Developing a Community of Learners From Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds With Social Justice and Inclusive Critical Literacy Practices

Developing a Community of Learners From Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds With Social Justice and Inclusive Critical Literacy Practices

Shadrack Gabriel Msengi (Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, USA)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3652-0.ch004
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This case study is an investigation of cultural and linguistic diverse perspectives among parents, children, teachers, and teacher candidates. Survey and interview data were collected and analyzed to determine how these diverse perspectives affect teachers' application of culturally responsive literacy practices to develop a community of learners. Findings suggest that teachers and teacher candidates knew little about their students' diverse backgrounds. Their participation in the study and initial discussions among teachers, teacher candidates, children, and parents had a positive effect on experienced and novice teachers' knowledge of students. This knowledge included the ability to begin planning and managing instruction, as well as determining appropriate assessments and instructional strategies. Findings also suggest ways these teachers could engage students, families, and teachers in social justice practices.
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Background Ad Purpose

A growing number of students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds signals the need for ways of building a supportive learning community. A diverse learning community can be valuable in implementing culturally responsive strategies that allow for social justice (Freire, 1970/1993; Gay, 2010; Irvine, 2009). Advocates of social justice propose that students who have a culture and/ or language that is different from the mainstream should be treated with human dignity, both in and beyond classrooms. They all deserve the same opportunities to question, explore, and negotiate knowledge acquired from their own cultures and that of others (Carlisle, Jackson, & George, 2006). Many studies focus on a deficit model of children who are culturally and linguistically diverse. However, there are limited research studies that have explored practical strategies for supporting children, parents, teachers, and especially teacher candidates, as they collaborate to enable each child to succeed in school (Lai, McNaughton, Amituanai-Toloa, Tana, & Hsiao, 2019; Baecher, Artigliere, Patterson, & Spatzer, 2012). Also, there is still a significant number of teachers who are unprepared to teach culturally and linguistically diverse learners (Hadjioannou, Hutchnson, & Hockman, 2016; Baecher, et. al., 2012). Studies have indicated that those who are considered prepared are likely to perceive minority children as deficient rather than asset (Wynne, 1999; Shapiro & MacDonald, 2017).

Right now, many US schools are experiencing a growing number of students whose primary language is not English and whose academic language proficiency in English is limited. It also happens that the curriculum chosen for these students does not reflect these learning needs (Cummins, Mirza, & Stille; 2012; Dobinson & Buchori, 2016). This misalignment between schools’ curriculum and population is also generating a strong purpose and significance to new case study research about building a diverse learning community. For example, a study by Msengi & McAndrews (2016) on determining lexical meaning found that teachers and students had different interpretation of conceptual meanings of words and phrases. This is an indication of the need for additional research not only on areas of language but also culture, supporting the idea that individuals’ culture is communicated through language (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005, 2010)

The focus for this qualitative case study was to identify the linguistic and cultural perspectives of parents, children, and teacher candidates in ways that suggest common foundations for developing a diverse learning community. In this study, the researcher was not only looking at how participants applied language as a tool for teaching and learning academic content through linguistic sub areas such as phonology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics (Davies & Elder, 2004) but also was concerned with participants’ cultural perspectives during interactions. Cultural perspectives are not only ways of thinking about competence in communication, understanding, and appreciation of other cultures, but also how they function in a variety of settings (Marek, 2019; Bucholtz & Hall, 2005, 2010). Cultural linguistic competence is the ability to identify commonalties across culture and language for the purpose of functioning effectively in a variety of settings (Carlisle, Jackson, & George, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cooperating Teacher: A certified teacher in a public or private school who is assigned to mentor, provide teaching experience through supervision, observation, and evaluation and giving feedback for professional growth.

Learning Community: A group of individuals who work toward well communicated shared goals and every group member is held accountable for the outcome or anticipated outcome as they all maintain social and interpersonal relationship.

Culturally Responsive Practices: Using background experiences, cultural knowledge, and world diverse views, to make teaching and learning more pertinent to diverse group of learners.

Parent: Is a biological or legal guardian of a student.

Linguistic Perspective: Is understanding the role of linguistics aspects such as morphology pragmatics, semantics and syntax in literacy development and interaction.

University Supervisor: A liaison between the university and the school and /classroom who observes and provides feedback to a teacher candidate on lesson drafts, observation of teaching, and dispositions for professional growth.

Social Justice: Value and afford everyone the opportunity to reflect and engage in making positive change for the benefit of all that are involved as they collaboratively work together.

Literacy Practices: Using the literacy modalities of reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing and visually represents aligned with appropriate literacy strategies during teaching and learning based on each learner’s strengths and needs.

Cultural Perspectives: Are world views that individuals have about one’s native environment or group of people based on one’s own social standards.

Teacher Candidate: A student who has completed courses in his or her respective major and admitted in teacher preparation program for field or practicum experience as a requirement for successfully completing the teacher preparation program.

Funds of Knowledge: Prior experiences that represent cultural and language that is important for the learner to be able to connect to new concepts.

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