Situational Context of Education: A Window into the World of Bilingual Learners

Situational Context of Education: A Window into the World of Bilingual Learners

Situational Context of Education: A Window into the World of Bilingual Learners

Situational Context of Education: A Window into the World of Bilingual Learners

Synopsis

This book gives educators important answers to the urgent question of how teachers and schools can facilitate language minority and immigrant students' progress in school. It offers an innovative and powerful method teachers and students can use to study the situational context of education, providing both the theoretical background and the practical tools to implement this approach. The situational context of education includes linguistic, economic, social, cultural, and political factors, as well as conditions, such as students' personal characteristics, family support, and quality of instruction. All of these factors influence the lives of students and their academic performance and contribute in many ways, some subtle and indirect, to making the educational experience more or less difficult for different students. The premise of the book is that objective study of the situational context of education by both students and teachers is beneficial because it leads to a more realistic view of how to facilitate students' progress in school. Designed as a text for graduate courses for preservice and in-service teachers working with students in bilingual, ESL, mainstream, and special education classrooms, the goal is to engage readers in learning not only from the literature but also from studying the situational contexts of their own students. The focus here is on the factors that affect language minority and immigrant students in the United States, but the framework is equally powerful for work with student populations in other social contexts. The Introduction includes an overview of the theory behind the study of the situational context of education and the implementation of this approach; describes the context of the pilot lessons included in the book; and explains how to use the lessons detailed in later chapters. Chapters 2-6 focus on different factors in the situational context of education: linguistic, economic, social, cultural, and political. A three-part structure is used: "Classroom Implementation" (a rich description of one lesson in a real classroom); "Context Variables" (a theoretical explanation of the specific factor the chapter addresses, providing the research basis for the sample lesson objectives); "Doing Analysis of the Context" (several sample lessons for implementation). The lessons are addressed to the teacher, with detailed ideas on how to carry out the lesson and evaluate the students' understanding of the situational context. Five Appendices provide helpful resources for the implementation of the lessons: an Annotated bibliography of relevant K-12 children's literature; Instructional Approaches; Scoring Rubrics for Content Objectives; Guidelines for a Contrastive Study of Situational Context; and Lesson Template. The lessons have been thoroughly field-tested with students and teachers. Because these lessons work on multiple levels, Situational Context of Education: A Window Into the World of Bilingual Learners benefits students from first grade through preservice and in-service teachers in university courses. Teachers get to know their students and their predicaments within the social context of the United States, and at the same time, the lesson activities have a great impact on the students in their classes. All are helped to achieve academically while gaining awareness of situational factors affecting their lives.

Excerpt

Personal characteristics, family support, and quality of instruction shape academic performance. Hardworking students, involved parents, and qualified teachers contribute to a positive educational experience. Life, however, does not deal the same hand to all students. Some are born to families that speak the same language used in schools; others are raised in another language and must cope with the new one when they enter school. Some children are raised in poor homes and neighborhoods and attend poorly funded schools whereas others are well provided for and safe at home and in school. Some children suffer from prejudice; others never experience negative attitudes. Students and teachers have no control over language, socioeconomic status, skin color, particular heritage, and other situational factors that affect learners. The influence of these factors is subtle and indirect. Yet, they contribute to making the educational experience more or less difficult for different students.

This book proposes that the objective study of the situational context of education benefits students, their families, and their teachers. Knowledge of the situational context gives students and teachers a more realistic view to of what they need to do to facilitate students' progress in school. Teachers' use of this understanding should not lead them to feel sorry for students and lower educational expectations. Rather, it should lead them to find productive, useful solutions. Some teachers feel guilty when comparing their situational context with that of their students. Their comfortable middle—class lives seem so easy compared with the lives of their struggling urban students. These feelings are not productive either. It is better for teachers who experience these feelings to acknowledge their reality and recognize that, to a degree, situational factors rather than merit helped them succeed. Most important, they should not judge their students based on their own experience nor take a patronizing attitude toward their students. For example, they should not judge intelligence by their students' level of English ability nor they should feel sorry that children do not know English. The children will learn it and in addition they will know another language.

The approach to the study of the situational context of education presented in this book was designed for a graduate course for preservice and in—service teachers interested in bilingual populations. The approach was originally introduced as an assignment for participants to carry out with their bilingual students. The goal was to have course participants learn about these factors not only from the literature but also from the situational contexts of their own students. At the end of the semester the course . . .

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