Leah Shepard-Carey, our guest blogger this week, is an Assistant Professor of Graduate Studies in the School of Education at Drake University (Iowa, United States). She teaches courses for programs in ESL education, Literacy education, and Culturally Responsive Leadership. Her research explores multilingual pedagogies in English-medium settings, supporting critical language awareness and culturally-sustaining pedagogies in teacher education, and collaborative and design-based approaches to educational research. Her research has been featured in TESOL Quarterly, TESOL Journal, Linguistics and Education, Language Awareness, Classroom Discourse, and The Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.
Frameworks such as culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogy (CSP) and critical language (CLA) awareness are well-established in research, yet applying these concepts in teacher education and K-12 classrooms continues to be an urgent and pertinent endeavor. Culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogy (Paris, 2012; Paris & Alim, 2016) is grounded in sustaining the cultural and linguistic “pluralism” of schools and society (Paris & Alim, 2014, p. 85). CSP encourages teachers to challenge the white hegemonic and heteronormative systems in society, while embracing and expanding upon students’ cultural and linguistic identities and skills. Critical language awareness is, in part, a pedagogical framework that brings awareness to the socially-constructed nature of language, involving language ideologies, language variation, and other critical aspects of sociolinguistics (Clark et al., 1990). The combination of these two frameworks is the foundation for my courses on teaching multilingual learners, which also incorporates a variety of related and complementary concepts that support educators in recognizing the connection between language, power, and race (e.g., Flores & Rosa, 2015; Motha, 2014) and the dynamic linguistic repertoires of multilingual students (e.g., García & Li, 2014; García et al., 2017).
My context and identities are tied to how I approach this work, and my ongoing learning surrounding CSP and CLA. Among my many identities, I am a white, bilingual (English is my first language), (dis)abled woman. I am a teacher educator with specialization in language and literacy education, and a former K-12 language educator. I teach at a mid-sized private university in a metropolitan area with significant linguistic diversity. Despite the necessity of CSP and CLA in teacher education, educators come to my courses with varying degrees of knowledge surrounding these frameworks. Furthermore, as Howard and Rodriguez-Minkoff (2017) note, teachers still struggle with being able to “translate theory into practice” (p. 8). As such, the purpose of this blog post is to reflect upon “entry point” learning opportunities in teacher education for building CSP and CLA related to teaching multilingual learners. I frame these practices across three interrelated constructs that guide my creation of objectives and activities for courses: Learning about Self, Learning about Students, and Learning in Community.