Familismo and Nontraditional Educational Possibilities in Third Space

Familismo and Nontraditional Educational Possibilities in Third Space

Kathy Bussert-Webb, Karin Lewis
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4360-3.ch010
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


The authors explore children's and mothers' perceptions and experiences regarding school and an after-school tutorial agency. The latter serves a South Texas colonia, an unincorporated Southwestern settlement lacking basic services. They asked, “What are participants' perceptions and experiences regarding this agency and school?” Latinx participants, who spoke Spanish as a mother tongue, included 19 children, their eight mothers, two agency staff, and 15 teacher candidates (TCs). TCs were Bussert-Webb's university students who tutored the children and used iPads for multimodal, multilingual experiences. Using Third Space and social justice frameworks and qualitative analysis, these themes emerged: power, engagement, and diversity; participants described traditional educational experiences at school and nontraditional ones at the agency. Implications connect to hybridity and power redistributions in and out of schools to affirm and extend the languages, cultures, and modalities of nondominant children and families.
Chapter Preview


The U.S. Department of Education’s (2015) action plan states, “In too many schools, there is unnecessary testing … consuming too much instructional time and creating undue stress for educators and students” (para. 2). Test-preparation environments leave teachers little time for innovation, which hinders nondominant youth educationally and demotivates them (Howe & Lisi, 2020). Furthermore, this testing milieu decreases teacher-child dialogue and teacher-family connections – important for minoritized youth, as standardization ignores languages, cultures, and modalities (Williamson, 2017). For instance, in testing environments, teachers tend to rely on traditional instruction and assessments, with little affirmation of student and family funds of knowledge or assets (González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005). We use the term nondominant (Gutiérrez, 2008) and minoritized (Flores & Rosa, 2015) to communicate social justice issues, as these terms politicize multifactor oppression. Culture represents shared, involving worldviews, values, traditions, and relationships (Nieto & Bode, 2018). Modalities involve communicating and representing communication systems across cultures using semiotic resources; interdisciplinary, postmodern theories undergird multimodalities (Serafini, 2014). Affirming and extending nondominant learners’ families, languages, cultures, and modalities motivates them to learn (Nieto & Bode) and helps them academically (Sánchez, Nicholson, & Hebbard, 2019).

Conversely, public schools’ accountability milieu undermines these affirmations and negatively affects Latinx students (Sánchez et al., 2019). Alas, we do not blame teachers for what our participants reported and the homework we witnessed. High-stakes tests carry enormous consequences for students and educators, including child grade-level retention, staff dismissals, and school shut-downs (Nichols, Glass, & Berliner, 2012). These exams connect to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced NCLB (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.). However, Texas officials retained the state’s accountability focus, despite research showing high-stakes testing’s detrimental effects (Nichols & Berliner, 2007). Texas has the highest U.S. accountability pressure (Nichols et al., 2012). The testing emphasis contrasts a Third Space like Esperanza, our research site. (All names are pseudonyms.) Third Space combines official and unofficial spaces, in this case schooling and home. The following section shows how our theories connect to our neighborhood-based research.

Our study explores the perceptions and experiences of 19 Latinx children and their eight mothers’ regarding schools and Esperanza, the after-school tutorial agency the youth attended voluntarily for homework help. Participants reported that schools concentrated on traditional practices, while Esperanza engaged them in nontraditional, or innovative practices. Participants noted preference for the educational practices experienced at Esperanza, once children finished schoolwork. Traditional practices rely on one answer assessments, decontextualized worksheets, individual seatwork, and teacher talk, encountered mostly in a behaviorism model (Howe & Lisi, 2020). Conversely, nontraditional practices involve authentic and alternative assessments, multimodalities, meaningful groupwork, student engagement in problem-solving and themes, and culturally sustaining pedagogy; constructivism supports these practices (Alim & Paris, 2017; Howe & Lisi).

Within culturally sustaining, nontraditional pedagogies, familismo teaching focuses on knowing and respecting students and their contexts; embracing their family and linguistic funds of knowledge; and small teams or groupwork (Sánchez et al., 2019). Bardis (1959) described familism as strong family feelings, co-existence, and mutual support of family goals. Familismo teaching is important as a nontraditional practice because for Latinx (our study participants), family connections are the most important cultural value and are tools for co-existence and survival (Villarreal, Blozis, & Widaman, 2005; Sánchez el al.). Familismo teaching is essential for Latinx students because of the structural inequities they experience, such as discrimination (Villarreal et al.). We found familismo teaching at our research site. Because of our interest in familismo, it was important to consider child and guardian perceptions and experiences. Although we invited male guardians, only mothers chose to participate.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Latinx: A gender neutral term that refers to people who identify more with Latin America than Spain.

Third Space: A hybrid or liminal space that can be transformative.

Community Service-Learning (CSL): A service experience to address community needs in a reciprocal relationship, integrating reflections connected to course content.

Social Justice: A theory in which people uncover and address inequities and power imbalances.

Familismo Teaching: Knowing and respecting students and their contexts; embracing their family and linguistic funds of knowledge; and groupwork.

Pedagogy: How we teach and establish and maintain relationships to students.

Colonia: An unincorporated Southwestern community with high poverty rates and limited access to government services.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: