''learned'' and ''acquired'' as first articulated by Krashen (1981) and subsequently challenged by others. By the same token, the part of the text dedicated to the analysis of ''discourse competence'' could have been supported by introductory definitions of linguistic competence as outlined by second-language acquisition researchers such as Larsen- Freeman & Long (1991). For future editions of this book, I would suggest providing clearly marked and numbered questions included in the discussion and commentary sections. This would help in its usage in classroom discussion. Minor misspellings of the name 'Coelho' are found throughout the text and once in the bibliography.
Most of these comments are minor problems in face of the innovative organization and approach of the book. It presents us with what the author calls a ''hybrid ethnographic text'' which combines insights from ethnographic study with pedagogical discussions for educators working in multilingual schools. Overall, this book should be mandatory reading in pedagogy and diversity classes as ancillary material and a source of discussion of linguistic policies.
REFERENCES Bagno, M. 2004. A lingua de Eulalia: Novela sociolingüística. São Paulo: Contexto.
Bagno, M. 1999. Preconceito Lingüístico: o que é e como se faz. São Paulo: Loyola.
Boal, A. 1979. Theatre of the oppressed. London: Pluto Press.
Bourdieu, P. 1993. Sociology in question. London: Sage Publications.
Cummings, J. 1996. Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse society. Ontario, Canada: CABE (California Association for Bilingual Education).
Freire, P. 1970. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury.
Gee, J. 1996. Social linguistics and literacies: Ideologies in discourses. New York: Falmer Press.
Heller, M. & Martin-Jones, M. 2001. Introduction: Symbolic domination, education and linguistic differences. In M. Heller & M. Martin Jones (Eds.). Voices of authority: Education and linguistic differences. Westport, CT: Ablex.
Krashen, S. 1981. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. English Language Teaching series. London: Prentice-Hall International.
Larsen-Freeman D. and M. Long. 1991. An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition Research. New York: Longman.
Lippi-Green, R. 1997. English with an accent: Language, ideology and discrimination in the United States. New York: Routledge.
Tatum, B. D. 1997. 'Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?' and other conversations about race. New York: Basic Books.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Fernanda L. Ferreira is an Assistant Professor at Bridgewater State College where she teaches Spanish, Portuguese and linguistics courses. Her areas of expertise are Spanish and Portuguese sociolinguistics, theories of creolization, and language contact varieties. She is presently working on the sociolinguistic profiles and proficiency levels of heritage learners in southeastern Massachusetts.