The ALD4ALL Project has several objectives and components for improving bilingual-multicultural education in New Mexico. A major component of the project is to conduct an inquiry into the effective practices for improving the education of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) students, including English Learners (ELs). Findings from the inquiry would then inform the design and development of new approaches for professional learning for teachers and administrators. The project team structured the inquiry using a framework of systemic indicators put forth by Cadiero-Kaplan (2004).
Cadiero-Kaplan's indicators of effective practices—Value of Learner, Academic Language Orientation, Expectations for Learners, Instructional Goals, Resources, Assessment and Accountability, and Program Approaches are a source of inquiry that provides a structure for systemic inquiry.
The inquiry team conducted site visits and ongoing data collection at 12 schools identified for their promise and achievement in New Mexico. Using expanded definitions of Cadiero-Kaplan's indicators, the team conducted 98 classroom observations and numerous participant interviews and focus groups at 12 participating schools who were chosen because of their promise and achievement in serving CLD students.
The findings—that we term Effective Instructional Practices—include the following:
- Effective Instructional Practices
- Child-Centered Value of Learners;
- Holistic Academic Language and Literacy Orientation;
- Expectations for Active Learners;
- School/Program-Wide Instructional Planning;
- Resources for Learning in a Bilingual Context;
- Performance-Based Assessment and Accountability, and
- Bilingual-Multicultural Education Program Models.
The inquiry findings demonstrated that there are varying levels of implementation of these effective practices and that not all schools demonstrated similar levels on all indicators. For instance, some schools easily epitomized one of the indicators, while other schools were more balanced across some or all the indicators.
Draw on students’ experiential background and skills to meet learning goals.
Students learn best when their home language, learning preferences, and community practices are leveraged to further advance their academic, socio-emotional, and spiritual development. Teachers can improve English learners (ELs) learning outcomes by using culturally and linguistically responsive teaching practices (Tharp et al., 2000; Villegas & Lucas, 2002) that draw upon students’ cultural and linguistic resources by accessing their prior knowledge and relevant experiences and skills. These practices have been found to develop literacy comprehension and decoding/encoding skills among ELs (August & Shanahan, 2006; Escamilla et al., 2013).
Indicators of Student-Centered Value of Learners
- acknowledges the diversity of the students in their classroom by including the multiple cultural identities that children have acquired from their home/community practices;
- offers opportunities for students to use their different learning preferences by engaging them through various forms of learning such as dancing, singing, art, and music participation;
- values students’ home language as a resource for learning across different disciplines;
- learns about students’ and families’ funds of knowledge (Gonzalez, Moll & Amanti, 2005), cultural and linguistic resources, and experiential practices by engaging students, parents, and community members in the development and application of place-based learning;
- practices multiple ways of valuing success in the classroom by including academic, socio-emotional, spiritual, and social justice approaches to learning and assessment;
- assures children’s participation in their learning by embracing a stance that ALL children can learn, and
- makes the classroom culture inclusive of ALL children.
Teach multidimensional uses of language explicitly, across all content areas ensuring real-world applicability of concepts and skills learned.
Academic language goals are met when the teacher extends learning beyond vocabulary skills to include discourse competence that requires linguistic knowledge―knowing how to act, talk, interpret, and think according to the particular cultural or social group (Gutiérrez, 1995). Students’ application of language in real-world situations increases their use of language in functional and communicative ways that vary according to context (Schleppegrell, 2004).
Using language in multidimensional ways, including speaking and writing, encourages students to use their everyday forms of language as a means of understanding the language of texts (i.e. the use of popular culture such as media to better comprehend texts)(Bailey & Heritage, 2008).
Disciplinary literacy involves written and spoken expression of complex ideas and concepts that are embedded in the context of a subject essential for learning the core curricula making use of the multiple literacies that students bring to the teaching-learning process (Gee, 2007 Gibbons, 2009; 2002).
Indicators of Holistic Academic Language and literacy Orientation
- knows the language of the classroom and texts, for example, use of content-based vocabulary, language forms and conventions, and language complexity;
- identifies and understands the functions of academic language and disciplinary literacy and how to use it to expand students’ social and linguistic capital;
- understands that discourse (ways of communicating oral or spoken language) is a social practice and varies across contexts and groups;
- recognizes that the students’ home and community experiences influence their literacy and language development and uses in instruction, and
- encourages students to develop academic language in their first and second language strengthening their bilingualism and biliteracy.