Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cummins, J. (2000). Language proficiency in academic contexts

Cummins, J. (2000). Language proficiency in academic contexts (Ch. 3) . In Language, power, and pedagogy: Bilingual children in the crossfire. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.


Conversational/Academic Language Proficiency Distinction The distinction between BICS and CALP (Cummins, 1979b) was intended to draw educators’ attention to these data and to warn against premature exit of ELL students (in the United States) from bilingual to mainstream English-only programs on the basis of attainment of surface level fluency in English. In other words, the distinction highlighted the fact that educators’ conflating of these aspects of proficiency was a major factor in the creation of academic difficulties for bilingual students. p58

Conversation and composition (Bereiter and Scardamalia)
Bereiter and Scardamalia (1981) have analyzed the problems of learning to write as problems of converting a language production system geared to conversation over to a language production system capable of functioning by itself. They argue that the absence of normal conversational supports makes writing a radically different kind of task from conversation. Specifically, in writing the individual must:
+learn to continue to produce language without the prompting that comes from a conversational partner;
+learn to search his or her own memory instead of having memories triggered by what other people say;
+plan large units of discourse instead of planning only what will be said next;
+learn to function as both sender and receiver, the latter function being necessary for revision.

They suggest that the oral production system must be reconstructed to function autonomously rather than interactively if effective writing abilities are to develop. Furthermore, they suggest that as mastery increases there is progressive automatization of lower-level skills (e.g. handwriting, spelling of common words, punctuation, common syntactic forms) which releases increasingly more mental capacity for higher-level planning of large chunks of discourse. p64

Thus, the social practice of schooling entails certain ‘rules of the game’ with respect to how communication and language use is typically organized within that context. In short, in the present context the construct of academic language proficiency refers not to any absolute notion of expertise in using language but to the degree to which an individual has access to and expertise in understanding and using the specific kind of language that is employed in educational contexts and is required to complete academic tasks. p66

FIGURE 3.1 Range of contextual support and degree of cognitive involvement in language tasks and activities
Quadrant A cognitively undemanding, context embedded: casual conversation
Quadrant B cognitively demanding, context embedded: persuading another individual that your point of view is correct
Quadrant C cognitively undemanding, context reduced: copying notes from the blackboard, filling in worksheets, or other forms of drill and practice activities
Quadrant D cognitively demanding, context embedded: writing an essay using academic language

A central implication of the framework in Figure 3.1 for instruction of second language learners is that language and content will be acquired most successfully when students are challenged cognitively but provided with the contextual and linguistic supports or scaffolds required for successful task completion. In other words, optimal instruction for linguistic, cognitive and academic growth will tend to move from Quadrant A, to B, and from Quadrant B to D. Quadrant C activities maybe included from time to time for reinforcement or practice of particular points. This progression corresponds very closely to the stages that Gibbons (1995, 1998) observed in her research on classroom discourse in science teaching. She distinguished three stages:
+Small group work.
+Teacher guided reporting.
+Journal writing.

Judy Haynes - Everything ESL

BICS: Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills
CALP: Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency

English language learners (ELLs) employ BIC skills when they are on the playground, in the lunch room,on the school bus, at parties, playing sports and talking on the telephone. Social interactions are usually context embedded. They occur in a meaningful social context. They are not very demanding cognitively. The language required is not specialized. These language skills usually develop within six months to two years after arrival in the U.S.

CALP refers to formal academic learning. This includes listening, speaking, reading, and writing about subject area content material. This level of language learning is essential for students to succeed in school. Students need time and support to become proficient in academic areas. This usually takes from five to seven years. Recent research (Thomas & Collier, 1995) has shown that if a child has no prior schooling or has no support in native language development, it may take seven to ten years for ELLs to catch up to their peers.]

Corson (1997). The learning and use of academic English words (Graeco-Latin academic vocabulary)

Corson, D. (1997). The learning and use of academic English words. Language Learning, 47(4), 671-718.

Corson's basic argument is that familiarity with the Graeco-Latin academic vocabulary of English is essential to academic success; however, many learners from some sociocultural backgrounds do not get exposed to this vocabulary outside school, and have difficulty aquiring this vocabulary inside schools. (p.671)

All other things being equal, students achieve formal entry to academic institutions largely because their life experiences outside schools give them widespread informal entry to the meaning systems valued inside educational institutions (p674)

Academic meaning systems, in particular, have been shaped by the special culture of literacy over several millennia. They are the world's most influential meaning systems. In English speaking cultures, their history has much to do with the development in Britain ofa rather exclusive culture ofliteracy which later spread to newly British-founded or -colonized parts of the world. This culture ofliteracy became institutionalized in formal education, where high value was placed on the daily use of Latin for all spoken purposes and on the rigorous study of Greek. It then became the basis for a greatly enlarged English vocabulary drawn directly from those languages. (p676)

Academic Graeco-Latin words are mainly literary in their use. Most native speakers of English begin to encounter these words in quantity in their upper primary school reading and in the formal secondary school setting. So the words' introduction in literature or textbooks, rather than in conversation, restricts people's access to them. (p677)

Olson, like Vygotsky (1962), reckoned that "to be literate it is not enough to know the words; one must learn how to participate in the discourse of some textual community" (1994, p. 273): People need to know the rules of use to put words to work. Learning the rules of use comes from talking about texts whose meaning systems embed the signs to be learned, especially words that are unfamiliar in form and meaning. (p684)

Evidence confirms that after children's earliest years, their vocabulary growth is related to the ability to handle greater morphemic complexity. This development is also associated with greater language knowledge (Clark & Berman, 1987; Clark, Hecht, & Mulford, 1986; Hancin-Bhatt & Nagy, 1994). Different word types and differences in knowledge of morphology affect the growth of vocabulary. In general, derived words (e.g., driver, happiness) seem to be acquired later than either inflected words (e.g., walking, fastest) or compound words (e.g., lampshade). But polymorphemic words come even later still. (p688)

Graeco-Latin words in English tend to be opaque, even for most L11angnage users. For ESL users, they tend to be opaque if the learners have had no experience with their etymology when learning English or came from a language background greatly removed structurally from Latin and Greek. These words also have a very low frequency of use in most people's everyday discourse. In summary, the attributes ofGraeco-Latin word difficulty are as follows: They are usually non-concrete, low in imagery, low in frequency, and semantically opaque. (p696)

In the long run, however, knowing the meaning of an academic word is knowing how to use it within an appropriate meaning system. So the key achievement in word learning is knowing where the word fits within its own meaning system and being able to use it in a motivated way to take an active part in that particular meaning system. (p700)

Natural language conversations with native English speakers, linked to instructional exchanges, seem the best means for stimulating the learning and the use of academic vocabulary (Crandall, 1997; Singleton, 1997). (p704)

The best language learning environment in schools would also develop students' critical language awareness. In the context of this article, this would involve developing their critical awareness ofthe use and functions of academic Graeco-Latin words. It is certainly important for novice users to know that sometimes these words can be used negatively, as instruments of unnecessary formality or to exercise power (Corson, 1995). Making this critical kind oflanguage awareness available to students would help strip away some of the unwanted rules of use that these words have acquired over time: rules of use that exclude people from interaction; rules of use that create a high status for the word user that is not justified by the context; and rules of use that offer a means of language evaluation that is not required by the subject matter. (p710)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Azibo (1992) - Critique of the comparative research framework

Azibo, D. (1992). Understanding the proper and improper usage of the comparative research framework. In A. Burlew, W. Banks, H. McAdoo, D. Azibo (Eds) African-American Psychology. London: Sage.

The comparative research framework, contrasting distinct groups by statistical significance tests, is examined for major epistemological and practical problems inherent in its usage with African-European (Black-White) groups.

The comparative research framework requires a statistical significance test between any two groups, like race, sex, or treatment groups. Its epistemological base as science rests on John Stuart Mills' method of difference canon. Fundamentally, this canon "requires that the two groups be equated, i.e., equal in all respects ... on relevant variables ... known or believed to [have] influence" (Plutchik, 1974, p. 179). If the comparison groups are not equated as specified in the canon, then the observed difference can only be described; any attempt to interpret or otherwise address the meaning of the difference, especially in terms of a presumed underlying construct, is epistemologically baseless. There can be no meaning or interpretation given to the difference, nor can causality be inferred.

Culture (Nobles, 1982) is defined as patterns for interpreting reality that give people a general design for living, and consists of surface (e.g., folkways, language, behavior, beliefs, values) and deep structures (ethos, worldview, ideology, cosmology, axiology, ontology). Culture is important because it determines the meaning attached to the observed facts. Surface structure differences between Africans and Europeans would appear self-evident.

Three axioms are given regarding the proper and improper usage of the comparative research framework:
1. It is proper to make racial comparisons using the comparative research framework when the racial groups are equated on all relevant variables, especially that of culture (there is a caveat here which will be introduced below);
2. It is improper if the racial groups are not equated on any relevant variable to do more than describe or report the difference; and
3. Whenever constructs are employed in the research, culture will be relevant.

For example, Ogletree (1976) has shown why locus of control may not be an appropriate construct for African-Americans. Her argument mainly deals with cultural surface structure differences that render the control ideology thesis void.5 The cultural deep structure level might pose problems for the achievement orientation construct which, in the Eurocentric way, may include aspects of individualism and Machiavellianism; as opposed to the collectivism and Maat (Carruthers, 1984; Hilliard, Williams, & Damali, 1987; Karenga, 1984) characteristic of the Africentric way.

Transubstantive error is defined as making a wrong and assumptive conclusion about the value of people and what they mean by looking at their surface behaviors. --
Byron Gafford and Wendy Mi-Shing Fong quoting Wade Nobles. Dr. Nobles is a tenured professor in Black Studies at San Francisco State University and the executive director of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Black Family Life and Culture in Oakland. [Source]

It follows that all anti-essentialist arguments, especially those decrying soul or spirit, that arise out of Western-based discourse including modern-day social constructionism, are based in what Ryle (1949) called category mistakes and the African Psychology Institute (1982) called transubstantive error. These concepts refer to mistakes of meaning occurring when the phenomenon being studied is comprehended with a set of cognitions which do not parameterize it or to which it does not belong. [link]

1. (esp. in the Roman Catholic Church) The conversion of the substance of the Eucharistic elements into the body and blood of Christ
2. A change in the form or substance of something.

Epistemology (episteme), meaning knowledge, science, study of meaning, is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge. It addresses the questions: What is knowledge? How is knowledge acquired? How do we know what we know?

Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality as such, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hawkins, M.R. (2004). Researching English Language and Literacy Development in Schools.

Hawkins, M.R. (2004). Researching English Language and Literacy Development in Schools. Educational Researcher, 33, 14-25 []

The official discourse, as has been communicated through the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 rhetoric and the concomitant focus on standards and assessment, says that minority children, especially English language learners (ELLs) must gain “standard” English language skills in an unreasonably short time frame, while achieving on par with native English speaking students in academic content areas.

Hawkins posit a view of language, learning, and teaching that sees meanings and understandings constructed not in individual heads, but as between humans engaged in specific situated social interactions. p15

p17 We need to explore and identify not only how our learners are coming to acquire new language skills, but what forms of languages are represented and available to them.

Norton (2000) defines identity as "how a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how the person understands possibilities for the future"

Situated identities only “work” if they are recognized and taken up in the interaction p19

[Hawkins] realized that academic instruction, no matter how well prepared, isn’t enough to ensure language learning and academic competence for all students. And [she] saw how social status affects participation, and how participation affords status and access to more language and interaction. [Hawkins] came to see the teachers’ role as managing the ecology, as opposed to designing instruction, with the notion of "ecology" spanning not only the classroom, but also the school day and all the activities therein. p21

What may differ for ELLs of all ages is the lack of access to the privileged linguistic codes; greater variance in understandings of what school, learning, and literacies mean and might look like; different patterns of communication, interactions, beliefs, and behaviors; and differing experiences with and exposures to the natural and lived world. p22

[A teacher's] job, rather than "teaching English," is to offer students access to the range of knowledge, abilities, and forms of language (discourses) that will enable them to lay claim to the social identities that afford them a participant status in the social communities of their choice, and to provide scaffolding (and a truly supportive environment) for the attainment of these. p23

Throughout this article, data on one focal learner, Shoua, was used as an exemplar of claims and theoretical constructs. Shoua’s home language was Hmong. She had been born in the same town in which she now lived, and had even attended preschool there. Shoua had no siblings close to her own age, nor did she interact with age-level peers outside of school. She also had little exposure to English outside of school. She scored extremely low upon kindergarten entrance on an assessment scale for English. She did, however, display some communicative skills. She learned some of the other children’s names fairly quickly, would physically position herself next to them in centers or group activities and find ways to interact with them using limited language, and could make simple requests and commands. She seemed self-assured and socially oriented. The data on Shoua helps to explicate how the framework presented below can provide understandings of how classrooms work to support and/or constrain language and academic development for ELLs.

Valdes, G. (2004) - Development of Academic Language in Linguistic Minority Children

Valdes, G. (2004). Between Support and Marginalisation: The Development of Academic Language in Linguistic Minority Children. International Journal Of Bilingual Education And Bilingualism, 7(2), 102-132.

Abstract: Within the last several years, researchers working with linguistic minority children have focused increasingly on the development of the types of language proficiencies that are required to perfonn successfully in academic contexts. Most practitioners and researchers agree that, in order to succeed in schools, such learners must be given the opportunity to acquire academic, rather than everyday, language. Unfortua nately, in spite of the growing interest in the kind of language that will result in school success, we currently lack a single definition Of even general agreement about what is meant by academic language. This paper examines the conflicting definitions and conceptualisations of academic language and argues that limited understandings of bilingualism and of the linguistic demands made by academic interactions will lead to the continued segregation of linguistic minority children even after they have reached a level of stable bilingualism.

there is currently no agreed-upon definition of either academic English or academic language in general. While this has been discouraging and problematic for many researchers and practitioners within the second-language leaching profession, what is significant is that a number of related professions are engaging in the examination of what they understand to be academic language and inquiring about its role in the school success of all children.

In the case of academic English, the discussion of many significant and important issues is taking place in a context in which the response of both the community of scholarly specialists and members of the public (including spedal interest organisations, news media, parents, teachers, administrators, policy makers) are anticipated.

ideological context hegemonic voices, hegemonic voices, public sphere, scholarly sphere

Hegemonic voices argue for teaching the standard language to the underprivileged, while counter- hegemonic voices argue that insisting on the standard will only continue to maintain the position of the powerful who already speak the privileged variety of the language. p14 ['standard language ideology']

Standard English as a highly charged notion

Learners: mainstream English, ESL (TESOL [college] & ESL [K-12])

For these individuals [e.g., some members of the writing and composition profession] academic language is primarily understood to mean that language which is free of non-standard or stigmatised features.

The TESOL profession also sees academic languages as a set of intellectual practices. Primarily, however, at the college level, this profession is particularly focused on stylistic conventions that are part of that practice (within particular professions), including text organisation, presentation of iniormation, and grammar and usage. Importantly, the TESOL College profession views its students as competent both academically and linguistically in their first language and considers that the profession's role is to help them to avoid discourse accent

The ESL profession that works with K-12 students, by comparison, focuses on non-English background, immigrant students who enter American schools. Much of the activity of this profession has been directed at the teachmg of the structure of English to such youngsters as a preliminary to their learning subject-matter through English.

This group of practitioners, however, has focused almost exclusively on the development of what has been called Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency or CALP which is considered to be fundamentally different from BlCS, that is, from Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills.

+ cognitively and linguistically complex language needed for success in academic settings
+ conceptual-linguistic knowledge
+ the ability to manipulate and interpret language in cognitively-demanding, context-reduced texts

Very little attention has also been given by the L2 communities to the extensive work that has been carried out on literacy as a social and cultural practice (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000; Delpit, 1988; Edelsky, 1991; Gee, 1990; Rose, 1989; Street, 1984; Walsh, 1991). The view that there are multiple literacies rather than a single literacy, that these literacies depend on the context of the situation, the activity itself, the interactions between participants, and the knowledge and experiences that these various participants bring to these interactions is distant from the view held by most L2 educators who still embrace a technocratic notion of literacy and emphasise the development of decontextualised skills.

In sum, positions about academic language in diverse learners that are held by the different professional communities have developed and evolved in communication with particular sets of voices that are a part of specific professional worlds. In Bakhtinian terms (Bakhtin, [1986]1990: 91) utterances within each professional world (must be regarded primarily as a response to preceding utterances of the given sphere ... Each utterance refutes, affirms, supplements, and relies on the others, presupposes them to be known and somehow takes them into account'. p25

Unfortunately, as is evident to those who work with linguistic minority students, that is, with both second language learners and speakers of nonstandard varieties of the language, the increasing residential and academic segregation in which these students find themselves offers few possibilities for their participation in communication spheres where 'academic language is used naturally and comfortably by those who, as Gee (1992: 33) has suggested, have acquired it by 'enculturation (apprenticeship) into social practices through scaffolded and supported interactions with people who have already mastered the Discourse'. p31-32

I believe that what we need to do is to imagine other possibilities. Like Guerra (1997: 258), we too must envision language minority L2 writers who develop what he called 'intercultural literacy', that is, 'the ability to consciously and effectively move back and forth among as well as in and out of the discourse communities they belong to or will belong to'. Even in middle school, we should want minority L2 writers to understand that they too have something to say. p33