Language Learner-teachers Evolving Insights

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Language learner-teachers: evolving insightsTheresa ausTin

Abstract This study reports on the developing emotions and perspectives of 68 in-service teachers regarding their experiences in university-based Spanish classes as part of the ACCELA project (Access to Critical Content and English Language Acquisition) at UMass-Amherst. The program gave teacher-participants the opportunity to experience and reflect on the emotional intensity of their own initial language learning, and to personally connect with the challenges that the second language learners experience in their classes where restrictive language policies operate. The researcher argues that their display of growing insights about second language acquisition and their emotional development through interactions with community resources in both English and Spanish reveal their ideological positions in regard to L2 and its learning. This study enhances our comprehension of how language learning experiences can enrich teachers appreciation of their students challenges and perspectives. This article contributes to understanding the role of emotions in language learning, of ideology in the mutual development of second language teachers and learners, and of the interrelationship of learning in schools and communities. Keywords: non-native L2 teachers; learner-teachers; in-service language teachers; emotion and language learning.

1. IntroductionAlotofthenon-nativespeakerslikedthegesturesandbodylanguagethattheprofessorsdidduringthelesson...Isawthattheyenjoyedthehands-onpartofthelesson, thosethatwereapartofithadgottenusedtotheirplanetsnameandaremorecomfortablesayingit,butagaintheywouldliketohaveseenorevenhavethechancetowrite whattheyhadtosayinSpanish.(AnasnotesduringasciencelessoninSpanish)01652516/11/02080119 WalterdeGruyter Intl. J. Soc. Lang. 208 (2011), pp. 119137 DOI10.1515/IJSL.2011.015

120 T. Austin Whenhighlyliterateadultsstarttolearnanotherlanguage,feelingsofdiscomfortoftenariseastheyexperiencealackoforalcomprehension,particularlyif theconsequencesmatter.TheobservationsaboveweremadebyAna,abilingualteacher,asshedocumentedherfellowteachersparticipationinascience immersionlessononplanetsinSpanish.Foroverayear,eachoffourcohorts of urban elementary and middle school teachers enrolled in a series of 69 creditSpanishcourses.Theyweresatisfyingonerequirementintheir33-credit professionaldevelopmentgraduateprogramforEnglishasasecondlanguage licensure.Theprogramincludedcoursesonteacherinquiry,secondlanguage theories,multimodalliteracies,andcriticalmulticulturalchildrensliterature, amongothers(Willettetal.2007).ItisinthiscontextthatIreportondataanalyzedfromalargerfive-yearethnographicstudythatbeganin2002todocumentmyexperiencesworkingwithin-serviceteachers.Allparticipantsalso actedasresearchersintheprogram. Iwasteacher-researcherandco-instructorwithagraduateteachinga sociate, s YvonneFario,whojoinedintheresearch.Myinitialguidingquestionswere: Howdoteachersdrawonexperientialknowledgeforinsightsintopracticesfor theirownclassrooms?Howwelldotheytapintothesocialnetworksintheir schoolcommunitiestobecomeusersofSpanish?Asthecoursesprogressed, wecollecteddataacrossfourcohorts.Emergingpatternsofemotionsandideologiesaboutsecondlanguageandlanguagelearningshiftedmyinitialfocus. Forthisreport,Ianalyzetheteacherparticipantschangingemotionalorientationstotheirlearningasevidencedintheirentriesandthetypesofprojects theyusedtolearnSpanishthroughinteractions,tasks,andactivities.Iargue thattheirdisplayofgrowinginsightsaboutsecondlanguagedevelopmentand theiremotionaldevelopmentthroughinteractionswithcommunityresources inbothEnglishandSpanishrevealtheirideologicalpositions.Thispapercontributestounderstandinghowemotionsinlanguagelearningshapeideology, influencethemutualdevelopmentofsecondlanguageteachersandlearners, andaffecttheinterrelationshipoflearninginschoolsandcommunities.

2. Background 2.1. Emotions shaping teacher knowledge, ideologies, and community relations Studiesabouttheinfluenceofemotionsonadultsecondlanguage(L2)learning informalsettingsoftenrelatetotwomajoremotionalcontexts:voluntaryand non-voluntaryeducationalprograms.IntheUnitedStateswhenlanguagelearningisarequirementforgraduationorprofessionaladvancement,oftentheen-

Language-learner teachers 121 rollmentprocessfiltersoutthosewhocannotimaginemeetingtherequirement andretainsthosewhobelieveintheirabilitytosucceed.Thus,self-selectionis itselfanindirectmeasureoflanguagelearnerspositiveself-image.Whileall learnersmaynotachievethesameleveloflanguageuse,theycanbesaidto viewlanguagelearninggoalsasinitiallyattainable. TheliteratureonemotionsinlanguagelearningreflectsthatdevelopingaL2 is fundamentally social and emotional as well as cognitive (Pavlenko 2002; Harrisetal.2006).Tobesuccessful,classroominstructionmustaddressthe learnersentiredevelopment,includingphysical,socio-emotional,cognitive, and ethical aspects. Language study that divorces language from learners emotionaldevelopmentmayleavethelearnerunabletoexpresseventhesimplestemotionsinanL2,whilefailingtodeveloptheL1.Thislossmayisolate learnersfromfamilyandcommunitymemberswhocouldotherwisebehelpful tothem(WongFillmore1991).ForclassroomeducatorsofL2learners,languageinstructiondevoidofemotioncouldshapehowlearnersenvision possibilitiesofsuccessorfailureinschool(Manningetal.1995). However,manyteacherswhohaventlearnedanotherlanguagecannoteasilybuildfirst-handknowledgeofdevelopinglessonsforinstructingbothlanguageandcontent.Eventhosewhoarebilingualmayfeelchallengedtouse insightsfromtheirownL2learningexperiences,astheirlearningcontextmay havebeenmoresupportiveofbilingualdevelopment.Thefactthatlanguage developmentinevitablyoccursinaparticularpoliticalandhistoricalcontext alsoaffectsthelearnersemotions.InMassachusettsasaresultofastateballot, Question21,teacherswererestrictedtousinganon-Englishlanguagesolely forclarificationpurposes.Asaresult,manyteacherswhowerebilingualfelt inhibitedinusingtheirandtheirstudentslinguisticresources.OtherEnglish teacherswhoweremonolingualwerealsofrustratedatnotbeingpreparedto teach their subject matter to emergent bilingual learners in English. Consequently,teachersandlearnersfeltvulnerableastheywereheldaccountable foracademicgoalssetprimarilybyhigh-stakestesting.However,recognizing theemotionalstatesoftheparticipantsisonlyafirststep.Justhowtosuccessfullydeveloplearnerslanguagewhileencouragingemotionaldevelopmentto becomebilingualusersremainslargelyunexplored. Thefewstudiesthatexistaddresstheseissuesthroughnarrativeresearchon L2learners,includingtheirreflectionontheprocessandfocusingontheirL2 identityconstruction(Oxford1995).ThecurrentstudycontributestothisliteraturebydescribingtheemotionsthatadultlearnersexperienceastheydevelopinsightsintoL2processesandbydocumentingtowhatextenttheybecomeusersofSpanish.Inthisway,evidenceoftheirlanguageperformanceas wellastheirreportedexperiencesisanalyzed.Alsoincludedaretheirreports on theinterconnectionof this experienceand thelives of their students and studentsfamilies.

122 T. Austin 2.2. Teachers professional development, emotions, and language learning competence Well-informed teachers can organize their instructional resources, time, and materials, as well as student peer groups, to provide more support for L2 l arners social, academic content, and language development (Willett et al. e 2007;Gillanders2007).Thosepoorlypreparedtotakeonthistaskexperience lesssuccessformanyreasons.Recently,Gndaraetal.reported...thatprofessionaldevelopmentmakesadifferenceinhowconfidentteachersfeelmeetingthechallengeofteachingEnglishlearners(2005:11).Basedonteacher self-reports, these researchers also found that teachers felt that acquiring knowledgethroughin-serviceandpre-serviceprofessionaldevelopment,the lengthoftimeteachingL2learners,andthenumberofL2learnersintheclassroom correlated highly with their competence to teach these students in all a easexcepttheprimarylanguage.Psychologicalresearchalsoprovidesclear r evidenceofteachersemotionsplayinganimportantroleinteacher-childrelationships(GarnerandWaajid2008).Similarly,teachersunpreparedtorespond to the cultural diversity of learners from racial backgrounds different from theirownoftenfailtoinstructchildreninculturallyresponsiveways(FlorioRuane2001;Manningetal.1995).Therehasalsobeenmuchresearchincriticalmulticulturaleducationdemonstratingthat,overtime,alackofconnection tolearningengendersconditionsforlearnerstodevelopoppositionalidentities toschooling(SmithandWilhelm2002;Valds2001).Thus,itbecomesimperativetofocusonteachereducationinordertoattendtoL2learnersemotionalaswellassocialandacademicdevelopment. PreparingteacherstounderstandtheimplicationsofL2learnersemotions inlearningiscomplex.Emotionsareshapedbyinteractions;thatis,teachers andstudentsemotionsmutuallyaffecteachother.InaVygotskianmodelof learning,expertsscaffoldinteractionswithchildrentobringlearningwithin reachofthelearners.Calledthezoneofproximaldevelopment(Vygotsky1978), learnersareguidedthroughactivitiesandgraduallyshifttoself-regulationand creative production. But this process assumes that a mutual relationship of trust,care,andattentionexists. Unwittingly, teachers unfamiliar with L2 learners oral development frequentlylabeltheirstudentsasshy,perceivingareticencetospeakratherthan emergentlevelsoforalproficienciesandacculturation.Otherlabels,including easilydistracted,aregiventostudentswhoseattentionwandersfromlessons taughtexclusivelyinEnglish,alanguagetheyarestrugglingtounderstandfor at least 6 hours a day.A more serious label is trouble maker for students whosebehaviorgetsothersinvolvedinactivitiesnotsanctionedbytheteacher. Yettheseissuesofbehaviormanagementfrequentlyarisewhenthemedium andcontentofinstructionfailtoengagenon-nativestudentsascapablel arners. e

Language-learner teachers 123 Whilebehavioralissueshavemultiplecauses,somemightbedirectlyrelated tothelackofmeaning-makingpossibilitiesfornewL2learners.Inturn,these labeledlearnersmaythenbecomemoredisaffected,marginalized,andeven less inclined to participate in a school where they experience little success. Psychologicalliteraturereferstothisphenomenonasavoidance(Garrettand Young2009).Butdefiningbehavioralproblemsascenteredinlearnersemotions,withoutfocusingonthecontextoftheirsocialinteractions,takesattentionawayfromthetruecausesandplacestheprobleminthelearner.Indeed, teachershavebeenfoundtoreferbilingualandAfricanAmericanchildrento specialeducationprogramsmoreoftenthanmonolingualchildrenonthebasis oftheirorallanguage(Brown2004;LimbosandGeva2001).Theacceptance, trust,andconfidencebetweenteachersandL2learnersshapetheirinteractions andaffecteffortstobuildmutualunderstanding. Thecomplexinteractivenatureofemotionsaffectsstudentslanguagelearning and development as well as their teachers emotions, instructional decisions,andprofessionaldevelopment.Acriticalexaminationofteachersreflectionsontheirlanguagelearningprocesshasthepotentialtoshedlightonthis subject.Deepemotionalattachmentstoonesfirstlanguageareformedthrough socialization.Understandingthisprocess,teachersmaybetterunderstandtheir studentsemotionalresponsestolearninganL2.Asteachersb comereflective e L2learnersthemselves,experiencingtheemotionsandattachmenttotheirown firstlanguageandtheexhilarationfromlearninganewone,theymaydevelop evengreaterinsightintothewayemotionsaffectlanguagelearning. 3. Participants Weinitiallymetwithteacherparticipantsastheywerecompletingaprevious course. We observed, as classroom visitors, their final presentations. In the next course, my graduate assistant and I shared responsibilities for instruction.Wealternatedinstructingtwogroupsofteacherparticipants:novicesand intermediate/advancedlearnersofSpanish. Datafromfourcohortsofteacherparticipantswereselectedforourinitial analysis;roughlyonecohortparticipatedperyear.Therewereotherteacher participantswhooptedoutoftheSpanishlanguagecourses,eitherbecausethey hadalreadymetthelanguagerequirementsorbecausetheyfelttheirteaching scheduleswouldnotgivethemenoughtimeforthecourse.Intotal,682t achers e participatedinourIntensiveSpanishforTeacherscoursesbetween2003and 2007.Thefirstcohorthad3males(agedlate20stoearly40s)andtheremainingthreecohortswereallwomen(64total,agedlate20stolate50s). The teacher participants represent heterogeneous levels of Spanish proficiency, from novice to advanced, including native Spanish speakers (NSS),

124 T. AustinTable1. Self identified level of proficiency across cohorts 2003 04 Beginners Intermediates Advanced Total 10 5 8 23 200405 5 4 2 11 200506 15 3 6 24 2006 8 0 3 11 Total 38 12 18 68

muchliketheheterogeneityoftheirownstudents,whorangedfrombilingual EnglishLanguageLearners(ELLs)tonativeEnglishspeakers.Sincetherewas onlyoneSpanishcourseoffered,wewereresponsiblefordifferentiatingand coordinatinglanguagelearningactivitiesforourrangeofproficiencylevels. Wedesignedactivitiesthatofferedgrouplearningwithinandacrossp oficiency r levels. Givenourdesiretocreateaspaceforadultself-guidedlearninginourclassroom,theteacherparticipantswereaskedtoidentifytheirSpanishlanguage proficiency by selecting texts that they saw as useful resources.There were threepossibletexts,reflectingthethreelevels.Thus,participantsdetermined theirownplacements. ThenovicegroupsacrossallcohortsconsistedofprimarilyEnglishmonolingualteachers.Ofthese,manyhadpreviouslanguagelearningexperiencesin highschoolorcollegebutclaimedlittletonofunctionaluseofthosel nguages, a includingSpanish.Forthemostpart,theintermediateandadvancedgroups consisted of teachers who were functional Spanish language learners and Spanishheritagelanguagelearners.Thesegroupsrangedinoralandliteracy abilities.All could use Spanish for daily conversations.The most advanced bilingualteacherparticipantswerealsorequiredtosupportanddocumenttheir monolingualpeerslearningastheylearnedmoreaboutSpanishvarietiesin thecommunity. Inleavingtheplacementdecisiontotheteacherparticipants,wereasoned thattheywouldbemorelikelytochoosetheresourcestobestsupporttheir learning.Itwasnotsurprisingthattwothirdsoftheteachersclaimedtobeat the beginning level. Many indicated a fear of having to perform in Spanish withtheteacherswhotheybelievedtobebilingual. 4. TheSpanishlanguageprogram TheintensiveSpanishcoursesweredesignedtoprepareteacherstoexperientiallyunderstandtheprocessesoflanguagelearninginthreedifferentprogram models immersion, sheltered immersion, and dual immersion. Class instructionlastedthreeandahalfhoursonceaweekfor26weeks.Teacherpar-

Language-learner teachers 125 ticipantscompletedasurveytoidentifytheirdesires,aspirations,andexpectationsforlearningSpanish.Thesurveyresultsguidedourselectionoftopics, includinglinguisticallyandethnicallydiversestudents;languagearts,science andmathcontentareas;andavailablecommunityresources.Typically,each modelbeganwithteacherparticipantsreadingaboutthemodelinEnglishand thenexperiencingitforabout6weeks. TheimmersionmodelbeganentirelyinSpanishwithareadingoftheagenda. Severalactivitiesfollowedtotakestepstowardcompletingprojectstheteacher participantsidentifi...

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