In Toohey’s article, she explains her case study on Grade 1 students, which she had observed the preceding year, begin to form self-identity based on capital: “some children had more resources than others, that some had ‘better’ resources than others, and that individual children had the power to decide whether or not they would share their resources. Lending was not stigmatized; borrowing was.” (Toohey, 1998) While the resources in question were simply school supplies, the same could be argued of material capital: social status is dependent on the availability and accessibility of resource. These resources may also be in the form of intellectual capability, such as one’s linguistic capital. By denying such resources, one subsequently affects the identity of the borrower. Several TESOL scholars have research that shows
“self-ascribed and other-assigned [learner] identities play a critical role in shaping access to resources and participation in learning English, which subsequently shapes learner identities ..[resulting in a] self-fulfilling prophecy.” (Toohey, 1998)
In the case of the Grade 1 students, this was potentially the beginning of ‘social classes’ and the ‘cliques’ that often define one’s experience with pre-university education.
This power was subconsciously enforced by their teacher, who insisted on building children’s individuality by having “the children sit at their own desks, use their own materials, do their own work, and use their own words.” (Toohey, 1998)
However, this method of learning denies group collaboration where ELL students have access to ‘expert’ language speakers in a small, safer setting. These experts would provide scaffolding for their language learning as a byproduct of exploring content as explored with immigrants attending Church: language is acquired, but the content is the vehicle. (Han, 2009) Engagement with the content, be it studying science or Bible study, is a key motivator in educational self-efficacy. That’s not to say that full immersion in a second language will result in fluency by itself. Most educators do not form their lesson plans such that every student is able to achieve success. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in its most basic form offers a framework that focuses on the deliberate construction of curriculum such that information is presented that can be learned by the widest possible audience. (Edyburn, 2010) I won’t go into detail about UDL in this paper, as there are both strengths and weaknesses to this approach, I would encourage others to delve deeper into this method as a means for integrating Vygotskian phillosophy and collaborative learning into their own practices.
My take-away from these articles is the reinforcement for the need of instruction that is intentional, direct, explicit and collaborative. Through scaffolding, UDL, and contingent learning experiences, I believe it is possible to provide linguistic based education that will provide greater support for struggling readers, students with learning disabilities, and English language learners throughout their entire classroom day, rather than just during LST pullout sessions. The more information I read on this method of instruction, the more I see how it all links together and exemplifies the need for educational reform.
Works Cited Edyburn, D. L. (2010). Would You Recognize Universal Design for Learning if You Saw It? Then Propositions for New Directions for the Second Decade of UDL. Learning Disability Quartlery, 33-41.
Gibbons, P. (1946). Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching Second Langage Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Han, H. (2009). Institutionalized Inclusion: A Case Study on Support for Immigrants in English Learning. TESOL Quartlery Vol. 43, No. 4, December, 643-665.
Toohey, K. (1998). "Breaking Them Up, Taking Them Away": ESL Students in Grade 1 . TESOL Quarterly Vol. 32, No. 1, Spring, 61-83.