Digital Autobiographical Identity Texts as Critical Plurilingual Pedagogy

CHRISTINA TJANDRA, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

JAMES CORCORAN, York University

MARIA GENNUSO, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

ALLISON ROSE YELDON, Lester B. Pearson & La Commission Scolaire des Trois Lacs School Boards


This article explores emergent tropes from conversations between a language teacher educator and three plurilingual language teacher candidates on the impact of creating a digital autobiographical identity text (D-AIT), a multimodal digital ‘text’ constructed to reflect their hybrid and evolving professional identities. In attempting to better understand the complex potential of this type of digital storytelling in the language teacher education classroom, we discuss at length several salient themes emerging from our polyvocal, or multi-voice data. These themes include the immediate and enduring impact of D-AIT production on language teacher candidates’ professional identities; the impact of this plurilingual pedagogy on both teachers’ and students’ academic literacies; and the potential of multiethnographic, polyvocal research to empower teacher-researchers. We conclude the article with, i) tips for using D-AITs in order to support culturally and linguistically diverse language teacher candidates and students; as well as ii) suggestions for how our participatory methodological approach may contribute to scholarly conversations and teacher practices.


Cette étude explore des métaphores émergentes issues des conversations entre un enseignant de langues et trois candidats multilingues en enseignement des langues secondes. Leurs discussions portent sur l’impact de la création des textes identitaires numériques autobiographique (D-AIT, Digital Autobiographical Identity Texts), à savoir des textes numériques multimodaux qui reflètent l’hybridité et le développement de l’identité professionnelle de ces candidats. Pour qu’on puisse bien comprendre la richesse et la complexité d’une telle narration numérique en classe de formation des enseignants des langues, on examine en détail plusieurs thèmes saillants qui surgissent de nos données de recherche. Ces thèmes incluent l’impact immédiat et durable de créations D-AIT sur l’identité professionnelle des enseignants des langues, soit l’impact de cette approche pédagogique plurilingue sur les littératies académiques des enseignants et de leurs étudiants ainsi que le potentiel de l’étude multiethnographique pour renforcer les capacités des enseignants-chercheurs. L’article conclut i) en proposant des idées pour utiliser le D-AIT afin de soutenir des étudiants et des candidats à l’enseignement des langues et ii) en suggérant comment notre méthodologie d’approche participative pourrait contribuer aux discussions académiques et aux pratiques d’enseignement.

Keywords: academic literacies, digital storytelling, language teacher identity, multiethnography, plurilingualism.


Identity, or “how a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is structured across time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future” (Norton, 2013, p. 45) has been a robust topic of research since the “social turn” in applied language studies in the mid 1990’s (Block, 2016; Darvin & Norton, 2015). Much of this research has considered the identities of those learning additional languages. To a lesser extent, it has also provided insight into language teachers’ (and those studying to be language teachers, a.k.a. language teacher candidates’) dynamic identities, beliefs, and practices (Barkhuizen, 2016b; Farrell & Kennedy, 2019; Morgan, 2004; Norton, 2013). One form of promoting reflection on identity construction and negotiation is through digital storytelling, or the “art of telling stories with a mixture of digital media” (Robin, 2016, p. 18). Storytelling can take many forms, including identity texts—creative multimodal products which may be written, spoken, visual, or constructed with any combination of these elements—which have long been discussed as progressive, identity-affirming pedagogical tools for use with language learners (e.g. Cummins et al., 2005; Cummins, Early & Stille, 2011). Cummins and Early (2011) claimed such texts can act to validate language learners’ repertoires of languages, cultures, abilities, and experiences. Initially imagined as a paper-based text, they also suggest that digital media (images, audio, and video) “acts as an amplifier to enhance the process of identity text production and dissemination” (p. 3).

In applied language studies, such digital narratives have shown to positively affect learners’ engagement (Prasad, 2018; Sadik, 2008), digital literacy skills (Niemi, Harju, Vivitsou, Viitanen, & Multisilta, 2014), academic literacies (Corcoran, 2017; Steinman, 2007; Yoon, 2014), and identity construction (Darvin & Norton, 2014; Skinner & Hagood, 2008). Adopted for teacher education classrooms, digital storytelling can be seen as an ideal tool for affording critical self-reflection and development of professional identity (Coggin et al., 2019; Ladson-Billings, 2000). Though research is limited on the impact of digital storytelling on language teacher candidates’ beliefs and practices, such pedagogies may serve to acknowledge and affirm complex, multidimensional, and fluid identity construction and negotiation (Barkhuizen, 2016a; Morgan, 2016; Norton, 2016). Adding to the recent wave of research on language teacher identity (e.g. Barkhuizen, 2016a; Masson, 2018), our polyvocal study, that is, comprised of many voices, opinions, and viewpoints, investigates the impact of a particular pedagogical tool—digital autobiographical identity texts (D-AITs)—on three language teacher candidates’ professional identities. In this article, through thematic analysis of conversations between three plurilingual language teacher candidates and one language teacher educator, we share our perspectives on D-AITs as identity affirming, transformational tools for language teacher education.


Our project emerged from instructor and student experiences in a Master’s level, online course called Critical Academic Literacies: Teaching Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Students, offered to Master of Arts, Master of Education, and Master of Teaching students in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education’s (OISE) Department of Curriculum, Teaching, & Learning (CTL). This course aimed to build theoretical and research-informed understandings among teacher candidates that they might apply to their emerging and/or existing teaching practice, specifically with regard to supporting culturally and linguistically diverse students in Ontario schools. Following completion of the course, the instructor—James—and the teacher candidates—Christina, Maria, and Allison—connected electronically (via Skype and email) to reflect upon the impact of creating digital autobiographical identity texts (D-AIT). The D-AIT assignment required teacher candidates to produce a multimodal digital text that captures their hybrid and evolving language practices over the course of their lives, with a focus on how languages have played a mediating role in the negotiation of their personal and professional identities. Along with the creation of an approximately 15-minute D-AIT, the assignment also required a one-page critical reflection where language teacher candidates reflected upon the choices they made when producing their digital texts.

Due to the fully online model of instruction for this course, teacher candidates were provided both asynchronous and synchronous guidance in the form of documents, short videos, and question and answer sessions. D-AITs (digital text and reflection piece) were assessed using a rubric with two main categories: content (e.g. depth of reflection; creativity of multimodal production; etc.) and language (e.g. effectiveness of narration; coherence; lexical choices; etc.). Following production and assessment of the D-AIT assignment, teacher candidates were invited to upload and share their products either with the entire class on a shared e-space or only with the instructor.


Drawing on theory from critical applied language studies, or a focus on language teaching and learning that connects classroom language use with broader social relations of power (Pennycook, 2001), this section aims to explicate and advance a particular lens for analyzing data stemming from our investigation. To better understand this conceptual approach, it is important to highlight the main theoretical underpinnings.

Critical Plurilingualism

As part of a storied history of critical pedagogy in language studies, we are acutely interested in pedagogies that challenge inequity and asymmetrical social relations of power (Cummins, 2000; Kubota & Lin, 2009; Pennycook, 2001). This critical orientation views language as “an unstable social practice. . .not a neutral and objective conduit for description of the real world” (Kincheloe, 2007, p. 23). Importantly, this orientation necessitates the consideration of how particular language beliefs and practices may cement—or challenge—asymmetrical relations of power between languages, groups, and individuals (Kubota, 2016; Lin, 2016; Phillipson, 2008). Ultimately, our critical orientation allows for robust consideration of how particular pedagogies may impact teacher beliefs and practices, both within and beyond teacher education classrooms.

Our plurilingual orientation welcomes linguistic and discursive variation, challenging normative (monolingual) epistemologies, ontologies, and ideologies that may reify particular relations of power (Cummins, 2009; Lin, 2016; Marshall & Moore, 2018; Piccardo, 2013). As Lin (2013) argued, plurilingual orientations recognize the “interactions and communicative repertoires of both learners and teachers in multilingual settings, [and its affirmation acts] as a potential resource rather than necessarily a barrier to language and content learning” (p. 522). Such an orientation necessarily attends to issues of evolving professional or personal identities, positioning, in this case, plurilingual teacher candidates not as deficient but rather as pluri-competent users of English or French as an additional language. Therefore, through such a lens, we view language proficiency as part of plurilingual teacher candidates’ dynamic repertoire of communicative resources (Englander & Corcoran, 2019; Galante, 2019; Lau & Van Viegen, in press), thus challenging “discourses of deficit, (in)competence, and open[ing] spaces for a plurality of languages” in the classroom (Marshall & Moore, 2018, p. 21). We argue that our critical plurilingual lens (see Figure 1) is ideal for considering language, identity, power, and pedagogies in the language teacher education classroom.

Figure 1: A critical plurilingual conceptual lens (adapted from Corcoran, 2019)


Multiethnographic approaches, also referred to in the extant literature as duoethnography (Norris, 2008; Norris, Sawyer, & Lund, 2012), trioethnography (Corcoran, Gagné & McIntosh, 2018), and collaborative autoethnography (Adamson et al., 2019), are a relatively novel form of research design derived from William Pinar’s (1975) autobiographical method currere, or curriculum of life, which aims to uncover and reconceptualize present and past histories (Sawyer & Norris, 2015). Multiethnography is a methodology through which “the self is not the topic of the research but the site of the research” (Breault, 2016, p. 778). Here, the ethnographers “use themselves to assist themselves and others in better understanding the phenomenon under investigation” (Norris & Sawyer, 2012, p. 13) by reflecting on what they experience, how they make meanings, and how the meanings transform over time (Breault, 2016). This dialogic exchange is intended to disrupt the “metanarrative of self at the personal level by questioning held beliefs” (Norris & Sawyer, 2012, p. 15). The process is not about retelling the past, but about finding meaning and reconceptualizing the past. Our polyvocal perspectives, opinions, and viewpoints are portraying “knowledge in transition” (Norris & Sawyer, 2012, p. 20) as participants reflectively engage in this form of self study (Pithouse-Morgan & Samaras, 2015). Importantly, readers are positioned not as spectators but rather as active participants in meaning-making rather than simple “recipient[s] of newfound wisdom” (p. 22).

Our multiethnographic study brings together the dialogic exchanges between James, a language teacher educator, and Christina, Maria, and Allison, three plurilingual language teachers (see Figure 2). Our exchanges consider D-AIT pedagogy, its implications for our teaching and learning, and how it impacted our understandings of the connections between language, identity, power, and pedagogy. In our polyvocal study, we make our voices explicit and juxtapose our stories and perspectives, ultimately leading to convergent and divergent positions. Of note, power was negotiated collectively throughout this research project, resulting in, we argue, more collaborative than coercive relations of power (Cummins, 2000) between James and his former students. We explain our processes to redistribute power in the following section.

Figure 2: Researcher Positionalities

Figure 2: Researcher Positionalities

As project leader, James (Author 2) initiated and facilitated dialogic exchanges carried out by the entire group via synchronous (1 hour and 41 minutes of Skype meetings) and asynchronous (41 email threads) means over the course of a full calendar year. In each discussion, we negotiated and reflected upon a “narrative frame” (Barkhuizen & Wette, 2008, p. 373). These frames provided direction for our conversations that might open doors to new themes and dialogues. Once we decided that each theme was exhausted or had reached a saturation point, we met to negotiate who would take on subsequent roles in data analysis and research write-up. We collectively decided that Christina, as a research-stream teacher candidate, would take over the lead in data analysis, while Maria and Allison, due to intensive classroom teaching schedules, would assume supporting roles. Christina, Maria, and Allison transcribed and merged the Skype data with our email threads into a single Google Docs file. After capturing a significant amount of data via synchronous discussions and asynchronous email exchanges, Christina, Maria, and Allison coded the data using the three main narrative frames: experiences of plurilingual teacher candidates with digital AITs; potential and limitations of digital AITs; and impact of digital AITs on teacher candidates’ language teaching practices. Next, as a group, we identified seven emergent, salient themes, with 21 sub-themes. Christina subsequently amalgamated and reduced the data into the five themes outlined in our dialogic conversations presented in the findings section. Once data was collected and analyzed, we decided as a group that Christina, as an emerging scholar who could benefit from leading the research writing process, should take on the primary role in writing up the findings, with James, as a more experienced scholar, playing a supporting research/ writing role. Though not representative of actual progression of exchanges between the researchers, we have mindfully organized and presented the data as linear conversations, aiming to achieve a high level of readability while maintaining our distinct voices and perspectives.


This section highlights the collaborative nature of the polyvocal inquiry (Corcoran, Gagné & McIntosh, 2018; Crump, Halcomb-Smith & Sarkar, 2019). The language teacher educator, James, facilitated and moderated the discussion, listed under five thematic categories; however, the main voices highlighted are those of the three plurilingual language teacher candidates.

D-AITs: Facilitating Reflections on Professional Identity

James: So, how about we start the discussion by reflecting upon the D-AIT production process. How did this assignment impact your ideas about language, identity, power, and pedagogy?

Christina: For a non-native English speaker teacher (NNEST) like myself, this activity has helped me appreciate the languages that I speak and has helped me reflect on my own practice as a researcher and educator. Creating a D-AIT (Click to view Christina’s D-AIT) has helped me to look inwards and to better understand how my learning and teaching experiences informed my beliefs on how to teach a language. Instead of doubting my credibility as a language teacher, the process of creating a D-AIT has helped me embrace my non-native English-speaking teacher (NNEST) identity.

James: Yes, Christina, I certainly sensed that you embraced your plurilingual and pluricultural identity when “reading” your D-AIT. What about those of you who use / teach French as an additional language?

Maria: Right, so, I must say that, though I have experience teaching in a number of different contexts and languages (FSL; ESL; K-12; post-secondary), I had never before taken the time to reflect on my language learning experiences, tensions and privileges, and relationships with others to the extent that I did during my digital AIT production process (Click to view Maria’s D-AIT). It is the most transformative project I have experienced. Reflecting on who I am as a French language learner revealed tension-filled experiences that inform my teaching practices and relationships with students. For example, I am much more accepting, flexible and patient with my diverse learners’ language production.

Allison: First, I want to say that all teachers are language teachers. Regardless of the subject we teach, we all use language to convey meaning in the classroom. Specifically, though, my role as a French as a second language (FSL) teacher—who often works with elementary students—is to create an environment where my students feel safe, confident, and excited to explore the French language and culture. After years of struggling with my non-native speaker identity, I have come to accept that I do not need to speak perfect French; in fact, each mistake I make creates a teaching opportunity. The D-AIT assignment allowed me to reflect on my hybrid identity as both a language teacher and a language learner (Click to view Allison’s D-AIT reflection). Creating the D-AIT brought back difficult memories of feeling like an outsider while learning a new language and trying to gain access to certain communities. In the end, I think these experiences may help me empathize with my own plurilingual students who may be experiencing similar challenges, perhaps motivating me to try to get to know them better. The D-AIT allowed me to realize that we all have these really complex, hybrid identities.

Maria: Totally agree, Allison. This type of assignment can allow for the teacher to share her unique life and learning experiences, leading, in turn, to better appreciating our students’ identities. Also, from my experience using D-AITs in the classroom, I think students are more comfortable and empowered when instructors allow for plurilingual self-expression through code-switching and translanguaging.

Christina: I agree with Maria in that acknowledging learners’ linguistic and cultural heritage through the production of Digital AITs can create a space to explore and develop meaningful connections between their lives and language learning.

Maria: Right! By drawing attention to learners’ experiences, we can teach them to read the world, improving their critical language awareness. Teachers need to care about the challenges facing ELLs and demonstrate this care through reflection and consideration of tasks/goals/success criteria that serve the needs of all learners. This can be done while supporting overall academic literacies.

James: One of the main objectives of this assignment is to meaningfully reflect and engage with the role of language in our complex, diverse life trajectories and hybrid professional identity construction / negotiation. It has certainly been my experience that this type of pedagogy can be identity-affirming, particularly for those who have all too often been dismissed as less than optimal teachers due to their diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

D-AITs: Development of Academic Literacy Skills

James: What were the affordances of this type of assignment (D-AIT) for developing your academic literacy and/or digital literacy skills?

Christina: The process of digital storytelling required accessing my different academic literacy skills and practices: organization; writing; editing; oral presentation skills; creating media texts for different purposes and audiences; experimenting with different writing conventions; using various computer software; and considering how to execute the digital production successfully in light of the assessment rubric (metacognition).

Maria: Yeah, my digital literacy competencies have expanded through this assignment. I am much more confident not only using such communicative tools for future presentations, but also more comfortable with inspiring students to use them for various purposes. When I shared my D-AIT with some of my more seasoned language teacher colleagues, they were impressed and intimidated by it, commenting that technologies they never learned are now commonplace. I think digital production processes like the ones we used when producing the D-AIT should be learned by language teacher candidates so that they may be implemented with K-12 language learners, but I understand this may be challenging for some teachers.

Allison: I agree that this assignment was extremely multi-faceted, constantly requiring me to think critically and make reflective choices. It was like putting together the pieces of a puzzle that would accurately tell the story of who I am as a language learner/teacher to my audience of university peers. Because of how well the D-AIT was scaffolded, I was able to experiment with new digital tools—which I have since used with my students—and gain confidence in my digital text production. This scaffolding is now part of my process when I employ this type of assignment with my own FSL students.

Maria: Yes, from my experience with learners in varied contexts, D-AITs can strengthen communication, writing, language and presentation skills, as well as their metacognitive skills.

James: Yes, this pedagogy affords development of a broad range of literacy practices. From my perspective, not only do language teacher candidates need scaffolding in support of their more traditional literacy practices (e.g., reflective writing; oral presentation skills) but also in their use of digital technologies. Providing time and tips to engage with the varied digital production tools (e.g., screencasting; embedding videos; using PPT slides; etc.) can benefit teacher candidates both in terms of their digital AIT production as well as their subsequent language teaching practices. One of the distinct pleasures of incorporating this pedagogy into the language teacher education classroom has been the chance to engage with teacher candidates’ varied levels of digital savvy and creativity. At times I have found myself in awe of the sophistication of the digital production by language teacher candidates. On a personal note, my own digital literacy practices have benefited from engaging with my students’ work. Bonus!

D-AITs: Pedagogical Resource for (Future) Language Teachers

James: When reviewing your wonderful D-AITs as part of the CTL 5300 course, I distinctly remember each of you imagining how you might use this type of activity with your own students. What are your thoughts now that some time has passed since you took the course and you are all active language teachers?

Allison: I believe the digital AIT is a great tool for teachers to explore students’ language identities. In the past I’ve found it really hard to assess what my students’ home languages are. Recently, I used an AIT-type task—that I used when creating my own D-AIT—where students could colour/write in or around a human silhouette in order to express their language repertoires. It was great. Modeling my language identity through this AIT task really unlocked a lot of things for my students as they created their own and I was able to have a different relationship with this class.

Maria: Personally, I see D-AITs as a creative solution to otherwise standard (stagnant) institutional norms and pedagogies. The main purpose of adopting this pedagogy in my classroom is to legitimize all voices, identities, interests and trajectories so that all students feel like legitimate members of the classroom community. Going through the D-AIT production process, I have become much more of an advocate for identity-affirming pedagogies and I consistently use them with my students.

Christina: I agree with Maria that digital AITs are a type of pedagogy that supports collaborative classrooms, one that fits with my educational philosophy: all educators have a central role in co-constructing a high-quality education system that is equitable and democratic. Though I have yet to use D-AITs as an instructor, I imagine implementing such pedagogy in my own teaching and research as a tool to understand children’s experiences.

James: Your comments remind me that one of the areas of emphasis with this critical, plurilingual pedagogy is to not only affirm students’ plurilingual / pluricultural identities—either in service of stimulating greater student investment in the language learning or improving student self-efficacy—but also to break down the unnecessary, artificial “walls” between the teacher and students.

D-AIT Limitations: Access, Assessment and Vulnerability

James: It seems we are fairly aligned in our perceptions of the positive potential of D-AITs. Now, does anyone have concerns about using this type of digital activity across diverse learning contexts?

Christina: My experiences working with K-6 children have shown me that children are very tech-savvy; however, I recognize that producing multimodal texts can be challenging given the lack of technology/digital resources, software, and uneven functionality of the devices in some schools. For example, during one of my practicum experiences, I noticed that children at an inner city school did not have access to particular technology at home. This would make digital AIT production a school-based activity only. Can we really sacrifice that much classroom time for such an activity?

Maria: Right. Some schools have more access to Chromebooks and iPads than other schools, so every context will vary in this regard. However, more traditional written autobiographies can be powerful reflective pieces as well and well worth the classroom time, in my opinion.

James: Your concerns are valid, Christina and Maria. Access should be a major consideration for teachers when building and maintaining equitable learning environments. That being said, I would also argue, again drawing on Jim Cummins and Margaret Early’s work, that teachers can be excellent advocates for their students by getting buy-in from colleagues, including those higher up the chain. For example, I heard from one of my former language teacher candidates that she was able to convince the vice-principal at her school to provide additional resources for producing digital texts by showing how the assignment could meet language and content learning objectives across the high school curriculum.

On the topic of potential limitations of this pedagogy, some of the most salient pushback from language teachers is that they are not sure this type of assignment is viable in a high-stakes teaching / learning environment. What are your thoughts?

Maria: Considerations for assessing a D-AIT must involve the clearly stated purposes and goals of the task. As we have discussed, content and language can be assessed through the artifact, and a formative assessment framework should be utilized rather than it being assessed in a summative manner. I guess what I’m saying is that D-AITs shouldn’t be used in a high stakes manner. If what we ultimately desire in our teaching is to move those students on the periphery to a more central position, our pedagogical practices must reflect this desire in the interactions we have with our students, e.g. moving away from tasks that have an element of high-stakes assessment attached to them.

Christina: I agree with Maria. This type of activity should not be summatively assessed. Creating a D-AIT is actually part of a continuous language learning process, and I think teachers need to recognize the value of this process rather than simply the product. When considering D-AITs, I also like the idea of responsive assessment, that is, to observe and note what students say and do during the process of creating the identity text. I also imagine students employing self-assessment using a student-generated performance rubric that helps them to monitor their own progress as learners.

Allison: Exactly. For example, the continuous feedback we received from James during this assignment had a greater impact on my learning process than the final grade. Exploring our language identities together (instructors and students), in my opinion, should not be a “high-stakes” task, but rather a chance to open up and learn from and about each other. In my own elementary teaching practice, I prefer introducing the D-AIT at the beginning of a language course as a way of getting to know where they are coming from and to foster a more supportive language community. The digital AIT provides me with important information as an instructor about how to tap into my students’ existing languages as well as their prior knowledge. I often refer back to the Digital AIT throughout the school year or ask my students to reflect on how their feelings have changed by the end of our time together. Ultimately, the D-AIT can be an excellent tool for self-reflection, peer evaluation and formative evaluation of my students in the FSL classroom.

James: I agree with your sentiment, folks. I will consider using this pedagogy as a type of needs analysis and rolling assessment in the future. I also support the inclusion of a self-assessed component should the teacher feel this may benefit student engagement. Thanks for the tips! However, I also know from experience teaching in a variety of post-secondary contexts that having an evaluation rubric that incorporates more traditional academic literacies and language learning outcomes can be beneficial when looking for buy-in from colleagues, administrators, and students themselves. I hope to see advancement on this front as more teachers and teacher educators take up this progressive pedagogy in their language classrooms.

Allison: I would like to add another caveat. In asking our students to produce a D-AIT, we are asking our students to really “put themselves out there”. I think this openness taps into important emotions tied to language and identity that can create important bonds between the students and with the teacher. . .but it is a lot to ask and a bit risky.

James: Allison, thanks for bringing up the issue of vulnerability. When using D-AITs, I try to make clear to students and teacher candidates that they are free to share their final product with those in the classroom community (and beyond) should they wish, but that this decision is theirs alone and will not impact their assignment or course grade. Also, I try to scaffold the production of this digital text by providing extensive class time for students to brainstorm their language use, identity construction / negotiation, and how they choose to represent their life / language journey. Again, I think the benefits of such critical reflection on identity, language, and power extend far beyond the assignment itself.

Maria: On the topic of vulnerability, the D-AIT assignment presented an uncomfortable opportunity to revisit, re-examine and reconcile language and identity issues that have arisen during my educational journey. For example, at times, I internalized the message that ‘Italian-ness’ was not something to be proud of as a French language teacher/student. I sometimes wonder if it isn’t too much of a burden for some younger learners to engage with these sensitive identity issues.

Christina: From my perspective, being vulnerable is not always a bad thing. It gives us the opportunity to unpack and discuss our stories and experiences. A teacher of mine once said that it is better to be responsive than reactive. Therefore, perhaps vulnerability can be an opportunity for young learners to be responsive about these sensitive identity issues?

Maria: Good point, Christina. From my perspective, in order to mitigate vulnerability, the teacher should always produce a D-AIT exemplar. We were definitely feeling confident, comfortable and accepted for our diverse experiences and identities once we saw James’ exemplar.

James: I am a bit torn on this issue. I can appreciate the need for being responsive to student vulnerability, particularly when advocating an identity-affirming type of pedagogy. However, I also agree that through engaging with complexity and discomfort can come greater reward, especially when looking to develop students’ awareness of the inextricable links between language, identity, and power. These types of questions can serve as entry points into critical reflection on the mediating role of language in identity formation and negotiation (see Table 1).

Digital AIT Prompts
• What are some personal characteristics that define you as a person?
• What are some professional characteristics that define you as a language teacher?
• What are some of the communities you belong to?
• Describe how your language use (languages; dialects; varieties) changes when interacting with different communities (professional; family; friends).
• What is “standard” [add target language or L1] and do you use / teach it?
• How has your language use changed over the course of your professional (and life) trajectory?
• Which language(s) do you use (or exclude / limit) inside the classroom? Why?
• Do you see yourself as a legitimate member of the [add target language] community? Why or why not?
• Do others view you as a legitimate member of this community? Why or why not?

Table 1: AIT Brainstorming Prompts for Use with Language Teacher Candidates

Multiethnography, Accessibility, and Negotiating Power

James: I have been part of several multiethnographic projects and have recognized some of the potential affordances and challenges of such an approach, particularly when pairing more experienced and less experienced scholars. As teacher-researchers, I wonder how you feel about our methodological approach?

Christina: What I found most interesting is the opportunity to speak and discuss with fellow teachers about our values and professional experiences in the classroom. Through our reflections, feedback and in-depth discussions on various topics, I feel very appreciative for the opportunity to exchange knowledge, to empower and be empowered.

Maria: This research project has made me appreciate the rigorous work—especially the qualitative data coding—professional researchers undertake. It has been meaningful work that has built relationships based on trust and respect for one another. It has enabled me to believe in myself as a legitimate teacher-researcher and strengthened my critical lens through which I view current teaching practices.

Allison: Totally. Being a part of this D-AIT research has given me a chance to step outside of my everyday teacher concerns. The best part of this research, by far, was connecting with other teachers from different backgrounds. This allowed me to compare and contrast my own pedagogies and life experiences with others, providing me with a lot of food for thought moving forward in my teaching career, especially on the topic of language and identity.

James: I get excited when I have a chance to collaborate with classroom teachers, whether it be co-developing classroom activities or finding connections between research, theory, and practice. I also recognize the challenge teachers and teacher candidates have in finding time for research, not to mention the lack of clear incentive for many teachers to engage in scholarship. Thus, I appreciate the time and energy my colleagues have put into this collaborative work!

Christina: I feel that this project has allowed me to take on a leadership role that is both comfortable and uncomfortable. At first, I was uncomfortable with the suggestion of me taking on first authorship given my lack of experience with research writing. However, as we negotiated our roles, James gave me confidence that, as an emerging scholar, I could do it in a way that advances scholarship and teaching in a meaningful way.

James: As you all have clearly indicated, this collaborative, multiethnographic research project has proven to be an accessible entry point for teacher candidates without extensive research experience to advance scholarship, while critically considering their language teaching beliefs and classroom practices. Well done, team!


As reflected in our dialogic exchanges, there was widespread agreement regarding the positive impacts of digital autobiographical identity text (D-AIT) production on language teaching beliefs and practices. Christina, Maria, and Allison all emerged with an affirmed sense of personal and professional self-efficacy, viewing their plurilingual language use and teaching practices in a positive light. Drawing on our critical plurilingual framework, we argue that engaging in D-AIT production was beneficial in “creating and affirming [language teacher candidates’] plurilingual identities and subjectivities” (Lin, 2013, p. 20), while stimulating critical reflection on the inextricable links between language, identity, power, and pedagogy. This critical reflection resulted in a shared mindset where we increasingly considered ourselves pluri-competent teacher candidates, ready to challenge those who may position us as deficient teachers of our additional languages. Our findings add to the literature positioning digital storytelling as a viable form of identity affirming, critical reflective practice in language teacher education classrooms; perhaps, in the case of D-AITs, a pedagogy particularly well-suited to contexts where plurilingual language teacher candidates abound (e.g., see Rocafort, 2019).

Clearly, D-AITs provided us with an opportunity to critically reflect upon the role of language as a mediating tool in our professional identity construction and negotiation. This was evident in how we reconceptualized our plurilingual, professional academic literacies/competencies (Galante, 2019; Lau & Van Viegen, in press; Marshall & Moore, 2018). However, academic literacies outcomes were possibly less important than the role this pedagogy played in allowing the imagining of our (future) professional selves (Masson, 2018; Norton, 2013; Norton & Costa, 2018). Our critical reflections on the potential impact of employing this type of plurilingual pedagogy in our future classroom communities again suggests its potential efficacy in critical language teacher education (Barkhuizen, 2016b; Chun, Kern & Smith, 2016; Morgan, 2016). Thus, as was the case for us, the implementation of D-AITs in language teacher education classrooms may not only represent a form of effective and equitable support for culturally and linguistically diverse teacher candidates, but also, potentially, for our future students. Thus, we posit, if afforded opportunities for “understanding praxis in their future classrooms” (Coggin et al., 2019) via this type of digital storytelling, language teacher candidates may ultimately better serve increasingly diverse student populations across Canada.

Of note, our conversations did not always reflect convergent perspectives. For example, we disagreed on whether this plurilingual pedagogy is always accessible, particularly with respect to disadvantaged populations. Perhaps this divergence of opinion, largely based on our in-service teaching experiences, suggests the need for adapting D-AITs in response to local needs rather than as a “one size fits all” pedagogy for equitably supporting diverse student populations. Again, drawing on recent experience as in-service language teachers in varying contexts (EAL vs. FSL; K-12 vs. post-secondary), we diverged on how D-AITs should be assessed, and to what ends. Ultimately, our divergent perspectives suggest that formative, summative—or no assessment at all—may be appropriate, depending on the needs and objectives of the local stakeholders (Marshall & Moore, 2013; Piccardo, 2013).

Our multiethnographic research design provided an accessible entry point into scholarly conversations for in-service language teachers. As argued elsewhere, multiethnographies can often serve to challenge normative ways of doing and conceptualizing research (Adamson et al., 2019; Corcoran, Gagné, & McIntosh, 2018; Heng Hartse & Nazari, 2018). In our case, our polyvocal research design afforded a longer term perspective on the impact of D-AITs on our beliefs and practices. Further, by bringing together, and thus validating, language teacher experiences and perspectives, our project has, we hope, added to the blurring of boundaries between research, theory, and pedagogical practice, while fomenting more collaborative relations of power between more and less experienced teacher-researchers (Cummins, forthcoming; Burns, 2016). In doing so, we look to provide food for thought for language teacher educators looking to meaningfully involve current or future language teachers in research work (see Table 2). We anticipate a rise in such work in the field of applied language studies as such participatory methods gain more acceptance and legitimacy.

Clearly, perspectives expressed in our polyvocal, dialogic exchanges do not represent all plurilingual language teacher candidates who have engaged in D-AIT production, nor do digital AITs guarantee personal/professional growth. However, we argue that these findings point to the potential of D-AITs as critical, plurilingual pedagogy that may concurrently affirm plurilingual language teacher candidates’ professional identities, increase their critical language awareness, and improve their broader academic literacies. Importantly, we see this pedagogy as potentially impactful not only in language teacher education classrooms, but also in increasingly diverse classrooms where plurilingual pre-service teachers end up wielding their craft as confident, critical, in-service language teachers. Ultimately, though our findings suggest that D-AITs may indeed be impactful, identity-affirming tools for teacher educators, we look forward to further empirical work—ethnographic and otherwise—that may better answer questions surrounding the impact of this critical, plurilingual pedagogy.

Digital AIT Tips & Tricks
• Adopt D-AITs in consideration of course and program objectives
• Provide teachers with a clear evaluation rubric and assignment objectives
• Produce and share an instructor D-AIT with teachers
• If available, provide models of effective teacher D-AITs and reflective texts
• Allow class time for investigation and modeling of audio / visual production tools
• Allow class time for follow-up textual production (critical reflection) describing why particular choices were made to represent hybrid, evolving professional identities
• Provide assignment feedback at several levels: critical thinking; creativity; clarity; coherence; rhetoric / discourse; lexicogrammatical

Table 2: Tips for Using Digital AITs in Language Teacher Education Classrooms


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“First they Americanize you and then they throw you out”: A LangCrit Analysis of Language and Citizen Identity

MARINKA SWIFT, University of California, Davis


While the United States (U.S.) has the second-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, second only to Mexico, an essentialized ideology persists of what it sounds like to be an American citizen, which impacts some speakers in distinctive ways. Generation 1.5 adults who have been repatriated to Mexico are uniquely impacted by this language ideology and the power structures that sustain it. The present study analyzes digital stories of deportation as spaces through which generation 1.5 adults perform citizen identity. Data for the present study is drawn from digital testimonies and are part of a larger archive of the Humanizing Deportation project. Guided by Critical Language and Race Theory (Crump, 2014b), this study aims to better understand the interaction between language and citizen identity for generation 1.5 adults. While scholarship around language and social identity has received much attention across a range of disciplines over the past few decades, little research has investigated the linguistic and citizen identities of adults repatriated to Mexico by the United States. I offer an analysis of the role of language in citizen identities and the implications of these findings for future research and activism.


Tandis que les États-Unis comptent la deuxième plus grande population hispanophone au monde, tout juste après le Mexique, une idéologie simpliste persiste quant à ce que cela laisse entendre d’être un citoyen américain, ce qui influence les locuteurs de différentes façons. Les adultes de la génération 1,5 ayant été rapatriés au Mexique sont particulièrement affectés par cette idéologie langagière et les structures de pouvoir qui la maintiennent. La présente étude analyse des histoires numériques de déportation comme moyens à travers lesquels des adultes de la génération 1,5 se forgent une identité citoyenne. Les données de la présente recherche sont tirées de témoignages numériques et prennent part à des archives plus vastes du projet Humaniser la déportation. Guidée par la théorie critique sur la langue et la race (Critical Language and Race Theory; Crump, 2014b), cette recherche vise à mieux comprendre les interactions entre la langue et l’identité citoyenne chez les adultes de la génération 1,5. Alors que l’érudition quant aux langues et à l’identité sociale a retenu l’attention de diverses disciplines dans les dernières décennies, peu de recherches se sont intéressées à l’identité linguistique et citoyenne d’adultes rapatriés au Mexique par les États-Unis. Une analyse est offerte sur le rôle de la langue dans l’identité citoyenne ainsi que sur les implications de ces conclusions pour les recherches futures et l’activisme.

Keywords: language, migration, identity, LangCrit.


While the United States (U.S.) boasts the second-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world, second only to Mexico (Burgen, 2015; Spanish Language Domains, 2014), an essentialized ideology persists of what it sounds like to be an American citizen, which impacts some speakers in distinctive ways. Generation 1.5 adults who have been repatriated to Mexico are uniquely impacted by this language ideology and the power structures that sustain it (such as educational agencies and governing bodies). The term ‘generation 1.5’ refers to individuals that immigrate to a new country before or during their teenage years. The label ‘1.5’ refers to the fact that often such individuals bring with them characteristics of their country of origin, though they also assimilate and adopt characteristics of their new country. Some of the authors we meet in the present study were, in fact, lawful permanent residents at the time of their removal from the U.S., while others were undocumented. The present study analyzes digital stories of deportation as spaces through which generation 1.5 adults perform citizen identity. Guided by Critical Language and Race Theory (Crump, 2014b), this study aims to better understand the interaction between language and citizen identity for generation 1.5 adults. While scholarship around language and social identity has received much attention across a range of disciplines over the past few decades, little (if any) research has investigated the linguistic and citizen identities of adults repatriated to Mexico by the United States. In the following sections, I will provide a brief history of forced repatriation, an explanation of the theoretical framework guiding the present analysis, and a summary of pertinent previous research on issues relating to language, identity, and translanguaging. I then offer an analysis of the role of language in citizen identities and the implications of these findings for future research and activism. Throughout the paper, I refer to the speakers as narrators, authors, and forced-returnees.

How do individuals talk about language in digital stories of deportation? How do speakers identify themselves and their sense of belonging? The present study contributes to scholarship at the intersection of language, identity, race, and citizenship. The analysis shows how essentialized notions of language, as linked to national and citizen identities, impact the linguistic identities of forced-returnee adults both before and after deportation. The present study contributes to scholarship around language and forced migration through a critical discourse analysis (van Dijk, 1993) of five digital narratives archived as part of the Humanizando la Deportación digital storytelling project (see The study urges social scientists to further investigate how language contributes to experiences of generation 1.5 adults. Such an understanding is necessary to best support the social and linguistic identities, as well as the linguistic needs of generation 1.5 adults after repatriation. Through such inquiry we can contribute to existing scholarship that acknowledges and challenges essentializing notions of language and national identity, and bring attention to the perceptions and experiences of racialized speakers. There is little research, if any, which addresses the linguistic practices, identities, and experiences of adults deported from the U.S. The present study aims to reduce this gap.

Recent History of Forced Repatriation

According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI, 2015; 2016), of the 207,000 Mexicans repatriated by the United States in 2015, “fifteen percent (29,000) had six years or more of U.S. residence before being deported” (p. 5). It is not clear exactly how many generation 1.5 (gen1.5) adults have been repatriated, nor how many gen1.5 adults reside in the United States. While one estimate claims that about half a million gen1.5s have been repatriated to Mexico over the past decade (Lakhani & Jacobo, 2016), this figure cannot be confirmed with any source. While these figures may bring us closer to a countable representation of gen1.5 forced-returnees, it is evident that additional measures are needed in order to gain clarity about the extent to which repatriation impacts generation 1.5 individuals repatriated to Mexico from the United States.

Another facet of repatriation that complicates our understanding of the situation are the legal categories that determine the deportability of an individual, which are complicated and often not known or understood by gen1.5 individuals who arrive in the U.S. as minors. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there is not an aggregated explanation for the reasons leading to the forced repatriation of gen1.5 returnees. Some gen1.5 individuals are Lawful Permanent Residents at the time of their removal from the U.S., a distinct categorization that is not the same as legal citizen status and is often unclear to gen1.5 individuals. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2018), “Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are foreign nationals who have been granted the right to reside permanently in the United States.” LPRs are often referred to simply as “immigrants”, but they are also known as “permanent resident aliens” and “green card holders” (Department of Homeland Security, 2018). While LPRs may live and work in the U.S., in order to become legal U.S.citizens they must meet additional eligibility requirements and apply for naturalization. LPRs are eligible for deportation under a variety of circumstances. One way that an individual with LPR status can be eligible for deportation is by committing a “Crime of Moral Turpitude” (CMT), which is only broadly defined by U.S. immigration law. Various offenses may be considered a CMT, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. In some cases, no actual court conviction needs to be made for an offense to be considered a CMT (Bray, 2019; 8 USC;1227).

The language of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act is broad enough to allow states and local law enforcement agencies to independently interpret the type of infraction that would qualify an LPR for deportation. In this way, even individuals who have lawfully entered the U.S. and have valid legal documentation (such as a “green card” or LPR status) are still eligible for forced-repatriation. In many cases, gen1.5 individuals do not have LPR status and are entirely unaware that their parents (if they immigrated with their parents) did not apply for such legal status on their behalf. For these individuals, learning that they are in fact not legal U.S. citizens and are deportable is shocking news, to say the least.

It should be understood that, while I mention some legal violations that can result in forced repatriation, I am in no way suggesting that gen1.5 returnees have been repatriated as a result of a CMT. Rather, I provide these legal classifications to point out the range of legal codes that may be utilized by U.S. law enforcement to justify the forced-repatriation of individuals. Furthermore, such legal codes are often cited by law enforcement agencies and the Trump Administration as justification for the portrayal of immigrants and forced-returnees as criminals, despite the fact that there is “no evidence that immigrants commit more crimes than native-born American citizens” (Ye He Lee, 2015).

Theoretical Framework

Critical Language and Race Theory (LangCrit) lends itself to the examination of how gen1.5 adults do citizen identity through language. The concept of doing language describes the notion that language is a performative tool used by speakers to enact certain expressions of identity. From a LangCrit perspective, identity is fluid and complex rather than fixed. Through an analysis of the identity experiences of multilingual Japanese-Canadian children in Montréal, Alison Crump proposed LangCrit as a lens that identifies and challenges the complex interactions between “audible and visible identities” (Crump, 2014a) because “fixed identity categories do not recognize the acts of identity that individuals perform through language” (Crump, 2014b, p. 208). Crump challenges essentialized notions of belonging which equate language with membership in a one-to-one relationship. Critically, this framework challenges ideas of what it means to sound like and look like someone that “belongs”. LangCrit scholars examine “the ways in which race, racism and racialization intersect with issues of language, belonging, and identity” (p. 207-208); through this critical lens, it is possible to capture the full spectrum of identity possibilities and the expressions of belonging enacted and perceived by speakers.

Power manifests in many ways through policies related to immigration, education, and language. Power also lives in the beliefs that individuals, communities, and societies have about criteria for belonging. According to LangCrit, “power has come to be clustered around certain linguistic resources in certain spaces” (Crump, 2014b, p. 209). In other words, certain spaces and contexts often elicit specific linguistic practices. In these spaces, particular resources are made available in the language or languages associated with social access and power. LangCrit is interested in examining the power in linguistic resources and spaces in order to understand how individuals do language, the values they associate with language, and the identity possibilities that result from the interaction between power and language in space. Existing sociolinguistic scholarship posits that language may, in all its complexity, index identities (Bucholtz & Hall, 2009). In analyzing the interaction between conversational code-switching and social identity, Auer (2003) argued that bilingual speech indexes extralinguistic social categories, referring to categories that are not intrinsically about language. Examples of such extralinguistic social categories might be ethnicity, nationality and citizenship status. More simply, certain ways of speaking are associated with certain identities (or certain ideas of belonging). Sometimes this indexing is imposed onto a speaker and other times a speaker actively engages in particular language practices in order to enact a social identity or to perceive themselves as having a certain identity (Auer, 2003). In this way, language is performative and the identities permitted through language are contrived and dictated by larger social structures rooted in essentialized notions of belonging, related to what an individual sounds like and looks like. Through LangCrit, Crump offers a framework through which to engage these concepts of belonging, language, race, and identity.

As a social practice, language and language ideologies have been studied by many researchers as a function of social identity. Particularly over the past two decades, scholars in the social sciences have approached questions about language ideologies to explore topics such as social identity and bilingual identity (Auer, 2003; Song, 2010; Zentella, 1997), the racialization of language (Leeman, 2004), and power structures rooted in language ideologies (Kroskrity, 2004). The present study explores the use of language in digital narratives as a tool for performing citizen identity, an extralinguistic category, and the implications this has for deportation experiences.

LangCrit views language as a social practice that informs social norms, such as how individuals and groups engage with each other and society. Crump proposed that boundaries around languages have been socially contrived and constructed, produced and maintained (Crump, 2014b). Specifically, “power is clustered around certain linguistic resources in certain spaces” and explores how such language boundaries inform what individuals can and cannot do with language in daily life, as well as the values associated with language use and possible identities (Crump, 2014b, p. 209). Importantly, language boundaries are not language barriers, rather boundaries refer to the socially constructed ways of doing language. The difference being, language boundaries refer to the social norms that dictate what language use is acceptable, whereas language barriers describe the discrepancy in language proficiency between interlocutors (Crump, 2014b citing Hill, 1998). I will elaborate on this concept of language boundaries in my analysis of the digital stories presented. While a linguistic perspective shall not adopt essentialized notions of language and identity, the reality is that many speakers do. Crump reminded us that, “even though languages are social constructions, the ideology of languages as fixed entities still carries a powerful social force” (Crump, 2014b, p. 209), which explains why in the present study we see the ideology of English as a tag for U.S. American belonging and citizen identity, linking a fixed language entity (English) with a nation-state identity (U.S. American).

LangCrit shares much in common with Raciolinguistics, first popularized by Flores and Rosa (2015) and elaborated on by Alim, Rickford, and Ball in their 2016 publication titled Raciolinguistics: How language shapes our ideas about race. Raciolinguistics focuses on the socially cyclical relationship between race, racialization, and language: language is used to construct race (“languaging race”) and perceptions of race influence how language is used (“racing language”). This framework has been utilized particularly well to better understand how sociolinguistic variation is intertwined with social and political factors. In this way, language may be used to seek or demonstrate (racial) group membership (Alim, Rickford, & Ball, 2016).

Crump explored these questions as well through her research on the linguistic racialization of speakers and the issue of “whiteness as a norm associated with native English speakers” (2014b, p. 207). LangCrit asserts that different physical and social spaces interact with racialized discourses impacting how speakers use language and perform identities. Understanding this power dynamic between normative spaces and language practices, Crump proposed LangCrit as a necessary contribution to critical studies on language.

Both LangCrit and Raciolinguistics acknowledge that linguistic racialization contributes to identity formation and expression, and is perpetuated through power structures. Examples of such power structures are governing bodies, such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement which seeks to identify and enforce categories of belonging and not belonging. Another example is that of educational institutions, which have historically segregated individuals in the U.S. on the basis of race, language, gender, and religious affiliation. Although LangCrit is the theoretical framework for the present study, it should be clear that Raciolinguistics is also a suitable lens.

Review of Previous Research

In 2012, the Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends published a report titled “When labels don’t fit: Hispanics and their views of identity” claiming that nearly half (47%) of Hispanics in the U.S. do not identify as a “typical American[s]” (Taylor, Hugo Lopez, Martínez, & Velasco, 2012, p. 3). Importantly, the report also claimed the opposite, that 47% of Latinos do identify as “typical[ly] American.” Taken from data collected as part of the 2011 National Survey of Latinos, the report highlighted the range of identity labels used by Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S., as well as their language beliefs and practices. Using data from a telephone survey of 1,220 Latino adults across 50 states, the report found that 21% of Latinos in the U.S. identify themselves as “American” most often, while 51% use their family’s country of origin to describe themselves, and 24% prefer the term “Hispanic” or “Latino.” Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, generation status appeared to influence these identity label preferences in the U.S.; first-generation immigrants born outside the U.S. were less likely than U.S.-born Hispanics to identify as a “typical American.”

The report demonstrates the complexity of “American” identity as experienced by Hispanics and Latinos, as well as the role of language and generation status in identity. Our interpretation of these findings influences how we think about identity as experienced and articulated by Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S. While it may be true that many adults surveyed for the report did not identify as a “typical American,” many do self-identify in this way. Furthermore, the report does not explain what it means to be a “typical American.” From a LangCrit perspective, we cannot essentialize notions of belonging, there is not one look or one sound that qualifies “American” identity. Raciolinguistic identities do not preclude citizen identity, as suggested by the “either-or” model of the report, which offers “American” as a category separate from the categories “Latino” and “Hispanic.” However, Crump also acknowledged the power of such essential notions of identity: “we cannot ignore that fixed categories do exist, problematic as they are. . . they are powerful in shaping an individual’s possibilities for becoming” (2014b, p. 209).

Therefore, LangCrit insists that we identify and challenge such essentializing notions, especially because individuals adopt them as part of their sense of identity. With regards to generation status, the study does not indicate the age of arrival of foreign-born respondents and thus, creates an overgeneralized interpretation of the identifiers used and preferred by first-generation Latino and Hispanic adults in the U.S. From a linguistic standpoint, language acquisition and language attitudes are quite different for young learners than for adult learners. Additionally, the use of English and Spanish tends to differ depending on the generation status of the speaker. This reflects a difference not only in language acquisition across ages but also in language use and ideologies. However, this study does make clear the need to explore further what it means to be “American” for immigrants in the U.S., particularly for gen1.5 adults, and the role of language in “American” identity.

Language and Identity

Language is a social practice through which ideas and beliefs are communicated (Crump, 2014b; Fairclough, 1989). As language is socially and locally constructed, analysis of language use can reveal connections to larger social, political, and historical practices and beliefs about language (Crump, 2014b). Language ideologies can unveil, among other things, how individuals are relegated to either positions of power or subordination within a society. Paul Kroskrity defined language ideologies as “beliefs, or feelings, about languages as used in their social worlds” (Kroskrity, 2004, p. 498). Language and language ideologies have been studied as a function of social and bilingual identity (Zentella, 1997; Song, 2010), the racialization of language (Leeman, 2004), and of power structures (Kroskrity, 2004). Woolard and Schieffelin (1994) asserted that studies in language ideology should demonstrate “a commitment to address the relevance of power relations to the nature of cultural forms and ask how essential meanings about language are socially produced as effective and powerful” (p. 58), and as such should adopt critical ideological analysis with a focus on the political use of language as an instrument of power maintenance. In the narratives analyzed here, power often stems from English as a commodity, tool and resource that grants access to particular services or spaces, or the nationalistic language ideologies that assign language a symbolic feature of self, community, and citizenship (Menard-Warwick, 2013). Therefore, to gain insight into the interaction between language and citizen identity, we must explore the beliefs and feelings that speakers have about language as they relate to their lived experiences around migration and deportation.


First introduced by Cen Williams in 1994, translanguaging is defined as “an act of bilingual performance, as well as a bilingual pedagogy of bilingual teaching and bilingual learning” (García & Leiva, 2014, p. 199). At its conception, it referred to a pedagogical approach by which students alternated languages in order to develop literacy and writing skills in more than one language. Now, the term has expanded to refer to more fluid language practices and linguistic resources used and acquired by bilingual speakers and writers. From a pedagogical perspective, translanguaging has been theorized and applied as a linguistic resource to foster bilingual students’ full linguistic repertoire, while resisting “the historical and cultural positionings of English monolingualism in the USA” (p. 199). From a social justice standpoint, translanguaging challenges monolingual ideologies for U.S. citizens, as well as a “‘Hispanophone’ ideology that blames U.S. Latinos for speaking ‘Spanglish’” (p. 200). Translanguaging practices of speakers offer insight into the identities associated with language, space, and belonging.

In the present study, translanguaging practices by authors of deportation narratives are analyzed to ascertain how gen1.5 adult forced-returnees perform citizen identity through language. To approach this analysis, I view translanguaging through a LangCrit framework, which recognizes translanguaging as “what languagers (people) are doing [with language]” and acknowledges that speakers negotiate language use in order to navigate the “socially constructed boundaries around languages” (Crump, 2014b, p. 210). The ways in which instances of translanguaging occur through digital narratives are different than in a live conversation between two or more people because the socially constructed boundaries around languages are different online than they are off-line. In digital narratives, translanguaging takes shape through the interaction between Spanish and English accompanied by images that convey meaning and experiences. Speakers negotiate language choice in all interactions with interlocutors. Similarly, through digital narrative, a speaker negotiates ways of belonging and citizen identity through language, revealing a facet of translanguaging and identity.

Discourse Analysis and Digital Stories

While research has analyzed YouTube and other digital platforms in relation to education and participatory culture, there is a serious dearth of related literature that has utilized YouTube in its analysis. Van Zoonen et al. (2010) analyzed YouTube reactions to Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam video Fitna. The aim of their study was to analyze if, and in what ways, the participatory culture of YouTube invited performances of citizenship. The study asked “what kind of selves people produce through uploading their videos” against or in support of Fitna(p. 253). According to the authors, citizenship is embedded in practices and routines and “by doing citizenship one becomes a citizen” (p. 252). A key feature of performing citizenship through a platform such as YouTube is the interaction between a video author and viewer or listener. For van Zoonon et al, the real or imagined audience informs how a speaker perceives their performance as meaningful.

The authors conducted a content analysis of various styles of YouTube videos in response to Fitna to assess if and how video posters assert their performance of citizenship and which audiences they assume. The authors found a range of citizenship performances assumed by the video authors. For example, many videos made in response to Fitna were explicit apologies for Wilders’ video. Speakers in these response videos performed political selves positioning the video authors as citizens with a need to apologize in the name of the Dutch nation state, feeling the Fitna video reflected poorly on their citizenship and nationality. Another type of citizenship performance was analyzed in testimonial style videos, in which video authors make a case for themselves as being different from the Muslims portrayed in Fitna. Testimonial videos, according to the authors, are perfect examples of the performance of an inclusive self that aims to be accepted by an audience. This study demonstrates how digital culture platforms, (such as the Humanizando la Deportación project, discussed in the present study), can foster spaces for performed citizen identity as articulated and performed by the video authors. Furthermore, YouTube videos are described as ‘border-circumventing’ which makes it easier for speakers to participate in citizenship as a performance and practice. These findings indicate the value in exploring language use as citizen performance on social platforms such as YouTube.

Data Collection

Language used to describe immigration and immigrants in the U.S. has led to hostile portrayals of immigrants. Most recently, the current president of the U.S., Donald Trump, has described immigrants as follows:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. (Ye He Lee, 2015 citing Donald Trump, Presidential Announcement Speech, June 16, 2015)

Unfortunately, the example above is only one of many in which the president of the U.S. wrongfully makes a blanket statement that portrays immigrants as criminals. When asked about the comments he made on June 16th, Donald Trump said, “they are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.” (July 6, 2015). In reality, the claims made by Donald Trump are not reflected empirically and instead perpetuate xenophobic perceptions of immigrants. In fact, first-generation immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born Americans (Camarota & Vaughan, 2009; Ye Hee Lee, 2015), and despite the lack of evidence for hostile claims like those made by Donald Trump, such rhetoric has perpetuated a racist view of Mexican and Central American immigrants in the U.S., clouding the realities of immigration and deportation.

In the current sociopolitical climate of immigration, activists and research scholars have trended more toward collaboration to create transparent and inclusive conversations about the impacts of deportation. One such collaboration, Humanizando la Deportación, is an online archive of personal digital stories of deportation. Digital storytelling is a narrative genre that pairs recorded audio with visuals (e.g. still images, drawings, clippings, or segments of other video clips) to create a single video or segment of a video (Hull & Nelson, 2005; Lambert, 2013). Digital stories range in length but are generally much shorter than a movie and are often uploaded to social platforms online, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or original website archives. This genre of narrative has enabled storytellers to share their voice with an audience of fellow internet users. In some instances, viewers and listeners can engage with the original storyteller through a social platform’s comment function, though this is not always the case.

For the present study, data is analyzed from five digital stories selected from the larger archive of the Humanizando la Deportación (HLD) project. I participated in this project as a field researcher and video production collaborator during the summer of 2017. The aim of the HLD project is to put a human face to the issue of deportation as experienced by individuals forcefully repatriated to Mexico from the U.S., and to challenge the perception of immigrants and migrants as ‘bad hombres,’ a narrative driven by the U.S. media and President Donald Trump. While deportation rates reached record highs under the Obama Administration (Nowrasteh, 2019), the policies and language used to describe immigrants under the Trump Administration have been uniquely divisive, discriminatory, and hostile. Furthermore, the Obama Administration started the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in an effort to create a path toward legal citizenship for gen1.5 individuals. The Trump Administration has proposed rescinding the DACA program and has put forth additional legislation to limit immigration into the U.S. The HLD project is a response to the social and political perceptions of immigrants and migration. Through this project, researchers collaborate with forced-returnees in various cities throughout Mexico to produce “cut-and-mix” digital testimonials (van Zoonen et al, 2010). Cut-and-mix videos are defined by van Zoonen et al. (2010, p. 254) as “Self produced video consisting of self made, or existing footage, pictures, images, words and sound, combined into a new ‘text’” (p. 254). A forced-returnee and one or more researchers collaborate to create these videos. The authors decide what images they want to be included in the video, such as family photos with or without identifying information or photos from image databases. The story told in each video is unique to the video author and elicited through open conversation with the researcher(s). My role, as one of the project researchers, was to collaborate with other researchers and the video author. I joined in an open conversation about the author’s experience with deportation and assisted in all aspects of the video production process4.

The videos examined here were published between 2017 and 2018 and were chosen for their focus on individuals that could be described as generation 1.5. I chose to focus on gen1.5 individuals because, sometimes, they are unaware that they do not have legal citizen status in the U.S. despite feeling like they belong after spending much, if not most of their lives in the U.S. My initial feelings about the importance of this project arose when I read reports of individuals being repatriated to Mexico who don’t speak Spanish, which highlights a linguistic component of migration and deportation. While my focus is on the relationship between language and citizen identity, I did not choose digital stories based on the language of the author. The videos include audio in Spanish, English, or a mixture of the two. I transcribed the videos at the most basic level and relied on ordinary punctuation. I did not transcribe prosody, body language, or false starts because physical features were often not included (see APPENDIX I for transcription conventions). Additionally, I did not feel that prosody would be a critical component of my analysis since I am mainly concerned with what is said, and not how it is said.

Data Analysis

In addressing the research questions, I coded for instances in which speakers talked about language and tagged topics associated with each mention. I also coded for instances in which speakers talked about ‘citizenship’, which I identified as instances in which the narrator talks about things related to ‘legal’ citizenship, such as documentation, being detained, and the deportation process. To understand the more subjective features of ‘citizen’ and the process of deportation I coded for ‘belonging’, instances in which speakers talk about being in affiliation with certain people, spaces or locations. This, I felt, was an intuitive category to include since forced-returnees experience physical relocation. All analyses are based on the original transcription, not the translation.

For the present analysis, I focus on one of the main themes that emerged from my initial coding: Language and belonging. I analyze the identity descriptors related to citizen identity and belonging, the use of English and Spanish, as well as instances of translanguaging. The analysis that follows highlights how authors of digital deportation narratives signal ideological positions around language and what it means to be a ‘citizen’. I then offer a separate section to discuss the use of translanguaging as a performative tool to convey belonging.

Language and Belonging

One way that gen1.5 forced-returnees convey ideas around what it means to be a citizen is through talking about language in relation to experiences with deportation. In the excerpts below, it becomes evident that the experience of deportation challenges individuals’ notions of their own citizen identity. For Danny, Jorge, and Alex, language figures squarely into feelings and thoughts about belonging. These speakers share the ways that language informs or qualifies what it means to be a citizen in the context of the U.S. and Mexico border.

Danny Juaregui Mariz

First they Americanize you and then they throw you out / Primero te Americanizan y luego te expulsan

Humanizando la Deportación (2017)

Danny Juaregui Mariz arrived in the U.S. at the age of 3 and was repatriated over 40 years later. Danny’s entire narrative is in English, and although he would sometimes speak in Spanish during our collaboration meetings, he preferred to speak in English. Danny built his life in the U.S. and believes that certain abilities and knowledge, like speaking English and knowing about American history, contribute to his sense of belonging in the U.S. As the title of his video states, Danny felt that he was made to be “Americanized” by the U.S. before being forced to repatriate to Mexico. In the first few sentences of his story, Danny says “I’ve been trying to survive over here by just trying to be an honest citizen same as I was over there” (lines 1-3), in which he refers to himself as one who was not only a citizen but an “honest citizen” in the U.S., which he calls “over there.”

1 First they Americanize you and then they throw you out. I got deported two and a half

2 years ago and I’ve been trying to survive over here by just trying to be an honest citizen

3 same as I was over there on the other side. And I’ve been surviving over here ever since

4 with the economy 60 dollars a week, just trying to make a living over here while I try to

5 make my way back. I was born in Guadalajara and at 2 years my father and my mother

6 came for me and they brought me to Tijuana and we crossed to the United States with

7 the visa. I was 3 years old when I crossed over. In east LA I grew up. Went to

8 elementary. My first language was English. It is English. I learned how to be an

9 American, American history, everything that has to do with America. I was there all my

10 life. I did a few mistakes hanging out with the wrong crowd all the time but I was never a

11 criminal. I never shot nobody. I never robbed nobody.

Danny identifies English as his first and dominant language, linking his citizen identity to his language use and knowledge of “how to be an American” (line 12). That Danny felt like a citizen because of his educational and linguistic experiences and was not a criminal challenges the rhetoric tossed around in U.S. media (such as the June 16th, 2015 speech by Donald Trump referenced above) that undocumented individuals are law-breaking, non-English speaking, dangerous, uneducated people. So, while Danny does identify being an American with being a valid and deserving citizen, his ideas about why he is American are reflective of larger societal ideas about what it means to be a U.S. citizen: English speaking, non-criminal, contributing member of society. These learned features of citizen identity are not simply things Danny knows to be true, but they are part of his way of doing citizenship through language and knowledge of being. From a LangCrit perspective, Danny’s experience echoes the notion that “the ideology of language as an entity is tightly intertwined with the doing of language” (Crump, 2014b, p. 210). The idea of language as an “entity” refers to the essentialized ideas of language as something a speaker has and that is linked to national identity.

In the lines below, Danny talks about belonging in the U.S. because his “family’s over there” (line 31) and emphasizes his feelings of belonging in the U.S. by countering with his feelings about not belonging in Tijuana (referred to by English speaking locals as TJ). He is asking the audience to hear his experience and see him as a citizen, as he qualifies his eligibility. He misses his family and feels out of place, forced to live in a different country and city, where many don’t manage to find “a way of life” (line 34).

30 I got thrown out because of the Bill Clinton law and the reason why I came back is

31 my family’s over there, my kids are over there. Because

32 I have no business over here in TJ, I have no business in Mexico.

33 All my friends that got deported, most of them have died or committed suicide because

34 they just can’t find a way of life over here.

35 Me, I’ve just been strong and I’ve been going forward.

To “have no business” implies a situation in which a person does not belong: in a place, doing or saying something. However, having no business does not mean the same thing as having no legal right. When Danny says he has “no business over here in TJ,” he isn’t talking about the legal documentation that he lacks. On the contrary, he does have legal status in Mexico, but he has no business being there, meaning no connection, no reason, and no sense of belonging. Danny speaks to the feeling of belonging as a citizen because of the forty-plus years of his life he had spent in the U.S. and his sense of being “Americanized.”


Made a Criminal in America / Hecho un criminal en América

Humanizando la Deportación (2017)

In the following excerpt, we hear Jorge talk about feeling and believing that, in the absence of proficient Spanish, he must live in the U.S. where English dominates and offers a sense of belonging and familiarity. Jorge was 8 months old when he was brought to the U.S. and was repatriated to Mexico at the age of 23. Like many undocumented individuals in the U.S., Jorge was unaware of his documentation status before he turned 19 when he was deported for the first time. In the excerpt below, Jorge shares about his first experience arriving as a forced-returnee in Mexico and the linguistic circumstances that brought him to return to the U.S. despite his undocumented status. Jorge’s entire narrative is in English.

48 I actually tried to enroll in the military but I wasn’t able to because I was deported right

49 before my last meeting or my last appointment with the recruitment officer.

50 I was deported at age 19. I was sent to Mexico. I did not know where I was, what I was

51 doing. I did not really speak Spanish. I spoke really really terrible Spanish and it was

52 mainly slang words that I had picked up in California. So I had no choice but to return

53 back to the United States. I returned five days later.

Jorge felt that because his Spanish was “really really terrible” he could not remain in Mexico. Not knowing the language well prevented him from knowing where he was and what he was doing. He felt lost, in Spanish. So, for Jorge, a sense of belonging is linked to language ability. Belonging also signals a sense of citizenship, because without the ability to speak the local language, Jorge did not feel that he could fully participate in daily life and community. Upon his re-entry into the U.S. Jorge returned to Alabama where he had previously lived, the place he considered home.

Alex Murillo

American Soldiers in Exile / Soldados Americanos en Exilio

Humanizando la Deportación (2017)

Alex, a U.S. Navy veteran, was deported after spending nearly all of his life in the U.S., the country he, like Jorge, identifies as home. Alex identifies as being American in multiple ways, as evidenced by the way he talks about himself and his experiences. In the excerpt below Alex introduces himself as American and talks about feeling exiled from his home.

1 My name is Alex Murillo. I’m a U.S. Navy veteran. I’m from Phoenix, Arizona.

2 I’ve been deported now almost 5 years. I work with Unified U.S. Veterans.

3 We are trying to get back home. I have all my family, my kids – everybody’s in the U.S.

4 I’ve been in the U.S. my whole life.

5 I was taken to the U.S. maybe when I was 1 year old. Started my whole life there.

6 All of my thoughts and memories are that of an American kid.

7 I identify with being an American.

8 It’s not something you can take away from me just by deporting me.

Alex’s video begins with a picture of him in his Navy attire. The image scrolls out and down to give the audience a full view of Alex in his uniform. The next image depicts Alex with fellow veterans before switching to a picture of Alex with his family. These images invite the viewer to first see Alex as a U.S. veteran, which offers a particularly American imagery. In lines 5-8 Alex explicitly says that his “memories are that of an American kid” and feels that “being an American it’s not something you can take away” (line 8). Alex was raised in Phoenix, Arizona and spent his entire life in the U.S., where he attended school before joining the U.S. Navy. For Alex, being a citizen comes with thoughts, memories, and experiences of the world. Alex’s narrative is exclusively in English, a language choice that reflects his citizen identity. Choosing to say, in English, that he identifies as a member of an English dominant speaking country serves to legitimize his citizen identity and his view that language, a medium for thoughts, informs what it means to be a U.S. citizen. Regardless of the physical relocation forced upon him, Alex’s identification as American remains.


Video authors Zaret and Jesús translanguage throughout their narrative. Using both Spanish and English, paired with visual cues intentionally timed to accompany particular excerpts of their narratives, translanguaging conveys meaning and experiences to the audience. For both Zaret and Jesús language has played key roles in their citizen identity in the U.S. and Mexico, and they address the weight of their linguistic choices.


Ni de aquí ni de allá / Not from here, nor from there

Humanizando la Deportación (2018)

Throughout her narrative Zaret switches between Spanish and English, spending a total of 3 minutes speaking in Spanish and about 2 minutes speaking in English. Zaret was not actually deported, though she was forced to repatriate to Mexico when her parents decided to return due to their increased experience with violence against Chicana/o and Latina/o individuals in the U.S. Zaret has much to say about the role of language in her experiences with migration. Zaret’s video opens with a picture of herself as a young girl holding up a stuffed animal, flanked on either side by family members. The excerpt below begins at minute 1:47 and is accompanied by an image depicting the U.S. and Mexico flags blending together (line 21) before transitioning to separate stock images or signs that say “Aqui se habla Español”, immediately followed by a sign in all red letters that reads “English spoken here” (lines 22-23). The image that follows (lines 23-24) depicts a red colored ‘Uncle Sam’ pointing to the viewer with words that read “I want you to speak English” in blue and red letters. All three signs are written exclusively in capital letters, perhaps emphasizing their purpose as warning signs or demands. In this excerpt, Zaret speaks candidly about her experiences transitioning between life in Mexico and the U.S. as a young immigrant. For Zaret, learning English while living in the U.S. was necessary not to be looked at as “weird” (line 23), as an outsider. Around the age of seven, Zaret was removed from school in Mexico and migrated to the U.S. with her parents. As the title of her narrative suggests, Zaret’s experience with migration and deportation made her feel as though she was “ni de aquí ni de allá” (Not from here, nor from there – see APPENDIX II for translation of Zaret’s narrative excerpts).

21 Y siento que lo más fuerte de la transition from Mexico to the states was the language.

22 You walk in Mexico and you speak English, they look at you weird. If you walk in the

23 States and you speak Spanish they look at you weird. So I had to learn English. One way

24 or the other I had to learn so I could communicate in school, outside, friends. If I needed

25 to buy something, if I needed to use the bathroom, if I needed just whatever, I needed to

26 have English, mainly. Spanish was my first language so I did have that one, but obviously

27 when I went to school I was not learning Spanish anymore. So my Spanish start fucking

28 up. It was bad, there were some words that I forgot how to pronounce. I didn’t know how

29 to read well in Spanish. And I think my mom was really smart when she said, “en la casa

30 no hablen en inglés. En la casa yo quiero que sigan hablando en español porque si en

31 dado caso que llegamos a ir a México ustedes tienen que tener el español.”

36 But you can’t be safe. You don’t feel safe. You don’t feel comfortable being in a place

37 where any day you could be arrested and sent to the country where you’re from. So even

38 though my parents had bought a car and we were good in money, there was a lot of

39 inseguridad in the house. Creo que muchos de lo que hemos pasado por situaciones así lo

40 podemos compartir y es algo muy desagradable. El hecho de que tengamos esa

41 inseguridad de ese miedo de que algo va a pasar, y no algo bueno. Si no algo – algo que

42 puede destruir tu familia. Y el hecho de que obviamente también hay bullying en la

43 escuela de que “mira no habla inglés, mira su inglés como es” # muchas cosas que

44 te pueden afectar, no tan solo a los niños si no cualquier persona.

For Zaret, acquiring and using Spanish and English are linked to a desire to avoid being looked at as “weird.” Zaret’s narrative addresses a range of experiences around language that relate to meeting basic needs in the U.S., for example when she says, “If I needed to buy something, if I needed to use the bathroom, if I needed just whatever, I needed to have English, mainly” (lines 24-25). Zaret also talks about the way she has been treated by others in both the U.S. and Mexico in response to her language choices, reflecting that “You walk in Mexico and you speak English, they look at you weird. If you walk in the States and you speak Spanish they look at you weird. So I had to learn English” (lines 22-23). These experiences coalesce to inform particular language ideologies rooted in lived realities: the ‘right’ sound is required to access basic needs and acceptance from local speakers. The power in language, specifically in speaking the ‘right’ language for acceptance, and decent human treatment, is demonstrative as well in Zaret’s reflection on the bullying she experienced as a result of her language. Despite her efforts to be accepted in the U.S. through her use of English, the monolingual ideology present in the majority of U.S. schools compromised her feelings of belonging as well as her sense of safety. While a student in U.S. schools she experienced linguistic discrimination, which Zaret refers to as bullying (lines 42-44) and was forced to prioritize English (lines 26-28). Meanwhile, her mother emphasized the importance of maintaining Spanish in case they ever needed to return to Mexico, where Spanish is the dominant language and is held up by similar monolingual ideologies that index English speakers as “weird” and U.S.-learned Spanish as incorrect or undesirable. For Zaret, the linguistic experiences she describes contribute to her personal ideologies about who she can or should be and where she is permitted to belong as a result of her language use. Her experiences echo the implications of language boundaries, discussed by Crump (2014b), which dictate how speakers such as Zaret are permitted to do language. Zaret, like many immigrants in the U.S., tried to belong in the U.S. and avoid being looked at as “weird” through her use of English. The connection between language, identity, and belonging followed Zaret across the border once repatriated to Mexico.


Mi sueño no termina ahí / My dream doesn’t end there

Humanizando la Deportación (2017)

In the following narrative, Jesús addresses issues of citizen identity and paid taxes. I worked with Jesús in the production of his video. The majority of Jesús’s narrative is in Spanish, though he does code-switch in a few instances. In our meetings, we mostly spoke in English, though much time was spent translanguaging between English and Spanish when discussing his narrative and video production. Jesús explicitly requested not to be identified in his narrative, so his face is never shown and he does not provide his last name. He made this decision to protect his family that remains in the U.S. and to practice agency in starting his new life in Tijuana. As a bilingual forced-returnee, Jesús found work in a restaurant in a touristy neighborhood in Tijuana, where he often uses his English skills. After living as a legal resident in the U.S. for most of his life, Jesús shares his concerns about the fate of his paid taxes. He explains the removal of certain civic rights as a demonstration of revoked citizen identity.

43 And another thing I was wondering about, what’s gonna happen with my taxes?

44 I know they’re not for me, so they say, but it doesn’t matter because I don’t want them

45 for me. My kids are American citizens. They’re gonna need the help now that they’re

46 going to start going to college, universities. Where does that money go? Who keeps it?

47 That’s a big question. Personally, I think I lost my rights or I lost all my benefits.

48 But, what about my kids? They’re still U.S. citizens, they deserve that, they deserve

49 to get that money to help them get to college and university.

While the loss of tax benefits creates financial burdens for an individual or family, the symbolism behind the action is disruptive as well because it sends the message that Jesús is no longer welcome to fully participate in society and that his contributions will not benefit his family. In positioning himself in comparison to his children, who are “still U.S. citizens” and “they deserve that, they deserve to get that money to help them get to college and university” (lines 48-49), Jesús suggests that he no longer identifies as a citizen because he was stripped of his benefits. Through this excerpt, we learn much about Jesús’s ideas of what it means to be a citizen. For him, it means not losing civic rights, such as full participation in, and contribution to, the economy. Being a citizen also means speaking English and sounding like an American. To gain legitimacy from viewers and listeners Jesús decided to break from Spanish for this portion of the video in order to be understood fully by his English-speaking audience, who he talked about being American viewers and individuals such as himself, who had identified as American and participated as such. By posing questions in English about his paid taxes in the U.S. Jesús indexes his identity as an English-speaking, tax-paying American citizen, who has been stripped of his rights.


The narratives analyzed in the present study reveal particular facets of what it means to be a citizen for gen1.5 forced-returnees. The authors of the digital stories discussed in the previous pages talked about language as a quality that labels one as belonging in a place. For some, English is viewed as a requisite of American identity. Spanish is talked about as a skill that some gen1.5 individuals lack, a deficiency that prevents one from acclimating or belonging in Mexico, as a survival tool in the event of repatriation to Mexico, or as a link to heritage and family. Many gen1.5 adults who have repatriated to Mexico view themselves as Americans. This reality impacts their integration into Mexico, their employment and social life, as well as acclimating to Spanish use. If we listen to the stories shared by Danny, Jésus, Zaret, Jorge, and Alex through the lens of LangCrit, we hear the ideology of languages as “fixed entities” associated with citizen identity (Crump, 2014b, p. 209). From a LangCrit perspective, we step back to acknowledge the role of power structures and social norms (e.g., Donald Trump’s description of immigrants, K-12 English only language policies) on expressions of identity and language ideologies. The videos produced and archived in the HLD project are also uploaded to the project’s YouTube page. Within YouTube, there are power dynamics at work that involve language. The social practice of language informs the interactive component of performing citizenship, resulting in the categorization of who is and is not a citizen. As video collaborators and uploaders of the HLD series, we were aware of the possibility that other YouTube users could, if given the outlet, leave hostile comments and undermine the narrative author’s sense of belonging and citizenship. For this reason, the HLD research team decided to deactivate the comment feature on YouTube.

There are additional limitations to the present study due to the nature of digital data collection. Research that aims to examine digital narratives must come to terms with limitations, such as not knowing the full context of the narrative itself. Additionally, the production process can influence the content of a narrative (Riessman, 2003) and such information is not available to the analyst. The “behind the scenes” language use between the video author and collaborators is not available, we only see a part of the complex role that language plays in the experience and performance of citizen identity. Additionally, the languages used by a collaborator may influence the language use of the narrator. Finally, we can only speculate as to the intended audience that the narrator had in mind when they shared their deportation narrative.

Digital narratives foster a platform through which individuals can express citizen identity through the author-audience interaction. Given that the narratives in the present corpus are archived on YouTube, there is arguably a presumed understanding of the global status of the audience. For van Zoonen et al. (2010) the notion of citizenship can be thought of as connectivity because citizenship as a performance requires interaction between the individual performing citizenship and a viewer or listener that validates the performance. Accordingly, “Their videos thus perform a kind of citizenship, an outreach to strangers as it were, that is based on the desire to present a true picture of oneself to others, and to solve misunderstandings” (van Zoonen et al., 2010, p. 259). The digital narratives of deportation discussed and analyzed in the present study can be described as van Zoonen et al. (2010) would propose above, as a sort of ‘outreach to strangers’, a gesture of testimony that asks the listeners and viewers to understand their story, and to view citizenship through the same lens. Furthermore, citizenship is embedded in the performance itself: “by doing citizenship one becomes a citizen” (p. 252). While the content of the digital narratives discussed here covers a range of themes, what the videos have in common is an assumption about the audience: there is an audience that chooses to hear the speaker’s story. Further analysis of the audience’s role in the language use of deportation narratives needs to be explored.

A gen1.5 narrator’s choice to speak in English throughout their story of deportation emphasizes their status as someone who knows the dominant language of the U.S., as well as knowledge of American culture, including English as the language most associated with school and education in the U.S. The majority of states in the U.S. only offer monolingual English education, a fact that should not be forgotten when considering why children are ‘raised’ speaking English over other languages in the U.S., and likely fosters and reinforces ideologies that place English as a trait that makes one a citizen, as addressed in Zaret’s narrative. Citizen identity as indexed by language could be thought of as a tag that marks a particular social identity (Ochs, 1996). Speakers are actively constructing themselves through language as members in particular social, political, and geographical spaces. Such a tag could be language choice, such as speaking in English, Spanish, or code-switching. How speakers identify themselves matters when structures such as educational institutions and government agencies exist to inform and perpetuate such tags. For many gen1.5 adults like Danny, the experience of citizen identity acquired in the U.S. results in feeling that “first they Americanize you and then they throw you out” (2017). For many gen1.5 adults, doing citizen identity through language is learned and expected in the U.S., and follows them to the other side of the border. The stories discussed in the present study reveal that both language ideologies and practices interact with the mere possibilities of citizen identity formation and maintenance.


The present study offers an initial analysis of the role of language in what it means to be a citizen for generation 1.5 adults forced to repatriate to Mexico by the United States. In order to more thoroughly approach the topics discussed here, future studies should offer macro-level critical discourse analysis, such as content analysis of discourses produced in American and Mexican media, to examine the features of language ideologies that inform understandings of the role of language in citizen identity. The study urges social scientists and activists to be attentive to the ways that language contributes to what it means to belong in certain contexts and spaces, particularly for generation 1.5 adults. Such understanding is necessary to best support the social and linguistic identities, as well as the linguistic needs of generation 1.5 adults after deportation.

Due to the realities experienced by forced-returnees that make physical access to interviews and other methods of data collection difficult, in addition to the social justice movement currently thriving on the web, researchers and social activists should continue to explore language use in digital narratives. Identity, belonging, and language interact with experiences of migration and repatriation for generation 1.5 individuals in unique ways. What can linguists do to disrupt the hostile language ideologies that result in bullying or housing fraud, such as Zaret experienced? The impact of deportation crosses generations, languages, and man-made borders. There are voices to be heard.


In addition to Professor Robert Irwin, I would like to thank my fellow researchers and members of the Humanizando la Deportación research team that I worked with in the video collaborations mentioned: Guillermo Alonso Meneses, Danae Valenzuela, Sarah Hart, Lizbeth de la Cruz Santana, Ana Luisa Calvillo, John Guzman, Yesika Ordaz, Yaira Maren, Marlene Mercado, José Israel Ibarra, and Dörte Krebsbach.


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APPENDIX I: Transcription conventions

[…] indicates omitted excerpt or utterance

# incomprehensible utterance

italics denotes a translation

APPENDIX II: Translation of Zaret’s excerpt

21 And I feel like the hardest transition from Mexico to the states was the language

29 And I think my mom was really smart when she said, “at home

30 don’t speak English. At home I want you to continue to speak Spanish because if for

31 some reason we go back to Mexico you need to have Spanish”

39 insecurity in the house. I believe a lot of what we experienced and what

40 we can share is something really unpleasant. The fact that we have that

41 insecurity and that fear that something is going to happen, and not something good. If

42 anything something – something that can destroy your family. The fact that obviously

43 there’s also bullying in school like “look she can’t speak English, listen to her English”

a lot of things that

44 can affect you, and not just kids but any person.

[i] These statistics, while reported by the MPI, use calculations from Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF), “Encuesta sobre migración en la frontera norte de México (EMIF Norte)” accessed by MPI September 2, 2016; SEGOB “Boletines Estadísticos”, 2005, 2010, and 2015.

Persévérance scolaire de jeunes et jeunes adultes nouveaux arrivants haïtiens face aux besoins d’encadrement institutionnel à Montréal

VENUS DARIUS, Université Libre de Kinshasa/ Institut des Sciences, des Technologies et des Études avancées d’Haïti

RÉSUMÉ. Cet article, basé sur les résultats de notre recherche doctorale, vise à comprendre l’impact de l’encadrement institutionnel sur l’abandon scolaire de jeunes et jeunes adultes d’origine haïtienne au secondaire et au niveau de l’éducation des adultes à Montréal. L’analyse thématique des entrevues semi-dirigées de sept participants et la discussion des résultats indiquent que l’encadrement scolaire et l’encadrement sociopolitique doivent constituer deux axes majeurs d’un vrai processus d’amélioration de la persévérance scolaire chez ces nouveaux arrivants. Les témoignages recueillis portent sur la nécessité d’adopter des mesures pour, entre autres, rendre l’éducation interculturelle plus efficace et favoriser l’homogénéisation du test de classement. Les résultats mettent en évidence l’importance d’une structure d’aide socioéconomique du gouvernement du Québec pour la persévérance scolaire de ce groupe ethnique et sa réussite socioculturelle. Les participants souhaitent aussi une influence plus éducative des médias de masse sur la conscience de leurs pairs d’origine haïtienne à Montréal.

ABSTRACT. This article, based on the results of my doctoral research study, aims to understand the impact of institutional leadership on youth and young adult high school dropouts from Haiti who are newcomers to Montreal. Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews of seven participants and discussion of the results indicates that school supervision and sociopolitical support should constitute two major axes of a real process of improving student perseverance among these newcomers. The testimonies focused on the need to adopt measures to, among others, make it more effective intercultural education and promote the homogenization of the school placement test for newcomers. The results highlight the importance of socio-economic structural aid of the government of Quebec for the perseverance of this ethnic group and its socio-cultural success. Participants also desired a more educational influence of mass media on the conscience of their peers from Haiti in Montreal.

Mots-clés : Persévérance scolaire, Haïtiens, nouveaux arrivants, encadrement institutionnel.

Introduction et problématique

Le Québec est, selon les données officielles disponibles, la principale province d’attraction des Haïtiens d’origine immigrée au Canada. La population haïtienne au Québec s’élève à plus de 119,185 personnes. Plus de 116,635 de ces dernières, soit 97,9 %, s’établissent à Montréal (Statistique Canada, 2010). Cette plus grande fraction de la population immigrante noire de cette ville est sérieusement affectée par la problématique de l’abandon scolaire. (Ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés culturelles, 2005).

Le problème de l’abandon scolaire s’étend à plusieurs générations de ce groupe ethnique (Mc Andrew et Ledent, 2012) dont l’établissement au Québec remonte à plusieurs décennies (Statistique Canada, 2007). Dans le souci de mieux circonscrire l’objet d’étude, l’accent est particulièrement mis sur la première génération en essayant de comprendre le processus du départ prématuré des jeunes et des jeunes adultes du milieu scolaire.

Les études réalisées en ce sens font état de plusieurs facteurs qui influencent la persévérance scolaire des nouveaux arrivants haïtiens. Les conditions économiques des familles d’accueil, leur niveau scolaire et culturel, leur réseau de connaissances et de contact social sont des paramètres à privilégier dans le parcours scolaire de ces migrants si on veut les empêcher de prendre le chemin de l’abandon scolaire.

Parallèlement à ces facteurs axés fondamentalement sur la famille d’accueil, plusieurs chercheurs ont mis l’accent sur l’importance de l’encadrement institutionnel dans la persévérance et la réussite socioprofessionnelle des nouveaux arrivants originaires des Caraïbes au Québec. Le facteur d’encadrement institutionnel dans les recherches de Lafortune et Balde (2012) se rapporte aux problèmes psychopédagogiques de certaines écoles, à l’incapacité de certains enseignants à bien communiquer le contenu de leur enseignement et au mauvais classement des nouveaux arrivants haïtiens (Thésée, 2003). Aussi, le Rapport Chancy (1985) et celui du Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (2014) ont-ils prôné la nécessité d’une éducation inclusive au Québec. Toutefois, il reste encore du chemin à parcourir en vue de l’application de cette recommandation.

En nous basant sur l’importance démographique de la communauté d’origine haïtienne dans cette province et les données des recherches consultées, nous sommes amenés à centrer cette étude sur l’importance de l’encadrement institutionnel dans la persévérance scolaire des jeunes et jeunes adultes de cette population à Montréal en particulier.

D’où la question de recherche suivante : comment comprendre l’importance de l’encadrement institutionnel dans le processus psychosocial du départ prématuré de certains nouveaux arrivants haïtiens au secondaire et au secteur des adultes à Montréal? La recherche empirique auprès de cette communauté nous apportera les éclairages nécessaires sur cette question et une meilleure documentation des thématiques ciblées.

Cadre Conceptuel

Dans cette section, il est question, d’une part, de faire la lumière autour des nuances de certains concepts de la recherche et de présenter une recension des travaux scientifiques consultés dans la perspective de mieux cerner la problématique et de bien préparer la phase empirique.

Mise au point sur les divergences de certains termes du sujet

La persévérance scolaire se rapporte à la poursuite incessante d’un programme par un élève (ou un étudiant) jusqu’à ce qu’il obtienne le diplôme sanctionnant ses études (King, 2005 ; Sauvé, Debeurme, Fournier, Fontaine et Wright, 2006). Lorsqu’on évoque le concept de persévérance scolaire, cela suppose toujours celui de décrochage scolaire, dans la mesure où moins d’abandons scolaires impliquent plus de persévérances scolaires et vice versa. Ainsi, il n’en demeure pas moins logique que l’existence de persévérants aux différents niveaux du système éducatif y présuppose celle des décrocheurs.

Nonobstant ce raisonnement, il convient de souligner que le terme de décrochage scolaire apparaît généralement dans les écrits officiels et scientifiques lorsqu’il est question du départ des jeunes du secondaire du milieu scolaire. Ce qui est contraire à celui de la persévérance scolaire dont l’usage se fait à tous les niveaux (King, 2005 ; Villemagne, 2011 ; Gouvernement du Québec, 1997).

Par ailleurs, l’emploi du terme de décrochage scolaire prête souvent à équivoque. Il est parfois assimilable à l’abandon scolaire et comporte dans d’autres circonstances des nuances non négligeables. Le décrocheur est alors, selon Statistique Canada (1995), un jeune qui a abandonné ses études bien avant d’obtenir son diplôme d’études secondaires (DES). Aux termes de cette définition, cette instance d’enquête confine non seulement le phénomène au secondaire, mais considère du même coup décrochage et abandon, dans le contexte scolaire, comme synonymes. De son côté, le Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec (2000) entend par décrochage scolaire : une interruption temporaire des études, contrairement à l’abandon qui suppose un départ durable, voire définitif.

La vision du gouvernement du Québec du décrochage scolaire ne s’arrête pas à la période de scolarité obligatoire. Elle s’étend, suivant les objectifs du gouvernement de réformer l’éducation dans la province, à d’autres niveaux d’études. Par exemple, celui relatif à l’éducation des adultes pour lequel l’octroi de ressources en vue de la persévérance et de la réussite scolaire s’est avéré nécessaire (Gouvernement du Québec, 1997).

Pour disperser la buée qui entoure la définition du décrochage scolaire, nous nous sommes inspiré, d’une part, de la conception de Statistique Canada (1995) qui ne fait guère de différence entre abandonner et décrocher dans ses considérations et, d’autre part, de celle du gouvernement du Québec (1997) qui étale son champ d’intervention à l’éducation des adultes en ce qui concerne la lutte contre le départ du milieu scolaire précocement pour en proposer une définition consensuelle.

Autrement dit, le décrocheur se rapporte dans cet article à tout élève qui abandonne le milieu scolaire de façon temporaire ou définitive sans obtenir le diplôme de fin d’études secondaires ou un autre document équivalent. Une définition large qui englobe les programmes d’éducation des adultes, notamment la Formation générale des adultes (FGA) au Québec qui permet aux jeunes et jeunes adultes nouveaux arrivants et natifs d’accéder à une certification correspondant au diplôme d’études secondaires.

La notion d’abandon scolaire est aussi porteuse de divergences quant à son estimation et son interprétation. L’absence, par exemple, de méthodes évidentes pour estimer le taux du décrochage scolaire. Le taux présenté dans beaucoup de travaux scientifiques reflète généralement la proportion d’élèves qui n’obtiennent pas leur diplôme d’études secondaires à l’âge prédéterminé (Rousseau et Bertrand, 2005). Une méthode d’estimation impeccable devrait, selon Rousseau et Bertrand, prendre en considération l’éventualité pour qu’il y ait des élèves qui reprennent une année scolaire ou qui abandonnent temporairement leurs études.

Dans cet ordre d’idées, si on écarte du rang des décrocheurs la catégorie d’élèves qui sont gradués à un âge plus avancé que prédéterminé, on aura d’importants changements dans les estimations du phénomène du décrochage scolaire. Pour une meilleure estimation de la population des décrocheurs, Rousseau et Bertrand (2005) proposent, entre autres, de décomposer le taux en fonction de plusieurs groupes d’âge pour ne pas prendre en considération les jeunes et les jeunes adultes qui ont connu un retard ou qui ont interrompu temporairement leurs études classiques.

En ce qui a trait au concept d’encadrement institutionnel, son usage dans cette étude se confine spécifiquement aux mesures d’accompagnement de certaines institutions sociales et politiques visant le soutien de la persévérance scolaire des nouveaux arrivants. Le terme de nouvel arrivant renvoie dans la littérature officielle du Canada à celui d’immigrant dans le sens large d’une catégorie hétérogène incluant notamment les réfugiés (Bils, Drover, Henley, Ibrahim, Lundy et Yan, 2010).

Dans cet article, le terme de nouvel arrivant désigne toute personne, née à l’étranger, qui vit sur une terre d’accueil à long terme ou définitivement. Une considération qui correspond à ce que Statistique Canada (2010) désigne par immigrant de première génération.

Revue de littérature

Plusieurs recherches ont démontré l’importance de certaines institutions de la société, dont l’école (par l’intermédiaire de son instance de direction en particulier) et l’État quant à certaines décisions qui peuvent impacter le rendement scolaire des nouveaux arrivants à Montréal, ceux, notamment, d’origine haïtienne (Lafortune et Balde, 2012 ; Darius et Bouchamma, 2016 ; Barbier, Olivier et Pierre-Jacques, 1984). Dans les conclusions des travaux des chercheurs, l’accent est beaucoup mis sur la non-conformité de diverses décisions, dont le processus de classement, ou de l’absence de mesures d’orientation et d’encadrement des nouveaux arrivants. Ce qui a pour conséquences, entre autres, la démotivation et le départ prématuré de ces derniers du milieu scolaire.

Lafortune et Balde (2012) ont effectué une recherche relative au cheminement scolaire d’élèves québécois originaires des Antilles, plus spécifiquement sur leurs caractéristiques personnelles, leur processus de scolarisation, leurs taux de diplomation et de décrochage scolaire. Ils ont analysé quelques données quantitatives de la base du Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS) et les données qualitatives d’une recherche doctorale (Lafortune, 2012). L’analyse des données quantitatives a permis de dresser le profil de 3000 élèves, majoritairement d’origine haïtienne et l’étude multicas de onze trajectoires scolaires a apporté, entre autres, un grand éclairage en ce qui a trait à l’influence du milieu scolaire sur le parcours scolaire des élèves. L’importance des qualités professionnelles et personnelles des enseignants (l’encouragement, la patience, le respect…) a été évoquée par les participants de la recherche qualitative dans leur persévérance scolaire. Ils ont, en revanche formulé des critiques concernant, par exemple, l’attitude discriminatoire et le manque de maîtrise des matières que certains de leurs enseignants ont la responsabilité d’enseigner. Ils se sont également prononcés contre la routine de la gestion des classes et le manque d’adéquation de l’enseignement avec leurs réalités quotidiennes.

Dans l’objectif de comprendre les facteurs du processus d’abandon scolaire des nouveaux arrivants, jeunes et jeunes adultes, originaires d’Haïti vivant au Québec et à New York, une étude qualitative a été effectuée sur le vécu de 11 participants (Darius et Bouchamma, 2016). L’analyse thématique des données, issues d’entrevues semi-structurées, a permis d’établir cinq rubriques conformément à l’objectif fixé. Il s’agit du capital économique, du capital culturel, du capital social, de l’encadrement institutionnel et de quelques facteurs spécifiques associés à la démographie, à la motivation personnelle, aux lacunes de base, à l’affectivité, aux traits de personnalité et aux problèmes de comportement. S’il est certain que les facteurs du départ prématuré des jeunes et jeunes adultes de la population concernée sont nombreux, la faiblesse de l’encadrement des institutions comme l’école et l’État constitue un dénominateur commun aux témoignages de tous les participants.

Quoique publié depuis plus de trois décennies, le texte de Barbier et al. (1984), portant spécifiquement sur les causes de l’échec scolaire des Haïtiens au Québec, est encore d’actualité, eu égard à la problématique développée. Les auteurs ont effectué une analyse historique de la question. Ils ont réalisé une large recension d’écrits sur la notion d’école en Haïti et analysé les données quantitatives de plusieurs autres recherches qui ont eu lieu à Montréal pour établir les convergences et les divergences du système éducatif haïtien et de celui du Québec. Le retard scolaire, les problèmes d’intégration et les difficultés linguistiques caractérisés par le fait que la majorité des nouveaux arrivants haïtiens ne maîtrisent pas le français constituent, pour les auteurs, des facteurs institutionnels d’échec et d’abandon scolaires au sein de la population concernée.

Dans l’idée de circonscrire le problème, nous avons choisi de faire le point sur l’approche structuro-fonctionnaliste de Merton et dans une certaine mesure sur le courant effets-écoles/effets-enseignants. Selon Merton (1968), l’école et l’État sont deux institutions cardinales respectivement dans la transmission des connaissances et dans le maintien de l’ordre et le règne de la justice dans la société. Une mission qui, dans un sens ou dans un autre, influence la vie des individus.

En référence au point de vue de Merton (1968), Campeau, Sirois, Rheault et Dufort (2004) ont associé le phénomène d’abandon scolaire au défaut d’encadrement institutionnel. Autrement dit, à la faiblesse des systèmes sociaux quant à leur fonction d’intégration des jeunes.

S’agissant du courant effets-écoles/ effets-enseignants développé par plusieurs auteurs, dont Crahay (2000) et Bressoux (1994), l’attention est surtout portée sur les compétences nécessaires des directions d’école et des enseignants dans la persévérance et la réussite scolaire des élèves. Dans sa fonction de socialisation, l’école est responsable de former des individus en conformité avec les normes, les savoirs et les valeurs sociaux (Dubet et Marticelli, 1996, cités par Crahay, 2000).

Dans cette recherche, la dimension « effets-enseignants », considérée comme un sous-thème de « effets-écoles », est privilégiée, puisque l’on tient compte que l’élaboration de programmes d’éducation interculturelle pour l’intégration des élèves migrants suppose la formation appropriée des maîtres (Bouchamma, 2009).

En effet, l’interaction entre les enseignants et les élèves revêt une importance majeure dans un contexte d’éducation interculturelle. Il est fondamental que les élèves comprennent et réagissent par rapport aux actions et questions pour lesquelles ils sont ciblés, ce qui donnera la possibilité aux enseignants d’évaluer leur travail et de s’ajuster à leurs besoins (Toussaint, 2010).

Les écrits scientifiques et les approches théoriques mis en relief dans cette section s’accordent sur l’importance de l’encadrement de l’école et de l’État dans la persévérance scolaire des nouveaux arrivants d’une façon relativement large. Les enjeux de persévérance et de réussite scolaire sont, dans une certaine mesure, similaires pour tous les nouveaux arrivants (Kanouté et Lafortune, 2011). Toutefois, nous voulons aller plus en profondeur dans cette recherche pour comprendre la spécificité de l’importance de l’encadrement institutionnel (scolaire et sociopolitique) dans la trajectoire scolaire des élèves nouvellement arrivés d’Haïti au secondaire et au secteur des adultes à Montréal.

Cadre méthodologique

Les données empiriques utilisées dans cet article sont extraites de celles de notre thèse doctorale à l’Université Laval s’intitulant : La persévérance scolaire des immigrants haïtiens de première génération au Québec et à New York (Darius, 2016).

Les participants ont été sélectionnés sur une base volontaire. Il s’agit de sept jeunes et jeunes adultes nouveaux arrivants originaires d’Haïti, dont cinq hommes et deux femmes vivant à Montréal. Ils parlent au moins l’une des deux langues officielles d’Haïti : le créole le français. Ils ont tous eu, dans l’intervalle de 15 à 34 ans, l’expérience du décrochage scolaire au secondaire ou au niveau de l’éducation des adultes. Au moment de la collecte des données, ils étaient, néanmoins, âgés de 18 à 38 ans.

La méthode de collecte de données est l’entrevue semi-structurée. Un guide d’entrevue de deux parties a été élaboré. Les questions de la première partie s’articulent autour du vécu scolaire des participants et de la dynamique de leur départ prématuré du milieu scolaire. Tandis que celles de la seconde se rapportent à leur perception générale sur le rendement scolaire des jeunes et jeunes adultes nouveaux arrivants haïtiens à Montréal. Outre le guide d’entrevue, une affiche de recrutement et un formulaire de consentement ont été conçus pour la tenue de la recherche. Tous ces instruments ont été rédigés en créole haïtien et en français. Des copies de l’affiche ont été collées ou distribuées dans des espaces socioculturels de grande fréquentation, notamment des écoles, des universités, des églises et des associations socioculturelles. Les volontaires avaient pris connaissance du contenu du formulaire de consentement au moins huit jours avant l’entrevue.

La recherche s’étendait de septembre 2013 à août 2014 et la tenue des entrevues a été d’une durée maximale d’une heure et demie. Le formulaire de consentement, l’affiche de recrutement et le guide d’entrevue ont été rédigés en créole haïtien et en français. Équipés de notre appareil d’enregistrement, nous avons visité plusieurs espaces fréquentés par les immigrants haïtiens. Particulièrement des milieux sociaux de promotion de la culture haïtienne, d’activités d’intégration et d’encadrement des nouveaux arrivants au Québec.

L’analyse thématique est la méthode retenue pour l’analyse du corpus des données de la recherche. L’encadrement scolaire, l’encadrement sociopolitique et l’influence des médias sont les trois thèmes avec lesquels le classement, la réduction et l’analyse des données ont pu être effectués. Ces trois thèmes sont généralement divisés en sous-thèmes présentés de façon détaillée dans la section des résultats.

Les participants qui ont pris part à cette recherche ont préalablement signé un formulaire de consentement et toutes les précautions relatives aux enquêtes sur les êtres humains ont été prises (Darius, 2016). Pour la confidentialité de leur identité, ils sont surnommés : Prinsa, Derly, Ted, Carl, Ken, Simon et Sentia.

Résultats de la recherche

La faiblesse de plusieurs institutions au Québec est mise en exergue par les participants dans leur élaboration sur les facteurs de leur abandon scolaire. Ainsi, les unités de signification identifiées et classées sous la rubrique d’encadrement institutionnel correspondent à l’encadrement scolaire, à l’encadrement sociopolitique et au rôle de certaines institutions sociales, les médias en particulier, dans leur trajectoire socioéducative.

L’encadrement scolaire

Qu’il s’agisse du cycle secondaire régulier ou du secteur de l’éducation des adultes, il s’est avéré que les immigrants haïtiens qui se rendent à l’école dans l’objectif d’obtenir le diplôme d’études secondaires (DES) évoluent généralement dans un milieu interculturel. D’où la pertinence de l’éducation interculturelle et la nécessité pour que les directions d’école mettent en place des structures et adoptent des mesures qui favorisent la persévérance scolaire de ces élèves. Aux dires des décrocheurs, l’éducation interculturelle qui devrait s’articuler autour de la culture et du passé sociolinguistique des élèves immigrants est minimisée dans les politiques de gestion de leurs établissements scolaires. Ils ont déclaré que les enseignants ne sont pas toujours à la hauteur de cette tâche.

Beaucoup d’expressions langagières ont des connotations différentes dans des contextes multiculturels. Nier cette réalité est susceptible d’occasionner des malentendus, la démotivation voire l’abandon scolaire au sein de la population prise en compte par la recherche, à s’en tenir à l’unité de signification suivante.

En arrivant à cette école, on m’a placée dans la classe d’alphabétisation en me disant que c’est comme ça ici, le niveau alpha… J’étais très choquée, désorientée sachant que lorsqu’on parle d’alphabétisation en Haïti, ça concerne l’éducation des personnes qui n’ont jamais été à l’école avant ; mais ici l’alphabétisation n’a pas le même sens qu’en Haïti.


Prinsa est revenue de façon récurrente dans son entretien sur le terme alphabétisation. Un mot qui, dans son champ sémantique, symbolise l’infamie, qui la rappelle toujours les mauvais souvenirs de son mauvais classement. Suite à son mauvais classement en mathématique, Prinsa devait retourner suivre un cours au niveau du présecondaire qu’on appelle aussi niveau alpha. Elle a déclaré avoir été traumatisée par le mot alpha, puisque c’est un mot qui, en Haïti, correspond à la littératie des adultes ; autrement dit à l’instruction de base des gens qui n’avaient pas appris à lire, à écrire, voire à compter convenablement pendant leur jeunesse.

Cette expérience rapportée par Prinsa, relative à la délicatesse de l’éducation interculturelle, est vécue à peu près de la même façon par un autre participant (Ted). Son enseignant l’avait traité de « tête de cochon » parce qu’il était têtu. Mais lui, en tant qu’Haïtien d’origine, il avait pris l’expression dans le sens d’une personne malpropre. Cela a été l’une des causes de son décrochage scolaire.

La gestion de classe

Outre le fait que les enseignants doivent faire preuve de maturité et de compétence langagière dans leur façon de s’adresser aux élèves, la gestion efficace de leurs classes doit sous-entendre leur capacité à maîtriser la situation lorsqu’il est question de trouble de comportement de certains élèves. La manifestation de comportement difficile dans les classes traduit parfois un manque de motivation des élèves à rester à l’école, selon les propos de Ken. Celui-ci a affirmé avoir eu, à plusieurs reprises, une telle attitude. Toutefois, il a accusé ses enseignants de ne l’avoir pas véritablement conseillé et convaincu à agir autrement.

Je niaisais dans la classe tout le temps, je déstabilisais les cours en faisant de mauvaises blagues sur les autres élèves et même sur mes enseignants. On avait vraiment de la misère avec moi. Je suis conscient que j’étais fautif […]. Mes enseignants auraient pu me parler, me porter par le dialogue à changer de comportement, mais ce n’était pas du tout le cas.


Le surnombre des classes et l’intimidation

Le surnombre des classes et l’intimidation ont été aussi évoqués dans la recherche en ce qui a trait à l’encadrement scolaire. Certains enseignants ont souvent de la difficulté à avoir le plein contrôle de leurs classes dans des situations où des élèves adoptent un comportement qui nuit à leurs condisciples, particulièrement lorsque les classes sont trop remplies.

À titre d’exemple, Carl a affirmé avoir été intimidé en classe tout au long de ses études secondaires. Ses interventions ont généralement été l’objet de moquerie de la part de plusieurs de ses camarades. Ce qui peut s’expliquer par le fait que les classes ont toujours été trop chargées. Une situation qui n’avait jamais pu être contrôlée par ses enseignants.

Ce qui m’avait surtout marqué, c’est que j’avais été intimidé par des camarades de classe au cours de toutes mes études secondaires ou presque. Toutes les fois que je m’exprimais dans la classe, certaines de mes camarades riaient de moi, c’était comme si je n’avais pas le droit de parler dans la classe […]. Une fois, on m’avait appelé pour aller passer un examen oral, les filles disaient : ah non il ne sait pas parler ce gars. En écoutant cela, j’ai été très intimidé, complexé et c’était l’une des raisons pour lesquelles j’avais quitté l’école en secondaire 5. C’était tellement intense, je ne pouvais faire mieux qu’abandonner l’école deux mois avant la fin de mon secondaire cinq. Ce qui était le plus triste dans tout ça, c’est que mes enseignants n’avaient jamais rien fait par rapport à ces cas d’intimidation, les classes étaient trop remplies, ils en perdaient le contrôle.

L’encadrement sociopolitique

L’encadrement des nouveaux arrivants au pays d’accueil suppose l’intervention de plusieurs entités. Outre les familles d’accueil et leur réseau social, le pouvoir politique et d’autres instances de la société doivent prendre des dispositions pour mettre en place des structures à la fois symboliques et physiques qui favorisent l’intégration et la réussite socioéducative et socioprofessionnelle des jeunes et jeunes adultes nouvellement arrivés. L’absence, par exemple, de mesures pour systématiser le test de classement auquel sont soumis les nouveaux arrivants au Québec, peut compliquer leur fonctionnement et leur évolution dans la collectivité, comme en témoignent ceux d’origine haïtienne qui s’établissent à Montréal.

Il faut aussi qu’il y ait des gens qui donnent des informations aux jeunes immigrants qui viennent d’arriver sur le fonctionnement de la nouvelle société. Ils doivent trouver à leur disposition des ressources pour les informer, pour les orienter vers les sources de renseignements importantes pour les aides sociales. Ils doivent savoir tout ça. Malheureusement, je n’avais pas ça lorsque j’étais arrivée.


Le test de classement, les responsables de l’État et des écoles

Les migrants haïtiens, tout comme ceux d’autres pays, qui veulent à leur arrivée au Québec se rendre à l’école en vue d’obtenir le diplôme d’études secondaires ou son équivalent, sont généralement astreints à passer le test de classement. Néanmoins, ce mode d’évaluation ne serait pas homogène dans toutes les écoles de la province voire dans celles de Montréal. Cette incohérence est, en effet, l’une des causes des résultats décevants de cette évaluation caractérisée par beaucoup de cas de mal classés ou de déclassés.

Le processus de classement constitue un facteur de taille dans la bataille contre l’abandon scolaire des nouveaux arrivants haïtiens à Montréal. Au terme de leur processus d’immigration, les jeunes et les jeunes adultes quittent Haïti avec des niveaux de scolarité inégaux. Parallèlement à ceux qui ont eu la chance d’obtenir leur diplôme d’études secondaires avant leur départ d’Haïti, il y en a d’autres qui sont immigrés soit au début, soit au milieu ou peu de temps avant qu’ils ne terminent le cycle d’études. Certains de ceux de cette seconde catégorie qui ne sont pas satisfaits des résultats du test se sont, sans ambages, exprimés sur leur déception.

En arrivant ici au Canada, je venais juste d’avoir mon diplôme d’études primaires en Haïti. Logiquement en arrivant ici je pensais qu’on allait me permettre de débuter mes études secondaires, mais ce n’était pas le cas, j’ai été déçue. Je devais recommencer puisqu’on m’avait classée au niveau alpha.


Prinsa et Sentia (les deux participants de sexe féminin interviewés à Montréal) se sont toutes deux prononcées sur leurs déboires suite à leur test de classement peu après leur arrivée au Québec.

Deux mois après mon arrivée, je voyais qu’il était important pour moi de retourner à l’école après plusieurs années consécutives d’arrêt. J’en avais parlé à mes proches et ils m’avaient aidée à effectuer les démarches afin de retourner à l’école. J’étais allée subir un test de classement et les résultats ne correspondaient pas vraiment à mon niveau. En français, ce n’était pas trop mal, on m’avait classée en secondaire trois, mais en mathématiques, on m’avait rétrogradée en secondaire un.


Le mécontentement qu’a généré le mauvais classement chez Prinsa l’a poussée, rapidement après, à s’organiser en vue d’aller effectuer un autre test de classement en toute clandestinité dans une autre école. Sachant qu’elle a été mieux classée après les résultats de cette nouvelle évaluation, elle l’avait jugé nécessaire de quitter son ancienne école, où elle suivait des cours au niveau d’alphabétisation, pour se rendre à la nouvelle. Ce qui a provoqué la colère de son ancienne enseignante.

Tout de suite après son arrivée à Montréal, Simon avait entamé ses recherches d’emploi, dès la prise de conscience de la grande précarité économique de son entourage familial. L’exigence de l’obtention du diplôme de secondaire cinq, à laquelle il était sans cesse aux prises dans ses démarches, l’avait dirigé avec précipitation vers un établissement scolaire pour effectuer le test de classement. Les résultats de cette évaluation l’avaient jeté dans l’émoi. Il avait su, néanmoins, se montrer courageux.

Non seulement le test de classement n’est pas, selon les participants, pas systématisé au Québec, il ne prendrait pas en considération les particularités des systèmes d’éducation des pays d’origine des migrants. C’est pour eux un autre facteur pour lequel ceux qui ne sont pas bien préparés à cette épreuve ont souvent des résultats désastreux. La colère suscitée par le déclassement et la prise de conscience de cet état de fait de certains d’entre eux auront ont occasionné chez eux l’impatience, la démotivation voire l’abandon scolaire.

J’avais commencé et j’avais quitté l’école en moins d’un mois. L’une des raisons est qu’on m’avait stoppé en mathématiques. On estimait que j’étais trop avancé dans cette matière et, pour cela, on m’avait dit d’arrêter de prendre des cours de mathématiques pour un certain temps et de m’inscrire seulement aux cours de français. Contrairement à ce qu’on voulait que je fasse, moi, je voulais accélérer en mathématiques, je ne voulais pas qu’on me retarde davantage, c’est pourquoi j’avais choisi d’abandonner. La seconde raison de mon abandon est mon mauvais classement. J’avais rencontré des personnes qui m’avaient dit que j’aurais dû m’arranger pour passer plusieurs tests de classement parce que les écoles ne donnent pas les mêmes examens.


Ce participant a sévèrement critiqué la non-systématisation du test de classement au Québec et son manque d’encadrement familial qu’il a cru être à la base de son déclassement. Il a souhaité que les instances concernées fassent un acte de justice en prenant les mesures appropriées pour que ce test soit le même pour tout le monde. Le mauvais classement des élèves fraîchement arrivés d’Haïti fait naître en eux un sentiment de regret et d’humiliation qui les pousse à la discrétion.

L’aide sociogouvernementale

Si les familles d’accueil d’origine haïtienne constituent la première structure qui reçoit les nouveaux arrivants haïtiens au Québec, l’apport significatif des organisations d’intégration sociale auprès de ces derniers reste souhaitable. C’est l’avis de Derly qui, dans son témoignage, a surtout fait allusion à la dimension morale de cet encadrement qu’il a jugé important au début.

L’importance de l’encadrement social dans l’intégration d’un nouvel arrivant a été également évoquée par Carl lorsqu’il a déclaré: « avec l’encadrement social les jeunes peuvent être mieux orientés dans leurs décisions et mieux aidés dans leurs devoirs. Si au début j’étais bénéficiaire de ce support, j’aurais eu un meilleur boulot aujourd’hui ».

En ce qui concerne Sentia, elle n’a fait que corroborer le point de vue de Derly et de Carl. Elle est revenue sur l’importance des organisations d’intégration de la société et de l’État des pays d’accueil dans la réussite socioculturelle et économique des nouveaux arrivants haïtiens au Québec. L’aide sociogouvernementale est, selon tous les participants, indispensable à l’adaptation des migrants et à leur persévérance scolaire.

L’influence des médias

L’effet des médias de masse, en mode traditionnel et en ligne, a été aussi au centre du discours des participants dans le processus psychosocial de leur abandon scolaire. Selon Ken, plusieurs vidéos musicales diffusées à Montréal ont impacté négativement la construction de la mentalité des jeunes en provenance d’Haïti. À titre d’exemple, il a cité un vidéoclip créole « pale pawòl » originaire de la nouvelle tendance populaire musicale des États-Unis. Une production musicale qui, à son avis, est porteuse d’un message qui dévalorise l’école et son importance dans la vie des jeunes.

À l’instar de Ken, Derly et Carl ont tous pointé du doigt les médias électroniques dans le processus psychosocial de l’abandon scolaire des jeunes et des jeunes adultes nouveaux arrivants haïtiens à Montréal.


Les résultats de la recherche nous fournissent des idées pertinentes pour un meilleur encadrement institutionnel des nouveaux arrivants haïtiens, au secondaire et au secteur des adultes à Montréal, ce qui pourra influencer positivement leur persévérance scolaire.

Le rapport entre le travail empirique et la question de recherche

Dans son entretien, Prinsa a mis l’accent sur la relation problématique qu’elle a entretenue avec son enseignante qui n’avait pas su créer un climat de confiance entre elle et ses élèves. Néanmoins, les difficultés économiques constituent le principal facteur de l’abandon scolaire de cette participante. L’impératif de travailler pour satisfaire ses besoins fondamentaux et les problèmes inhérents à la conciliation école-travail, à la suite de son mariage et aux contraintes subséquentes, demeurent les plus importants déterminants de son départ prématuré du milieu scolaire.

La situation de Derly présente une certaine similitude avec celle de Prinsa. Nonobstant l’influence des difficultés économiques sur le processus psychosocial de leur abandon scolaire, ils ont tous abordé, dans leur témoignage, le manque de structures sociales et gouvernementales quant à l’information et à l’orientation des nouveaux arrivants au Québec.

Pendant longtemps, Ted a déclaré avoir nourri l’idée de quitter l’école pour se diriger vers le marché du travail tout en ayant été encore adolescent. Il a aussi souligné et critiqué le manque de contrôle et de responsabilité de son père dans sa vie scolaire. Cependant, l’incapacité de son enseignant à travailler dans un contexte interculturel demeure le facteur le plus important de son départ du milieu scolaire. De façon plus précise, les mécompréhensions interculturelles ont été déterminantes. En l’occurrence, le fait de son enseignant de le traiter de « tête de cochon » après s’être présenté en retard en classe, a été la cause conjoncturelle de sa décision.

Carla, de son côté, pointé du doigt ses enseignants du secondaire de n’avoir jamais pu se prévaloir de leur autorité pour mettre un terme à l’intimidation dont il a été victime pendant plusieurs années. Le surnombre des classes a, toutefois, été pour lui une circonstance atténuante de l’inaction de ses derniers.

Dans le cas de Ken, son décrochage scolaire est principalement associé à sa volonté d’aller travailler pour satisfaire ses besoins. Il a quand même souligné l’absence des conseils de son enseignant qui auraient pu lui être salutaires dans sa période de grande vulnérabilité. Son mauvais comportement en classe a été surtout, selon lui, l’expression de sa démotivation et de son envie d’abandonner ses études.

Le faible niveau de sa famille d’accueil sur les plans du capital économique, du capital culturel et du capital social a été au cœur du témoignage de Simon. Mais, son mauvais classement reste le mobile prédominant de son abandon scolaire. Il pense qu’il aurait eu une meilleure préparation au test et un meilleur classement si cette cellule familiale avait une culture et un réseau social plus épanouis.

En ce qui concerne Sentia, elle a clairement mis en relief les contraintes économiques comme facteur prépondérant de sa décision de s’éloigner temporairement du milieu scolaire, juste après son inscription au secteur de l’éducation des adultes à son arrivée. Elle a, néanmoins, fait mention dans son entrevue de plusieurs autres facteurs démotivants comme le manque de renseignements sur la culture d’accueil et les institutions de la province de Québec et le mauvais classement en mathématiques dont elle a été l’objet, dans son processus d’abandon scolaire.

L’absence de mesures appropriées par les responsables de directions d’école et de l’État a été au centre du témoignage des participants en ce qui a trait, notamment, au test de classement auquel ils ont été astreints en arrivant. L’incompétence de certains enseignants dans des contextes d’éducation interculturelle constitue un autre élément marquant évoqué par les participants de la recherche dans la dynamique de leur abandon scolaire à Montréal.

La nécessité pour les dirigeants du pays d’accueil de mieux structurer le programme de prêt aux nouveaux arrivants, pour leur permettre de subvenir réellement à leurs besoins les plus cruciaux et de progresser dans la société, a été une proposition faite par la plupart des interviewés. Ils ont également suggéré l’apport des institutions médiatiques dans le processus d’intégration et d’éducation des jeunes et des jeunes adultes nouveaux arrivants haïtiens au Québec.

Les résultats au regard des présupposés de la recherche

L’analyse des données permet d’affirmer l’existence d’une bonne coordination entre l’expérience des participants, la recension d’écrits et les approches théoriques susmentionnées à savoir le structuro-fonctionnalisme et le courant effets-écoles/ effets-enseignants (Crahay, 2000 ; Bressoux, 1994 ; Darius et Bouchamma, 2016; Campeau et al., 2004). L’encadrement institutionnel, qui se subdivise en encadrement scolaire et en encadrement sociopolitique, renferme des déterminants remarquables dans la bataille contre l’abandon scolaire des nouveaux arrivants haïtiens à Montréal, à en croire le discours de ces derniers.

Au fil de leur témoignage, les participants laissent comprendre que l’encadrement scolaire et l’encadrement sociopolitique sont indispensables au progrès socioéducatif des nouveaux arrivants haïtiens. Surtout dans un contexte caractérisé par la diversité culturelle, les directeurs d’écoles et les enseignants doivent se montrer à la hauteur de leurs missions. Autrement dit, ils doivent faire preuve d’une bonne application des normes psychopédagogiques, de l’esprit d’altérité et d’ouverture afin de favoriser la persévérance scolaire des élèves la population concernée par cette étude. Les participants souhaitent que les administrateurs d’école et les autorités étatiques prennent, dans une action conjuguée, des mesures concrètes pour homogénéiser le test de classement.

S’il est vrai qu’il existe un rapport étroit entre la recherche et ses présupposés, il faut surtout noter la présence de certains facteurs émergents. Les participants ont spécifiquement mis l’accent sur l’assistance économique de l’État d’accueil, ce qui favoriserait un démarrage assuré des nouveaux arrivants sur le plan socioéducatif. Aussi, se sont-ils exprimés sur la place que devraient occuper les médias de masse dans leur processus d’intégration et d’éducation. Au lieu de vanter les bienfaits des moyens de communication de masse, la radio et la télévision particulièrement, ils en présentent leurs méfaits sur le rendement de la population concernée.


Cet article représente un pas supplémentaire dans le processus scientifique de la compréhension des facteurs d’abandon scolaire des jeunes et des jeunes adultes, originaires d’Haïti, du secondaire et du secteur des adultes à Montréal. Si le nouvel arrivant ne reçoit pas les encadrements nécessaires au début, il peut demeurer déconnecté toute sa vie au pays d’accueil. Plusieurs facteurs, dont les difficultés économiques, les faiblesses liées au capital culturel et au capital social des familles d’accueil de la population ciblée, sont révélés par cette recherche. Toutefois, les problèmes correspondant à la rubrique de l’encadrement institutionnel sont de ceux qui ont engendré le plus de frustration et de démotivation chez les décrocheurs à Montréal.

Les participants souhaitent que les instances concernées prennent les meilleures dispositions pour l’encadrement scolaire et sociopolitique des immigrants haïtiens. Autrement dit, ils revendiquent une éducation interculturelle plus efficace et l’homogénéisation du test de classement. Ils croient qu’une aide socioéconomique plus importante de l’État aux nouveaux arrivants haïtiens et une influence plus positive des médias de masse, par la diffusion de messages plus éducatifs, sont essentielles à leur persévérance scolaire et à leur réussite socioculturelle au Québec.

En dépit de l’éclairage de la problématique en question, cette recherche qualitative ne suscite aucune prétention de vérité absolue. Elle peut, en revanche, servir de tremplin à l’élaboration d’hypothèses pour des études plus approfondies sur des populations plus étendues. Elle se veut un prétexte à d’autres travaux similaires qui prendront en compte les points de vue d’autres participants, notamment les parents, les enseignants ou les pairs des élèves jeunes et jeunes adultes nouveaux arrivants haïtiens au Québec.


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Research Proposal: Exploring Heteroglossic Approaches through a Comparative Case Study of Spanish-English Bilingual Schools

ESTHER BETTNEY, University of Wisconsin-Madison


While the number of Spanish-English bilingual schools is expanding worldwide, many programs persist in teaching languages as separate entities. Schools often erroneously position students as dual monolinguals with separate linguistic systems (Grosjean, 1989). In this research proposal, I discuss bilingual programs by considering a heteroglossic paradigm that emphasizes development of holistic communicative repertoires that learners draw on selectively according to context (Blackledge & Creese, 2014; Prasad, 2014). Through a comparative case study (Bartlett & Vavrus, 2017), I will explore how three elementary Spanish-English bilingual schools in Canada, Colombia, and theUnited States are negotiating the “multilingual turn” (May, 2014), and moving away from a monoglossic bias towards a heteroglossic paradigm. By comparing across models and countries, my study will provide a meta-perspective of how heteroglossic approaches support the entirety of students’ communicative repertoires and identities. It will also demonstrate the need for flexibility in adapting programs, policies, and practices to specific bilingual school contexts. By supporting heteroglossic practices, bilingual schools can empower students to draw on their expansive communicative repertoires to participate in and build culturally and linguistically diverse societies.


 Alors que le nombre d’écoles bilingues espagnol–anglais ne cesse d’augmenter mondialement, plusieurs programmes persistent à enseigner les langues comme séparées. Bien souvent, les écoles considèrent à tort les élèves comme monolingues doubles avec des systèmes linguistiques distincts (Grosjean, 1989). Cette recherche recadre les programmes bilingues en considérant le paradigme hétéroglossique qui met l’accent sur le développement de répertoires holistiques de communication où les apprenants sont amenés à s’appuyer sur le contexte (Blackledge & Creese, 2014; Prasad, 2014). Par le biais d’une étude de cas comparative (Bartlett & Vavrus, 2017), nous explorerons comment trois écoles primaires bilingues espagnol-anglais au Canada, en Colombie et aux États-Unis adoptent une vision multilingue (May, 2014) en s’écartant des biais monoglossiques pour évoluer vers un paradigme hétéroglossique. En comparant les modèles et les pays, notre recherche fournira une métaperspective, présentant comment les approches hétéroglossiques soutiennent l’ensemble des répertoires communicatifs et l’identité des apprenants, tout en démontrant la nécessité de flexibilité pour adapter les programmes, les règlementations et les pratiques aux contextes spécifiques des écoles bilingues. En soutenant les pratiques hétéroglossiques, les écoles bilingues peuvent ainsi permettre aux apprenants de s’appuyer sur leurs vastes répertoires communicatifs pour participer à la création de sociétés culturellement et linguistiquement diverses.

Keywords: bilingual education, heteroglossia, language policy, comparative case study.


While the number of Spanish-English bilingual schools is expanding worldwide, many programs persist in teaching languages as separate entities. This leads to language researchers and educators erroneously positioning students as dual monolinguals with separate linguistic systems (Grosjean, 1989).Yet, current research calls for bilingual programs to move toward a heteroglossic paradigm, which emphasizes the development of holistic communicative repertoires that learners draw on selectively according to context (Blackledge & Creese, 2014; Prasad, 2014). A heteroglossic approach allows learners to “utilize the totality of their linguistic repertoires as learning resources” (Beeman & Urow, 2013, p. ix). Developing an expansive communicative repertoire is increasingly important in our globalized world as it allows students to express their multilingual identities and to find common ground in contexts of linguistic and cultural diversity (Rymes, 2014). As well, rapid advancements in technology have dramatically changed how students engage with their peers and the world, as multilingualism and multimodality are the norm (Blackledge & Creese, 2014). By supporting heteroglossic practices, bilingual schools can empower multilingual students to draw on their expansive communicative repertoires to participate in and contribute to culturally and linguistically diverse societies.

Research Topic

Within Spanish-English bilingual programs worldwide, there is diversity in terms of program models, student populations, and sociopolitical contexts. Nevertheless, while there are differences between contexts, previous research has commonly criticized Spanish-English bilingual schools for their monoglossic orientations, which separate instructional languages by creating strict divisions of “one-language only” instructional times and classroom spaces that prohibit students and teachers from drawing on their multilingual repertoires (Cummins, 2007; de Mejía, 2006; García, 2013; Naqvi, Schmidt, & Krickhan, 2014). This language separation approach does not recognize the fluid language practices and identities of multilingual students (García, 2013).

In order to explore how bilingual schools can negotiate the “multilingual turn” (May, 2014) from a monoglossic bias toward a more heteroglossic paradigm, I am proposing a comparative case study across three Spanish-English bilingual schools in Canada, Colombia, and the United States. The schools in my study will be selected based on an expressed interest by administrators and teachers to explore the interplay of instructional languages in their own school context through more heteroglossic approaches. By comparing across models and countries, my study will provide a meta-perspective on how heteroglossic approaches support the entirety of students’ communicative repertoires and language identities. The study will also demonstrate the need for flexibility in adapting programs, policies and practices to local bilingual school contexts.

While there is significant research on Spanish-English bilingual education in the United States, less research has been conducted about heteroglossic approaches to Spanish-English bilingual programs in the context of Canada and Colombia. In Canada, for example, bilingual programs that include minority languages have not been examined to the same extent, as research has focused largely on French immersion (Dressler, 2018), though Spanish-English programs exist in public and Catholic schools exist in some western Canadian provinces. In Colombia, most bilingual education research in Latin America focuses on Indigenous Bilingual Education (IBE) programs (see López & Sichra for a historical overview of IBE programs). Nonetheless, Spanish-English bilingual programs play a significant role in public and private education throughout Latin America (Hamel, 2008). I will draw on Colombia-based research to the extent possible, but will also draw on research conducted more broadly in Latin America when necessary. My proposed study contributes to the identified need for research about Spanish-English bilingual schools in Canada and Colombia, while engaging in comparisons with the more robust field of research about Spanish-English bilingual education in the United States.

Bilingual Education Models

Bilingual education is “the regular use of two or more languages for teaching and learning in instructional settings when bilingualism and biliteracy are two of the explicit learning goals” (Abello-Contesse, Chandler, López-Jiménez, & Chacón-Beltrán, 2013, p. 4). Within this general definition, there are various models of bilingual programs worldwide. In the U.S., a substantial body of research has focused on Spanish-English bilingual programs, especially two way or dual-language immersion (DLI) programs, which are increasingly common in many states. In these programs, instruction takes place in English and an additional language, most commonly Spanish. One unique characteristic of these programs is the typical inclusion of “native” and “non-native” speakers of both English and the additional language. Early models of bilingual education in the U.S. were focused on helping minoritized students learn English. In the late 20th century, DLI programs emerged and changed the focus from transitioning immigrant children into English-only programs to promoting the learning of two languages by both majority (English-speaking) and minoritized (Spanish-speaking) children. According to Alvear (2019), by bringing together students from mixed linguistic backgrounds, DLI programs exemplify additive approaches to bilingualism and biculturalism. However, DLI programs have been heavily criticized, as many believe they have moved away from a focus on supporting minoritized students to prioritizing the learning of an additional language for English speakers (Flores, 2013; Sánchez, García, & Solorza, 2018; Valdés, 1997).

In contrast, Canada has long been a forerunner of one-way immersion models. Research has consistently demonstrated the success of French immersion programs in supporting students’ first and second language acquisition, as well as academic achievement (Genesee, 2004). Typically, these immersion programs have been defined by the following characteristics: the role of L2 (second language) as medium-of-instruction; immersion curriculum parallel to local curriculum; ongoing support for L1 (first language); additive over replacive bilingualism; limited exposure to L2 outside of the classroom; no prior L2 before entering program; bilingual teachers and the classroom culture reflecting the L1 community (Genesee, 2004; Johnson & Swain, 1997). There are other bilingual models in Canada, especially in the western provinces. For example, Alberta has been a leader in promoting alternative bilingual programs (APB) since the 1970s when it legalized the use of instructional languages besides French and English (Cummins, 2014). These programs are now offered in Arabic, German, Hebrew, Mandarin, Polish, Spanish, and Ukrainian (Alberta Education, 2007) with Spanish bilingual programs alone serving over 3,000 students. There is evidence of growth of Spanish-English bilingual programs within other western provinces as well, such Manitoba’s first Spanish-English bilingual program, which opened in 2016 and British Columbia’s Memorandum of Understanding with Spain to support the opening of bilingual programs (British Columbia, 2016). Yet, these ABPs differ significantly from French immersion models as they may only include up to 50% of instruction in the target language, while French immersion models allow up to 100% of instruction in French (Naqvi, Schmidt, & Krickhan, 2014). Naqvi et al. have argued that ABPs often borrow pedagogical approaches from French immersion programs, even though some of these approaches have been heavily criticized for the separation, instead of integration, of instructional languages (Cummins, 2007).

In Colombia, as in other Latin American countries, there are one-way Spanish-English bilingual programs in both public and private spheres. De Mejía (2002) described private bilingual schools as international or national bilingual schools, which are typically founded by non-nationals and have close contact with the founder’s country of origin. These schools normally follow an early one-way full immersion model and serve a monolingual Spanish-speaking population who are interested in pursuing educational opportunities in English-speaking Europe or North America. As such, the curriculum tends to be British, American, or a unified international curriculum (such as the International Baccalaureate), instead of a national curriculum. Hamel (2008) explained that the private bilingual schools have become prestigious and serve the economic and power elites of this region. In contrast, national bilingual schools have been founded by local administrators and the majority of teachers are Spanish-speaking locals of the region. They typically follow either a partial or full one-way immersion model but are less likely to follow an international curriculum, compared to international bilingual schools. In 2004, the Colombian government instituted the National Bilingual Program which has led to the implementation of some Spanish-English bilingual programs in public schools in various regions (Valencia, 2013).

Language Separation

While there are several differences between the types of bilingual models most commonly seen in the U.S., Canada, and Colombia, a commonality is that these models are informed by policies that separate instructional languages. Even though some researchers have recommended that immersion teachers be bilingual (Genesee, 2004; Johnson & Swain, 1997), bilingual programs generally support language separation by both teachers and students in a variety of ways. Often, subjects, teachers and classrooms are assigned one language. In other schools, the same teacher may teach certain classes in one language and some classes in the other instructional language, but at different times. Alternatively, teachers may be assigned only one instructional language regardless of whether or not the teacher is multilingual. In most arrangements, teachers are expected to use one language per lesson or interaction (Ramirez, 1986; Swain & Lapkin, 2013). As well, the approach suggests that teachers should avoid concurrent translation, as the fear is that students will only pay attention to instruction in English (de Jong, 2002), and instead establish sustained periods of monolingual instruction in the second language.

In Latin America, some private bilingual schools keep languages separate to the point of having two separate language programs operating within one school, with separate staff, curriculum and sometimes conflicting pedagogical approaches (Hamel, 2008). In Colombia, private bilingual schools may promote a monolingual ethos by prioritizing English over Spanish as opposed to seeing the two languages as aspects of students’ unified linguistic repertoires (De Mejía, 2013). They emphasize the importance of learning English for material and economic benefits (De Mejía & Montes Rodriguez, 2008). In the Colombian public school context, Gómez Sará (2017) argued that this separation of languages is apparent in the government’s public National Bilingual program where Spanish and English are construed as separate entities, and little emphasis is placed on providing opportunities for students to engage with or compare across languages.

The separation of languages in bilingual programs has been increasingly criticized in Canada, the United States, and Colombia. This separation is built upon the erroneous assumption that multilinguals are actually dual monolinguals (Escobar & Dillard-Paltrineri, 2015; Grosjean, 1989). Within this monolingual approach, language policies call for a strict separation of languages in the classroom and an insistence on students developing dual or separate linguistic systems (García, 2013). García claimed that these attempts to separate students’ languaging practices do not reflect students’ fluid languaging practices and multiple identities. Gort and Pontier (2013) argued that parallel or dual monolingualism does not reflect real-life multilingualism and instead they support an approach that recognizes the fluid interaction of languages. The authors stated that accessing both languages at the same time is an important skill that supports student learning. Naqvi, Schmidt, and Krickhan (2014) argued that programs should encourage the transfer of knowledge and skills to strengthen student engagement as students regularly make cross-linguistic connections as part of their multilingual development.

Conceptual Framework

My study is informed by three key constructs, which move the focus away from viewing students’ languages as separate to viewing students’ languages as part of a unified communicative repertoire. The following three constructs form the study’s conceptual framework: heteroglossia, translanguaging, and critical multilingual language awareness. The construct of heteroglossia, defined below, falls within the broader context of language ideologies. Language ideologies refer to the ways in which societies and individuals represent and interpret language. Woolard (1998) described language ideology as a “representation, whether explicit or implicit, that construes the intersection of language and human beings in a social world” (p. 3). As a field, language ideologies draws into focus some of the underlying reasons for why language separation occurs within bilingual programs by elucidating questions such as how individuals view languages (Blackledge & Creese, 2013; May, 2014), how and why hierarchies of languages are constructed and enacted in certain social spaces and historical contexts (Makoni & Pennycook, 2007) and why certain languaging practices are considered more valuable than others (García, 2009).

More specifically, I am interested in exploring language ideologies that reflect and promote monoglossia or heteroglossia, seen as two ends of a continuum. A monoglossic language ideology encourages a hierarchy of named languages, as individuals’ languages are viewed as separate, as opposed to part of a shared linguistic system. Hornberger (2003) noted that even in multilingual societies, monolingualism is often seen as more powerful. Monoglossic language ideologies condition a hierarchy of named languages by treating languages as separate and by encouraging some to be considered as more valuable than others. In contrast, Busch (2014) argued that, based on Bakhtin and Holquist’s (1981) original definition of heteroglossia, schools should both acknowledge students’ repertoires of different languages and communicative resources and demonstrate a commitment to engage in multilingual and multimodal meaning-making as they discover their own voices. Within the context of the proposed study, heteroglossia as a language ideology serves as part of the conceptual framework for understanding key aspects of the bilingual programs in my study. By drawing on monoglossia and heteroglossia as constructs, I will explore the spectrum of language ideologies that inform program models, language policies and languaging practices within each school context.

The second construct in my conceptual framework is translanguaging, one of the most contested theories in recent years in the field of bilingual education as it pushes against traditional notions of language separation. Originally introduced in Wales (Williams, 1994), the concept was translated into English by Baker in 2001. It originally referred to a pedagogical practice in bilingual schools in Wales where teachers and students moved between Welsh and English for a variety of classroom literacy tasks. While this type of language “mixing” was considered problematic at the time, Williams reframed these practices, arguing that the practice provided students and teachers the opportunity to draw on their linguistic resources by generating meaning together (Li, 2017). Since Williams’ original use of the term, translanguaging has been taken up in various ways, which Hamman (2018) has classified as: 1) theory of practice; 2) theory of the mind; and 3) pedagogical method. Translanguaging as a pedagogical method informs the Collaborative Learning through Multilingual Inquiry (CLMI) (Prasad, 2018) approach I describe in the section on data generation. With respect to my conceptual framework, I will focus on translanguaging as a theory of practice and theory of the mind. The former describes the languaging practices of multilinguals and refers to the “multiple discursive practices in which bilinguals engage in order to make sense of their bilingual worlds” (García, 2009, p. 45). For example, Li (2017) described how multilingual Chinese-English speakers create new words which follow the morphological rules of English, yet connect with the meaning of a Chinese word. While moving fluidly back and forth between languages has often been criticized and seen as deficient in some way, translanguaging reframes these practices as dynamic and legitimate. Translanguaging, from the theory of practice lens, is the “deployment of a speaker’s full linguistic repertoire without regard for watchful adherence to the socially and politically defined boundaries of named (and usually national and state) languages” (Otheguy, García, & Reid, 2015, p. 281).

Translanguaging as a theory of the mind is more controversial. It refers to the mental grammar of a multilingual person and there is debate about how this cognitive collection of features corresponds to individual languages. On the one hand, Otheguy, García, and Reid (2015) have argued that there is only one grammar that multilinguals select from to communicate. Others, like MacSwan (2017), have criticized this view of the multilingual brain and have argued that multilinguals do not have a single grammar but instead have an integrated multilingual grammar. In this view, the multilingual mind includes overlapping aspects of grammar from various languages but there are still discrete grammars associated with the different named languages. MacSwan has argued that while translanguaging is useful as a practice and pedagogy, he rejects it as a theory to explain the multilingual mind. While the question of whether there is a unitary or integrated mental grammar requires ongoing investigation, for the purpose of this study I am drawing primarily on translanguaging as a theory of practice which criticizes the dual competence model of multilingualism in which languages are seen as completely discrete linguistic systems within the multilingual brain. Translanguaging provides a lens by which to understand multilinguals’ languaging practices as dynamic and unified, as opposed to static and separate. This understanding of translanguaging is especially useful for my study which explores the presence of this monoglossic view of languages as discrete and totally separate, as common within bilingual schools. Drawing on translanguaging as a theory to explain multilingual language practices provides theoretical grounding for this study’s exploration of how schools can move toward approaches which support how multilinguals engage with language. As noted by García and Lin (2017), translanguaging in the classroom can be transformative as it resists the hierarchy of languages so common in bilingual programs while also allowing students to engage in dynamic languaging practices which support the development of all their languages.

The final construct I draw on for my conceptual framework is Language Awareness (LA). LA was originally introduced by Bolitho and Tomlinson (1980), though it became more widely known through the work of Eric Hawkins (1984). Hawkins originally proposed Language Awareness as a “bridging subject” to address a lack of coherence between various aspects of language education within the UK school system. For Hawkins, the primary purpose of LA was to encourage students to ask questions about language, something often taken for granted. Outside of seeing the development of LA as a bridge between various aspects of language education, Hawkins also saw LA as an avenue to promote classroom discussions around linguistic diversity and prejudice. In 1991, James and Garrett made a significant contribution to the field through their description of five key domains of LA: cognitive, affective, performance, social and power.

While attention to linguistic diversity and questions of power were present in both Hawkins’ (1984) and James and Garrett’s (1991) conceptions of LA, and further emphasized in the use of the term Critical Language Awareness by Fairclough (1990), recent reviews have criticized LA scholarship for not paying sufficient attention to issues of power (Fairclough, 2014; Svalberg, 2016). García (2017) has drawn explicit attention to questions of power in her call for Critical Multilingual Language Awareness (CMLA). Within this approach, García emphasized that schools must become places that recognize and draw students’ attention to the existence of multilingualism in societies and how language has traditionally been constructed in schools in ways that privilege certain groups. García argued that schools must go farther than drawing attention to these histories of inequality to providing spaces for all students to leverage their linguistic repertoires as they make sense of their multilingual worlds. While recognizing that schools should help students develop standard varieties of named languages, García also called on schools to see students’ bilingualism as dynamic, not simply additive, and to acknowledge “the fluid language practices of bilinguals. . . as an important voice-giving mechanism and as a tool for learning, creativity, and criticality” (p. 7). Within this approach, García argued that teachers must “engage all students in developing a consciousness of language as social practice and a voicing of their own multilingual experiences, thus generating not only a new order of discourse, but also a new praxis, capable of changing the social order of what it means to ‘language’ in school” (p. 7). Through CMLA, educators can foster linguistically expansive learning spaces that support collaborative cross-linguistic comparison across students’ different languages (García & Lin, 2017).

In my proposed study, CMLA will serve as a lens to focus attention on the relationships between language and social dynamics of power and inequality. The original facets of Language Awareness emphasized the importance of drawing students’ attention to the connections between named languages. CMLA continues to emphasize the relationships between languages but places questions of power at the center of these discussions.

Taken together, heteroglossia, translanguaging and CMLA provide the conceptual lens for my analysis of bilingual education programs, policies, and practices. Heteroglossia provides an understanding of language as multivoiced and varied and stands in direct contrast to the prevalent monoglossic approaches which have been noted in bilingual education and are central to my research questions. I draw on the rapidly growing body of recent literature on translanguaging to explore how multilingual students engage in languaging practices, both inside and outside of bilingual classrooms. Finally, CMLA draws explicit attention to questions of power, which are essential as my study explores the negotiation away from monoglossic approaches within specific social and political school contexts.

Research Questions

The purpose of this proposed study will be to explore how and if Spanish-English bilingual schools are negotiating a move toward a more heteroglossic approach to bilingual education. The main research question and the sub-questions are:

What are the barriers and opportunities faced by the three Spanish-English bilingual schools in this study as they move toward a more heteroglossic approach to Spanish-English bilingual education?

    • How do government and school program models and language policies promote and/or constrain a heteroglossic approach?
    • How do classroom practices (instructional, learning and languaging) that students and teachers engage in promote and/or constrain the development of students’ heteroglossic communicative repertoires?


This qualitative study will explore how program models, language policies and languaging practices in three elementary Spanish-English bilingual schools, one each in Canada, Colombia, and the U.S., are negotiating a move toward a heteroglossic paradigm that supports the development of students’ communicative repertoires. The schools will be chosen based on an expressed interest by participants in exploring heteroglossic approaches to bilingual education. I will conduct a Comparative Case Study (CCS) (Bartlett & Vavrus, 2017) to compare how schools engage with heteroglossic approaches across different models and contexts. CCS is a process-oriented approach to case study in which “one constantly compares and contrasts phenomena and processes in one locale with what has happened in other places and historical moments” (p. 19). According to Bartlett and Vavrus, explicit comparison has been under-utilized in qualitative research, and has been notably absent in case study research. Bartlett and Vavrus dew on socio-cultural understandings of how processes are culturally situated and produced, as well as critical approaches which emphasize the role of power and inequality in social constructions. They argued that comparisons across sites and scales are important for a variety of reasons: they allow the researcher to see both how processes are influenced by unique contexts, and how different contexts can at times produce similar outcomes.

In order to explore how policies are enacted in various places, CCS employs a multi-sited and multi-scalar approach. Bartlett and Vavrus described three fundamental axes of comparison within the CCS approach: vertical, horizontal, and transversal. The vertical axis focuses on comparison across different scales, such as how policies are enacted at local versus national levels. The horizontal axis compares how similar policies are enacted in different places, emphasizing how places are socially constructed and connected in complex ways. The transversal axis focuses on how processes under consideration are historically situated.

I have selected CCS as it provides a structure to compare schools across diverse contexts while focusing on how bilingual program models, policies and classroom languaging practices are socially constructed and influenced by questions of power and inequality, specifically in regard to language hierarchies. For the purposes of my study, the vertical axis will focus on comparisons across different scales within one context (how language policy is described within government documents versus its enactment within individual classrooms). The horizontal axis will compare homologous units of analysis across three different Spanish-English bilingual schools. The transversal axis will focus on how each school is situated within the historical context of bilingual education in their country, and how the findings are situated within the larger context of the field of bilingual education in a particular historical moment.

To conduct this study, I will examine three public elementary schools, one each in Canada, the United States, and Colombia. All three locations have Spanish-English bilingual programs operating within the country’s public schools. While I have lived, worked and taught in both Canada and the U.S.A, I have not lived in Colombia but it is a key player in the field of bilingual education in Latin America, primarily linked to the research conducted by De Mejía (2002, 2006, 2013) regarding private bilingual schools in Colombia. More recently, public bilingual schools have increased in Colombia with the implementation of the National Bilingual Program in 2004 (Gómez Sará, 2017). Yet, some Colombian researchers such as have been critical of new public bilingual schools. Usma Wilches (2015) argued that there is a clear link between monoglossic language ideologies espoused by bilingual schools and similar ideologies noted by De Mejía (2013) in private bilingual schools in Colombia.

The choice to focus on a comparison of public bilingual schools is because private bilingual schools are often not obligated to follow government program models and language policies to the same extent as public schools, and this policy analysis is an important aspect of my study. By comparing across public schools in Colombia, Canada and the United States, I will be able to analyzegovernment program models and language policies that would not be possible within the private school sector.

The three schools will be selected based upon their interest in addressing questions regarding language separation through a more heteroglossic approach. Together with teachers and students, I will consider how each school has constructed their school ethos, focusing specifically on their bilingual model, language policies and languaging practices and the impact of the schools’ models, policies and practices on students’ communicative repertoires.

Generating Data

In each school setting, I will generate data in three phases over the course of three months for each phase, for a total of nine months. Figure 1 shows an overview of the three phases.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Research Design Phases

I will generate data at each school site in a consecutive approach, beginning with School #1 (the U.S.), followed by School #2 (Canada), and then School #3 (Colombia). This order is intentional, as I will begin with the geographical context in which I am currently located and the bilingual context I have most recently been conducting research in. Then, I will move to the Canadian site, my passport country. Here, I will be able to draw on my knowledge of the Canadian public school system, as well as other cultural norms, to effectively become integrated into a new school context. Finally, I will conduct research in Colombia, the country I am least familiar with. I will thus be able to draw on the knowledge gained in the data generation within the USA and Canadian schools to adapt any steps as needed.

In Phase 1, I will gather documents about the school and the corresponding government guidelines regarding the program model and language policies. At the government level, I will access publicly available documents such as: an overview of school programs, best practices for instruction, and guidelines for classroom language use. At the school level, I will collect publicly available documents such as: teacher and student handbooks, teacher training materials, promotional materials, class schedules, curriculum plans, and school newsletters. A thematic analysis of these documents will be conducted to elucidate the government and schools’ bilingual program model and language policies.

In Phase 2, I will engage in three types of data generation: classroom observations, student and teacher interviews and multilingual classroom activities based upon the principles of CLMI (Prasad, 2018). I will begin with classroom observations in six classrooms at various grade levels and subject areas. Teachers will be informed about the study and will be invited to participate based on their interest in exploring heteroglossic approaches in their classrooms. Observations will be videotaped and guided by a classroom observation protocol focused on teachers’ and students’ languaging practices. I will conduct my observations as an active participant in the classroom, depending on the norms established by each school and individual teachers. As an active participant, I will engage in informal conversations with students about their work during class time if the opportunity presents itself and if approved in advance by teachers.

Student and teacher interviews will be semi-structured, guided by an interview protocol informed by the data generated during classroom observations. I will take notes during the interview to document any non-verbal behaviours (Patton, 2002). All interviews will be conducted bilingually as participants will be encouraged to draw from their own communicative repertoires. All interviews will be audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim.

For teachers, I will conduct semi-structured individual interviews from each of the six classrooms where observations were completed. Interviews will focus on understanding how teachers perceive their students’, as well as their own, current languaging practices within the classroom. Interviews will be arranged at the teachers’ convenience and last approximately 60-90 minutes.

I will conduct focus group interviews with students from upper elementary classes where I conduct observations. These grades have been selected as they provide insight into students’ perspectives while keeping in mind the suggested minimum age of eight for focus groups (Clark, 2011). Student focus group interviews will center on understanding which languaging practices students identify as being currently employed within the classroom setting, and their beliefs about the effectiveness of these practices. I will use questions to guide the discussion, rather than using a set of structured questions that must be uniformly addressed to allow the conversation to be guided by what participants consider important, as the richest answers may be missed if the discussion content is strictly controlled (Clark, 2011). The use of open-ended questions, related to the students’ experiences, will promote engagement with the topic (Fargas-Malet, McSherry, Larkin, & Robinson, 2010). Focus group interviews will take place during regular school hours and will be between 45 and 60 minutes, depending on the age of each group.

Based on the information generated during the initial observations and interviews, I will co-plan with teachers a variety of Language Awareness activities (Hawkins, 1984) to draw students’ attention to connections between languages and to view their languages as part of a unified communicative repertoire. These activities will be based on the design principles outlined by Prasad (2018) in her CLMI approach and will be adapted to the school context. Throughout the planning and implementation of these activities, observations and interviews will be ongoing, as I continue to reflect and learn together with teachers and students on engagement in heteroglossic approaches to bilingual education.

Data Analysis

As described above, a large volume of data will be generated over the course of 9 months at the three different school sites. Here, I outline the main approach to data analysis, which will occur concurrently with data generation. According to Miles, Huberman and Saldaña (2014), concurrent data generation and analysis provides a number of key advantages to the researcher, including the collection of higher-quality data as potential blind spots and new data sources can be identified during the data generation stage.

During Phase 1 at each school, I will engage in a document analysis and then describe each case’s stated language policies and bilingual model according to the government and the school. At the end of Phase 2, I will use the CCS approach to conduct an in-depth data on three axes: vertical (within school), horizontal (between schools) and transversal (within the historical context of bilingual education). Next, I will conduct a vertical analysis to explore how these identified practices conform or conflict with the government and the schools’ stated bilingual program model and language policies, through the lens of Policy as Practice (Levinson, Sutton, & Winstead, 2009). Then, I will compare findings horizontally across schools to explore how each school’s program models and language policies are described and enacted and how these differ according to context. Finally, I will engage in a transversal analysis to explore how the findings fit within the field of bilingual education research, with a specific focus on identifying key implications for implementing heteroglossic approaches within various school models and contexts.

My overall approach to analysis will draw on Creswell’s (2013) Data Analysis Spiral. This approach includes four main steps: data managing; reading/ memoing; describing/ classifying/ interpreting; and representing/ visualizing. In the first step, I will organize the various data sources primarily through the use of Dedoose, a Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) program. As noted by Miles et al. (2014), CAQDAS are especially helpful in organizing data when working across multiple sites. During the second step, I will read the data on multiple occasions and write memos in response to my reading.

In both the third and fourth steps, I will draw primarily on the coding and visualizing methods outlined in detail by Saldaña (2016). Saldaña recommended coding in two major stages: first cycle and second cycle coding. In first cycle coding, the researcher focuses primarily on assigning codes to chunks of data. For this section, I will employ line-by-line Initial Coding which is especially useful when dealing with various data sources (Saldaña, 2016). Initial Coding is an inductive approach in which the researcher uses various forms of “open coding”, such as InVivo codes, to begin to categorize and describe the data. In second cycle coding, I will then focus on analyzing the data chunks and their corresponding codes identified in the first cycle. In this cycle, I will primarily draw on Pattern Coding, a method to group data into categories, themes or concepts (Saldaña, 2016). During this stage of the analysis, I will begin to move into the final stage of the Data Analysis Cycle, by beginning to engage in visualizing the data through various matrices and networks (Miles et al., 2014). These types of visual displays will allow data representation in a more condensed way and ensure a clear focus on the key findings.

Ethical Considerations

Throughout the study, I will follow ethical guidelines as determined by both my university’s Institutional Review Board, as well as those established in the context of each specific school or district. As a result of my association with a prestigious U.S. university and perceived benefits of this association, there may be a power imbalance between myself, the school or the teachers, which could lead to them feeling pressured to participate in the study, with the belief that it may benefit them or their school somehow. In order to minimize this risk, I will emphasize that they are under no obligation to participate and may withdraw at any time. I will also explain that the purpose of the study is to learn about heteroglossic approaches to bilingual education in various contexts and that my intention is not to criticize a specific teacher, school administration, or what is currently happening in the school.


A number of factors maximize the trustworthiness of qualitative research (Guba & Lincoln, 1985): credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. Credibility, which refers to truth of the data or its truth value (Miles et al., 2014), will be established for this study through prolonged engagement in the field. My data collection will take place over the course of 3 months in each school site, allowing me to develop some knowledge of the workings of the school. Transferability, which refers to the ability for a set of conclusions from one study to be applied elsewhere (Guba & Lincoln, 1985), will be developed through a thick description of each research site. This will include a description of the participants, the school, and key aspects of the educational context in each of the three  countries. By including thick description, another researcher could consider how findings from my study may inform studies in other bilingual schools. For dependability, which refers to whether or not the research process is consistent and stable over time and across researchers and methods (Miles et al., 2014), I will create an audit trail through detailed notes on the entire research process. Finally, I will promote confirmability, which indicates whether the study reflects neutrality and has acknowledged potential research bias (Miles et al., 2014), by practicing reflexivity throughout my study. From the consideration of why I have chosen this research question to careful consideration of the factors that influence the schools where I conduct my study, I will consider my relationship to the research. During the data analysis process, I will continually reflect upon whether I am letting the participants’ actual words speak or imposing my own perceptions.


While there are many benefits to my study for the field of Spanish-English bilingual programs, I am also aware of the potential risks associated with my study. Primarily, I am aware of the risk of linguistic misunderstandings inherent in multilingual research. While I am proficient in Spanish and have conducted research in bilingual schools in both Honduras and the United States, I plan to enlist the help of a bilingual research assistant in moderating the focus groups. I believe misinterpretation based on language is more likely within focus groups, simply because of the dynamic nature of those conversations. I will also engage a bilingual research assistant to help with the transcribing process to avoid any potential misunderstandings on my part. I will also consider cultural differences within each geographical context, continually reflecting on my position as an outsider within each school setting, and how my own positionality impacts the questions I ask and data analysis.


Spanish-English bilingual schools continue to grow numerically in a variety of geographical contexts. Yet, criticisms persist regarding many schools’ outdated approach in viewing students’ languages as separate and distinct. My research will help reframe bilingual programs by viewing them from a heteroglossic paradigm in which students’ proficiency in various languages are seen as part of their expansive and expanding holistic communicative repertoires (Blackledge & Creese, 2014; Prasad, 2014). Supporting the development of students’ repertoires is essential in a rapidly globalizing world in which students encounter linguistic and cultural diversity both in their schools and in their engagement in transnational digital communication. My research explores heteroglossic approaches in three elementary Spanish-English bilingual schools, one each in Canada, Colombia, and the United States. By comparing across models and across countries, my study will provide a meta-perspective to further understand how heteroglossic approaches within bilingual schools can support the entirety of students’ communicative repertoires and will provide key implications on how to develop programs, policies and practices which support multilingual students.


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Semiotics of Transgression: Authentication and Denaturalization in Youth Language

CATHERINE TEBALDI, University of Massachusetts Amherst


High school students often use language in creative and satirical ways that shape their identity and group belonging. Drawing on Bucholtz and Hall’s (2004) work on language and identity, I ask what youth language scholarship can teach about young people’s understanding of identity, belonging and power. I review literature from the years 1989 to 2019 on youth language, asking two questions: How can youth linguistic practice authenticate dominant racial hierarchies? How can these same practices denaturalize social identities and racist hierarchies? In the conclusion, I apply these concepts to the current political moment to consider how authentication and denaturalization help us understand and resist white youth’s engagement with white identity politics in social media.


Les jeunes étudiants utilisent souvent un langage créatif et satirique, comme site de production d’identité et de solidarité. En s’appuyant sur les travaux de Bucholtz et Hall (2004) sur l’identité et le langage, notre recension examine la littérature sur le langage des jeunes entre 1989 à 2019.  Nous posons deux questions : comment les pratiques langagières des jeunes, transgressives, multilingues, et satiriques, peuvent-elles authentiquer les hiérarchies socioraciales? Comment ces mêmes pratiques peuvent-elles dénaturaliser ces hiérarchies et récréer des solidarités? Dans la conclusion, nous appliquons ces concepts d’authentication et de dénaturalisation à une nouvelle question critique : soit comment comprendre et résister l’engagement des jeunes blancs dans les réseaux sociaux identitaires.

Keywords: authentication; denaturalization; semiotics; youth language.


With playful and transgressive language, young people challenge teacher authority, build friendships, construct themselves, but also tease and exclude others. This literature review explores transgressive and creative youth language practices. This heteroglossic, carnivalesque, multimodal, popular, playful, language is often understood in opposition to a dull classroom standard, the white, middle class language of academic meritocracy (Bucholtz, 2001, 2011; Flores & Rosa, 2015; Rosa, 2016). Current research on student multilingualism and translanguaging (Blackledge & Creese 2009; Garcia & Wei, 2013) or transglossia (Dovchin, 2015; Dovchin, Pennycook & Sultana, 2017) highlights the liberating possibilities of youth language, the ways in which it can create new transnational identities or challenge social hierarchies (i.e., Rampton, 1999, 2006). However, much current research on creative, multimodal language ignores the abusive possibilities of transgressive, playful, or mock speech (Hill, 1998; Ronkin & Karn, 1999), especially online.

Youth language, especially those practices which are creative, playful, multilingual or transgressive, is too easily seen as challenging power as it challenges linguistic norms. However, transgressive language can repeat, as well as resist, social hierarchies. A critical review of the research on youth language can help us better understand how transgression can both challenge and perpetuate dominant ideologies of race and gender. Understanding this may be increasingly important with the rise of playful, provocative speech in the online alt-right.

Androutsopoulos and Georgakopoulou (2003) defined youth language as language spoken between late childhood and the early twenties, which is used to build identity and, in opposition to academic language, is socially oriented. It can be often creative, vernacular, or transgressive. Youth language play is contrasted with official, correct, standard, or classroom speech, and can involve slang (Bucholtz, 2011), stylization and mock speech (Bucholtz, 1999, 2011; Rampton, 2006), multilingualism (Garcia & Wei, 2013; Paris, 2007; Rampton, 1999), heteroglossia and popular culture (Blackledge & Creese, 2009) or multimodal and digital transglossic speech (Dovchin, 2015; Dovchin, Pennycook & Sultana, 2017). Youth creativity crosses linguistic boundaries. While it can challenge social norms, it can also reflect how young people understand and participate in social categories and hierarchies.

To understand social categories, I draw on Bucholtz and Hall’s (2004) work on language and identity. Their work defined identity as produced through multiple tactics of intersubjectivity, active and political ways of constructing identity and difference. In particular I focus on two, which are further elaborated in the next section: authentication and denaturalization. Authentication involves practices that ascribe natural, essential, qualities to social categories and justify social hierarchies. For example, authentication might be calling white Protestants innately hard-working. Denaturalization, in contrast, refers to practices which challenge the idea that social categories are essential, innate, or natural. This might draw attention to the linguistic, political or social construction of categories like the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant).

In this critical review I apply Bucholtz and Hall’s (2004) work on identity to the topic of creative youth language. I use tactics of intersubjectivity to analyse how creativity and transgression are alternately reproduced to resist racial hierarchy. I reviewed literature from 1989-2019 on youth language and with an eye for:

  1. Practices which reproduce, authenticate or normalize dominant modes of social organization, in particular, the category of whiteness and white supremacy.
  2. Practices which denaturalize or resist dominant modes of social organization, in particular, the category of whiteness and white supremacy.

Following Omi and Winant’s racial formation (2004), whiteness was theorized as both a cultural representation and a logic of social organization. This review explores transgression in youth language to ask how youth boundary-pushing practices challenge or repeat whiteness, dominant representations of racial groups and hierarchical modes of social organization.

To this end, I first situate this review of transgressive youth language within the broader literature on youth cultures and identity. Then, I elaborate the concepts of authentication and denaturalization and the broader analytical framework of Bucholtz and Hall (2004). Next, I explore how these concepts are shown in literature on youth language, first how creative practices reproduce or authenticate social difference, and then how these practices challenge or denaturalize these categories and hierarchies. Finally, I look at how these concepts of youth identity and language appear in literature on digital media. I conclude with a call to address critical gaps in the study of language play, media, and identity—especially the language of white identity politics.


Literature on transgressive language and youth culture has emphasized how young people create identities often against socially powerful identities that are structured as unmarked norms. Scholars have understood linguistic practices as creating social groups or political and relational identities within semiotic systems that are structured by racialized oppositions (Bucholtz, 1999). Speakers utilize these practices to construct new group and ethnic identities (Rampton, 1999) or contest social identities ascribed by teachers and other linguistic gatekeepers (Rampton, 2006). To describe how such linguistic practices obscure or highlight the political nature of social categories, this review uses Bucholtz and Hall (2004)’s tactics of authentication and denaturalization. Authentication essentializes and repeats existing social categories, while denaturalization highlights their constructed or political nature.

Studies in youth language are informed by subcultural studies (Hall, 1981), the study of how young people learn their place in a social hierarchy. Related studies illustrate how youth style defines group belonging (Hebidge, 1979), resists power (Hall & Jefferson, 1983), and reproduces hierarchy (Wills, 1979). Studies of youth vernacular mainly focus on adolescent language play, especially that of high school students, although the studies may focus on older speakers using a language associated with their youth (e.g., Rampton, 2011). They most often draw on ethnographic studies of social divisions in high schools (Bucholtz, 2011; Eckert, 1989), racial identity formation (Bucholtz, 1999; Rampton, 1999) and on work that looks at agency and identity (Nygreen, 2013). Here I focus on language as youth vernacular which has been closely studied in connection to identity, belonging and social power. Language is a key site where racial hierarchies are reproduced because it reflects many other aspects of youth style and identity (Coupland, 2007), such as music (Alim, 2009), cinema (Shankar, 2008) and dress (Bucholtz, 2011; Eckert, 2000). Rather than attend to technical questions of language variation, this review uses work on language to interpret youth identity as a semiotic practice that creates belonging and social power.

Semiotics of Identity

To understand youth language as a semiotics of belonging, I draw on Bucholtz and Hall (2004, 2005). Their sociocultural linguistic approach theorized identity as both semiotic product and social process. Their theory of language and identity has two key parts: identity and interaction. Identity is understood as four semiotic processes of identification: practice, or habitual social action; performance, or intentional social action; indexicality, language pointing to social types or identities; and ideology, language pointing to cultural beliefs and the production of difference. These four processes draw on Irvine and Gal’s work (2000) on semiotics and linguistic production of sameness and difference. Interaction is more closely explored as tactics of intersubjectivity. Tactics of intersubjectivity show how the semiotic processes of identity relate to social categories, hierarchy and power.

Bucholtz and Hall’s (2004) tactics are organized in three pairs, each of which work in tandem. The first, adequation and distinction, refers to the processes of establishing relations of similarity and difference. It asks how speakers align with identities or produce differences and what value those differences are assigned. This relates closely to the concept of markedness, how socially powerful identities become norms. The second pair, authentication and denaturalization, describes the process of ascribing realness or artificiality to identities. Denaturalization is the process by which speakers undo the apparent reality of social categories, showing that they are not necessarily timeless or inherently accurate (Bucholtz & Hall, 2004). Authentication does the opposite, making social categories seem innate or inevitable. It relates closely to questions of essentialism and belonging as unequal social relations become justified in terms of innate or essential qualities of groups. The third pair, authorization and illegitimation, describes the function of establishing legitimacy and relates to questions of institutional power. It asks how institutions grant some identities and language practices legitimate status.

All semiotic processes of identity and tactics of intersubjectivity implicate social categories, social belonging and social power. These processes show that identity is not always constructed in relation to an other but that identity and difference are often organized in hierarchical systems of belonging and exclusion. The powerful identity is often the unmarked norm and difference is seen as deviance from that norm, positioning both languages and their speakers as deficient. Although all of these tactics work in tandem, this paper has a specific focus on authentication and denaturalization as centrally implicated in the reproduction of and challenge to social difference.

Authentication is the process by which we linguistically and stylistically claim the genuineness of our own identity or ascribe realness to another group. Authentication may make claims to the timeless, traditional, local roots of a current practice, positioning it in opposition to authoritative institutional language such as claims about the “authentic” peasant’s patois (Woolard, 2016), rural speech of “real Americans” or “authentic” black vernacular as street speech. Authentication takes these discursively produced differences and verifies them as part of some pre-existing, essential social difference (Bucholtz & Hall, 2004); for example, “women’s speech” showing our essential nature as caring or “authentic” black language affirming an identity as streetwise or delinquent.

Denaturalization asks how speakers activate or destabilize social categories. Speakers can activate denaturalization to question the naturalness of social difference with parodic and stylized performances that highlight the socially and linguistically constructed image of group character, such as Slobe’s Mock White Girl (2016). Speakers can also undo social categories via denaturalization through hybrid languages and identities that call into question the essential nature of any group, as in Bailey’s (2000) work on how Dominican students’ fluid racial identities undermine American racial essentialism.



Existing literature on language and social reproduction shows how youth practices may seem to be transgressive but, in some instances, reinscribe racial hierarchies through processes of authentication. Youth linguistic practices occur within institutions that authorize (Bucholtz & Hall, 2005) linguistic forms associated with the white middle class, while illegitimating vernacular language practices. Studies of social reproduction in education (Collins, 2009; Willis, 1977) and studies of African American English (Alim, 2009; Morgan, 2002, 2004) have looked closely at the opposition between authoritative and vernacular language. Although many white youth’s use of vernacular language seems to contest these linguistic norms, they may in fact be producing social difference and reproducing racialized hierarchy.

In Learning to Labor, a central study of British youth cultures, Willis (1977) showed how the ideal of authenticity itself can be linked to processes of social reproduction. Willis found youth cultural practice initially serving as resistance to authority but ultimately reproducing youth’s working-class status. These practices of working-class youth authenticity reproduced class status by leading them to choose factory employment over school. Conversely, the youth practices also reproduced racial divisions through performances of masculine authenticity as fights with migrant groups.

Later work by Bucholtz (1999, 2011) in American high schools showed how attempts to portray an “authentic” language of another group can also reinscribe social divisions and hierarchies. In You da man (1999), white use of African-American English (AAE) in “fight stories” reified ideologies of masculinity and positioned black masculinity as hyper-physical, hyper-violent and hyper-sexual. Here, a white youth’s use of what he sees as authentic language linked this language form to an imagined, essentialized and dangerous Other. His use of authenticating language iconized (Irvine & Gal, 2000) his imagined black interlocutor, thus strengthening social divisions and existing racial ideologies of blackness and maleness.

Chun (2004) made a similar point in the appropriation of AAE by Asian-American students. Although the Asian-American students she studied used AAE in situations that seemed initially to critique or to push up against white social norms, such as calling a teacher “whitey,” in closer observation it showed these students only used words that had previously been used by white students. Further analysis showed these students situating themselves in a hierarchy between white and black students. This use authenticated or naturalized a social hierarchy based on white/black oppositions whose boundaries had been decided by the dominant group.

Hill (1998) clearly demonstrated how playful language recreates a social hierarchy. Hill (1998) notes the deliberate inauthentic use of language to naturalize racial and ethnic hierarchies and produce desirable images of whiteness. Her description of Mock Spanish (Hill, 1998) described white use of Spanish in advertisements and film which repeats racializing notions of Spanish speakers as dumb and lazy while reproducing ideas of white speakers as casually cosmopolitan. In her example, saying “hasta la vista, baby” indexes both casual bilingualism for the white speaker and portrays the Spanish speaker as a deadbeat. This mock language occurs both in speakers’ invocations of popular culture as well as media such as advertising and film. The use of Mock Spanish indirectly confirms the naturalness of English and the whiteness of public space.

Building on Hill’s work, Barrett (2006) took up Mock Spanish as used by white restaurant workers. The workers used Spanish to reproduce racial hierarchies while also producing an image of jovial and cool white workers. Distinct from Hill (1998), the workers utilized Mock Spanish in face-to-face interaction and not through media representation. Mock Spanish has become a way in which social dominance is reproduced. The poor quality of Mock Spanish impeded communication between managers and restaurant staff, which was blamed on the Spanish speaking employees. This deliberately inauthentic language paradoxically offered an image of “authentic Mexicanness” which paints Spanish speakers as lazy and stupid–enacting and naturalizing an inferior social position. Mock Spanish happens in school as well. Shankar (2008) noted that Desi students also use Mock Spanish in ways which repeat negative stereotypes of Mexicans as less academic, as less desirable immigrants than middle and upper class Desi.

Bucholtz’s (2011) work on slang and stylized language described how young white people both offer essentialized images of the Other and create images of whiteness in their linguistic and dress styles. Bucholtz (2011) noted youth cultural styles are not often explicitly racialized and that white youth claim colourblindness. However, youth stylistic choices are always made in reference to a black/white opposition and repeat that hierarchy and ideologies associated with it. In White Kids (2011), she described three groups of youth, nerds, cool girls, and hip hop boys whose use of language are all oriented around an opposition between AAE and Standard English. White hip hop fans consciously appropriated many features of AAE and slang, sometimes in ways which reified negative images of black manhood (Bucholtz, 1999). Their use of these terms from hip hop did not indicate mastery of AAE but did allow some terms to circulate throughout the school.

Bucholtz (2011) shows how “cool kids” appropriated some AAE terms as slang, but only after it was no longer associated with black youth. This process of “indexical bleaching” occurred through joking, mocking and the association of a term with white hip hop fans. Also, many students denied the association of their trendy slang with AAE. Nerd styles of super standard English and untrendy dress associate whiteness with academic success, as they distance themselves from slang used by “cool kids” but also from images of blackness as hip and sexual. Although students were choosing between nerdy or cool identities, these oppositions were clearly racialized around images of blackness as cool but also unacademic. This repeated common ideas about authentic blackness and affirmed a social hierarchy that positioned white students at the top of the academic ladder.

Authenticity itself has been linked to a rough, earthy, working class masculinity (Woolard, 2016), a transgressive identity that is opposed to a correct, academic or authoritative language. Authentic images of the Other employ similar oppositions between middle class white standards and the imagined Other to naturalize existing social hierarchies. They reify essential characteristics, as in Bucholtz’s (1999) portrayal of white students using AAE, and naturalize dominant racialized hierarchies, as in Chun (2004). Youth semiotic choices are made within this racialized hierarchy (Bucholtz, 2011). The literature on youth language surveyed here shows that white students’ choices often repeated these hierarchies and dominant racial ideologies of white youth. Kroskrity (2000) noted that language ideologies are enacted with varying degrees of awareness, and many students may not be explicitly aware that their local oppositions between nerd and cool kid recursively repeat (Irvine & Gal, 2000) larger political economic divisions of race and class. However, this does suggest that students consciously, linguistically perform whiteness and that an understanding of authentication may form a basis for a more critical understanding of race on their part.

The literature reviewed here suggested several ideologies of authenticity, language and race. First, literature suggests that there is a link between authenticity and working class whiteness (Willis, 1979; Woolard, 2016). Second, authentication is linked to white speakers’ performance of other people’s speech. Both of these were processes of authentication, reifying group membership or division through both “authentic” language confirming group membership and through inauthentic (i.e., mock use) that mobilizes ideas of “authentic language” to index a stereotyped other. In all cases language is seen as emanating from, and depicting, real and pre-existing social identities. Some youth language play then confirms, justifies, or naturalizes these categories. In contrast, the work surveyed in the following section tries to undo these divisions of social power.


Recent research on creative youth language draws attention to practices that challenge racial hierarchies through processes of denaturalization. While much of the ways in which vernacular language and slang have been used by white students repeats the language and racial ideologies of the school system, a great deal of work on youth language has shown its potential for denaturalizing and destabilizing existing social categories.

Early work on youth multilingualism envisioned it as creating new identities and social categories. Rampton (1995), in his work on Multiethnic Urban Vernaculars, observed the blending of multiple languages and creoles used by both students of colour and white students. He saw this demonstrated solidarity and theorized the formation of new, intra-class and inter-racial “new ethnicities” in a London working class neighborhood. Later work suggests the picture is more complex, creating both solidarities and superficial connections. Paris (2007) showed similar inter-racial solidarity as black students authenticated the use of AAE by some Latinx peers in the United States. Paris (2007) suggested the formation of inter-racial solidarities through language but stopped short of calling these friendships new ethnicities. Cutler (2015) offered two contrasting images of AAE use: the solidarity of relatively few white students who become deeply engaged in hip hop culture and others who perform a flamboyant but superficial use of the language.

Other work focussed not on vernacular language creating new social categories but on questioning the taken-for-granted nature or essentialism of existing ones. Some used mock language, not to create an image of an other, but to denaturalize social categories by calling attention to stereotypes. In Rampton (2001), mock language, called Stylized Asian English, was used by immigrant students as a way to navigate a racist school culture by calling attention to colonial-era stereotypes employed by white teachers. This use of stereotyped figures such as nodding and artificially thick accents with new teachers and in new spaces demonstrated student awareness of spatial and racial hierarchies. They also employed stereotypes to destabilize them. Chun’s work on (2006) Mock Asian English also showed Asian speakers using mocking images of language to humourously question stereotyped images of Asian immigrants. Similarly, Jaspers (2011) noted the use of a Mock Illegal dialect by minority Dutch youth to both feign incompetence and highlight racism.

Further work using denaturalization focussed on how youth language challenges the homogenization of social identities. Mendoza-Denton (2011) showed how Spanish speakers engage in language play that establishes their identity as affiliated with Norteños or Sureños, gangs from Northern and Southern California. Their language practices call into question any simplistic association of Spanish language with homogenous ethno-racial identity. Similarly, Jaspers and Van Hoof (2015) noted a use of Tussentaal, interlanguage, to challenge class relationships between standardized and dialect speech. Shankar (2008), in her work with Desi teens, showed that their varied language practices undermine white listeners’ image of homogenous south Asian Speech. The variation in their practices illustrates gender and class divisions within these groups, specifically, in their use of hyper-standard English and popular culture references. Perhaps more problematically, she showed middle class Desi teens using stereotyped Mock Spanish to call attention to teachers’ racist erasure (Irvine & Gal, 2000) of difference between minority groups.

Other research focussed directly on how youth language practices attack racialized hierarchies. In Reyes (2011), Korean American students challenged implied racial hierarchies in everyday vocabularies. For example, the students used indexical links between blackness and dirt or violence even when the term was not used to describe a racial group. Students demonstrated a keen awareness not only of racial epithets but of the semiotic systems and hierarchical chains produced by racialized classroom discourse. Alim (2009) noted that there are instances, such as rap battles, where racial hierarchies are inverted so that particular youth language forms can produce black public spaces.

Last, some recent literature has focused on how youth linguistic play mocks white speech, subverting hierarchies and denaturalizing whiteness as an unmarked norm. Rosa (2016) described Inverted Spanglish in which Spanish speakers use a mock English (mis)pronunciation of Spanish words. This offers comic portrayals of whiteness but also inverts the dominant linguistic hierarchy, making Spanish the normative language. Tetreault’s (2015) study of TV Host Register demonstrated how Maghrebi-French youth play at public ritual insults by impersonating a TV host speaking exaggerated standard French. This playful use of super-standard French reverses the relationship between standard and urban vernacular French and denaturalizes white speech and academic norms. Finally, Slobe (2016) has written about the use of Mock White Girl speech in social media. This includes finishing declarative sentences as questions, a high voice with lots of affect and other stereotyped images of white female speech. Though reproducing gendered norms, Mock White Girl also denaturalized ideas of white speech as correct. This is one of few studies that also demonstrates white students mocking whiteness. Inverted Spanglish, TV Host Register, and Mock White Girl all denaturalize white, middle class, academic speech norms, transforming colour-blind correct speech into speech associated with a particular social identity–and questioning that identity’s place at the apex of social hierarchy.

Much contemporary research on transgressive youth language has shown students of colour making and unmaking whiteness in the classroom. Not only does work in language and identity suggest white students have a deeper knowledge about race than is often acknowledged in the education literature, it suggests that youth of colour are engaging in practices of denaturalization to form solidarities not just hierarchies. Their language is shown to produce practices of cross-racial solidarity, as in Rampton (1995), self mocking that highlights stereotyped ideas of “authentic” others (Rampton 2006), dissolving essentialist notions of social groups (Mendoza-Denton, 2011; Shankar, 2008), destabilizing class hierarchies (Jaspers & Van Hoof, 2015), questioning racialized hierarchies (Reyes 2011) and the normativity of whiteness (Alim, 2009; Rosa, 2016; Tetreault, 2015). Humour and language play can be important resources for students as they understand how stereotypes are constructed and social difference is naturalized.

Students’ linguistic play offers perspectives on self and other that may be used in education. Cabrera and Corces Zimmerman (2017) challenge ideas that white students are ignorant or evasive in discussions of race by showing that—through their linguistic play—white students engage in the construction and deconstruction of racial identities on a daily basis. In the final section of this review, I discuss the implications of a study of youth language and racial awareness for understanding and interrupting racist social media and white identity politics.


In the following section, I apply these concepts of transgressive language as authentication and denaturalization to literature on social media. Earlier research on youth media had a techno-utopian ideal suggesting that digital and social media would equate to youth empowerment and the amplification of marginalized voices in the classroom (Jocson, 2008). This research tended to approach digital media as a denaturalizing power. With a perspective similar to dominant work on transgressive language, this strand of research linked social media to challenges to classroom authority, play, and freedom. With roots in critical pedagogy and cultural studies, much early work focussed on transgression: transgressive pedagogy as crossing borders between popular and official culture (Giroux, 2007), popular culture in the classroom as democratic education (Dolby, 2003), and culturally relevant practice that engaged student everyday lives to create a sense of belonging in the classroom (Chavez & Soep, 2005; Dimitriadis, 2001). Jocson (2008, 2013) developed an understanding of online spaces as sites for poetic creation, denaturalizing school hierarchies and creating spaces for voices of youth of colour.

Work focussing more specifically on language and media, such as Blackledge and Creese (2009), approached student citation of popular culture as heteroglossic, historically and politically situated multiple voices. They emphasize the transgressive carnivalesque as freedom and inversion of power. Building on this, Dovchin (2015) developed the concept of transglossia, the use of multiple codes and popular culture for transgressive purposes. This concept was at the centre of Dovchin’s (2015) theorizing of how young women online challenged gender and linguistic norms. Dovchin, Pennycook, and Sultana (2017) have further theorized this transglossic perspective as a broader explanation for youth media that transgresses linguistic borders and social hierarchies. Androutsopoulos (2013) noted YouTube video use of dialects and participatory structure to destabilize linguistic hierarchies for German speakers. Mendoza-Denton (2017) used semiotic analysis to explore the way teens use visual and linguistic markers in YouTube videos to shape group identities as part of Norteño or Sureño gangs. Digital media was overwhelmingly seen as a space of belonging, one which had the potential to bring identity, belonging and solidarity to classrooms.

The current literature on social media and youth focusses on an image of academic, standardized language as hegemonic and authoritative (Silverstein, 1996). This is opposed to an image of transglossia (Dovchin, Pennycook & Sultana, 2017) that uses transgressive language, popular culture or multiple linguistic forms to challenge power (Blackledge & Creese, 2009; Dovchin, 2015; Martinez & Moralez, 2014; Rampton, 1999). Transgressive language, especially in the classroom, has been imagined to both break down and highlight the constructed nature of social power—as in the mocking rejection of teacher authority. Yet a review of the literature on youth linguistic practice highlights how transgressive, playful and satirical speech can be used in both denaturalizing and authenticating ways, to build solidarity and hierarchy, and to reinforce group belonging and social difference. As Jaspers (2018) suggested, heteroglossia’s valorization can be double-edged, both valuing student language and reinforcing dominant cultural norms. We cannot map a division between liberating and hierarchical language onto standardized and transgressive language. In the current political moment, more attention is needed to the ways in which transgressive language is used to reinvigorate regressive ideas and to reproduce hierarchy and difference. In particular, we need to examine how white youth are engaging in ironic, transgressive, sexual and sexist, identitarian and racist speech online.


Academics have focussed on the denaturalizing and solidarity-building potential of digital media in its ability to create new spaces of belonging. Yet while much research has focussed on a digital utopia, the online right has been appropriating these new spaces and transgressive language to build white identity. Research dating from 15 years ago already suggested that teens were engaging with online hate speech (Tynes, 2005). A more recent Pew survey suggested 89 percent of teens are online multiple times a day (Anderson & Jiang, 2018). And while the online right is not exclusively young people—as Instagram account names such as generationz.rightwing suggest—teens and young people use, and are targeted by, right wing accounts. Alt-right vlogger, Blonde in the Belly of the Beast, specifically mentions encouraging teen engagement with the far right in her video on the future of the movement. Neo-Nazis emphasize the provocative creativity, playfulness and fun of this movement to attract youth (Greene, 2019). In addition to YouTube and Instagram, gamers and gamer discussion boards also attract youth to these movements.

Research in media and language is beginning to explore the online right more closely, looking at their linguistic and visual identity practices. Ludemann (2018) explored the way users on the anonymous board 4chan create identity through complex processes of double voicing and linguistic markers. New identities, solidarities and belonging can be created in novel ways through new internet platforms and affective language— both creative and deeply troubling. Central to the alt-right is the use of transgressive, affective, playful language which attracts new members (Greene, 2019) and differentiates this group from the dull “normies,” complacent “cucks,” ridiculous “social justice warriors,” and above all the wooden language of the politically correct. In this way it echoes earlier oppositions between playful transglossia and standard language. Often in these forums, online identity is created through the construction of damaging figures of alterity that deploy irony, profanity and provocation in authenticating ways. This creates identity— but by saying who does not belong.

Transgressive language is used in authenticating ways to reinscribe racial and gender hierarchies. Kosse (2018) explored how the overtly sexual language of cuck is used with transgressive joy, to create white male space online, and to naturalize the place of white males atop a racial and gender hierarchy. Easter (2018) looked at how women’s language online is mocked as long winded and dull, politically correct, as opposed to male humour. Massanari and Chess (2018) have shown how memes mocking the female SJW (i.e., Social Justice Warrior) use irony and humour to provocatively describe and denigrate feminists who challenge this hierarchy. Mock Arabic and Mock French in online forums are used to naturalize white identity and create belonging in online forums (Tebaldi, 2019). The same processes of authentication that were demonstrated in earlier literature on youth language, that is, using other people’s language to create white identity and social hierarchy, may reappear online. These studies demonstrate that racializing language has long been intimately associated with youth identity creation, their sense of group membership and social hierarchy. Youth in these online spaces may be using transgressive language to shape white identity and to create group belonging, furthering their investment in dangerous ideologies and damaging practices. More research is needed that looks closely at youth language online and what that reveals about their changing understandings of identity in an age of white identity politics.


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Editorial: Serving the Common Good during a Pandemic through Scholarly Publishing

LAUREN HALCOMB-SMITH, Royal Roads University

ALISON CRUMP, Marianopolis College and McGill University

We are writing this editorial in the time of a global pandemic. Whether working on the front lines, unexpectedly unemployed, working from home, suddenly homeschooling, or some combination of all of the above or something else, most of our lives turned on a dime in mid-March 2020. Things that we previously took for granted, like schools, playgrounds, gyms, churches, hugging friends, planes flying overhead, and professional haircuts, are, for now, no longer part of the landscape of our everyday lives. The hooks in the cycle of the year that remind us what month it is and give us a sense of stability and predictability have been loosened so that we can focus on the one thing that we, collectively, can do to help – stay home. If the last two months has shown us anything, it is that there is massive individual, societal, and governmental willingness to radically upend our everyday lives for our collective well-being and the common good. As the editors of J-BILD, we are seeing these changes through the lenses of belonging, identity, language, and diversity. In what ways can J-BILD serve and support the common good during these times of crisis? By serving the common good, we are referring to a “cooperation to promote conditions which enhance the opportunity for the human flourishing of all people within a community” (Melé, 2009, p. 227). In this editorial, we explore three key elements of the notion of the common good: the social nature of humanity, individual sacrifice, and morality.

Foundational to the concept of the common good is the notion that humans are inherently social creatures with “a natural capacity to form interpersonal relationships and build communities” (Melé, 2009, p. 233). The community is vital to the individual for several reasons; it is through our relationships with others that we define ourselves as individuals. The inherently social nature of humanity is perhaps the main reason that many of us have struggled with the need for physical distancing and isolation during the pandemic. Yet, we have submitted to these measures because, as humans, we are inherently self-interested in protecting ourselves and our loved ones; we recognize that we preserve our own well-being when we preserve the collective well-being (O’Brien, 2009). Similarly, we understand that, collectively, we support the needs that individuals cannot fulfill on their own (O’Brien, 2009); no individual among us could single-handedly build a hospital and few among us are skilled enough to operate a ventilator, but we willingly and collectively pay taxes so that hospitals and medical professionals can serve us and our community. The common good can therefore be understood as a two-way relationship; in serving the common good, the individual serves the community, but the common good served by others also serves the individual (Melé, 2009). However, it is important to recognize that the preservation of the community is about more than self-interest. Humans are, for the most part, also compassionate, and we recognize that others are essentially the same as us in wanting to protect themselves and their loved ones (O’Brien, 2009). Indeed, we have seen countless examples of selfless compassion in these months, of individuals acting purely out of love and gratitude for their communities. We have seen this in the nightly banging of pots at 7 pm to recognize essential workers, in the donation of personal protective equipment (PPE), in the singing on balconies and street art on boarded up shops; the examples are almost endless. Smith (1920) would describe these as acts of love, a love that we hold for our communities as similar to the love we hold for our children: “All men are my children; and just as I desire for my children that they may enjoy every kind of prosperity and happiness both in this world and the next, so also I desire the same for all men” (p. 319, cited by Alexander & Buckingham, 2011). Similarly to how we do good for our loved ones, individuals serve the common good out of a feeling of love for their community and group affiliation.

Another foundational concept of the common good, and the perhaps most pertinent to our present circumstances, is the idea of individual sacrifice: “in acting within a community, persons and social groups have to subordinate their own interests in all that is indispensable for the realization of the common good” (Melé, 2009, p. 237). In other words, we accept that there is sometimes the need to sacrifice our individual goods or private goals for the success of our community. There have been, and will likely continue to be, countless examples of personal sacrifices that have come from this pandemic, the most ubiquitous being the personal sacrifices associated with staying home, whatever that looks like for each individual. However, when considering the idea of individual sacrifice, we must tread carefully. Individual sacrifice for the common good does not equate to the utilitarian idea of the greatest good for the greatest number (O’Brien, 2009). An example of this idea – the most good for the greatest number of people – would be sacrificing one to save many:

While the notion of common good connotes some sacrifice on behalf of the individual for the realization of the common good for the community, true common good never threatens the good of the person, even though it may demand considerable sacrifice of a person. (Wojtyla, as cited by Melé, 2009, p. 236)

A recent example here is the repatriation of citizens and permanent residents who were stranded overseas when the pandemic was declared; while bringing them home required considerable expense and effort (i.e., sacrifice), and may have increased the risk of the pandemic spreading within our borders, leaving a few stranded to benefit many does not serve the common good.

Here we turn to morality, a third cornerstone of the common good. Morality, as it relates to the common good, can be understood as “the support of human and cultural values such as self-discipline, integrity, trust and solidarity that sustain social capital” (Alexander & Buckingham, 2011, p. 320). One reason we are invested in the values and behaviours of other community members is because it is through our association with others that we define ourselves as individuals (O’Brien, 2009). In other words, the morality of our communities offers a mirror into our own individual morality. Moreover, a society with strong morality is more likely to value human rights and freedoms, which has obvious benefits to the individual members. This is why sacrificing one to save many is not an example of the common good; it requires a breach of morality, which in turn detracts from the common good because it is good for everyone to live in a society where everyone’s human rights are valued and respected (O’Brien, 2009). Similarly, goods obtained through immoral means are not the common good. Recent examples include the hoarding and reselling of essential supplies. The strength with which societies around the world reacted to such behavior is indicative of the extent to which morality informs our behavior.

We return now to the question we posed at the start of this editorial: in what ways can J-BILD serve and support the common good during these times of crisis? First, we can continue to provide a forum for individuals to find a sense of community and shared purpose. Academic journals are linked to institutions of learning. This is particularly true for J-BILD, as we find our roots in the field of education and our editorial board is made up of educators specializing in education. Spaces of education and learning are important to the themes of belonging, identity, language, and diversity because schools are the pivot point around which most individuals’ social and community lives spin at one point or another. Schools are also key spaces where we negotiate issues relating to belonging, identity, language, and diversity. From the preschooler to the graduate student, the closing of schools and the rapid shift from on-campus to online learning and homeschooling has become a lonely but necessary means of serving the common good. Yet, in serving the common good, we must remember our indelible human need for connection, community, and belonging. During this time of physical distancing, our concern for our students, our faculty, and ourselves centres on the question “How do we create a sense of community for the students when they have to be in isolation?” (Rancic, 2020). While means of social connection and interaction have quickly taken on new forms in many arenas of our lives, what has become so clear is that J-BILD continues to be a project that fosters connection and community amongst people, most of whom have never met in person, many of whom live in different time zones. J-BILD has become, for many – us includes – a community that fosters a sense of belonging.

A second way that J-BILD can serve the common good is by continuing to provide a touchpoint of normality for our community. As an online and digitally mediated journal, J-BILD is one part of our lives that has not needed to be re-thought in any way during the Covid crisis to continue to thrive. J-BILD is a stable space during this time when just about everything else we understand to be normal in our world has changed. This provides a small glimmer of hope for the future of scholarly publishing; online and open access have become a necessity in most primary, secondary, and higher education institutions. In higher education in particular, we have observed (and applauded) examples of publishers who are opening up access to digital versions of their course packs and textbooks, letting paywalls go by the wayside. It is hard to imagine how they will ever close up again after this.

Finally, J-BILD will serve the common good by providing a forum for essential dialogue about issues that have the potential to divide us. This pandemic has shone a spotlight on how much we need each other, as well as on our capacity to pull together as a local and global community to serve the common good. We are seeing that the human need for connection is prevailing – communities are coming together; we hear about (and take part in) acts of kindness, sharing, and care every day. We cannot let exclusion, intolerance, inequity, and divisiveness weaken us as a global culture. We are going to need to be at our strongest to address the great and looming existential crisis of global warming. We need to learn from this experience, learn how much we need each other for our collective survival. J-BILD will continue to be a space that emphasizes the need for open debate and dialogue on issues related to belonging, identity, language and diversity. We need these conversations so we can come together and face the future, in all its uncertainty, together and unified.

On that note, we are pleased to share with you five articles that address and explore issues of belonging, identity, language, and diversity in different contexts. While none of these articles relate specifically to Covid-19, their contribution to the discourse on issues of belonging, identity, language, and diversity are powerful, nonetheless. This issue includes a critical literature review, a research proposal, and three research studies.

“Semiotics of Belonging: Authentication and denaturalization in youth language” is a critical literature review by Catherine Tebaldi, who asks what youth scholarship can teach us about young people’s understanding of identity, belonging, and power. Drawing from literature published between 1989 and 2019, Tebaldi critically considers the current state of understanding and debate surrounding the interplay between youth linguistic practice and dominate racial hierarchies. Based on her interpretation of the literature, Tebaldi considers our current political moment and how racial hierarchies and white identities are played out in social media.

Ether Bettney’s article “Research Proposal: Exploring Heteroglossic Approaches Through A Comparative Case Study of Spanish-English Bilingual Schools” describes her proposed research study, a comparative case study of three Spanish-English bilingual schools, one each in Canada, Columbia, and the United States. Through the study, Bettney seeks to explore how such schools can negotiate the shift from a monoglossic to heteroglossic approaches towards language learning. As argued by Bettney, the proposed research has the potential to inform our understanding of the impact of heteroglossic approaches on learner outcomes and identities, as well as potentially informing policy and practices in schools as they move away from monoglossic approaches to supporting language learning.

Venus Darius is the author of “Persévérance scolaire de jeunes et jeunes adultes nouveaux arrivants haïtiens face aux besoins d’encadrement institutionnel à Montréal”, a research study that reports on recent the impact of institutional leadership on young adults. Specifically, the author seeks to explore the impact of institutional leadership on Haitian-Montrealers who have dropped out of high school. The author analyses and discusses data drawn from semi-structured interviews, with finding suggesting the need for school supervision and sociopolitical support in support young Haitian-Montrealers. The article concludes with recommendations for research and policy.

Marinka Swift is the author of ‘“First they Americanize you and then they throw you out’: A LangCrit analysis of language and citizen identity,” a research study exploring themes of belonging, identity, language, and diversity as they intersect with the experiences repatriated 1.5 generation Mexican-Americans. Swift explores how individuals who have experienced deportation after living in the United States negotiate their sense of belonging and citizenship identity. Using a LangCrit theoretical framework, Swift analyses digital narrative data from the Humanizing Deportation project to reveal how gen1.5 adults negotiate their identities through language and navigate the language ideologies surrounding the deportation experience. The article concludes with recommendations for further research and work.

“Digital Autobiographical Identity Texts as Critical Plurilingual Pedagogy” is a research study co-authored by Christina Tjandra, James Corcoran, Maria Gennuso, and Allison Yeldon. In their multiethnographic study, the authors explore the impact of digital autobiographical identity texts (D-AITs) for language teacher candidates and the extent to which D-AITs have the potential to be identity affirming and transformational tools for language teacher education. The authors analyze a polyvocal data set of dialogic exchanges among themselves, in which they consider and reflect on the D-AITs as pedagogical tools to support language teacher identity development and affirmation. Key themes from the data analysis are shared and discussed. Findings suggest that D-AITs represent a unique pedagogical tool for supporting language teacher candidates’ identity whilst also supporting critical language awareness and academic literacies.

Take good care, J-BILD readers.


Alexander, J. M., & Buckingham, J. (2011). Common good leadership in business management: an ethical model from the Indian tradition. Business Ethics: A European Review, 20(4), 317-327. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8608.2011.01632.x

Felber, C. (2015). What if the common good was the goal of the economy? TEDx. 22:47 min.

Melé, D. (2009). Integrating personalism into virtue-based ethics: The personalist and the common good based principles. Journal of Business Ethics, 88(1), 227-244.

O’Brien, T. (2009). Reconsidering the Common Good in a Business Context. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(S1), 25-37. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9942-6

Rancic, M. (2020, March 31). York study examines link between mattering and depression in students. University Affairs. Retrieved from

“How am I supposed to teach them French when they can’t even speak English?”: Unpacking the Myth of English Proficiency as a Prerequisite for French Immersion

STEPHEN DAVIS, McGill University

ABSTRACT. French immersion in Saskatchewan has traditionally served predominantly Anglophone student populations; however, recent trends in immigration have contributed to increasingly diverse linguistic backgrounds of students throughout the province. The high levels of motivation, family support, and academic achievement of Allophone students learning French as an additional language in Canada have been documented extensively (Dagenais & Jacquet, 2000; Mady, 2013b, 2015). However, Allophone learners often face greater obstacles accessing French immersion programs throughout Canada than their Anglophone peers, and such students are sometimes excluded on the basis of their supposedly lacking English proficiency (Roy, 2015). Indeed, many teachers believe that French immersion is an unsuitable program for Allophone students, and school administrators sometimes discourage families from enrolling due to limited English language ability (Lapkin, MacFarlane, & Vandergrift, 2006; Mady & Masson, 2018). Through online surveys and semi-structured interviews, this mixed-methods study explored educators’ perspectives on the perceived suitability of French immersion for Allophone students in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and the extent to which English proficiency is perceived as a determinant of success in the program. In this article, I share the findings of this study, unpack the beliefs of French immersion educators in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and offer recommendations for such programs in order to provide a diverse student population with equitable education and support.

RÉSUMÉ. Historiquement, les élèves anglophones nés au Canada sont ceux qui ont le plus fréquenté les programmes d’immersion française en Saskatchewan dans le but de développer des compétences langagières et scolaires dans les deux langues officielles du Canada. Cependant, on observe une hétérogénéisation de la population d’élèves inscrits dans ce programme grâce à une augmentation récente de l’immigration dans la province contribuant à sa diversité grandissante tant sur le plan linguistique que culturel. Plusieurs études ont examiné la motivation des élèves allophones envers l’apprentissage du français au Canada, leur capacité à acquérir simultanément le français et l’anglais, et l’importance que leurs familles accordent au multilinguisme (Dagenais & Jacquet, 2000; Mady, 2013b, 2015). Malgré leur succès bien documenté en immersion, les élèves allophones sont parfois exclus de ces programmes à cause de leur niveau jugé insuffisant en anglais (Roy, 2015). Plusieurs enseignants considèrent que l’immersion française n’est pas un programme approprié aux besoins des apprenants allophones, et les administrateurs d’écoles vont parfois jusqu’à décourager leurs familles de les y inscrire (Lapkin, MacFarlane, & Vandergrift, 2006; Mady & Masson, 2018). Cette recherche vise à explorer divers discours au sujet des élèves allophones en immersion française ainsi que l’importance accordée à leurs compétences langagières en anglais. L’étude adopte une méthodologie mixte, menée par l’entremise de questionnaires et d’entretiens, afin d’examiner les perspectives d’enseignants et de directeurs, tous provenant de plusieurs écoles de Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Cette étude disséminera les résultats de la recherche, ainsi que certaines recommandations pour les programmes d’immersion dans le but d’offrir une éducation équitable à une population de diversité croissante.

Keywords: FSL, French immersion, Allophone, inclusive education, multilingualism.


Notwithstanding the diversity of languages spoken by Indigenous communities and newcomer populations throughout Canada, the country’s linguistic identity has been shaped significantly by a nationaldiscourse of dualism between its two official languages, English and French (Haque, 2012). Thus, language programs in Canada have traditionally provided French instruction for students whose first language is English (Anglophones) and English instruction for students whose first language is French (Francophones) (Roy, 2010). However, the imagined binary of Anglophones and Francophones in Canada has been criticized within the field of sociolinguistics for failing to recognize the growing number of citizens who speak a first language that is neither English nor French (Lamarre, 2002). The increase of such students (hereafter referred to as Allophones) in Canada has critical implications for French immersion; indeed, such learners are sometimes excluded from immersion on the basis of their limited English language proficiency, as documented by Roy (2015) in the province of Alberta. In this article, I explore the perspectives of educators (teachers and principals) on the suitability of French immersion for Allophone students in Saskatchewan, and examine the widespread myth of English fluency as a prerequisite for success in French immersion programs. 


French immersion originated in St. Lambert, a predominantly English-speaking suburb of Montréal, Québec, in 1965, in response to the concerns of Anglophone parents who felt that their children were ill-equipped to compete in the increasingly French-dominant workforce of the province (Lambert & Tucker, 1972). In addition to serving the political goal of preparing Anglophone children to work in French, the program embodied a pedagogical shift towards content-driven language education, which has yielded positive learning outcomes. Specifically, Lyster (2008) noted that French immersion students develop curricular knowledge and skills that are equivalent to those of non-immersion learners studying in English; Genesee and Lindholm-Leary (2013) found that French immersion students regularly outperform core French students in areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking; and Lindholm-Leary and Genesee (2014) reported that immersion students attain English language abilities similar to or greater than those of learners in regular English programs. In Saskatchewan, there are currently 85 public schools offering French immersion, and demand for the program is increasing (Bonjour SK, 2018). Learners often begin French immersion in Kindergarten or Grade 1, but some school divisions offer late French immersion programs in Grades 6 and 7 (Saskatchewan School Boards Association, 2017). French immersion programs are united in their endeavour to provide French language instruction to learners of diverse linguistic backgrounds, and prior exposure to French is not required for enrolment or success.  


Anglophones make up the vast majority of Saskatchewan’s population (82.4%), whereas Francophones represent only 1.4% of the province; thus, French is clearly a minority language in Saskatchewan, demographically (Government of Saskatchewan, 2017). In terms of Indigenous languages, Plains Cree and Dene represent the third and seventh most commonly spoken first languages in Saskatchewan, respectively (Government of Saskatchewan, 2011). Importantly, the number of Allophones is rising throughout the province, largely as a result of increased immigration. Specifically, the population of Saskatchewan residents who claim a first language other than English or French is 14.5%, up from 12.7% in 2011 (Government of Saskatchewan, 2017). The five most common first languages of Saskatchewan newcomers in recent years were Tagalog (26%), Chinese (8%), Punjabi (8%), English (8%), and Gujarati (6%) (Government of Saskatchewan, 2014).


Official Language Education Policy for Allophone Students

The Government of Canada has stated that increasing the number of citizens who are bilingual in the country’s official languages, French and English, is a high priority. To this end, three federal policy documents, The Next Act: New Momentum for Canada’s Linguistic Duality (2003), Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the future (2013), and Action Plan for Official Languages – 2018-2023: Investing in Our Future (2018), advance the goal of increasing the rate of official language bilingualism throughout the country. Nevertheless, there is little policy in place to support Allophone students learning both official languages (Galiev, 2013). Specifically, Mady and Turnbull (2010) noted that in English-dominant regions of the country, “immigrants must learn English, but their access to also learn French at school is not guaranteed by Federal policy documents” (p. 5). Indeed, although the Government of Canada promotes official-language bilingualism for its citizens, the extent to which it has addressed this goal for Allophones is negligible. Likewise, official language bilingualism as it pertains to Allophone learners is seldom discussed at the provincial or territorial level, and there is significant discrepancy amongst provinces and territories as to whether French education is mandatory or optional (Mady & Black, 2011). Notably, Saskatchewan students are not required to study French or other languages beyond English, and there is no policy that ensures the inclusion of Allophones in the study of languages other than English. 

Allophone Perspectives and Outcomes in French Language Education

Regardless of the absence of policy support, the motivation and success of Allophone students studying French in English-dominant regions of the country have been documented extensively in recent studies. Mady (2010) found that newcomer Allophone students in core French programs viewed official language bilingualism as an indispensable element of Canadian identity, whereas their Canadian-born Anglophone peers were less likely to espouse this view. Similarly, Carr (2013) noted that many Allophone parents considered French-English bilingualism a valuable avenue towards their children developing a sense of Canadian identity, due primarily to the official status of the two languages. Moreover, Allophone learners are more likely than their Anglophone counterparts to believe that official-language bilingualism will provide employment opportunities in the future (Dagenais & Jacquet, 2000; Dagenais & Berron, 2001; Mady, 2003). In summary, Allophone students and families are often highly motivated to learn both French and English in Canada, both for intrinsic reasons pertaining to identity, and for extrinsic reasons, such as economic opportunity. 

In addition to the strong motivation of Allophone families to pursue official language bilingualism, Allophone students often attain noteworthy academic achievement and language proficiency. Carr (2007) found that Allophone students who study French and English simultaneously developed higher English language proficiency than those who were only studying English. Bérubé and Marinova-Todd (2012) concluded that Allophone students with alphabetic first languages were at no disadvantage learning French compared to Anglophone learners. Mady (2007) reported that the French language skills of newcomer Allophone students in core French programs in Ontario were stronger than those of Canadian-born students, even though the Allophones in question had received significantly less instructional time. Subsequently, Mady (2015) observed stronger French language abilities amongst newcomer Allophone students in French immersion than their Canadian-born Anglophone and Canadian-born multilingual classmates, both at the elementary and secondary levels. Mady’s study advanced the important notion of there being an advantage to learning languages, not only for Allophone students in immersion, but for newcomer Allophones in particular. Thus, the language repertoires of Allophone students should not be viewed through a lens of deficiency in language learning programs (García, 2002); rather, such learners tend to have distinct advantages compared to their Anglophone peers, including high motivation and prior language learning experience.

Perspectives of French Language Educators

In light of Allophone families’ high motivation for attaining official language bilingualism through French immersion, and the demonstrable successes of such their children in the program, it would seem to follow that educators would embrace the growing presence of Allophone learners in French-language programs. However, several studies that have examined the perspectives of French teachers and principals have found that educators sometimes espouse exclusionary views towards Allophone students. In a survey that examined the beliefs of 1,305 teachers in different French language programs throughout Canada, participants indicated that student diversity was among the greatest challenges they faced as educators, noting specifically the increase of Allophone learners (Lapkin, MacFarlane, & Vandergrift, 2006). Furthermore, Mady (2013a) found that, in Ontario, immersion teachers were generally less inclusive of Allophone students than were core French teachers. Specifically, several French immersion teachers believed that immersion was too difficult for Allophone students and would instead recommend core French for such learners, with the rationale that the students should develop English language skills before studying French (Mady, 2011). In a more recent study that examined the perspectives of principals in Ontario, Mady and Masson (2018) found that participants expressed divergent views with respect to their roles as gatekeepers in French immersion programs. Notably, principals interviewed in their study disagreed as to whether Allophone students should attain a high level of English proficiency before beginning immersion programs, and some corroborated previous research by suggesting that core French would be more appropriate for such learners. Evidently, the diverse perspectives of teachers and principals regarding the perceived suitability of French immersion for Allophone students underscore the contentious nature of this issue. In terms of research on Allophone learners in immersion programs, it is also noteworthy that, as Mady and Turnbull (2012) indicated, “the few studies that exist have almost all been completed in Ontario or in larger urban centers where many immigrants live” (p. 134), and that many regions of Canada remain unexamined.

Mady and Arnett (2016) explored the perspectives of teacher candidates for French language programsand compared the experiences of teacher candidates in core French and French immersion programs with their university curricula. This revealed significant learning gaps about Allophones, as “the vast majority (7 out of 9 or 78%) could not access any scientific knowledge about these students and their learning needs” (p. 87). Indeed, the disconnect between the theoretical learning and practical experience of French-language teacher candidates in regards to Allophones is disconcerting and must be addressed in light of the increasing student diversity in such programs today.  


Research Questions

In this article, I report on a subset of the data from a broader research project that explored the perspectives of diverse stakeholders concerning the perceived suitability of French immersion for Allophone learners in Saskatchewan (Davis, 2017). The juxtapositions between the beliefs and experiences of educators and Allophone parents are documented more fully in Davis, Ballinger, and Sarkar (in press). In this article, I focus specifically on educators’ beliefs with respect to the importance of English proficiency in immersion and respond to the following research questions: 

  1. What are the beliefs of educators regarding the importance of Allophone students attaining English language proficiency before beginning French immersion?
  2. How do the beliefs of educators regarding the role of English proficiency affect gatekeeping decisions for Allophone students in French immersion?

In order to respond to the selected research questions, I used the methodological framework of a convergent parallel methods design (Creswell, 2014). Specifically, I used online surveys and semi-structured interviews concurrently to generate both quantitative and qualitative data. The rationale for this mixed-methods approach was that the questionnaires would provide quantitative data from larger populations of the stakeholder groups—in this case, teachers and principals—whereas the interviews would generate qualitative data for more thorough analysis of the perspectives and experiences of smaller samples of French immersion educators.

Survey Methods

I was invited to recruit teachers and principals from five elementary schools that offer French immersion programs within the same school board in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Subsequently, I distributed the survey to educators by email. The survey was completed by 56 participants. The following definitions were included in the questionnaire to ensure a mutual understanding of terminology: “In this survey, the term ‘Anglophone’ refers to a student whose first language is English, whereas the term ‘Allophone’ refers to a student whose first language is neither English nor French.” The survey consisted of three demographic questions and 20 five-point Likert-scale statements. Each survey item included a comment box where participants could elaborate on their answers. 

Interview Methods

During the same time period that teachers and principals were completing the online questionnaire (i.e., October to December 2016), I conducted 43 semi-structured, audio-recorded interviews with educators from the same survey population. Participants were interviewed in their respective schools, with the exception of one teacher who was interviewed via Skype. I transcribed and analyzed the interviews with NVivo and assigned pseudonyms to participants. With respect to analysis, I interpreted the survey and interview data concurrently for the purposes of triangulation. I used descriptive statistics to analyze the quantitative questionnaire data, and thematic coding to interpret trends that emerged from the qualitative survey comments and interview data. Specifically, the four themes that emerged in the analysis were as follows: first, the importance of learning English and French in Saskatchewan; second, the perceived role of English language ability in Allophone language learning; third, gatekeeping practices and beliefs in French immersion; and fourth, English language support for Allophone students in immersion. 


Demographic Information

The survey began with demographic questions about the educators’ teaching experiences and careers. Participants were asked to select the answer that best represented their professional position, presented in Table 1 below. Participants included teachers from different grade levels, as well as six principals or vice principals. 

Primary Years Teacher (Kindergarten – Grade 2)1730.36%
Middle Years Teacher (Grade 3 – 5)1425.00%
Senior Years Teacher (Grade 6 – 8)1017.86%
Resource Teacher35.36%
General/Specialist Teacher35.36%
Teacher Librarian11.79%

Table 1: Educators’ Current Position 

Respondents also specified the number of years they had been teaching in French immersion programs, as seen in Table 2 below. 

Years TeachingNumber of teachersPercentage
1 – 53053.57%
6 – 101221.43%
11 – 1535.36%
16 – 2058.93%
21 – 2511.79%
26 – 3035.36%

Table 2: Number of Years Teaching

French immersion teachers from a range of grade levels participated in the study, in addition to six principals or vice principals. Moreover, although participants had varying experience teaching in French immersion programs, the majority had been teaching for fewer than six years at the time of the study. In the next four sections, I present the interview and survey findings according to the four themes that emerged in the analysis. 

The Importance of Learning English and French in Saskatchewan

The questionnaire included two items on the beliefs of French immersion teachers and principals with respect to the importance of learning English and French (Table 3) for Allophone students in Saskatchewan. 

Table 3: Importance of Learning English and French

Evidently, the educators demonstrated that although it was beneficial for Allophone students to learn both languages, the importance of learning English was paramount. In the interviews, participants added nuance to the belief that learning English was considered to be of greater importance than learning French, as seen below:

I just think, give them a head-start in the language that they’re going to hear and use most of the time in Saskatoon, which is going to be English, and then let them get to grips with that, get ahead with that, see how well they’re succeeding in the learning.

(Andrea, Grade 2 Teacher)

I think it makes sense to first master the language that you need to get by in Saskatchewan. And French is awesome, and it’s going to be really useful in life. So, get it, but just make sure that you get that one that you need to survive first, I think.

(Jocelyne, Grade 2 Teacher)

The data from both the survey and interviews indicate that certain teachers believe that although it is worthwhile for Allophone students to learn French, there is greater urgency to learn English because of its pervasiveness throughout Saskatchewan.  

In the interviews, I asked teachers and principals why they thought Allophone families were enrolling their children in immersion. Several of them stated that Allophone families were interested in French immersion because of the official status of the language in Canada:

I think that when they come to this country, they really believe that, you know, we have two official languages and that it’s important—very important—for them to learn those two languages. I don’t know, like, people that are from this country—it’s not that they forget about the French, but they just—I don’t know. It’s almost like people coming from these other countries value it way more, coming in. They go, ‘Oh, it’s French and English! You need to do both! This is important!’.

(Britney, Grade 2 Teacher)

You know, they want to embrace the culture of Canada, and they say, ‘Well, we are a dual-language country and so we feel like it’s important for our child to learn the two official languages of this country. That’s often the statement that I get, like, ‘This country speaks French and English. We want our children speaking both of those languages’.

(Josephine, Vice Principal)

In summary, French immersion educators generally considered learning English to be of greater importance than learning French for Allophone students in Saskatchewan, but also noted the significant motivation of such families to learn both official languages. 

The Role of English Proficiency in Allophone Language Learning

The second theme that emerged in my analysis of the data was the role of English language ability in the language learning of Allophones in French immersion. Survey results indicated that the respondents were divided in their belief that Allophone students require a high level of English proficiency before learning French and that Allophone students should focus on learning English before learning French (Table 4, below). 

Table 4: Role of English Proficiency in Allophone Language Learning

Interview responses corroborated the survey results, as seen in the following excerpts:

Well, I think if they’re, if they’re increasing their fluency and doing a lot better with their reading, I think that fosters a love for reading, right? So, if they’re doing well in that, I think it’s just going to transfer over to English as well.

(Wallace, Grade 2 Teacher)

I’m not of the opinion that languages confuse each other; I think languages clarify each other, you know?

(Darius, Principal)

Furthermore, some participants stated that Allophones with limited English proficiency often made a greater effort to speak French in class than their Anglophone classmates: 

Generally, I find those students actually speak in French more at school than English-speaking students because they don’t necessarily have the English to revert to.

(Lindsey, Grade 3 Teacher)

I think, too, they know that most of us teachers are also English speakers, and so they default to that quickly, whereas I do not speak Urdu. I do not speak multiple languages other than French or English, and so to default to that doesn’t really help us converse or understand each other better. And so, I just find that they try harder in French, because it’s the one thing that we might have in common.

(Jada, Vice Principal)

Indeed, many participants affirmed the language learning aptitude of Allophones, citing the motivation of such students to speak in French and their ability to transfer their learning between languages.

Conversely, several interview participants argued that, in fact, Allophone students should focus on developing some English language proficiency before enrolling in immersion. For instance, some teachers suggested that the late French immersion program was a more prudent choice for Allophone learners than early immersion, insofar as students would acquire English abilities over several years before studying French in Grade 6:  

I think the ideal would be core French and then do late French immersion. I think that’s a perfect transition. Like, get your English, which is, like, what you need to survive in Saskatchewan, and then you can still get French immersion and catch up. 

(Jennifer, Grade 2 Teacher)

With an English language knowledge base, we’re able to relate a lot of the sentence structures and stuff like that to English, which can help them scaffold into their knowledge of French. And I think not having that common base can prove challenging.

(Jesse, Grade 6 Late French Immersion Teacher)

There is some leaning upon English that is used, and if you have no English, then, you know, you don’t have that crutch.

(Carl, Grade 7 late French immersion Teacher)

Finally, one participant even shared that his colleagues believed it was impossible to teach a student French who had no prior English language abilities:

I’ve heard some teachers in the staff room here saying, ‘How am I supposed to teach them French when they can’t speak English?’. 

(Kevin, Resource Teacher)

Indeed, there was a notable range of opinions amongst educators with respect to the necessity of prior English language proficiency for Allophones in French immersion. 

The Inclusion of Allophones in French Immersion

In this section, I share the results of teacher and principal perspectives regarding the inclusion of Allophone learners in immersion. Participants were asked whether they believed that Allophone students should be included in immersion and whether they believed that immersion was a suitable program for such learners (see Table 5, below). 

Table 5: Including Allophones in French Immersion 

The data indicate that the vast majority of educators believed that Allophone students should be included in French immersion and that this was a suitable program for such learners. In the interviews, several principals shared that French immersion was historically an elitist instructional stream that excluded Allophone learners, but that such students were included in immersion programs today: 

And the attitude of French immersion not being just an elite program—regardless of what we said it was—it was always kind of an elite, you know, upper-middle-class program. And, you know, if a kid struggles, then you just move them out of French immersion, and if you don’t speak English, well, then you can’t come into French because you don’t speak English. And I still have dealt with that here in the last few years where teachers say, ‘Oh, it would be better if they went and learned English first’.

(Darius, Principal) 

I’m seeing it being less and less of an elitist program. I’ve lived that, you know, that whole attitude for the last 15-20 years. I’m seeing it less and less, and I like that. I think that as long as we’re providing the proper supports for these children, like we would for any program, then there’s no reason why we can’t have students with special needs or Allophones coming in and learning another, like, learning French as opposed to just English.

(Josephine, Vice Principal)

In summary, most participants expressed that French immersion was a suitable program for Allophone students, and several educators indicated that the acceptance of such learners was indicative of a recent trend toward more inclusive attitudes about Allophones in immersion programs.

In the survey, I also asked participants about their beliefs regarding their roles as gatekeepers in immersion, such as whether they would discourage Allophone families from enrolling their children in French immersion and whether they would recommend immersion to a student with limited English proficiency (see Table 6, below). 

Table 6: Educators as Gatekeepers to Immersion

While responses to the first question suggest that the majority of educators affirm the inclusion of Allophones in immersion, the next question generated more negative responses.

In the interviews, some participants noted a disconnect between the school board’s inclusion of Allophones and their own beliefs, as seen in the following interview excerpt:

But then the other thing is that they, oftentimes in many divisions, push French immersion as being for everybody. ‘French immersion is for everyone! French immersion is for everyone! Anyone can take French immersion!’ I just don’t think that’s true! As I said, if you’re already struggling with your first language or your second language, we’re not doing you any favours by starting you on a third, in my opinion. You know? Like, if you’re already struggling with English, or you’re already struggling with Spanish or Urdu, or whatever language you speak, then adding a third is just making less space in your brain, you know?

(Billy, Grade 7 late French immersion Teacher)

Additionally, some educators stated that they would not recommend French immersion for Allophones facing challenges beyond the classroom, such as Syrian refugee students:  

I think a lot of the ones we’ve been getting, like, we’ve gotten lots of families from Syria at this school. I think they’re just struggling to, you know, have proper clothing and lunches. I just think they think, you know, let’s. . . I mean, it’s an old fact, I mean, obviously if they’re teaching in French, it’s just another stress at home, and I think we should just look at it as ‘Let’s learn English first’. 

(Britney, Grade 2 Teacher)

The survey results seem to indicate that participants were generally supportive of including Allophone learners in French immersion, but interview data suggest that the inclusion of Allophones in immersion should be contingent upon their English language proficiency. 

Language Support for Allophones in French Immersion

Participants’ views concerning the language learning support offered to Allophone learners in French immersion also emerged as a theme in my analysis. First, participants were asked whether they believed that Allophone students received sufficient homework support in immersion (Table 7, below). 

Table 7: Support for Allophones in Immersion

Responses varied with respect to the homework support Allophone students received. The divergent results regarding support for homework were reflected in the interview data as well. Notably, some educators affirmed the ability of Allophone families to support their children with their learning, whereas others believed that such families struggled to provide meaningful support, as seen in the following example:

I would say that there would be some difficulty for families to support them in French and in English, because most of our Canadian families have a little bit, Sesame StreetFrench, at the very least, you know? And I think that they can support a little bit differently. Even if they don’t feel bilingual or fluent, they still have knowledge of the French language, whereas some of our Allophone families may have none.

(Yolanda, Principal)

Evidently, although some participants believe that Allophone families supported their children in their language learning, others felt that such families were unable to provide adequate support due to their own lack of English and French proficiency. 

In a similar vein, the survey asked participants about their beliefs with respect to the language resources and support Allophone students received in French immersion programs (see Table 7, above). Whereas the results for this item were divergent amongst survey respondents, interview participants were united in their concern with the limited Resource teacher support provided for at-risk students in French immersion: 

You know, the struggles that some of our kids have are very real, and, you know, the teachers within the classroom, the framework of the classroom, can only do so much, and are doing their very best. But I would definitely advocate for more Resource within French immersion, for sure.

(Phoebe, Grade 2 Teacher)

I would love to be able to say to every family, ‘Absolutely, French is the right place for you,’ and the reason I think that some people can’t say that is because we don’t have as much Resource support.

(Julie, Grade 3 Teacher)

The perception that French immersion learners do not receive sufficient Resource teacher support was a central finding of the present study and was underscored by many participants as a majorshortcoming of the school board’s efforts to create more inclusive immersion programs.

Moreover, participants were demonstrably divided as to whether Allophone students received sufficient English instruction in French immersion (see Table 7, above). Specifically, some teachers agreed that students were given sufficient support, whereas others suggested that the lack of formal English instruction was mitigated by ample exposure to the language beyond the classroom. In contrast, more participants felt that that Allophones should receive greater English language support in French immersion and that this instruction should begin before Grade 3, the accepted practice of the school board. The survey comment below provides greater insight into this pervasive belief:

English is not even provided until grade 3, and at that point it is less about the mechanics of the language and more about how to analyze stories, how to present, etc. The program assumes that students are English speakers who are simply refining their English skills, as opposed to Allophone students receiving instruction for the first time, and for only 50 minutes a day.

(Jennifer, Grade 2 Teacher)

Similarly, there was a common belief that English as Additional Language (EAL) support, an educational service intended specifically for Allophone learners, should be offered to such students in French immersion programs prior to Grade 3, as seen in the following interview excerpts: 

We tried accessing it [EAL] this year for a boy in Grade 2 who does not speak English really well or French. His first language is Serbian, so he has difficulty expressing himself in English and French, which is the two languages we speak here. So, there are some communication gaps with him. We tried seeing if we could access EAL services for him, but we can’t access that until Grade 3.

(Carmen, Resource Teacher)

Support in EAL would be huge for these families. And all it really does is become a disincentive for them to go into French immersion. When a new family, when Syrian families are arriving, and they say, ‘We’d like to go into French immersion,’ and I say, ‘You’re more than welcome, but just so you know, there’s no English language support until the end of Grade 2,’ that becomes a roadblock to them, you know?

(Darius, Principal)

In summary, my study found divergent views regarding the English language support Allophone students receive in immersion, and a feeling that the lack of English instruction dissuaded Allophone families from considering French immersion. 


In this article, I explored the perspectives of teachers and principals concerning the perceived suitability of French immersion for Allophone learners with respect to the role of English language proficiency and whether these beliefs impact their beliefs about the inclusion of Allophones in immersion programs in Saskatoon. The survey and interviews began with questions measuring the perceived importance of learning English and French in Saskatchewan. Although participants indicated that it was worthwhile for Allophone students to learn both languages, there was significantly more urgency expressed for the learning of English than for French. This distinction was due to the prevalence of English in Saskatchewan and the perception that the language is essential for everyday life; in contrast, participants noted that French might afford advantages in terms of employment opportunities, but that proficiency was not necessary for survival in the province. 

There are several interpretations of participants’ prioritization of the learning of English over the learning of French for Allophone learners. First, several educators expressed that it was advantageous to learn multiple languages sequentially, rather than simultaneously. For instance, some participants suggested that learning English and French concurrently would be overwhelming for Allophone learners, as the two languages would be competing for finite cognitive resources. Additionally, for some educators, there is a specific order in which Allophones should learn the two languages, and that English should be used for scaffolding in French immersion. This belief is at the root of one teacher’s question: “How am I supposed to teach them French when they can’t speak English?” Finally, some educators stated that Allophone students should attain English fluency before beginning immersion in order to better communicate with their English-speaking classmates, citing the example of Syrian refugee children. The notion that communication barriers might preclude Allophone families from enrolling in French immersion seems particularly dubious; indeed, any challenges Allophone learners might experience communicating in English would be equally present in non-immersion programs.             

Whether participants believe that languages are better learned sequentially than simultaneously, or that English is necessary for scaffolding when learning French, such views likely stem from educators’ personal experiences with language learning (Cicurel, 2011). Insofar as all teacher interview participants were either Anglophones who had learned French as a second language or Francophones who had learned English as a second language, it follows that they would likely advocate for sequential language learning over simultaneous language learning. Additionally, some teachers might use English for scaffolding in French immersion simply because English and French are the only two languages in which they can reliably make cross-linguistic connections. Thus, educators who recommend that Allophones learn English before French may believe they are acting in the best interest of the students. However, such beliefs unfairly exclude learners from French immersion for reasons entirely unsubstantiated by research, disregarding the growing body of empirical research that demonstrates that Allophone students often experience distinct advantages learning additional languages because of their diverse linguistic repertoires (Bérubé & Marinova-Todd, 2012; Carr, 2007; Herdina & Jessner, 2002; Izquierdo & Collins, 2008; Mady, 2007, 2015). Therefore, while certain multilingual instructional strategies have been effective in French immersion programs and merit further consideration, the extent to which some pedagogical practices privilege English to the detriment of other languages could be considered inequitable and discriminatory.

As it pertains to the second research question that focuses on the inclusion and exclusion of Allophone students in French immersion, there were several findings about the gatekeeping roles that educators play. First, most participants affirmed that Allophones should be included in immersion, and that the perception of the program as suitable for such learners is a recent trend in the school board. Nevertheless, participants were conflicted about whether they would recommend French immersion for a student with limited English proficiency, which suggests that, for some educators, the perceived suitability of immersion for Allophone students is contingent upon their English abilities. This belief corroborates Roy’s(2015) findings with respect to the exclusion of Allophones on the basis of ostensiblyinsufficient English proficiency. Furthermore, there are evidently divergent beliefs amongst teachers and principals regarding the perceived suitability of the program for such learners and the gatekeeping roles that educators believe they should play. This discrepancy of views amongst educators is symptomatic of a school board and province with no discernable policy for the inclusion of Allophones in language education (Mady, 2007). Indeed, the creation and implementation of evidence-based policy for Allophone students would ensure the inclusion of such learners in language education programs and prevent the arbitrary and inequitable practices endemic to Saskatchewan today.  

This study has shown that the relationship between the resources provided for Allophones in French immersion and the gatekeeping practices of educators present an interesting dynamic. Specifically, several participants stated that they were reluctant to recommend immersion for Allophone students because of the lack of resources allocated to the program, citing minimal Resource teachersupport and EAL support in particular. It is important to note that Resource teacher support is not offered exclusively for Allophones, but rather provides support for learners of all linguistic backgrounds. Thus, the notion that insufficient Resource teachersupport in French immersion should preclude Allophone families from enrolling in the program is without merit. However, the fact that French immersion programs often provide less Resource teachersupport than non-immersion instructional streams is still deeply problematic insofar as the disparity serves to perpetuate the perception of elitism that has long characterized immersion. To the extent that participants believe that students receive less Resource teacher support in French immersion than they would receive in other programs, and to the extent that some educators perceive Allophones as at-risk learners, it follows that certain teachers consider immersion to be unsuitable for Allophone learners. Additionally, several participants stated that the school board policy that prevents Allophone students from accessing EAL support before Grade 3 deters such families from considering immersion in the first place. Thus, educators argued that EAL support should be provided for students in earlier grades to ensure their inclusion and success in the program. In summary, the data I have shared in this article suggest that many teachers and principals are theoretically supportive of the inclusion of Allophone learners in French immersion, but that the lack of resources offered for such students leads educators to consider excluding them under the assumption that Allophone learners require greater support than is offered in immersion.  


In this article, I examined the beliefs of French immersion teachers and principals in Saskatoon, vis-à-vis the perceived suitability of immersion for Allophone learners and the role of English language proficiency in the program. The findings of the study contribute to the growing body of research that examines Allophone students in French language programs throughout Canada. Although the number of survey participants in the present study is quite small compared to previous questionnaire-based research, such as Lapkin, MacFarlane, and Vandergrift (2006), this limitation is mitigated by the fact that the majority of French immersion teachers and principals in the school board participated in surveys and interviews. Furthermore, the research site was itself important, insofar as the perspectives of educators regarding Allophones in immersion had not previously been explored in Saskatchewan (Mady & Turnbull, 2012). 

In this article, I have advanced several important recommendations for the future of French immersion programs in Saskatchewan. First and foremost, it is critically important for the school division and the Government of Saskatchewan to create policies to ensure equitable access to immersion and other language education programs for Allophone learners throughout the province. Furthermore, my research found that educators believe that greater support is needed for students in French immersion programs. Thus, I strongly recommend that the school board allocate a full-time French immersion Resource teacher in all schools with immersion programs, which would provide learning support for all learners, irrespective of home languages. Furthermore, several educators advocated for Allophone students to be able to access EAL support prior to Grade 3. The extent to which the school division does not offer full-time Resource or EAL support for all French immersion learners erroneously suggests that such support systems are unnecessary in the program, further perpetuating the elitist notion that French immersion is most appropriate for academically gifted, English-speaking learners. If indeed French immersion is suitable for all students, it is high time for school boards to provide the necessary support for all learners to succeed. 

In future research, I would suggest that further attention be given to the perceived suitability of French immersion for Allophone learners, both in Saskatchewan and beyond. Whereas some studies have documented the gatekeeping practices of French immersion principals and kindergarten teachers (Mady & Masson, 2018), researchers might consider exploring this topic in late French immersion programs, given that such programs are also common entry points for immersion students. Moreover, the perspectives and practices of French immersion teachers and principals at the secondary level also warrant further attention. Additionally, research examining policy creation and implementation in French language programs is required (Mady & Turnbull, 2012). Finally, future studies must also explore the underrepresentation of different student demographics in French immersion programs, such as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis learners. Specifically, French immersion programs should be examined through the lens of LangCrit, or Critical Language and Race Theory (Crump, 2014), which would shed light on the intersection language and race in exclusionary practices or ideologies in school boards and classes. Finally, I hope that the present study might encourage researchers and educators alike to explore and implement policies and practices that would foster a more diverse and inclusive immersion in the future. 


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Les défis et les réussites de l’intégration des perspectives autochtones en éducation : synthèse des connaissances dans les recherches menées au Canada

ISABELLE CÔTÉ, Université Simon Fraser

RÉSUMÉ. Dans le cadre de notre recherche doctorale et dans le contexte actuel de réconciliation, nous nous intéressons aux défis et aux réussites liés à l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans la formation des maitres et dans les programmes d’études (maternelle-12eannée) de la Colombie-Britannique. Cela nous a amenée à faire une première recension des écrits en anglais et en français sur les recherches menées au Canada. Dans cet article, nous présentons les résultats de cette recension des écrits en mettant l’accent sur les défis et les réussites communs et distincts rencontrés dans les programmes de formation des maitres et dans les programmes d’études (M-12). Quatre défis communs ressortent de l’analyse des résultats : (1) des connaissances très limitées de l’histoire coloniale du Canada, (2) les difficultés d’une réflexion critique sur la décolonisation de l’éducation, (3) l’ajout parfois artificiel des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes d’études et dans la formation et (4) le manque de ressources matérielles et humaines. Du côté des réussites, deux ont émergé de l’analyse des résultats : (1) l’importance de la création et de la redéfinition des relations avec les communautés autochtones, les Ainés et les alliés, et (2) l’utilisation de la littérature comme porte d’entrée à l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes. Les résultats montrent également deux défis distincts : (1) le besoin de formation continue dans les programmes scolaires (M-12) et (2) la question de la légitimité des éducateurs allochtones dans la formation des maitres.

ABSTRACT. In the current context of Reconciliation, this doctoral research aims to understand the successes and challenges of integrating Indigenous perspectives in teacher education and K-12 programs in British Columbia. A literature review of Canadian-based research was curated to include in both English and French sources. The results of this review are presented herein and focus on both the common and distinct successes and challenges found in integrating Indigenous perspectives within teacher education and K-12 programs. The analysis yielded four common challenges: (1) a very limited knowledge of Canada’s colonial history; (2) difficulties engaging in critical reflection on decolonizing education; (3) the sometimes artificial addition of Indigenous perspectives in curricula; and (4) a lack of material resources and manpower. In terms of common successes, (1) an emphasis on creating and redefining relationships with Indigenous communities, Elders, and allies; and (2) the use of literature as a gateway were both observed as a means of integrating Indigenous perspectives into the two programs. The results also found two distinct challenges in said programs: (1) the need for in-service professional development (K-12 programs), and (2) the question of legitimacy regarding non-Indigenous instructors in teacher education. 

Mots-clés : perspectives autochtones, éducation, réconciliation, décolonisation, formation des maitres, formation continue.


Dans le contexte de la réconciliation au Canada, les questions en éducation prennent un angle nouveau pour les Canadiens allochtones[i]. En effet, la publication du rapport de la Commission vérité et réconciliation (CVR, 2015) a créé un effet catalyseur sur les questions touchant à des domaines clés tels que la justice, la santé et l’éducation. Le mandat de cette commission est double. D’une part, elle vise à informer les Canadiens sur les torts subis par les Autochtones[ii]dans les pensionnats canadiens et les séquelles intergénérationnelles qui y sont liées. D’autre part, elle veut inspirer un processus de réconciliation « au sein des familles autochtones, et entre les Autochtones et les communautés allochtones, les Églises, les gouvernements et les Canadiens en général », et ce, dans une optique de renouvèlement des relations sur la base d’un respect mutuel (CVR, 2015, p. 37). Dans le contexte de la formation des maitres et des programmes scolaires (M-12), nous nous intéressons particulièrement aux questions liées à l’éducation et à ce que signifie un renouvèlement des relations entre les peuples autochtones et non-autochtones dans ce domaine. Cela est d’autant plus important puisque, selon le juge Sinclair (2012; CVR, 2015), si l’éducation joue un rôle fondamental dans le processus d’assimilation culturelle des peuples autochtones du Canada, c’est également parl’éducation que peut être entamé le processus de réconciliation nationale. En effet, pour qu’il y ait une réelle réconciliation au Canada, un long processus de décolonisation de l’éducation doit s’opérer (Battiste, 2013; CVR, 2015) ; plusieurs chercheurs et éducateurs s’entendent d’ailleurs pour dire que la décolonisation de l’éducation n’est pas que pour les Canadiens-autochtones, mais bien pour tous les Canadiens (Battiste, 2013; Dion, 2009; Regan, 2010; Scully, 2015; Styres, 2017; Tupper, 2011). 

En Colombie-Britannique (C.-B.), une des approches à la réconciliation en éducation est l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes de formation des maitres (depuis 2012) et, depuis 2016, dans les programmes scolaires (M-12) (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2016). Dans le cadre de notre recherche doctorale, nous souhaitons notamment répondre à la question suivante : quels sont les défis rencontrés et les réussites observées dans l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans la formation des maitres et les programmes scolaires (M-12)? Dans notre démarche de recherche, nous avons remarqué le manque de synthèse des connaissances sur cette thématique. L’objectif de cet article est donc de présenter les résultats d’une première recension des recherches menées en français et en anglais au Canada sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans la formation des maitres et dans les programmes scolaires (M-12). Dans la première partie de cet article, nous définissons tout d’abord deux concepts : les perspectives autochtones et la décolonisation. Ensuite, nous présentons la méthodologie de notre recension des écrits ; suivront les résultats des recherches en formation initiale et dans les programmes scolaires (M-12). Puis, dans la section des résultats, nous discutons les défis et les réussites qui sont communs et distincts au programme de formation des enseignants et aux programmes scolaires (M-12). Nous terminons avec une discussion qui explorent certaines pistes de recherche.


Lorsqu’on parle de décolonisation de l’éducation, on se réfère à « la recherche de la déconstruction des structures idéologiques, législatives, opérationnelles, textuelles et [des] autres formes de structures institutionnalisées qui maintiennent l’inégalité dans les relations de pouvoir entre les Autochtones du Canada et les Canadiens non-autochtones » [traduction libre] (Binda et Calliou, 2001, p. 2). Dans les programmes de formation des maitres et dans les programme scolaires (M-12), la décolonisation est, d’une part, la reconnaissance que le système d’éducation canadien a été fondé pour renforcer la place des Allochtones dans le projet de colonisation du Canada (Battell Lowman et Barker; 2015; Battiste, 2013; Donald, 2009; Regan, 2010; Tupper, 2014). D’autre part, la décolonisation de l’éducation demande à ce que les Allochtones passent d’un positionnement « d’apprendresur » à « apprendre des » Autochtones (Battiste, 2013; Binda et Caillou, 2001; Dion, 2009; Donald, 2009; Regan, 2010; Smith, 2001; Styres, 2017; Tanaka, 2016). 

Pour passer d’un apprentissage surles Autochtones à un apprentissage de leurs savoirs, il est nécessaire d’intégrer leurs perspectives[iii]dans la formation des maitres et dans les programmes d’étude (M-12). Comment dès lors définir les perspectives autochtones? Il existe en effet différentes manières de conceptualiser l’épistémologie autochtone, et elles peuvent différer entre nations (BC Ministry of Education, 2016). Cela dit, toutes sont profondément ancrées dans « l’interconnectivité entre les dimensions physiques, mentales, émotionnelles et spirituelles de l’individu avec les êtres vivants, la Terre, les étoiles et l’univers » [traduction libre] (Lavallée, 2009, p. 23 cité dans Battiste, 2013, p. 75). Une autre manière de concevoir l’épistémologie autochtone est de comprendre son approche holistique de l’éducation, fondée sur multiples relations : la relation entre la pensée linéaire et l’intuition, entre le corps et l’esprit, entre les différents domaines de connaissances, entre l’individu et sa collectivité, entre le moi et l’Autre (Smith, 2001). En d’autres mots, l’interconnectivité et les relations sont au cœur des savoirs autochtones (Battiste, 2013; First Nation Education Steering Committee, 2016; Styres, 2017). 


Pour procéder à notre recension de la littérature, nous avons choisi de faire une recherche de type documentaire (Gauthier et Bourgeois, 2016; Karsenti et Savoie-Zajc, 2011). Notre recherche s’est dès lors déroulée en quatre étapes. Premièrement, nous avons fait une recherche en français ainsi qu’une recherche en anglais, afin de faire ressortir les études menées dans les deux langues du Canada. Ensuite, nous avons lu les documents et les avons classés en deux catégories : les documents qui portent sur (1) la formation des maitres et (2) l’enseignement des perspectives autochtones dans les écoles (M-12). Puis, pour les deux catégories, nous avons analysé les thèmes et les avons regroupés en fonction des défis ou des réussites dans l’intégration des perspectives autochtones. Finalement, nous avons regroupé, d’un côté, les défis qui sont les mêmes dans la formation des maitres et dans les programmes d’études et, de l’autre, ceux qui sont uniques à l’un ou à l’autre de ces domaines.  

Pour trouver les articles recensés, nous avons utilisé les bases de données de recherche francophones Repère, Erudit, Education Source(EBSCO) et ERIC (ProQuest) et avons utilisé les mots-clés suivants : décolonisation et éducation, décolonisation et enseignement, perspectives autochtones et éducation, perspectives autochtones et enseignement, réconciliation  et éducation, réconciliation et enseignement, Autochtones et décolonisation, Autochtones et réconciliation, formation des maitres et réconciliation, formation des maitres et décolonisation,  formation initiale et perspectives autochtones, formation continue et perspectives autochtones.Ensuite, sur les plateformes Education Source(EBSCO) et ERIC (ProQuest), nous avons fait la recherche en anglais, et ce, avec les mots-clés suivants : decolonization et Educationdecolonization et teaching, Indigenous perspectives ou Aboriginal perspectives et teaching, reconciliation et education, reconciliation et teaching, Indigenous ou Aboriginal et decolonization, Indigenous ou Aboriginal et reconciliationteacher education et reconciliation, teacher education et decolonization

À partir des publications trouvées avec les mots-clés, nous avons retenu les articles de recherche qui traitent de l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans la formation des maitres au niveau universitaire et dans les écoles (M-12) au Canada. Les critères de sélection que nous avons utilisés sont au nombre de quatre : les articles devaient (1) cibler le contexte canadien, (2) intégrer des perspectives autochtones dans un programme destiné à l’ensemble des élèves et des étudiants-maitres (et non seulement ciblé pour une population autochtone), (3) être publiés entre 2000 et 2018, et (4) inclure des études empiriques ou l’analyse d’autres documents tels que l’analyse documentaire de livres, de curricula provinciaux et de rapports. Nous avons toutefois écarté les mémoires, les thèses, les livres, les communications et les conférences, les articles culturels et les articles de journaux.

Nous avons choisi de filtrer les publications sur la période de 2000 à 2018 parce que l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans la formation des maitres et des programmes scolaires (M-12) pour l’ensemble de la population est relativement récente au Canada. Dans cette perspective, nous n’avons également pas retenu des recherches telles que celles d’Allain, Demers et Pelletier (2016), Lavoie et Blanchet (2017) et Lavoie, Mark et Jenniss (2014) parce qu’elles traitent de l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans l’apprentissage du français langue seconde dans des communautés autochtones. Ce qui nous intéresse dans notre recherche, c’est l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes scolaires (M-12) et la formation des maitres pour tous les Canadiens. En terminant, nous trouvons important de souligner que les bases de données ne sont pas exhaustives. Nous avons donc retenu deux autres textes que nous connaissons et qui répondent à nos critères de sélection.


Pour la recension des écrits, nous avons retenu 44 articles, un en français (DeRoy-Ringuette, 2018) et 43 en anglais. Pour ce qui est de l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans la formation des enseignants, les résultats montrent que des recherches ont été menées dans plusieurs provinces au Canada, dont en C.-B., en Alberta, au Manitoba, en Saskatchewan, en Ontario et à Terre-Neuve/Labrador. Puisque l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans la formation des maitres est assez récente, nous remarquons qu’un des principaux objectifs des publications est d’expliquer quelles sont les initiatives qui ont été prises dans diverses facultés d’éducation au pays. Nous pouvons constater que ces celles-ci varient d’un établissement à l’autre puisqu’il n’existe pas de modèle d’intégration des perspectives autochtones uniforme. Par exemple, les écrits expliquent que certaines facultés optent pour l’intégration d’un cours pour les étudiants-maitres (Butler, Ng-A-Fook, Vaudrin-Charette, et McFadden, 2015[iv];  Deer, 2013; Kerr , 2014; Kerr et Parent, 2015; Kitchen et Raynor, 2013; Hare, 2015; Marom, 2016; Nardozi, Restoule, Broad, Steele, et James, 2014; Schneider, 2015; Scully, 2012,  2015; Sterzuk, 2010; Taylor, 2014), d’autres offrent des cours thématiques en option (Kennedy, 2009; Tanaka et al., 2007), tandis que certains établissements adoptent un modèle d’infusion à travers tous les cours du programme de formation (Dénommé-Welch et Montero, 2014; Leddy et Turner, 2016; Tupper, 2011; Vetter et Blimkie; 2011). Deux autres recherches recensées se concentrent plus spécifiquement sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans un cours de didactique des sciences humaines (den Heyer, 2009; Tupper, 2014). Finalement, une dernière recherche se penche sur la formation continue des formateurs (Korteweg, Gonzalez et Guillet, 2010).

Du côté de l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes scolaires (M-12), nous avons répertorié sept articles portant sur la formation continue (Butler et al., 2015; Dion, 2007; Gebhard, 2017; Kanu; 2005; Root, 2010; Strong-Wilson, 2007; Wiltse, Johnston, et Yang, 2014), deux recherches sur le curriculum en général (St-Denis, 2011; Torres, 2010) et treize autres qui se concentrent plus spécifiquement sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les disciplines scolaires, dont les sciences humaines (Butler et al., 2015; Couture, 2017; Cutrara, 2018; Godlewska, Rose, Schaefli, Freake et Massey, 2017; McGregor, 2017), les sciences humaines et l’anglais (Hildelbrandt, K. et al., 2016; Tupper et Cappello, 2008), le français (DeRoy-Ringuette, 2018), les sciences (Betchel, 2016; Kim, 2015; Onuczko et Barker, 2012) et les mathématiques (Aikenhead, 2017; Russell et Chernoff, 2013). Puis, une dernière recherche porte plus spécifiquement sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans du contenu pédagogique en ligne (Iseke-Barnes et Sakai, 2003).

À la lumière de ces premiers résultats, nous constatons qu’il n’y a presque pas de recherches menées en français, avec une seule publication sur les 44 textes recensés.  Nous notons que la recherche sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones est un champ de recherche qui s’est développé du côté anglophone au Canada, mais que beaucoup de travail reste à faire en français. Nous observons également qu’il y a presque autant de recherches menées au niveau de la formation des maitres (22 textes) que dans les programmes scolaires (M-12) (24 textes). Dans la section qui suit, nous présentons d’abord une synthèse des défis répertoriés dans la formation des maitres et dans les programmes scolaires (M-12). Nous nous focaliserons ensuite sur une synthèse des réussites dans la formation des maitres et dans les programmes scolaires (M-12).

Les défis communs dans la formation des enseignants et dans les écoles (M-12)

Le premier défi que soulève toutes les recherches est le manque flagrant, chez les étudiants-maitres et les enseignants, de connaissances générales sur l’histoire de la colonisation du Canada, des enjeux spécifiques aux communautés autochtones et des effets qui perdurent toujours aujourd’hui (Dion, 2007; Gebhard, 2017; Scully, 2012,  2015; Sterzuk, 2010; Strong-Wilson, 2007; Taylor, 2014). D’ailleurs, dans trois des études répertoriées (Denommé-Welch et Montero, 2014; Nardozi et al. 2014; Tupper, 2011), les chercheurs ont fait un sondage sur les connaissances et les attitudes générales des étudiants-maitres au début de leur formation ou de leur cours respectif ; les résultats montrent une méconnaissance généralisée, qui se traduit parfois par de l’anxiété et un malaise (Deer, 2013; Denommé-Welch, 2014; Kerr et Parent, 2015; Nardozi et al. 2014). Pour les enseignants, cette anxiété viendrait du fait qu’ils ont peur de faire des erreurs et d’exposer leur propre ignorance de l’histoire du Canada et des savoirs autochtones (Root, 2010). De plus, un aspect qui contribue au malaise chez les enseignants est qu’il existerait un flou par rapport à la définition même ce qu’on entend par « perspectives autochtones » (Onuczko et Barker, 2012),

Le deuxième défi relève de la difficulté des étudiants-maitres et des enseignants à s’engager dans une réflexion sur la décolonisation de l’éducation. En effet, la majorité des recherches qui portent sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans la formation des maitres et les programmes scolaires font état des défis que rencontrent les étudiants-maitres et les enseignants allochtones, qui forment la majorité du corps enseignant au Canada, lorsqu’ils doivent réfléchir à la question de la dominance eurocentrée dans le système d’éducation (Den Heyer, 2009; Dénommé-Welch et Montero, 2014; Kerr et Parent, 2015; Nardozi et al. 2014; Schneider, 2015; Scully, 2015; Sterzuk, 2010; Strong-Wilson, 2007; Taylor, 2014; Tupper 2011). Pour les futurs enseignants et les enseignants, une des principales difficultés est de reconnaître que le curriculum n’est pas neutre. Tupper et Cappello (2008), citant les travaux d’Apple (1990, 1996), rappellent qu’historiquement, le curriculum a servi (et sert) toujours à établir, à enseigner et à défendre les structures sociale, culturelle et politique du groupe dominant. Selon Aikenhead (2017), Betchtel (2016), Onuczko et Barker (2012) et Russell et Chernoff (2013), cela est d’autant plus présent chez les enseignants de mathématiques et de sciences, qui perçoivent les connaissances scientifiques comme étant « neutres » et n’accordent que très peu de valeur aux savoirs autochtones. 

Dans un contexte de décolonisation de l’éducation, selon la recherche, il est important d’entamer une réflexion sur le privilège des Allochtones et leur position d’occupants du territoire auprès des étudiants-maitres et des enseignants (Kerr, 2014; Nardozi et al. 2014; Root, 2010; Scully, 2015; Strong-Wilson, 2007; Tupper, 2014). D’ailleurs, St-Denis (2011) analyse comment le discours sur le multiculturalisme renforce en fait la position du discours dominant dans l’éducation. En effet, plusieurs enseignants ne comprendraient pas les raisons pour lesquelles, dans une société multiculturelle, les élèves devraient avoir des interventions pédagogiques particulières sur les perspectives autochtones puisque les Autochtones sont souvent perçus comme une minorité culturelle parmi les autres. D’après les études, cela résulterait du discours sur le multiculturalisme dans lequel sont évacuées les questions importantes liées à l’occupation du territoire (St-Denis, 2011; Kerr 2014; Tupper, 2011).  

Le troisième défi qui ressort des résultats est l’ajout parfois superficiel des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes d’études en formation des enseignants et dans les curricula scolaires (M-12). Selon Deer (2013) et Kerr et Parent (2015), il peut être dangereux d’intégrer superficiellement les perspectives autochtones au curriculum existant sans à prime abord déconstruire la position eurocentrée des savoirs qui y sont véhiculés. Par exemple, dans une recherche menée sur le curriculum de sciences en Ontario, Kim (2015) fait ressortir que les savoirs autochtones sont présentés comme des savoirs culturels et non pas scientifiques. Cela contribuerait à renforcer le discours dominant de la « supériorité » des connaissances scientifiques eurocentrées. D’autres recherches en sciences humaines montrent comment les perspectives autochtones demeurent toujours en marge du discours officiel de l’histoire canadienne (Butler et al., 2015; Cutrara, 2018; Godlewska et al., 2017; McGregor, 2017). Toutefois, des chercheurs avancent que si l’intégration des perspectives autochtones est bien enseignée, l’expérience d’apprentissage des élèves autochtones et allochtones s’en trouve enrichie (Aikenhead, 2017; Betchtel, 2016; DeRoy-Ringuette, 2018; Russell et Chernoff, 2013; Torres, 2010). Dans cette optique, Betchel (2016) soutient que l’arrimage des connaissances eurocentrées et autochtones peuvent amener des solutions aux problèmes environnementaux auxquels le Canada fait face aujourd’hui. Par exemple, dans sa recherche, l’auteur(e) présente les enjeux de la gestion des troupeaux de caribous dans le nord de l’Alberta. En alliant les connaissances des Ainés autochtones et des chercheurs allochtones, il/elle a remarqué qu’il était possible d’envisager de meilleures solutions pour la protection des caribous.

Le quatrième défi qu’expose la recherche est le manque de ressources matérielles et humaines pour pouvoir bien intégrer les perspectives autochtones. Par exemple, Deer (2013) soulève le manque d’accès aux ressources comme une source d’inquiétude pour les étudiants-maitres. De leur côté, les enseignants soulignent également qu’il y a un besoin criant de ressources adaptées à différentes matières scolaires ainsi qu’à différents niveaux, ce qui rend l’intégration des perspectives autochtones plus difficile à faire lors de la planification (Aikenhead, 2017; Betchel, 2016; Couture, 2017; Kanu 2005; Onuczko et Barker, 2012; Russell et Chernoff, 2013). Par ailleurs, il est important de noter que dans certains cas, les ressources existantes contribueraient à renforcer le discours colonial, au lieu d’intégrer les perspectives autochtones de manière authentique (Iseke-Barnes et Sakai, 2003).

En plus des ressources pédagogiques, les enseignants et les formateurs commentent le besoin de ressources humaines, c’est-à-dire des contacts avec des communautés et des Ainés autochtones qui pourraient appuyer l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans différentes matières, dans les écoles et à la formation des enseignants (Betchel, 2016; Butler et al., 2015; Couture, 2017; Onuczko et Barker, 2012; Root, 2010).

Défi spécifique à la formation des maitres 

Un défi beaucoup plus explicité dans la recherche sur la formation des enseignants est celui du sentiment de légitimité des formateurs allochtones (Hare, 2015; Kerr, 2014; Marom, 2016; Scully, 2015). L’insécurité de ces derniers qui enseignent le cours sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones provient principalement du questionnement des étudiants-maitres au sujet de l’authenticité des connaissances de leur formateur. Kerr (2014) et Scully (2015), deux formatrices allochtones alliées[v], abordent comment elles doivent expliciter leur démarche et reconnaissent, auprès de leurs étudiants, leurs propres privilèges dans le contexte colonial canadien. Elles doivent modeler avec les étudiants-maitres comment créer un espace interculturel où elles déconstruisent et reconstruisent leurs savoirs. De son côté, Marom (2016) s’engage dans une réflexion critique sur sa propre expérience comme canadienne d’origine immigrante et nouvelle occupante du territoire ainsi que son rôle comme enseignante à la formation des maitres. Marom (2016) en conclut que la manière de gérer les tensions liées à son identité est de les exposer explicitement aux étudiants-maitres. Selon Hare (2015), avoir des instructeurs allochtones alliés est important pour que les étudiants-maitres non-autochtones puissent voir qu’il est possible d’apprendre et de comprendre les perspectives autochtones sans être soi-même autochtone. 

Défi spécifique au contexte scolaire (M-12)

Un défi soulevé du côté des programmes scolaires (M-12) est le besoin de formation continue des enseignants. Le développement de ressources matérielles ne suffirait pas sans formation adéquate (Aikenhead, 2017; Betchel, 2016; Gebhard, 2017; Kanu; 2005;  Root, 2010; Russell et Chernoff, 2013). Dans certains cas, ce manque de formation se traduit par des enseignants qui, sans s’en rendre compte, renforcent le discours colonial au lieu de le déconstruire (Gebhard, 2017). Pour une intégration réussie des perspectives autochtones, la formation continue resterait essentielle puisque la décolonisation de l’éducation est un processus long et complexe (Kerr, 2014; Root, 2010).

Les réussites communes dans la formation des enseignants et dans les écoles (M-12)

La première réussite observée dans les recherches est l’établissement de relations avec des communautés autochtones, des Ainés et des alliés allochtones. En effet, plusieurs recherches présentent la rencontre avec des Ainés autochtones et montrent que cela semble avoir eu un grand impact sur les représentations des étudiants-maitres (Butler et al., 2015; Hare, 2015; Kennedy, 2009; Kitchen et Raynor, 2013; Nardozi et al. 2014;  Schneider, 2015; Scully, 2015; Tanaka et al., 2007; Vetter et Blimkie, 2011), et des enseignants et leurs élèves (Betchel, 2016; Butler et al. 2015; Hildelbrandt et al. 2016; Root, 2010; Tupper et Cappello, 2008). Pour plusieurs d’entre eux (étudiants-maitres, enseignants et élèves), c’était la première fois qu’ils rencontraient un Ainé ou qu’ils allaient dans une communauté autochtone (Butler et al., 2015). 

Dans sa recherche, Root (2010) a découvert que la rencontre d’alliés allochtones a été aussi importante pour les participants que la rencontre des Ainés autochtones. En effet, le processus de décolonisation de l’éducation est complexe, voire difficile. Reconnaitre le rôle de l’éducation dans le génocide culturel des Autochtones (CVR, 2015) et les structures coloniales qui existent toujours au Canada peut soulever plusieurs émotions chez les enseignants allochtones. Pour eux, avoir des collègues allochtones qui comprennent ces émotions est rassurant. De plus, les alliés allochtones peuvent accompagner les enseignants dans l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes d’études, ainsi que gérer avec eux les erreurs et les difficultés qui viennent avec ces changements. Ces résultats de la recherche de Root (2010) font d’ailleurs écho aux recherches menées à la formation des maitres sur l’importance d’avoir des modèles d’éducateurs allochtones dans le processus de décolonisation de l’éducation (Hare, 2015; Kerr, 2014; Marom, 2016; Scully, 2015). 

Une autre manière d’aborder les relations entre les Autochtones et les Allochtones est l’enseignement critique de l’histoire des traités chez les étudiants-maitres, les enseignants et les élèves. Dans les études menées avec des étudiants-maitres (Tupper, 2011, 2014), et des enseignants et des élèves (Tupper et Cappello, 2008; Hildebrandt et al., 2016), les résultats montrent un début de déconstruction du discours dominant de l’histoire canadienne sur la colonisation de « vastes territoires inoccupés ». Étudier les traités de près amènerait une redéfinition chez les étudiants-maitres, les enseignants et les élèves relations entre Autochtones et Allochtones dans le contexte de décolonisation et de réconciliation.

Une autre approche pour aborder les questions de relations entre Autochtones et Allochtones est la pédagogie du lieu (place-based education). Celle-ci est ancrée dans le territoire où se trouvent les apprenants en prend appui sur l’environnement et les perspectives autochtones de cet environnement. Les résultats des recherches menées par Hare (2015), Root (2010) et Scully (2012, 2015) montrent que la pédagogie du lieu est une porte d’entrée efficace pour enseigner les perspectives autochtones aux étudiants-maitres, aux enseignants et aux élèves, qui apprennent donc à voir le territoire sous un nouvel angle. La redéfinition des relations avec le territoire amène à redéfinir les relations avec les communautés autochtones et à mieux comprendre leurs perspectives. 

La seconde réussite commune dans la formation des enseignants et dans les écoles (M-12) est l’utilisation de la littérature comme porte d’entrée aux discussions permettant l’intégration des perspectives autochtones et la décolonisation de l’éducation dans la formation des maitres (Dénommé-Welch et Montero, 2014; Taylor, 2014), la formation continue des formateurs (Korteweg, Gonzalez et Guillet, 2010) et la formation continue des enseignants (Dion, 2007; Strong-Wilson, 2007; Wiltse et al., 2014). Les résultats des différentes recherches montrent que la littérature se prête bien aux réflexions sur les représentations et l’enseignement des savoir traditionnels liés à la terre, à l’identité et à la langue. Par exemple, DeRoy-Ringuette (2018) avance qu’une meilleure intégration de la littérature de jeunesse autochtone en salle de classe est une façon d’ouvrir le chemin de la réconciliation puisque les élèves autochtones se voient ainsi représentés à l’école, tandis que les élèves allochtones apprennent et comprennent mieux les cultures et les perspectives autochtones. En ce sens, la littérature contemporaine autochtone offre une fenêtre pour les étudiants-maitres, les formateurs, les enseignants et les élèves pour contrer les stéréotypes et préjugés associés aux Autochtones (Wiltse et al., 2014). 

Réussite spécifique à la formation des maitres 

Une des réussites observées seulement à la formation des maitres est l’enseignement expérientielle des principes d’apprentissage autochtones. Les recherches de Tanaka et al. (2007) et Kennedy (2009) portent chacune sur un cours thématique offert à la faculté d’éducation d’une université en C.-B : un premier cours sur la sculpture Lekwungen et Loekwelthout d’un mât totémique (Tanaka et al., 2007) et un second sur la musique traditionnelle autochtone (Kennedy, 2009). Dans les recherches, les résultats sont semblables : les participants témoignent du pouvoir transformateur de l’apprentissage expérientiel d’une pédagogie autochtone. 

Sans être ancré dans un projet spécifique tel que le mât totémique ou la musique traditionnelle, Schneider (2015), éducatrice autochtone à la formation des maitres, conceptualise son cours sur le principe autochtone Ucwalmicw, principe ancré dans les relations avec soi et les autres. De leur côté, Leddy et Turner (2016) ont basé leur cours sur les sept principes d’apprentissage autochtones développés par des Ainés en C.-B (FNESC et FNSA, 2018[vi]), qui inclut, entres autres, les concepts d’identité et de relations et du territoire. Selon Leddy et Turner (2016), la mise en pratique des sept principes d’apprentissage autochtones, par l’entremise d’activités pédagogiques, semble être la meilleure façon d’enseigner ce que veulent dire les principes d’apprentissage autochtones. Dans une autre recherche menée par Kitchen et Raynor (2013), les chercheurs ont développé le cours en se basant sur la roue médicinale. Les résultats de la recherche montrent que les étudiants-maitres ont bénéficié de la conceptualisation de ce cours autour de la roue médicinale dans leur compréhension de l’enseignement des perspectives autochtones. Selon Kennedy (2009), Kitchen et Raynor (2013), Leddy et Turner (2016), Schneider (2015) et Tanaka et al. (2007), les étudiants-maitres apprennent les principes d’apprentissage autochtones lorsqu’ils sont vécus, ancrés de manière expérientielle dans les cours, et non pas enseignés strictement en tant que contenus cloisonnés. 


Les résultats du corpus étudiés en formation initiale et en contexte scolaire (M-12) nous ont permise de faire ressortir plus clairement quatre défis : 1) le manque de connaissances de l’histoire coloniale du Canada, 2) la résistance sur les questions de décolonisation de l’éducation, 3) les défis liés à l’ajout superficiel des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes d’études et 4) le besoin de ressources matérielles et humaines. Du côté des réussites, deux ont émergé de l’analyse des résultats, soit (1) l’importance de la création ou la redéfinition des relations avec les communautés autochtones, les Ainés et les alliés, et (2) l’utilisation de la littérature comme porte d’entrée à l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes. À la lumière des résultats sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes de formation des maitres et dans les programmes scolaires (M-12), nous proposons de nous arrêter aux différences notées dans les résultats au niveau des défis et des réussites puisqu’elles offrent des pistes de recherches sur des lacunes qui nous paraissent pertinentes.

Comme nous l’avons présenté dans les résultats, le manque de formation continue chez les enseignants dans les programmes scolaires (M-12) est un défi que plusieurs études ont cerné (Aikenhead, 2017; Betchel, 2016; Gebhard, 2017; Kanu 2005; Root, 2010; Russell et Chernoff, 2013; Wiltse et al., 2014). De plus, plusieurs études sur la gestion des changements en éducation montrent que la formation continue est essentielle à la mise en place de réformes (Carpentier, 2012; Darling-Hammond, 2009; Hargreaves, 2009; Rey, 2016). Toutefois, du côté de la formation continue des éducateurs dans les programmes de formation des maitres, nous constatons une lacune dans les connaissances scientifiques, avec une seule recherche répertoriée à ce sujet (Korteweg et al., 2010). Cela nous parait d’autant plus urgent que l’Association canadienne des doyens et doyennes d’éducation (ACDE), dans son renouvèlement de l’Accord sur la formation initiale à l’enseignement (2017), inclut une des recommandations explicites de la CVR pour les programme de formation des maitres ; elle « reconnait [donc] la centralité de la terre dans la vision et les enseignements autochtones, respecte les droits inhérents et la souveraineté des Autochtones, et soutient les Appels à l’action de la Commission Vérité et Réconciliation du Canada » [traduction libre] (p. 4)[vii]. Une première piste de recherche serait donc de mener des études sur la formation continue chez les formateurs dans les programmes de formation des maitres pour mieux comprendre comment se gèrent ces changements dans la pratique dans les facultés d’éducation. 

Une seconde piste de recherche serait d’analyser les manières dont les enseignants du système scolaire (M-12) intègrent l’apprentissage expérientiel des principes d’apprentissage autochtones. Du côté de la formation initiale, notre recension montre que l’apprentissage expérientiel des principes d’apprentissage autochtones semblent porter fruit chez les étudiants-maitres (Kennedy, 2009; Kitchen et Raynor, 2013; Leddy et Turner, 2016; Schneider, 2015; Tanaka et al., 2007). Cela dit, nous remarquons un manque de publication sur des pratiques semblables dans le contexte des programmes scolaires (M-12).

Une troisième piste de recherche serait d’explorer le rôle des alliés allochtones dans le processus de décolonisation de l’éducation dans les programmes scolaires (M-12). Nous faisons écho aux propos de Root (2010), qui reconnait ce défi en éducation. Elle affirme qu’il y a très peu d’écrits sur le processus de décolonisation des éducateurs allochtones. Nous nous demandons donc comment les alliés allochtones gèrent les tensions qui émergent du fait qu’ils sont des occupants du territoire tout en voulant ouvrir le dialogue et construire des relations avec les communautés autochtones. Comment les alliés allochtones peuvent-ils être des acteurs importants de changements au sein des écoles et les programmes de formation? Bien que l’importance de leur rôle soit mentionnée en contexte de formation des maitres (Hare, 2015; Kerr, 2014; Marom, 2016; Scully, 2015), une lacune importante existe au niveau des recherches dans les programmes scolaires (M-12). 

Une dernière piste de recherche repose sur le constat qu’il n’existe presque pas de recherche en français. Comme nous l’avons vu dans la section sur les résultats, avec nos critères de sélection, nous avons retenu un total de 44 articles, dont seulement un est en français. En effet, la recherche de DeRoy-Ringuette (2018) est la seule qui a été menée en français dans l’optique d’une intégration des perspectives pour l’ensemble des élèves, et ce, par le biais de la littérature autochtone. Cela nous amène à nous questionner quant aux raisons de cette absence de recherches faites, autant en contexte francophone majoritaire (Québec) que minoritaire (hors-Québec). On pourrait effectivement se questionner par rapport aux défis qui sous-tendent l’intégration des perspectives autochtones en contexte francophone. Voici donc quelques questions de recherches qui pourraient être explorées : en milieu minoritaire francophone, y-a-t-il des défis particuliers pour l’intégration des perspectives autochtones tout en jonglant avec les questions de la construction identitaire (Fédération culturelle canadienne française, 2009)? De quelles manières est-ce que la formation des maitres en milieu minoritaire prépare-t-elle les étudiants-maitre à l’intégration des perspectives autochtones? De quelles manières les Appels à l’action (CVR, 2015) sont-ils gérés au niveau des programmes scolaires et à la formation des enseignants en contexte majoritaire?


Cette recension des écrits sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes de formation des maitres et dans les programmes scolaires (M-12) nous permet de conclure qu’un travail important a été entamé dans les recherches menées en anglais au Canada depuis près de 20 ans. Du côté des recherches menées en français (en contexte majoritaire et minoritaire), le champ de recherche reste à développer. Avec une seule publication en français d’une recherche portant sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones pour le niveau élémentaire (DeRoy-Ringuette, 2018), nous concluons que ce champ de recherche reste entièrement à défricher. Dans la foulée des Appels à l’action (CVR, 2015) et les demandes de décolonisation de l’éducation pour tous les Canadiens, il y a d’abord un grand besoin de se pencher sur ce qui est fait (ou non) en milieu francophone minoritaire et majoritaire dans la formation des maitres, la formation continue des enseignants ainsi que dans les programmes scolaires (M-12). 

Les différences de défis et de réussites que nous avons observés dans les résultats nous ont amenée à réfléchir à de futures pistes de recherche qui comblerait des lacunes dans les connaissances sur la thématique étudiée. D’abord, nous constatons un besoin de meilleures connaissances sur la formation continue des formateurs dans les programmes de formation des maitres. Ensuite, nous remarquons l’importance de mieux comprendre le rôle des éducateurs allochtonesalliés dans le processus de décolonisation de l’éducation dans les programmes scolaires (M-12). Puis, nous trouvons prometteuse l’exploration des initiatives, des projets et des programmes incluant l’apprentissage expérientiel des principes d’apprentissage autochtones dans les écoles (M-12).


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Wiltse, L., Johnston, I. et Yang, K. (2014). Pushing comfort zones: promoting social justice through the teaching of Aboriginal Canadian literature. Changing English: Studies in Culture and Education21(3), 264-277. 

[i]Dans le cadre de cette recherche, le terme allochtone se réfère à tous les Canadiens qui ne sont pas autochtones, c’est-à-dire, aux descendants des premiers colonisateurs européens ainsi que tous ceux qui sont arrivés au Canada après la colonisation en tant que immigrants ou réfugiés.

[ii]Pour ne pas alourdir le texte, nous utiliserons le terme autochtonepour nous référer aux Premières nations, aux Autochtones non reconnus comme Premières nations, aux Métis et aux Inuits du Canada.

[iii]Root (2010) rappelle que les « perspectives autochtones » sont aussi reconnues comme « des visions du monde, des savoirs autochtones et des savoirs traditionnels » [traduction libre] (p. 105)

[iv]L’article de Butler et al. (2015) est divisé en sections qui traitent différents aspects de l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les programmes de formation des maitres et dans les programmes scolaires. Cela explique pourquoi il est mentionné dans trois catégories dans l’analyse des résultats dont une fois dans la formation des maitres et deux autres fois dans les programmes scolaires (M-12). Cela explique que la recension des écrits est de 44 textes, mais lorsque nous les catégorisons, nous avons un total de 46 textes.

[v]Les alliés allochtones sont des Canadiens qui travaillent avec les Autochtones dans le processus de décolonisation (Regan, 2010; Root, 2010).

[vi]FNESC et FNSA ont ajouté deux autres principes d’apprentissage autochtones. Dans la publication de 2018, nous en trouvons dorénavant neuf et non plus sept (p. 11). Les neuf principes d’apprentissage sont les suivants [Traduction libre du bureau et des programmes de services en français de la Fédération des enseignants de la Colombie-Britannique] :

  1. L’apprentissage prend en compte le soutien, le bien-être de l’individu, de la famille, de la communauté, de la terre, des esprits et des ancêtres ; 
  2. L’apprentissage est holistique, réfléchi, révélateur, expérientiel et relationnel (axé sur la connectivité, les relations réciproques et le sentiment d’appartenance) ; 
  3. L’apprentissage consiste à reconnaitre les conséquences de ses actes ; 
  4. L’apprentissage reconnait le rôle des connaissances autochtones ; 
  5. L’apprentissage est ancré dans la mémoire, dans l’histoire et dans les récits ; 
  6. L’apprentissage implique de la patience et du temps ; 
  7. L’apprentissage requiert de la patience et du temps ; 
  8. L’apprentissage requiert l’exploration de sa propre identité ; 
  9. L’apprentissage consiste à reconnaitre que certaines connaissances sont sacrées et peuvent être seulement partagées avec la permission de qui de droit ou dans certaines situations.

[vii]La raison pour laquelle nous avons dû traduire cette citation est que dans la version française, il n’y a aucune mention des Autochtones ni de la CVR (ACDE, 2017). Nous sommes assez perplexe sur le pourquoi de cette différence entre la version française et anglaise de l’Accord sur la formation initiale à l’enseignement. Cette question devrait d’ailleurs être investiguée de plus près.

Editorial 3(1): Behind the Scenes at J-BILD

ALISON CRUMP, Marianopolis College and McGill University


MELA SARKAR, McGill University

The publication of this issue marks J-BILD’s third year in press and our fourth issue. Over the last several years we have been working out how to run a journal. What is our vision for the journal? Where do we fit within the landscape of scholarly publishing? Is it where we want to fit? How do we create our own space while staying true to the values and ideals of scholarship as “making knowledge together” (Paré, 2016)? What kind of work do editors, authors, peer mentors, copy-editors, and readers have to do together to make that space?

We have touched on these questions in previous editorials; in Volume 1(1), we focused on J-BILD’s guiding principles as an open-source, collaborative peer-mentoring journal, inclusive of all stages of the publication cycle. In Volume 2(1), we went further in describing our approach to open scholarship and collaborative peer review. In Volume 2(2), we made a case for publishing as an act of hope and defiance against intolerance. It is evident from our past editorials, as well as our published articles, that J-BILD is a journal that invites members of the scholarly community to revisit assumptions, both about the field of inquiry and about the nature of scholarly publishing. 

J-BILD represents a new model of academic publishing, in contrast to the traditional publishing house of yore. Picture academics (white men, mostly), hunched over oak desks, clouds of cigar smoke hanging in the air, the clink of ice cubes in a freshly poured tumbler of whisky. There are piles of papers precariously balanced everywhere. Young women rush back and forth with proofs needing editorial approval (by men— “Miss, take this and type it up for 4pm, would you?”) And the sound of the typewriter. Click clack. Click clack. Click. Ding! Busy women, averaging 90 words per minute. 

Professional women in 2019 are no less busy than their foremothers. But it’s a different kind of busy. The accident of history that has meant that J-BILD’s editorial team is made up of women has had the effect of making us reflect on ways in which academia may be changing. Women are no longer relegated to minor secretarial or other essentially menial functions in the world of intellectual work. Mothers who are professionals and scholars are no longer swimming against the current. 

For the three of us, our development in these domains—the personal, professional, and academic–has happened concurrently. Our graduate work coincided with the birth of our children, and so our scholarly work has always been interwoven with the dailiness of our lives. Ding! Another email comes in. Waah! The baby’s woken up. Reach for the (baby) bottle. We have perfected the art of nursing whilst editing articles, annotating bibliographies, and debunking outmoded theories. Since launching J-BILD in 2017, our senior editorial team has welcomed two babies and a fifth grandbaby, two career changes, one cross-country move, a wedding, and more. Rather than seek to keep these parts of our identities separate and siloed, we draw strength and inspiration from our family lives for our professional and scholarly work, and vice versa. There have been many J-BILD meetings that have taken place over Skype while one of us breastfeeds an infant or plays with a toddler or knits something special for a cherished grandchild. We fit in emails to our authors during lunch breaks at our day jobs, write editorials while babies nap, and review manuscripts while the dishwasher runs in the background after bedtime. 

If scholarship is making knowledge together, then the kind of knowledge we create together depends on the kinds of relationships we bring to and create through our scholarly work. J-BILD is built on a supportive, community-based model where members are not excluded from publishing based on certain norms of merit (title, academic experience, research output, etc.). J-BILD authors actively take part in a collaborative review process with a peer mentor—the process is transparent and includes authors in every phase of the publication process. The relationships that are built throughout this process are no less important than the product, i.e., the journal issue. We are encouraged that this model seems to be resonating with our authors and mentors. As one of our authors wrote to us recently: “[My peer mentor] has been an amazing support throughout this process. I keep telling my fellow graduate students that it is possible to have a positive review experience and am encouraging them to look into J-BILD! I sincerely hope this collaborative approach can be taken up by other journals, as it has been so helpful to me as a junior scholar.” 

This issue is perhaps the most representative of our lives behind the scenes of J-BILD. In January 2019, we received 11 submissions for this current issue. With our hands full of babies and older children, juggling mothering and careers and families, we found ourselves rushing to keep up with our own self-imposed tight timelines for the journal (i.e., moving from submission to publication in less than half a year). And by acting in haste, we found we were losing the sense of connection, the relationships with our authors, with our peer mentors, and even with each other. To foster the community-building that is at the heart of J-BILD, we needed to allow more time to mull, to ponder, to read, to write, to reflect, and to connect. In our opening paragraph above, we asked, how do we create our own space while staying true to the values and ideals of scholarship as “making knowledge together” (Paré, 2016)? The answer is: by slowing down and managing expectations—our own and others’. 

We have a number of manuscripts in process and look forward to publishing them in due time. For this issue, we are very pleased to present two articles that we judged were valuable contributions to perspectives on diversity in education in contemporary Canadian contexts. Each is from a different stage of the research cycle, namely, a critical literature review and a research study. 

Isabelle Côté is the author of “Regard croisé sur l’intégration des perspectives autochtones dans les recherches menées en français au Canada”, a critical literature review of research related to the integration of Indigenous perspectives into teacher education and K-12 programs in British Columbia. Through her discussion and interpretation of Canadian-based research, Côté reveals a number of challenges and successes found in integrating the perspectives of Indigenous people. 

“‘How am I supposed to teach them French when they can’t even speak English?’: Unpacking the myth of English proficiency as a prerequisite for French immersion” is a recent research study by Stephen Davis. In this article, Davis explores the beliefs of French immersion teachers about Allophones in French immersion in Saskatoon. He frames his study within the sociolinguistic landscape of Canada and Saskatchewan, highlighting the problematic nature of the Anglophone-Francophone binary within conversations around language and education, which essentially exclude citizens who speak a first language other than French or English. Davis presents and interprets the data generated through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with French immersion teachers to reveal how French immersion teachers perceive the suitability of French immersion for Allophone students in Saskatoon, as well as how these teachers perceive English proficiency as a determinant of success. Davis concludes with practical recommendations for school boards and a call for further research about Allophone learners in French immersion programs. 


Paré, A. (2016, April 17). Making knowledge together: Voice, identity, agency, and communal effort [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Supporting Reconnecting Immigrant Families with English Language Learners in Rural Schools: An Exploratory Study of Filipino Arrivals to Alberta

Volume 2(2): 2018

M. GREGORY TWEEDIE, University of Calgary

ANJA DRESSLER, Calgary Board of Education

CORA-LEAH SCHMITT, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools

ABSTRACT. Immigration in Canada has traditionally been associated with urban areas, but rural communities are host to an increasing number of new immigrants. As students of these immigrant families arrive in rural schools, there is increasing pressure on rural school divisions to meet the needs of a diverse student population of English Language Learners (ELLs), though often with limited previous experience with such students. In many of these situations, the nature of the workforce has led to family separation during the immigration process, with subsequent reunification in Canada. Newly-arrived immigrant students are thus having to develop academic English language proficiency as well as adjust to the dynamics of family reunification. This article recounts exploratory qualitative research on how Filipino secondary school immigrant students in Alberta, who are reconnecting with parents, acculturate and develop a sense of belonging when language and content acquisition, social-emotional, and acculturation supports are in place. Data is drawn from interviews with immigrant families from the Philippines and from teachers’ written responses to reflection questions on their growth as educators of ELLs. Although the needs of reconnecting immigrant families are multifaceted and complex, the findings from this study suggest a supportive role can be played by schools in assisting such families both through enhanced coordination with the immigrant community, and direct and explicit teacher training in pedagogical strategies for teachers of ELLs.

RÉSUMÉ. L’immigration au Canada est traditionnellement associée aux zones urbaines, toutefois les communautés rurales accueillent un nombre grandissant de nouveaux immigrants. L’arrivée de ces familles immigrantes dans les écoles rurales augmente la pression sur les instances scolaires quant à la nécessité de répondre aux besoins de diverses populations d’apprenants de l’anglais langue seconde (English Language Learners), alors que leurs expériences précédentes avec ces élèves sont souvent limitées. Dans bon nombre de situations, la famille a dû être victime d’une séparation pendant le processus d’immigration, suivi d’une réunification ultérieure au Canada. Les nouveaux élèves immigrants doivent donc développer leur compétence en anglais tout en s’ajustant à la dynamique qu’entraine la réunification familiale. Cet article décrit une recherche qualitative exploratoire sur la façon dont les Philippins immigrants à l’école secondaire en Alberta, renouant avec leurs parents, s’acculturent et développent un sentiment d’appartenance lorsque les appuis d’acquisition langagière et de contenus, sociaux et émotionnels ainsi que d’acculturation sont mis en place. Les données sont tirées d’entrevues réalisées avec des familles philippines immigrantes ainsi que des réponses écrites d’enseignants de l’anglais langue seconde sur des questions réflexives quant à leur développement professionnel auprès de cette clientèle. Bien que les besoins pour aider les familles immigrantes soient multidimensionnels et complexes, les résultats de cette recherche suggèrent la nécessité d’un rôle de soutien pouvant être tenu par l’école en assurant une meilleure coordination avec la communauté immigrante, mais aussi par la formation directe et indirecte des enseignantes de l’anglais langue seconde sur les stratégies pédagogiques qui leur sont propres.

Keywords: family reunification; immigration; rural immigration; English Language Learners; English as a Second Language (ESL); language proficiency benchmarks; rural education.

Transnational Family Reconnection, English Language Learners, and Rural Canada

One effect of globalization is the vast movement of people across international borders with hopes for an improved standard of living, and Canada is host to a large number of new immigrants annually (OECD, 2018). While immigration in Canada is typically associated with urban areas (IRCC, 2005), the population of immigrants in rural areas is also increasing, facilitated through various municipal and provincial schemes (CIC News, 2016; O’Doherty, Katem, & Turner, 2017). In Alberta in particular, an Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) allows skilled workers, along with their families, to make application for permanent residency (Government of Alberta, 2017), and several large Alberta employers with operations in rural areas actively recruit employees from abroad and support them and their families in seeking permanent residency (e.g., see Peterson, 2016). The result is that rural areas in Alberta are host to an increasing number of new immigrants.

These efforts to support families in transitioning from temporary worker to permanent resident status are certainly laudable, but the reality remains that extended family separation is often part of the migration process. Families facing limited economic prospects in their home country may opt for one parent to seek employment abroad while spouse and children remain behind; in some cases, both parents leave for employment while children are cared for by relatives. The separation period can be lengthy, with one study finding a median timeframe of eight years until reunification (Farrales & Pratt, 2012). The term ‘transnational family’ is often used to refer to “sustained ties of family members and kinship networks across the borders of multiple nation states” (McCarthy & Edwards, 2011, p. 188). Implicit in the term is the understanding that migration is not always a linear process, but frequently involves evolving relationships among family members spread across multiple borders. That Family relationships are enacted across international boundaries is in keeping with a larger trend in the modern world, where interactions and communications, as traditionally defined, appear increasingly fluid and flexible (Hawkins & Mori, 2018). Separation and reconnection of transnational families often contributes to considerable stress (Falicov, 2007; Suårez-Orozco, Todorova & Louie, 2002), and research suggests family separation during the immigration process impacts negatively on children’s academic success (Gindling & Poggio, 2009; McKenzie & Rapoport, 2011). The reality of family separation during the immigration process is an important factor for schools to take into account when considering how to best support newcomer students.

As students of these transnational families arrive in rural Alberta schools, there is increasing pressure on rural school divisions to meet the needs of a diverse student population of English Language Learners (ELL), though often with limited previous experience with such students, given the historical trend of urban immigration. Teachers in Alberta have access to a variety of resources to guide instruction and support the academic English language learning of students. These include documents such as the English as a Second Language Guide to Implementation (Alberta Education, 2007), materials included in broader discussions of instruction for diverse learners (e.g., Alberta Education, 2010), and the ESL Benchmarks (Government of Alberta, 2018a). It is, however, left to individual school divisions to determine how and when this information is disseminated to teachers. In many instances, professional learning sessions for teachers support the understanding of these documents, but to date, little research is available recounting their effectiveness in rural contexts. Additionally, much of the information in the documents focuses on language acquisition, and although language and culture are “inextricably bound” (Alberta Education, 2010, p. 144), strategies and assessment of the acculturation process are not explicitly identified in these documents.

This exploratory study will consider how the settlement process of such transnational reunifying families is affected when explicit support is offered for students’ academic language and content acquisition and families’ social-emotional needs. We examine the efforts of one rural school jurisdiction in its attempts to support students and their families during the challenges of reunification in settlement.

Literature Review

This section provides a review of the literature on students in families experiencing immigration and reconnection, presenting four different aspects of the transnational family and student experience: immigration as a whole; family separation and immigration; academic issues in reconnection scenarios; and culturally responsive pedagogies in schools. While literature on transnational families in general is referenced, readers will note a particular emphasis in this review on the Philippines, since, as will be discussed later, Filipino nationals make up the bulk of the transnational workforce in the school jurisdiction under study. Sources consulted range from peer-reviewed journal articles to news reports. The section concludes by stating the research question that guided this study.

Immigration in World Context

One impact of globalization is the movement of people across borders in search of a higher quality of life. As a world leader in both numbers of migrants received and in their share of the population percentage (OECD, 2018), Canada receives workers into a variety of jobs and careers, although mainly to urban centers (IRCC, 2005). Immigration to the Canadian province of Alberta—the site of this study—continues to increase. Between 2011 and 2016, over 207,000 people immigrated to Alberta (Simons, 2017), with only 15% of Alberta immigrants settling in rural areas (CIC News, 2016). However, numbers of immigrants to rural Alberta are on the rise.

Various municipal and provincial schemes have facilitated this increase (CIC News, 2016; O’Doherty et al., 2017), as well as the initiatives of several large Alberta employers for international workforce recruitment, often with the support of the AINP (Government of Alberta, 2017). Many immigrants have difficulty qualifying to bring their family to Canada after being separated, making employer support especially valuable in helping such workers realize settlement in Canada (Bragg & Wong, 2016). One particular employer in a rural Alberta town utilizes Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program to recruit qualified employees and then works with them to quickly apply for Permanent Residence and bring their family to Canada (Immigrant Services Calgary, 2014; Peterson, 2016). These efforts have led to an influx of immigrants into areas encompassed by the school jurisdiction in this present study.

Certain countries provide more workers for Canada than others, and this is reflected in the workforce composition within this study’s rural school district, where the bulk of the international labour force comes from the Philippines. It is not uncommon for a significant percentage of the Filipino population to seek employment abroad, with over one-tenth of Filipinos reported to be doing so (Madianou & Miller, 2011), creating a “culture of migration” (Falicov, 2007, p. 162). While traditionally seen as the father’s responsibility to move abroad to work and provide for the family, in recent years, mothers have also started to fill this role (Madianou & Miller, 2011). In some situations, families choose to leave the Philippines permanently and reside elsewhere, such as in Canada.

Family Separation and Immigration

As noted above, family separation is often part of the immigration process. One parent may arrive on an employment contract, with spouse and children arriving later, with the aim of the whole family experiencing a better quality of life (Jimenez, 2015). In other cases, a child may accompany a parent upon initial entry, with a spouse joining the family later. In either situation, the process of family separation and reunification often encompasses multiple years (Farrales & Pratt, 2012). These separations may be emotionally difficult, and the longer the separation period, the more the lasting effects on the family (Black, 2005; Suårez-Orozco, Bang & Kim, 2011). This migration process of transnational families has been associated with significant impacts on mental health for both parents and children (Falicov, 2007).

While separated, families seek communication and closeness using technology as an effort to bridge the physical and emotional gap. Mothers and fathers often devote significant resources of time and money to parenting from afar via the internet and mobile phones (Black, 2005; Jimenez, 2015; Parreñas, 2005), ranging from scheduled weekly phone calls or texts to money and gifts sent on a regular basis. Throughout the history of transnational families in the Philippines, the decreasing costs of mobile phones and associated services have helped families stay closer during separation, something the government of the Philippines hopes will help alleviate some of the social cost of separation (Madianou & Miller, 2011). However, a gender gap exists in transnational parenting. Mothers can end up “perform[ing] all of the parenting and emotional work from a distance” (Madianou & Miller, 2011, p. 460). Even when the father is at home with the children, the mother often does more nurturing from afar than her husband, who is physically present (Parreñas, 2005). Although technology can assist (virtual) communication during family separation, parents still suffer negative effects from the (actual) separation and reunification characteristic of transnational families.

Separation and Reunification: Challenges for Parents

Parents in transnational families face various issues related to separation from children and spouse to work abroad and then subsequently reuniting. While separated, the parent abroad is torn between their work–the reason they left–and being connected to family back home (Hertzsprung, 2004). If it is the mother who leaves to find work, she and her family may face the criticism that mothers should be physically present to care for their children (Hertzsprung, 2004). Once the family has been reunited abroad, parents may find that childcare is expensive and hard to find compared to the availability of extended-family childcare back home. In many cultural contexts, family means more than just the nuclear family, and so adjustments to the lost familial support network can be taxing on both mothers and fathers upon settlement in their new country (Falicov, 2007; Jimenez, 2015).

Reuniting as a family poses many challenges as well. Stepping back into the parenting role after years of absence is often delicate and awkward, as cultural differences between their previous and new context get in the way of sleeping arrangements, food, discipline, and parenting styles (Hertzsprung, 2004). The ability of mothers and fathers to once again assert parental authority over children they had been separated from for years is frequently difficult (Suårez-Orozco et al., 2011). Children of transnational families also face struggles during the migration process.

Separation and Reunification: Challenges for Children

Children and youth of transnational families encounter various challenges indicative of their circumstances. When one or both parents leave to find employment in a new country, children can feel abandoned, and attachment trauma due to migration, separation, and reunification is not uncommon (Jimenez, 2015). In one study, the length of separation, especially from the mother, correlated with rates of anxiety and depression in adolescents (Suårez-Orozco et al., 2011). Even upon being reunited, children may continue to struggle. Parents who had left can sometimes feel like strangers and the reunion is often problematic (Jimenez, 2015; Suårez-Orozco et al., 2011). Children are not always prepared and willing to have their parents once again fill parental roles in the new country (Suårez-Orozco et al., 2002). Children miss family and friends left behind when they go to reunite with parent(s), especially when those they left behind were surrogate primary caregivers in lieu of the parent(s) during the time apart (Black, 2005). The separation experienced by children during the immigration process is thus twofold: first from their parents who leave to work abroad, and then later from their primary caregivers when children migrate to join parents in the new country (Suårez-Orozco et al., 2002). These emotional struggles coupled with academic issues paint a fuller picture of the challenges that children of transnational families face.

Academic Challenges

Education is an important aspect of future success for all children new to Canada and is of particular cultural importance to Filipinos. Education itself is poorly funded in Philippines, but it is still highly valued (Hertzsprung, 2004). As a priority within families, education is viewed as the most valuable gift parents can give their children (Jimenez, 2015). In transnational families, parents abroad will often stipulate that pay remittances sent home go toward a better quality of education for their children (Dreby & Stutz, 2012).

Many parents in transnational families make education a priority and perhaps even migrated partly because of it; however, students from these families often suffer negative educational outcomes (Black, 2005). Overall, separation from parents has negative impacts on education in forms of depression, education gap, and higher dropout rates (Gindling & Poggio, 2009, 2012; McKenzie & Rapoport, 2011). Education gaps and dropout rates are higher compared to students native to the country and students in families who did not migrate (Gindling & Poggio, 2009). Also, the older a child at time of migration, the more troubles encountered in school; this is true also if separation was from the mother (Gindling & Poggio, 2012). The simultaneous experiences of being a newcomer and being separated from parents and extended family contribute to negative school performance (Gindling & Poggio, 2012; Patel, Clarke, Eltareb, Macciomei, & Wickham, 2016). With transnational Filipino children in particular, placement in Canadian ESL classes has been associated with lower educational success, in part due to non-credit programming, the lack of credits assigned and possible mismatch between the level of the content and the level of the students (Farrales & Pratt, 2012). Overall, the literature suggests experiencing separation from and reunification with family members may negatively impact the schooling of children of transnational families.

Strategies that Promote Academic Success

Research points to some factors that can impact the educational success of students in transnational families both positively or negatively. As noted above, mismatched ESL placement of transnational Filipino students is one factor (Farrales & Pratt, 2012). Trauma is another factor, any kind of which negatively impacts students’ abilities at school. Herman (1997) characterizes traumatic events as situations that “overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning” (p. 33), and knowledge of trauma-informed teaching practice is increasingly important for Canadian teachers given the realities of global events (Tweedie et al, 2017). Efforts to combat trauma, such as trauma from separating from loved ones multiple times, should include strong teacher-student relationships, classroom exercises to build self-regulation, and a focus on students’ strengths (Brunzell, Stokes & Waters, 2016a, 2016b).

Many elements of the school life of a student with a transnational background can be used to promote academic success. Factors leading to success in school for migrant students include feelings of appreciation from teachers and peers, teachers having high educational expectations of migrant students, and migrant families highly valuing education (Hoti, Heinzmann, Müller & Buholzer, 2017). These students succeed when they perceive that their teachers truly care about them, because students need to feel safe and cared for in order to learn (Dallavis, 2014). In this vein, creating a positive relationship between the family and the school is crucial to success for students new to the country to bridge the gap between home and school cultures (Szente, Hoot & Taylor, 2006; Tran & Hodgson, 2015). Course offerings also affect how transnational students feel about school. Music education in particular can be very beneficial as it transcends the language barrier through supporting students emotionally, socially, and cognitively (Skidmore, 2016). Finally, students with access to a community of their own home culture have better academic success in school, regardless of any other factors inside the physical school building (Wilkinson, 2002). Through this study we endeavour to explore how these, and other factors might promote educational success for transnational students in a rural context, through supporting both them and their families as they reconnect after being separated in the immigration process.

Research Question

Among the literature surveyed above are persistent calls for further research addressing the issues faced by transnational families. Black (2005), for example, called for studies looking at education programs for parents and other family supports. Other studies, such as Suárez-Orozco et al. (2011) ask researchers to further consider academic performance of children in transnational families. This study contributes to these gaps by exploring the following research question: How is the acculturation process of rural immigrant students affected when the language and content acquisition of students and the social-emotional needs of reconnecting immigrant families are explicitly supported?


The site of this exploratory qualitative study is a school district in Alberta, comprised of 22 schools, serving approximately 3,000 students and over 500 teachers. The school district encompasses areas classified either as rural or small population centres (Statistics Canada, 2017).

After permission from an institutional ethics body and corresponding approvals at district and school levels, potential participants were invited to take part either in semi-structured interviews exploring experiences of the immigration and reconnection process (students and their parents) or written reflections on experiences at supporting ELLs (teachers), as described below. After the interviews were transcribed, each of the three researchers worked individually to read through the transcripts and the teachers’ reflections, seeking to gain a holistic perspective. As the study’s objective was exploratory in nature, researchers attempted, as far as possible, to avoid allowing preconceived perceptions to be read into the data. Researchers then worked individually to hand-code themes; in subsequent research team meetings, these codes were subjected to further analysis to reach team interpretive consensus as interrelated themes were synthesized. Merriam’s (2009) constant comparative method informed the process of differentiating data sets between levels of conceptualization.

Given the circumstances of these newcomer families, every effort was made in the recruitment and data collection process to align with principles of fairness and equity for vulnerable research populations (Tri-Council, 2014). To keep participant recruitment confidential from the school jurisdiction and its schools, a third party (a local immigration agency) contacted families in their network who met the study criteria to explain the study and invite participation. After this initial step, the agency facilitated contact between the research assistant and interested families, in order to remove the possibility that particular schools or the school jurisdiction might be aware of who did/did not participate in the study. Two interviews were conducted with each family: first in the initial quarter of the academic year, and then again in the final quarter. At the interviews, the research assistant made explicit the voluntary nature of participation, and participants were given the option of being interviewed individually or together with their spouse or siblings if they so wished. Pseudonyms were chosen by participants at the initial interview, and any identifying features revealed during the interview (family names, school names, etc.) were removed during the process of transcription.

Teacher Reflections

Teachers attending professional development workshops conducted by the school district were invited to complete written reflections in response to prompts exploring understanding of the second language acquisition process as experienced by ELLs in their classrooms; teacher confidence levels with respect to teaching ELLs; and use of the Alberta Education ESL Benchmarks (see Appendix). To preserve anonymity, teachers who wished to participate were instructed to complete and return the reflections anonymously at their leisure, with no identifying features included in the response. Teachers were asked to mark their reflection with a symbol of their choosing (e.g.,* [asterisk]), which would then be used to match respondents in subsequent reflections. In total, six content area teachers, spanning various subject areas in grades 7 to 12, all with ELL students in their classes, completed reflections in the initial months of the school year. A second round of teacher reflections was completed by the same teachers in the final quarter of the academic year.

Family Interviews

A semi-structured interview with families was utilized to facilitate the use of planned questions based on the research question, but also to allow the latitude to explore other lines of inquiry that arose during the discussion. The questions were constructed following Wengraf’s (2001) model of underpinning Interview Questions (IQs) with Central Research Question(s) (CRQs) and Theory Questions (TQs); and were informed by surveyed research on the dynamics of family separation and reunification during migration, as described previously in the literature review section. In the second round of interviews, questions surrounding the family workshops and their effectiveness were added. Interviews began with a brief demographic survey regarding their immigration background (see Appendix).

Seven families participated in interviews: twelve parents (six female; six male), 13 children (six female; seven male), and one parental figure (female, older sister). All participant families were recent immigrants: One parent came first to Canada, and then after obtaining permanent residence, was able to bring their children and spouse to the rural area of the study. The country of origin for all participants was the Philippines; however, some participants had also lived in intermediary countries prior to arrival in Canada. Some families remained partially separated–for example, one parent remained in the Philippines–during the period of the study. Table 1 details the families within the study; all names are pseudonyms self-chosen by participants.



Parent(s) /

Parental figures

Students Interviews / Workshops attended
Ford Dustin (male; father) Rob (male; sr. high)

Bob (male; sr. high)

All family members were interviewed twice; attended 3 family workshops
Smith Sam (female; mother)

Jun Jun (male; father)

Gel (female; jr. high) All family members were interviewed once; did not attend family workshops
Applebaum Criselda (female; mother)

Sarah (female; elder sister of students)

Not included as participants: two teenage sons Parents/parental figures interviewed twice; attended 1 family workshop
Brown Ester (female; mother)

Julius (male; father)

Michelle (female; sr. high)

Candice (female; sr. high)

Jeyden (male; jr. high)

All family members interviewed twice; attended 1 family workshop
Bautista Michelle (female; mother)

Michael (male; father)

Angel (female; jr high) All family members interviewed twice; did not attend family workshops
Schumann Lyn (female; mother)

Tony (male; father)

Lisa (female; sr. high)

Jake (male; jr. high)

All family members interviewed twice; attended 4 family workshops.
Torres Hannah (female; mother)

Mike (male; father)

Ashley (female; jr. high) All family members interviewed twice; attended 3 family workshops.

Table 1: Demographic Information of Family Participants (Pseudonyms)

In qualitative research, trustworthiness is said to refer to the veracity of findings “based on maximum opportunity to hear participants’ voices in a particular context” (Hays & Singh, 2012, p. 192). The research team undertook a number of measures to strengthen trustworthiness as defined in this way. Throughout the study, the researchers endeavored to exercise reflexivity (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Merriam, 2009) through ongoing reflection on biases and assumptions via discussions with each other and colleagues. The researchers were also aware of a position of power imbalance with participants, and thus undertook to redress this in a number of ways with respect to data collection. Interviews opened with a thorough discussion of the consent form and its implications, with the interviewer making clear that participants were free to avoid answering any question with which they were uncomfortable, and that they were able to stop the interview at any time, or even withdraw from the study entirely. In several instances during interviews, matters of a sensitive nature arose that were pertinent to the study; however, the research team only committed to pursue further questions with a clear indication to do so from the interviewees. The research team also stressed to interviewees the study’s commitment to confidentiality, and therefore explained the data anonymization process to reduce the possibility that participants would only share what they perceived the interviewer wanted to hear. The research team deemed such measures to play an important part in enabling the voices of participants to be heard.


Findings, as guided by the research question, are presented according to data type.

Interviews: Families

As described previously, researchers working individually identified overarching themes from the data. Upon subsequent group discussion, these initial themes were collapsed into four (Challenges, Perceptions, Changing relationships, Strategies), with 27 identified sub-themes. Table 2 presents selected examples with extracts.

A number of themes grouped under Challenges included the loss of support networks of family and friends (parents linked this loss of support with difficulties in parenting). For students, there was an expressed lack of confidence in both understanding and speaking English in the classroom, along with adjustments to a new school system and school subjects. Particularly emphasized in the second round of interviews were reflections on the economic realities of Canadian life. For some families, a half-year from the first interview, spouses had still not yet managed to secure employment, and so any savings brought with them rapidly depleted as they navigated the high cost of living in Canada. In families where both parents worked, a common theme was the challenge of finding time together as a family, especially when parents’ jobs required shift work. In relation to this, one participant expressed the irony that bringing parents and children together had been a primary reason for whole-family immigration to Canada.

Theme Sub-themes Selected Extract [pre- or post-intervention interview]
Challenges Canada
Parent 1: The hardest things [about being a parent in Canada] I know that because it’s different, the children in here and back home in the Philippines you can discipline there. . .physically, but here you are not allowed to. [Pre-]



Parent 2: You don’t have time to talk to our native language even for a while, so it makes harder even for a little while maybe. That maybe it helps that there is a Filipino classmates for them to talk to especially during their early months that they are in Canada. [Pre-]
Strategies For success


Student 1: Sometimes my classmates, Pilipino classmates, they teach me how to do it. [Post-]
Perceptions Canada


Student 2: When I came here, when I’m speaking English, I feel like nervous to talk to everyone, but now I like have confidence, but sometimes not. [Post-]

Table 2: Interview Themes/Sub-themes – Selected Examples

Included among the theme labelled Perceptions were sub-themes such as (perceptions of) cultural differences; school in Canada relative to the home country; and the settlement process. Striking in this overarching theme of Perceptions was the positive framing of participants’ experiences with Canada in general, and the school system/school in particular, a theme sustained across data from both first and second round of interviews. Among the benefits of living in Canada expressed by the participants were secondary schools without tuition fees, free access to healthcare, and the relatively safe environment.

The theme of Changing relationships served to capture some of the dynamics at play as families reunited after separation caused by the migration process. Analysis of interview data revealed that responses from parent participants differed significantly from student responses. Student participants were more likely to note the positive features of family reunification. For example, one student, (pseudonym: Angel) described her relationship with her father when he was employed in a different country as “kind of awkward,” but here in Canada, she said, “I’m so happy because we are together now.” Three siblings (student participants) positively described “a lot of bonding” among their now reunited family.

Parent participants expressed gratitude at being reunited, but in contrast also remarked on challenges encountered through changing relationships. One mother referred to such shifting dynamics in Canada: “They [her children] have more changes outside [the home] that I don’t know. . .some things I don’t understand sometimes.” Parents from two different families expressed unease at how expectations concerning norms for child discipline differed in Canada. As one father explained the contrast, “In our country we can do what we want to discipline our kids. Even if we are using our hands, we can do it in our country.”

The theme Strategies evidenced the efficacy of social networks. Here, the importance of the existing Filipino community in providing practical support to newcomer families, both to parents and students, emerged as a key component in navigating the challenges of the settlement process. Parents described social networks as instrumental in undergirding emotional support and finding employment or other practical assistance, and students shared how Filipino classmates helped bridge the knowledge gap with respect to school expectations in general, and better understanding assigned work in particular.

Written Reflections: Teachers

A number of themes emerged from analysis of teachers’ written responses to the reflection prompts. Table 3 below lists these commonalities with accompanying interview extracts, followed by a discussion of these themes.

Theme Selected Extract [pre- or post-intervention reflections]
Valuable role of direct and explicit instruction for teachers My understanding of how students acquire a second language has increased as a result of the SIOP training; however, I now realize how little I understood in the first place! [Post-]

The sessions with [the professional development instructor] were beneficial in helping me to be more aware of the opportunities that arise during each lesson. [Post-]

I feel that my current understanding of second language acquisition has grown far more than I could have expected. I feel I have an excellent grasp on language acquisition. In this, I better understand how language can be learned, but also how to support learners who are struggling. [Post-]

Teachers’ interactions with the ESL Benchmarks I try to use the benchmarks to inform my teaching, but not as regularly as I should. [Post-]

I have attempted to use points from the benchmarks to inform my instruction and certainly I can see the potential for their use, but I have not been successful in using them on a consistent basis. [Pre-]

The tracking of these items can, at times, detract me from supporting students as I get lost in all the bullet points. As much as I now understand the necessity of each point to language acquisition, I also feel that there is too much in there for monitoring sake. [Post-]

My current relationship with the benchmarks is simply to do them for the sake of getting them done. . . I don’t have a meaningful connection between those numbers and any specific or effective classroom practices for students who are stalled or struggling in their language acquisition. [Pre-]

The document is too large, and the time it would take to assess a child on all of those points is huge. With the large number of ELL students I have, it is actually difficult to make use of all of the information provided in that document. The amount of information is actually also overwhelming. I still do not refer to these documents to inform my instruction, rather, I refer to students writing, speaking, and ability to comprehend texts. [Post-]

Professional learning as a tool to overcome challenges After explicitly trying some techniques [from the professional learning sessions] geared towards helping ELL students learn, I am more confident in my ability to provide the appropriate supports for my students. Having worked with more ELL students I am also more confident in understanding where they are at and what they could benefit from. I am confident that given more time in a day to prepare, I could create a class that has multiple activities and strategies implemented to meet the needs of a variety of ELL students. It will take me a few years to integrate all that I have learned, but my ability to understand and meet the needs of my students has already begun to improve. [Post-]

The strategies provided [in professional learning sessions] have been extremely useful, especially the focus on vocabulary development. I spent a lot of time focusing on vocabulary strategies with students so that they could use them in all classes. The growth seen with the student’s ability to write and read was amazing after only a few lessons. [Post-]

The additional resources that we were provided with were (and continue to be) quite helpful in building my confidence in the field of meeting the needs of the ELL students. [Post-]

Table 3: Teacher Reflection Themes – Selected Examples

Firstly, the importance of direct and explicit instruction for teachers was highlighted, both in terms of enhancing awareness of the second language acquisition process, and in increasing recognition of how the ESL Benchmarks might be better utilized. As one participant reflected in a post-training response: “I feel that my current understanding of second language acquisition has grown far more than I could have expected.” With respect to the Benchmarks, direct and explicit instruction were seen to be of particular benefit in helping participants develop awareness of what they thought they knew, but actually did not. One teacher, for example, expressed a strong sense of self-efficacy in the first reflection, self-describing as “very confident with the Alberta ESL Benchmarks. I have a strong working knowledge of all areas and what is entailed in each level of learning.” Post-professional development session, however, the same participant’s reflections contrasted sharply with their earlier self-confidence: “Although I felt I had a strong understanding of it before starting, I realized quickly that my understanding was more basic. The training in SIOP [Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol] and other strategies have supported me in understanding the Benchmarks much more, especially in regard to informing instruction.”

Improved knowledge of the Benchmarks notwithstanding, two-thirds of participants expressed doubts surrounding the document’s application. Of six participants, two gave positive assessments of the Benchmarks in their post-reflection: One teacher described them as “useful to helping students”, and another remarked on the Benchmarks’ role in providing “a better sense of the steps required in the development of English proficiency.” Four of six teachers, however, were less positive. One post-reflection indicated the participant felt “pretty much the same” about the Benchmarks after the training sessions, expressing the view that “the document is too large,” making its application for assessment to each ELL impractical. This view was echoed by another participant in a pre-training reflection, who described the Benchmarks as “far too unwieldy to be practical or meaningful.” This same participant’s post-training reflection did not result in a more positive view, but equated use of the Benchmarks with “using a screwdriver to pound in a nail. . .I can do it, but it’s not the right tool for the job. . . [there are] way too many categories to assess any of them meaningfully.”

A commonly expressed theme was an understanding gap in how the Benchmarks might apprise classroom instructional practices, one of the stated purposes envisioned by its creators (Government of Alberta, 2018b). As one teacher put it, “As a tool to inform instruction, I do not refer to the [Benchmarks] document at all, simply the final Benchmark number.” Another participant expressed a similar view: “As a general tool I am confident in using the [Benchmarks‘] level to gauge where a student is and what supports are required in the classroom,” but went on to add that, “Aside from using the overall [number] as a tool to see what the general understanding of a student/class is, I have not explicitly used the Benchmarks to inform my instruction.” Given the ambiguities expressed by teachers in this study, the use and application of the Benchmarks by teachers presents intriguing possibilities for further research.

Finally, participants’ written responses highlighted the role of professional development sessions in helping to overcome challenges associated with instruction of ELLs within mainstream classrooms. Cited challenges included a lack of time to prepare specific strategies for ELLs in the midst of the demands of other classroom preparation; the sheer numbers of ELLs in any one class; the masking of low reading proficiency by spoken language ability; and instruction of content-specific vocabulary. However, participants highlighted professional development sessions as positive steps toward supporting these learners. One teacher described the resources provided in the training sessions as “quite helpful in building my confidence in the field of meeting the needs of ELL students. . . . With my increased level of confidence, I have been able to offer them concrete ways in which they can participate in their language acquisition.” Another teacher’s post-training response remarked that strategies provided in the professional development sessions were overall “extremely useful,” and identified in particular “the focus on vocabulary development.” Describing application of vocabulary strategies to a specific class, the teacher noted “the growth seen with the student’s ability to write and read was amazing after only a few lessons.”


The belonging and acculturation needs of transnational and reconnecting families settling within a rural school jurisdiction were seen to be multifaceted and complex, even within the small sample considered in this study. The discussion presented here, therefore, set in the context of an exploratory inquiry, must be seen in light of this complexity. However, we assert still that these findings offer insight into how other rural school jurisdictions might offer support to ELLs and their reconnecting families.

First, the findings serve as an efficacious reminder to a reality unfortunately too often forgotten: That students’ academic progress cannot be considered in isolation but must be viewed as a subset of the larger complexities of challenges involved with the migration process in general, and family separation/reunification in particular. Such pressures are invariably brought to bear on student learning, and so to view academic language acquisition without consideration of the impact of these broader family dynamics is to overlook a critical dimension of the process. Schools and teachers of migrant students must look past the more apparent need for language learning and realize that adjustment to life in Canada involves considerably more (Due, Riggs, & Mandara, 2015). The findings of this study serve to underscore the import of a holistic perspective on education (Miller, Nigh, Binder, Novack & Crowell, 2018).

Second, as schools attempt to support ELLs within the context of reunifying families, this study’s findings also reinforce another obvious, but often overlooked point: the importance of forging support partnerships with the immigrant community that the school jurisdiction seeks to serve (Tran & Hodgson, 2015). Offering support for, rather than with, the community a school jurisdiction wishes to assist overlooks a critical element. A central benefit of the family workshops conducted, beyond the actual content, proved to be the networking afforded by bringing together families in similar circumstances. These families then began to forge informal networks for practical assistance ranging from help finding employment to sharing household responsibilities like cooking. We therefore recommend that schools/school jurisdictions, before rushing to provide programming to lend practical assistance, first consider opportunities to partner with existing networks–formal or informal–within the target community itself. Such an approach may represent a more sustainable and effective means of both identifying and supporting the complex and multifaceted needs of reconnecting transnational families.

Third, the findings affirm the important role of direct and explicit training for teachers in classroom strategies appropriate to ELLs. Comparative analysis of data from pre- and post-training teacher reflections indicate growth as practitioners, underscoring the benefits of such training. This serves as a reminder that teacher knowledge of the unique learning needs of ELLs cannot be assumed, and that targeted in-service professional development can play an important role in helping teachers better support these learners. Data also yielded a complex picture of teachers’ relationship with the Alberta K-12 ESL Benchmarks. While findings showed both teachers’ apprehension toward the Benchmarks as well as the valuable role of explicit teacher training in supporting their use, much work remains to be done with respect to utilizing the Benchmarks as a tool informing classroom instruction.


This study explored how support offered by a rural school district to reunifying families might impact the language acquisition of ELL students. Data drawn from semi-structured interviews with families and written reflections from teachers of ELLs pointed toward the multifaceted and complex challenges encountered by families separated and subsequently reunified during the immigration process. Findings underlined the relevance of a holistic approach to students’ learning by schools and their jurisdictions in seeking to support reunifying families. The results also pointed to consideration of support networks already extant within migrant communities, with the aim of offering support with, rather than simply for, intended recipients. Data from teacher reflections highlighted the benefits of direct and explicit professional development on instructional strategies for ELLs for teachers, with particular attention to expanding the role and use of the Alberta K-12 ESL Benchmarks. While this study is exploratory and preliminary in nature, the initial conclusions drawn are proffered forward in the hopes that other rural schools and school jurisdictions might benefit in their own endeavours to support the increasing number of families who are making rural Canada their new home.


Funding to conduct this research was provided by the Alberta Education Research Partnerships Program.


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Data Collection Instruments

Teacher Reflection Questions

Please reflect on and respond to the following questions regarding your current thoughts on teaching English Language Learners. Be as comprehensive as possible in your responses.

  • What is your current level of understanding the second language acquisition process that the English Language Learners in your content classes are going through?
  • What is your current level of confidence in understanding and meeting the needs of the English Language Learners in your content classes?
  • What is your current level of understanding and confidence in using the Alberta Education ESL Benchmarks as an assessment tool and as a tool to inform instruction?

Interview Questions – Students

Central Research Question (CRQ) Theory Question (TQ) Interview Question (IQ)
CRQ1: How is the acculturation process of immigrant students affected when the language and content acquisition of students and social-emotional needs of reconnecting immigrant families are explicitly supported? TQ1: Are children separated from families during migration experience anxiety and depression (Suårez-Orozco et al., 2010)?

TQ2: Does family separation during migration result in a negative impact on educational success (Gindling and Poggio, 2009, 2012)?

IQ1(a): What are some of the challenges you face within your family relationships?

IQ1(b): How might these affect your learning at school?

IQ2(a): How are the relationships between you and your parents different now than they were in your home country?

IQ2(b) How might this affect your learning at school?

IQ3: What do you think is most difficult about being a student in Canada?

IQ4(a): Are there adjustments to social life in Canada that make it difficult for you to learn in school?

IQ4(b): How about emotional adjustments that might make it difficult for you to learn in school?

IQ4(c): Are there any cultural adjustments that might make it difficult for you to learn at school?

IQ5: In general, what things help you learn at school?

Interview Questions – Parents

Central Research Question (CRQ) Theory Question (TQ) Interview Question (IQ)
CRQ1: How is the acculturation process of immigrant students affected when the language and content acquisition of students and social-emotional needs of reconnecting immigrant families are explicitly supported? TQ1: Are parents separated from children during migration experiencing stresses of separation and reunification (Falicov, 2007)?

TQ2: Do parents perceive that family separation during migration results in a negative impact on educational success (Gindling and Poggio, 2009, 2012)?

IQ1(a): What are some of the challenges you face within your family relationships?

IQ1(b): How might these be affecting your children’s learning at school?

IQ2(a): How are the relationships between you and your children different now than they were in your home country?

IQ2(b) How might this affect your children’s learning at school?

IQ3: What do you think is most difficult about being a parent in Canada?

IQ4(a): Are there adjustments to social life in Canada that make it difficult for your children to learn in school?

IQ4(b): How about emotional adjustments that might make it difficult for your children to learn in school?

IQ4(c): Are there any cultural adjustments that might make it difficult for your children to learn at school?

IQ5: In general, what things do you think help your children to learn at school?