School Home Interactive Curriculum Development: Teachers and Families in Partnership

School Home Interactive Curriculum Development: Teachers and Families in Partnership

Peggy Morrison (Bilingual Education Teacher and Consultant, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9953-3.ch007
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Abstract

The chapter describes School Home Interactive Curriculum Development, a process of structured collaboration between educators and families used to cyclically co-construct thematic, interdisciplinary curriculum units in first grade classrooms of a Spanish/English Dual Language Immersion bilingual program. While not a formal case study, the chapter describes the case of the authentic situation where classroom teachers partnered with families of historically disenfranchised communities (linguistic, immigrant, economic) to develop culturally responsive pedagogy and practice in public school classrooms. The process was sustained and refined over a six-year period. A primary aim of this process was to legitimize the knowledge and perspectives of the families and communities within the public school institution and to support students to develop a sense of agency as owners and creators of valuable knowledge.
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Introduction

Societal power relations play themselves out in the choices that every teacher in every classroom in every school makes on a daily basis. Teachers have the power to promote identities of competence among their students or to remain complicit with policies that devalue the identities of students. (Cummins, 2015)

This chapter is presented from the point of view of a first grade classroom teacher working as part of a committed team of six first grade teachers to provide the best possible educational opportunity for their students. Working with students from traditionally disenfranchised student groups, in a clearly inequitable society at large, this group of teachers felt an imperative to counteract the inequities to the greatest degree possible and to prepare students to create a more just future society. They needed to find pedagogies and curriculums that could counteract traditional relations of power and privilege. Their work was guided by conceptual frameworks from Bilingual and Multicultural Education, Social Constructivist Learning Theory and Transformative Pedagogy.

Specifically, the chapter describes how teachers and parents collaboratively engaged with first grade Dual Language Learner students in School Home Interactive Curriculum Development. The thematic interdisciplinary units created served as the primary curriculum for first grade classrooms in the full-school Spanish/English Dual Language Immersion Bilingual program. Through this pedagogical process, new knowledge and skills are built on prior knowledge and contextualized in the students’ lives and cultures, and family and community knowledge are valued and incorporated into the academic curriculum. A model emerged of collaborative empowerment of educators and families to create a community of learners working towards the Dual Language Immersion program goals of bilingualism and biliteracy, academic excellence, and multicultural and diversity-responsive sensibilities and skills, and towards a broader vision of social justice advocacy through Transformative Pedagogy.

The chapter aims to connect theory and practice in a way that will make theory relevant for practitioners. Conceptual frameworks provide a bigger picture in which to make sense of the impact of actions during practice, and conceptual platforms can support teachers to imagine alternative curriculums and pedagogies.

For researchers, theorists and teacher educators, the chapter provides one example of how theoretical and conceptual frameworks related to classroom practice and ways of partnering with parents were operationalized or made concrete.

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Background

The school is located in an agricultural town on California’s central coast. Most of the students are from first generation Mexican immigrant families, speak Spanish as their home language, and are in the process of English language acquisition. The minority of students for whom English is the dominant language is mostly from Mexican-origin families and speak English most of the time at home but also may hear or use Spanish outside of school. Many of the students’ parents have limited formal schooling and work as farmworkers. Other families work in blue-collar jobs and small proportions work in white-collar jobs or professional jobs or are unemployed. Most of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. As in many Spanish/English Dual Language Immersion programs in California, socioeconomic status differences between the families of students who are native speakers of Spanish and of English may seem extreme and must be addressed proactively as part of the process of fostering school community. The team of six bilingual first grade teachers was composed of three veteran teachers, two European-American and one Mexican-American, and three younger teachers, two Mexican-American and one European-American. For the teachers involved, shared commitment to social justice was the deep motivation driving the work.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transformative Pedagogy: Education that recognizes inequities and endeavors to create a more just society. It is based on the idea that educators can choose to either “maintain or to resist and overcome coercive relations of power” ( Cummins, 2001 ) and social and economic inequities.

Dual Language Immersion: A bilingual school program in which students learn two languages and learn all academic content through both instructional languages. Ideally, approximately half of the students in each classroom speak each language of instruction as their primary language. The most widely accepted variations are: 90/10 (90% of instructional time in the “target” language and 10% in English in Kindergarten and gradually adjusting to 50% in each language by 4 th or 5 th grade) and 50/50 (50% of instructional time in each language throughout).

Coercive Power Relations: A relationship where a group or an individual gains power by subordinating another individual or group. The more power one person or group has, the less others have because the quantity of power is assumed to be finite.

Collaborative Power Relations: A relationship where power to act is created with others when individual and group identity and voice are affirmed, and the quantity of power potentially generated is infinite.

Hegemony Of Knowledge: The belief and practice that one perspective or set of understandings is the only viable knowledge.

Dual Language Learner/ Emergent Bilingual Student/ English Learner: A student who is learning and communicating through two languages. “English Learner” is the most predominant legal term. “Dual Language Learner” is in use in Early Childhood literature. “Emergent Bilingual” is in use in Bilingual Education literature.

Co-construction of Knowledge: Collaborative articulation and processing of ideas leading to new understandings.

Enduring Understandings: Global understandings that anchor the curriculum. The term was popularized as part of Understanding by Design , Wiggins & McTighe’s (2005) “backwards design” curriculum development method.

Multicultural Education: The substantive integration of diverse cultural perspectives, languages, learning, and communication modes into the educational process in all aspects including content, pedagogy and sharing of power. Banks (1994) articulates four levels of Multicultural Education: Contributions Approach, Ethnic Additive Approach, Transformative Approach, and Decision-Making and Social Action Approach.

Funds of Knowledge: 1. The idea that all people and communities have valuable knowledge. 2. A specific method of researching community knowledge to enrich the school curriculum, developed by Moll et al.

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