November 2022 – Volume 26, Number 3
Athens State University, USA
Although the number of emergent bilinguals (EBs), also known as English language learners (ELLs) in U.S. K-12 schools is growing at an increasing rate, K-12 mainstream teachers remain predominantly white and monolingual and receive little training for working with such learners. In addition, many states mandate “English-only” policies that prevent EBs from accessing grade-level content and academic language. Given digital inequalities, remote learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may put them even further behind academically. Moreover, EBs may not have adequate at-home parental support to develop language skills in literacy. Recent studies (García & Li, 2014) have indicated that translanguaging offers great potential to close the academic achievement gap and facilitate home-school connections by embracing EB students’ home language and culture. This article discusses a qualitative participatory action research study that examined how monolingual elementary preservice teachers (PSTs) constructed a translanguaging stance and enacted it in a digital service-learning (DSL) setting in an undergraduate ESOL methods course at a southeastern university in the U.S. The article also offers insights into curriculum development and implementation as to preparing monolingual mainstream PSTs to support linguistically and culturally diverse students and families through translanguaging.
Keywords: translanguaging, emergent bilinguals, elementary preservice teachers, digital service-learning, family engagement
In the last few decades, the demographics of school-aged students in the U.S. has changed drastically, with increasing numbers of students coming from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. EB students are the fastest growing student population in K-12 schools nationwide. These students have varying degrees of proficiency in their home language, but are still in the process of acquiring English language (Garcia & Kleyn, 2016). While the population of EB students continues to increase, K-12 mainstream teachers remain predominantly white and monolingual. The majority of teachers feel unprepared to work with such learners. In addition, many states and school districts mandate “English-only” policies that are aligned with monolingual ideologies which consider monolingualism as the norm. These policies are also based on a deficit perspective that views students’ linguistic diversity as problematic, rather than resourceful. Consequently, public discourse about bilingualism and multilingualism in education has been silenced (Hornberger, 2006), which has resulted in a negative impact on EB students’ education. Moreover, remote learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic may put EBs even further behind academically. These learners may also not have adequate at-home support to develop language skills in literacy since many EB families have language and sociocultural barriers to communicate with schools and help their EB children with online schoolwork.
With regard to increasing educational inequalities that EBs face, it is imperative to expand educational practices that allow EBs at all educational levels to comprehend class materials in content areas while developing academic language skills within their linguistic repertoires (Dougherty, 2021). Translanguaging has emerged as a promising educational approach that provides theoretical and pedagogical tools to support EBs’ learningof content knowledge and academic language and facilitate home-school connections by embracing EB students’ full language repertoires and cultural knowledge (García & Li, 2014; Tian, Aghai, Sayer, & Schissel, 2020). From a teacher preparation perspective, in addition, translanguaging offers transformative potential to enable PSTs to problematize monolingual ideologies, embrace linguistic diversity, and adopt pedagogies that can support EB students’ dynamic meaning-making practices (Canagarajah, 2011).
Connecting teacher learning with the local community through service-learning is the ideal collaborative opportunity to create translanguaging spaces to support EB students’ learning and engage EB families (Rohr, 2009). Service-learning is a form of experiential education for integrating theory and practice and promoting inclusive education by giving students the opportunity to participate in a service that meets the needs of marginalized communities and to gain a deeper understanding of the course content and an enhanced sense of civic engagement (Amaro-Jiménez, 2012). Particularly, in the context of technological expansion in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital service-learning (DSL) has gained popularity as teacher education programs are transitioning to online learning and digital service platforms.
In response to consistent calls for enhancing monolingual mainstream PSTs’ ability to implement translanguaging through clinical and experiential experience, such as DSL (Perren, 2013), I (the researcher/teacher educator) initiated and implemented a community-based DSL project in an ESOL methods course. With the distinct rise of remote learning in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DSL project connected a local university, PSTs, EB students and families, and community partners through virtual literacy activities. This qualitative participatory action research study aimed to examine how monolingual elementary PSTs constructed a translanguaging stance and enacted it in a DSL context.
Translanguaging as Theory
The concept of translanguaging has gained prominence as theory that centers on the fluid, dynamic meaning-making and communicative practices of bilinguals (García & Li 2014; Pennycook 2017). Τhe term translanguaging (a Welsh word – trawsieithu) was originally created by the Welsh educationalist Cen Williams in the 1980s in order to refer to a pedagogy that focused on the planned and strategic use of two languages in Welsh-English bilingual education. García (2009) extended this term and defined it as “multiple discursive practices in which bilinguals engage in order to make sense of their bilingual worlds” (p. 45).
From a traditional view of bilingualism, Cummins (2005) argues that bilingual instruction should facilitate cross-language transfer, which means that the development in EBs’ home language could be transferred and will facilitate their learning of additional language. Moving beyond this traditional view, however, García (2009) argues that bilingualism is “not monolingualism times two” (p. 71) since it regards a bilingual user’s full range of linguistic ability as fluid and dynamic, rather than an aggregate of two or more discrete languages. Therefore, EBs’ language use is reflected in their fluid, dynamic selection of language features and components (e.g., vocabulary, grammar, and contextualization cues). It is also important to note that translanguaging epistemologically differs from code-switching. Code-switching takes a monolingual view of looking at bilinguals’ language behavior that alternates between two separate language systems. Translanguaging, on the other hand, takes a multilingual perspective of viewing bilinguals’ language behavior that is recognized in one dynamic, unitary linguistic repertoire (García & Li, 2014).
Translanguaging as Pedagogy
Translanguaging as pedagogy treats bilinguals as resourceful agents with full linguistic repertoires and competence to navigate appropriately within various communicative situations (García & Kleyn, 2016). It aims to leverage bilinguals’ fluid and dynamic linguistic repertoires and incorporate their familiar cultural and language practices into academic learning.
Although translanguaging pedagogy is appropriate for bilingual education, it does not require a bilingual program or a bilingual teacher. Since it acknowledges the social reality of mastering standardized ways of using named languages, it is essential for teachers to inform students of “when, where, and why to use some features of their repertoire and not others, enabling them to also perform according to the social norms of named languages as used in schools” (García & Kleyn, 2016, p. 15). Translanguaging pedagogy supports and expands EB students’ linguistic repertoire to help them better navigate and learn school-based literacies and subject matter knowledge.
García, Johnson, and Seltzer (2017) outline three core components of translanguaging: stance, design, and shifts. The teachers’ stance refers to a set of beliefs and ideologies about bilinguals and their language practices. Teachers need to acknowledge that bilinguals’ full linguistic repertoire is a resource for learning, rather than a problem to rectify. When teachers view themselves as co-learners and learn from bilingual students about their linguistic and cultural practices and their understandings of the world, a translanguaging space can be created. The second component of translanguaging pedagogy is a translanguaging design which emphasizes strategic plans for instruction and assessment that are informed by students’ diverse language practices. For instance, teachers who utilize a translanguaging design might plan and develop instructional activities that allow EB students to use their full linguistic and semiotic repertoires through a range of multilingual resources. Finally, translanguaging shifts mean the minute-to-minute changes that teachers make within the classroom in order to encourage students to use their full linguistic abilities. When translanguaging shifts occur, teachers adapt or modify instructional activities and assessments to reflect the needs and interests of their students.
Translanguaging in Teacher Education
García et al. (2017) assert that teachers must engage in translanguaging practices and develop a translanguaging stance (i.e., beliefs and ideologies) that reflects an asset-based orientation toward students’ full linguistic and cultural resources. A growing number of empirical studies have examined the potential of translanguaging in teacher education. For instance, Pontier (2022) investigated PSTs’ beliefs about and knowledge of bilingualism and bilingual education, or their translanguaging stance in ESOL teacher education courses that focused on dynamic bilingualism. The analysis of PSTs’ written responses showed that some PSTs demonstrated shifts from a deficit perspective to an asset-based perspective, although the ESOL courses had relatively little impact on PSTs’ beliefs about bilingualism and many PSTs still held monolingual ideologies. Flores and Aneja (2017) focused on non-native English speaking (NNES) PSTs and explored how they formed a new conceptualization of translanguaging and implemented it through a task of developing a project in a TESOL teacher education course. NNES PSTs were introduced to translanguaging as a framework to critically examine and challenge native-speaker, monolingual ideologies. They were then asked to develop a project in which they integrated their new understanding of translanguaging into instructional practices. The findings showed that the translanguaging-focused project empowered NNES PSTs to build more positive perceptions of their own identities as multilingual teachers and create pedagogical practices that confront monolingual ideologies.
To sum up, the aforementioned studies demonstrate the transformative potential of translanguaging in cultivating PSTs’ multilingual identities and professional dispositions to disrupt monolingual ideologies in teacher education. These studies also suggest that since teacher beliefs and ideologies are difficult to change (Pajares, 1992), teacher educators should provide more rigorous theoretical foundations and explicit instruction on translanguaging to better support PSTs in developing a set of knowledge, perceptions, and skills needed for promoting linguistic diversity and inclusion in teacher preparation.
Service-Learning in Teacher Education
Service-learning has been integrated into teacher preparation programs as a form of clinical experience that provides opportunities to apply academic knowledge to practice in school and community settings (Resch & Schrittesser, 2021). It has been widely documented that service-learning experiences not only enhance PSTs’ understanding and application of academic content, but also facilitate their personal and professional growth by integrating meaningful community service with critical reflections on their teaching practices (Amaro-Jiménez, 2012). In particular, community-based service-learning experiences play a crucial role in teacher preparation programs (Resch & Schrittesser, 2021) in that these opportunities allow PSTs to learn ways to promote equitable education by uncovering and utilizing families’ and communities’ funds of knowledge that refers to “historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for household or individual functioning and well-being” (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & González, 1992, p. 133).
Regarding the influences of service-learning experiences on PSTs, little research has been conducted to associate service-learning with gains for PSTs in the development of translanguaging stances and practices needed for effective teaching of EB students. Also, given that some earlier research (Tilley-Lubbs, 2011) indicates that family engagement can be a vital component that positively impacts minority students’ literacy development, it is important for PSTs to make connections with students’ families in literacy learning. However, very few service-learning programs described in earlier studies included any required family engagement (Larrotta & Yamamura, 2011).
Despite the educational merits of translanguaging in EB students’ education, many PSTs still feel unprepared to implement meaningful translanguaging practices in order to respond to linguistic diversity of students in mainstream classrooms (Pacheco, Kang, & Hurd, 2019). They are potential key agents of social change for promoting educational equity for EB students. Therefore, it is vital for teacher education programs to provide preparation that supports PSTs’ development of essential language ideologies, knowledge, and skills to use translanguaging to meet the needs of EB students. This article discusses one attempt to implement the curriculum reform that incorporated translanguaging through a DSL project into an ESOL methods course in an undergraduate pre-service teacher education program at a southeastern university in the U.S. In the project described in this study, digital technology was integrated as an additional required component to community-based service-learning experiences and it offered not only spaces for translanguaging, but also meaningful co-learning opportunities to PSTs and EB students and families.
The present study aimed to explore how monolingual elementary PSTs developed their ideologies and practices related to translanguaging through a DSL project. This study was guided by two overarching research questions:
- How do monolingual elementary PSTs make sense of translanguaging and develop a translanguaging stance in a semester-long ESOL methods course?
- How do monolingual elementary PSTs integrate translanguaging into their instructional practices in a DSL context?
To address the research questions above, a participatory action research (PAR) approach was employed as a guiding framework. PAR is a qualitative research approach that allows researchers and participants to collaboratively work together to understand social issues and take actions to bring about social change. It should be noted that PAR is research with participants, rather than for (Whyte, 1991). Therefore, within this research framework participants’ involvement in all aspects of the research process is crucial (Fals-Borda, 2001). PAR seemed to suit the present study as its ultimate purpose was to empower not only PSTs but also EB students and families. Rather than merely exposing PSTs to the notion of translanguaging, PAR encourages them to become more socially conscious, critical, and reflective as teacher-researchers.
The study took place over the course of a 15-week semester at a southeastern university in the U.S. The university had strong ties to a surrounding community with an increasing immigration rate. The recent expansion of foreign-owned auto assembly plants and supplies companies had contributed to the growth of Asian EB families in this surrounding community. Many EB students attended low-income, under-resourced schools which often struggled to provide high-quality instruction and necessary academic supports to students. Despite local schools’ enormous efforts to provide continuity of learning through remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, these efforts fell short for many EBs and their families. Consequently, EB students faced setbacks in their English language development without consistent opportunities to develop and practice English language skills.
The study employed purposeful sampling (Patton, 1990) to select information-rich participants. Twelve PSTs enrolled in the ESOL Methods course in Fall 2020. Ten of them (aged 22-26) agreed to participate in the study. The participants were undergraduate students (10 females) pursuing initial teacher licensure in Elementary Education with a minor in ESOL. They were seniors who were at the critical transition points in their program of study prior to the internship. All participants self-identified as white and monolingual English speakers. Although they expressed enthusiasm about supporting EB students through translanguaging, all of them reported feeling ill-prepared to integrate translanguaging into their instructional practices.
Eligible EB families were contacted through local community organizations, such as immigrant parent associations and heritage language schools. The selection criteria were based on the following: (a) families were literate in their home language and had a basic level of English language proficiency, (b) they had one or more EB children in grades K-3 who were identified as English Limited Proficient (LEP) while attending a public school; and (c) they had access to the Internet and had basic knowledge about technology. Five Asian EB families, including three families from South Korea, one family from China, and one family from Japan agreed to participate in the study. EB student participants (one child from each family) included one student in kindergarten, one student in first grade, two students in second grade, and one student in third grade.
A DSL project team (the researcher/course instructor, a course librarian, and bilingual community partners) and local community organizations collaborated to prepare the PSTs to learn and utilize translanguaging to work with EB students and families in literacy development. Through collaboration with the course librarian, I built a collection of multicultural and bilingual children’s books and developed LibGuides to promote translanguaging pedagogy.
The Digital Service-Learning Project
The DSL project was designed in two overlapping phases. Phase I covered translanguaging theory and pedagogy in conjunction with culturally responsive teaching. The PSTs were introduced to translanguaging through readings, class discussions, and the course instructor’s modeling. The PSTs were exposed to recent theories about translanguaging (García & Li, 2014) and translanguaging pedagogy that included multilingual cooperative grouping, use of multilingual texts, vocabulary inquiry, syntax transfer, cognates, and strategic translation (Celic & Seltzer, 2011; Jiménez et al., 2015). The PSTs also read texts and watched videos about interacting with EB families and exploring funds of knowledge (Murillo, 2012).
To support the PSTs’ engagement with multicultural and bilingual children’s literature, the course librarian provided the PSTs with guidance for using the LibGuides and selecting, evaluating, and integrating multicultural and bilingual books into lesson planning and material development.
Phase II drew upon the knowledge the PSTs gained from Phase I to complete three major tasks while working with EB students and families: (a) creating family literacy bag activities, (b) engaging EB students and parents in video discussion activities using “FlipGrid” (a social learning platform that allows educators to facilitate video discussions), and (c) developing literacy lesson plans and offering Zoom virtual tutoring lessons.
Parental participation was a requirement for the DSL project. Two PSTs were assigned to one EB family and collaboratively worked as tutors to offer virtual literacy lessons. Each PST tutor pair provided guidance for their assigned EB family to record and upload Flipgrid video posts according to discussion prompts and the family literacy bag activities that they developed. Virtual tutoring sessions were held over a four-week period for 30 minutes each week. After the completion of each task of the project, the PSTs wrote reflective journal entries. Table 1 shows demographics of participating EB families (n=5) and PSTs’ tutoring assignments.
Table 1. Demographics of Participating Families with EB Children and Preservice Teachers’ Tutoring Assignments
|EB family’s self-reported first language
|EB family’s length of stay in the U.S.
|EB child’s gender
|EB child’s WIDA* ELD level
|EB child’s grade level
|PST tutor pairs (All names are pseudonyms.)
|Carrie and Tracy
|Brittany and Ashley
|Emily and Kaylee
|Morgan and Julie
|Shelby and Anna
*WIDA stands for World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium. The WIDA English Language Development (ELD) Standards Framework provides a foundation for curriculum, instruction, and assessment for multilingual learners.
Data Collection and Analysis
Multiple sources were collected to provide rich, in-depth understanding about the PSTs’ engagement with translanguaging. The study utilized the following data sources: (1) class discussion board postings, (2) artifacts from the DSL project (i.e., the PSTs’ literacy lesson plans, recorded FlipGrid video discussions among the PSTs and EB families, sample family literacy activity work completed by the EB families, and recorded Zoom literacy lesson videos), (3) the PSTs’ reflective journal entries, and (4) the researcher’s field notes. To ensure confidentiality, codes were assigned to the PST participants and later replaced with pseudonyms. As a native Korean speaker, I (the researcher) transcribed the data collected from the three Korean families and translated the transcribed data into English. Also, the data collected from the Chinese family and the Japanese family were transcribed by the project team members who were native speakers of Mandarin Chinese and Japanese and then translated into English.
The data sources above were coded using a constant comparative approach, employing coding techniques borrowed from grounded theory (Creswell, 2013). Open coding, axial coding, and selective coding were used to identify salient and recurring categories in the data. Open coding was used to mark instances that highlighted the PSTs’ sense-making and integration of translanguaging. Axial coding was used to organize and collapse open codes into broader categories and patterns. In the final phase of analysis, theoretical memos were drafted for each major category to elucidate a grounded description of how the PSTs engaged with translanguaging both theoretically and pedagogically. Then, categories were collapsed into themes, such as the development of translanguaging stance, growth in cultural competence, and translanguaging strategies in lesson planning and virtual tutoring lessons. The data sources were triangulated to corroborate findings from the data analysis (Creswell, 2013). Participant member checks were conducted following completion of analysis to ensure reliability.
This section responds to the two research questions by elaborating on the findings from the data analysis. First, I present how the PSTs experienced ideological changes and developed a translanguaging stance by highlighting individual quotes from the reflective journals and class discussion posts. Next, I share how the PSTs enacted translanguaging based on the analysis of the PSTs’ lesson plans, the recorded FlipGrid video discussions, the print copies of the completed family literacy activities, and the recordings of the Zoom tutoring lessons.
Developing a Translanguaging Stance: Ideological Changes from Monolingual to Multilingual
The PSTs showed evidence of developing and changing their ideologies about bilingualism and linguistic diversity as a result of their exposure to translanguaging theory and pedagogy. It was found that they moved from a monolingual perspective to a multilingual one and ultimately developed a translanguaging stance.
One of the themes that emerged from the data was the PSTs’ shifting view from a language-as-a-problem orientation to a language-as-a-resource orientation. Before the PSTs were introduced to translanguaging, monolingual ideologies mostly informed their perspectives of language learning and teaching even though many of them voiced their disagreement with English-only policies that marginalize EB students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Most PSTs perceived learning English as a prerequisite to achieving academic success in school. They also defined being bilingual as speaking two separate languages and believed that developing two discrete language systems would slow down or hinder EBs’ learning process. Skepticism or concerns about using translanguaging in the mainstream classroom was also evident in several PSTs’ discourse due to English-only policies in schools, mandated standardized testing, and the lack of witnessing the implementation of translanguaging in mainstream elementary classrooms. This finding is consistent with previous studies that found that PSTs’ initial views mostly represented monolingual ideologies or a more traditional understanding of bilingualism before they were exposed to translanguaging theory and pedagogy (Deroo, Ponzio, & De Costa, 2020; Pontier, 2022).
As the course progressed, however, the PSTs started to adopt a translanguaging stance and embrace multilingualism and linguistic diversity. Especially, their hands-on experience with working with EB students and parents made them move toward multilingual ideologies that view EBs’ dynamic linguistic practices as beneficial resources, rather than hindrances (García et al., 2017). For example, Anna (all PSTs’ names are pseudonyms) noted in her reflective journal:
As a future elementary teacher, I initially thought that the use of home languages would take away time from teaching and learning English and that the main goal for EB students was to master English language to increase their academic achievement in school. But as I work with my EB student and his parents through the service learning project, I realize the importance of using the home language as a tool to help him learn better. I allowed my student to complete a graphic organizer and pre-writing in his home language with a bilingual dictionary and translation tools. I also asked his parents to serve as bilingual writing partners who could help with words he did not know in English. I could see that this really helped him build vocabulary which in turn helped with fluency which led to comprehension.
Shelby’s reflection also shows an ideological change:
I had an assumption that hearing more than one language at a time would hinder the true learning process of English. … My family literacy activity required the student and his mother to create a story that included literary elements, such as setting, characters, and conflict and solution. The biggest challenge was ensuring to make it understandable for them. I used Google Translate and translated directions from English to Japanese. I also verbally explained the activity using short sentences in English and visuals. When I received the completed activity from them, I found that it was completed properly. What a good way to help them learn! It really opened my eyes and translanguaging helped them use their cultural knowledge and home language to bridge the gap.
Another salient theme that emerged from the data was that eight PSTs out of ten challenged the ideology of monolingualism and shaped their teaching identity as advocates for multilingualism as they developed a translanguaging stance. In their initial views they self-identified as monolingual English-speaking teachers and expressed concerns about their lack of second or foreign language learning experience. These were considered as major constraints to adopting translanguaging. However, the PSTs began to confront monolingual ideologies as they constructed their emerging belief that advocating for multilingualism can make education more equitable for EB students and that monolingual English-speaking teachers who do not speak EBs’ home languages can still be capable of enacting translangauging. They also showed strong willingness to utilize translanguaging pedagogy in their future classrooms and make advocacy efforts to ensure equitable, inclusive education for multilingual students. For example, Morgan commented in her class discussion post:
I am definitely up for using translanguaging in my own future classroom. I know it would be challenging, but I also know it will be helpful to my students and they deserve any help I can give them to create an equitable learning environment. I am only truly fluent in English, and I still worry that my current limited knowledge of other languages may negatively impact my students’ ability to learn. But I believe it is important to work through this concern with students. I will allow students many opportunities to become the teacher to teach me the ways of their language. Supporting and advocating for these students should be our number one priority.
This ideological shift was also enhanced by building confidence and competence in developing and implementing more concrete translanguaging strategies through their participation in the DSL project. The following excerpt is from Emily’s reflective journal:
Developing the family literacy bag and working with my student and his family through the FlipGrid literacy activities definitely helped build my confidence and ability to use translanguaging. It taught me helpful strategies to communicate and engage my student and his parents in literacy learning although I do not speak their home language, Korean. I do not speak any other language than English, but I was able to do my research to figure out how to incorporate Korean into my tutoring. Pictures, cognates, and simple language are all strategies that I used to help my student improve his reading skills. I feel much more confident about using students’ home languages and also excited about using translangauging strategies to better support EB students.
As the excerpt above indicates, the PSTs seemed to move beyond their ideological constraints (e.g., being a monolingual speaker and having limited language learning experience) and explored the benefits of translanguaging pedagogy though DSL activities with EB students and families. This experience had a positive impact on the construction of the PSTs’ translanguaging stance and empowered them to become advocates for multilingualism.
PSTs’ Enactment of Translanguaging
Translanguaging through multicultural and bilingual texts. The PSTs in the study intentionally created a translanguaging space to engage the EB students and parents in FlipGrid virtual family literacy activities and Zoom tutoring sessions by drawing upon their full cultural and linguistic repertoires. Specifically, all the PSTs expressed their emerging pedagogical stances that viewed both linguistic and cultural backgrounds as useful resources that could enrich EBs’ learning and promote parent engagement. These emerging pedagogical stances were reflected in their translanguaging practices through multicultural and bilingual texts. Growing research has indicated that the integration of multicultural and bilingual texts in literacy instruction offers great potential to support EBs as they engage with these texts through multiple modes (Semingson, Pole, & Tommerdahl, 2015). Also, it offers positive views of EB students since main characters use their cultural and linguistic resources to successfully interact with others in families, schools, and communities. Table 2 shows the PST’s text selections, learning objectives, and translanguaging strategies.
Table 2. Preservice Teachers’ Multicultural/Bilingual Text Selections, Learning Objectives, and Translanguaging Strategies
|PST Tutor Pairs
|Multicultural/Bilingual Books Chosen
|Examples of Translanguaging Strategies
|Carrie – Tracy
|-Bee-bim Bop! By Linda Sue Park (2008)
-Round is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong and Grace Lin (2014)
|-Identify shapes and colors
-Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text
|-Discussing holidays and traditional foods in English and the home language
-Utilizing PowerPoint materials and translation for teaching vocabulary
-Using gestures and drawing for visual assessment
|Brittany – Ashley
|-The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin (2001)
|-Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events
-Retell stories, including key details
|-Using cognates for pre-teaching key vocabulary
-Discussing family daily activities in English and the home language
-Using YouTube videos (both English and the home language) for reading aloud
-Using drawing for visual assessment
|Emily – Kaylee
|-The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (2003)
-My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits (2014)
|-Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events
-Recount or describe main ideas from a text
|-Exploring personal history and the meanings and origins of names
-Utilizing PowerPoint materials
-Using translation to complete a graphic organizer
|Morgan – Julie
|–Lon Po Po by Ed Young (1996)
|-Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why
-Sequence events and retell
-Compare and contrast key details
-Exploring the meanings and origins of names
-Using bilingual word banks
|Shelby – Anna
|-Issun Boshi (one-inch boy): A Japanese folktale by Nadia Higgins (2011)
-Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say (1993)
|-Make inferences from the text
-Use information gained from illustrations and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text
-Ask and answer questions to monitor comprehension
|-Utilizing PowerPoint materials for reading comprehension
-Using translation to complete a story map
-Addressing family histories and traditions in English and the home language
Some of the books shown in Table 2 included images and bilingual text (e.g., English-Chinese and English-Korean). The bilingual words and phrases presented in the books often referred to cultural terms, place names, cultural practices and expressions and indicated social and contextual relationships (Barrera & Quiroa, 2003). Several PSTs had difficulty with finding bilingual books and ended up choosing multicultural books that represented their EB students’ cultural background. For instance, Shelby adopted a multicultural book, Issun Boshi: The One Inch Boy (Higgins & Morrow, 2011) that contains a Japanese folktale for virtual tutoring sessions with her EB who was a Japanese dominant student in third grade. The inclusion of the multicultural book allowed her to use several translanguaging strategies (e.g., Japanese-English cognates and translation), which had a positive impact on student engagement during the tutoring sessions.
As developing family literacy bag activities for her second-grade EB student, Kaylee chose to use a multicultural book, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (2003) which presents a story about a new girl from South Korea and how she learns to appreciate her Korean name. Using this book, she created a name activity in which her EB student created a name chart as described in the text. Then the student wrote a paragraph about his findings from the name chart. This student-generated language production resulted from the student’s translanguaging using English and Korean. It was also represented multimodally as he used multiple modes (e.g., speaking, writing, and drawing) to construct meaning (Botelho,& Marion, 2020).
These examples show that the use of translanguaging through multicultural and bilingual texts was a powerful support to remove oppressive English-only practices and draw on the EBs’ linguistic and cultural repertoires to build their academic language which is critical for effective learning in various content areas (Semingson et al., 2015).
Translanguaging through multimodal resources. Another notable translanguaging practice that the PSTs applied in the DSL context was the use of multimodal resources to enhance the EBs’ learning and reinforce communication with the EB families. This finding is consistent with evidence provided by earlier researchers that the use of multimodality is a useful translanguaging strategy, even for novice monolingual teachers in mainstream classrooms (Tian et al., 2020). García and Li (2014) argue that translanguaging emphasizes language users’ creative and critical agency that allows bilinguals to incorporate dynamic linguistic resources (e.g., syntactic features, dialects), registers (e.g., informal or formal speech), and multiple modes (e.g., images, sound, text) into communication in a variety of social contexts (García & Li, 2014). The analysis of the data revealed that most PSTs frequently used multimodal support during instruction. Figure 1 demonstrates how Tracy utilized multimodal support with PowerPoint for enhancing lesson delivery and communication with her kindergarten EB student. She creatively added text, images, and background colors to enrich and personalize her PowerPoint slides. She also included pictures in her PowerPoint to illustrate the meanings of key words, “boat” and “float.” Moreover, she used body language to facilitate the student’s comprehension and applied hand gestures and signals as a visual, formative assessment.
Figure 1. Tracy’s Use of PowerPoint with Multimodal Resources
Brittany also employed multimodal resources when she engaged her EB student and parents in family literacy bag activities. The EB family collaborated multimodally through speaking, reading, and writing in both English and their home language, drawing and crafting, and gesturing to communicate. In this translanguaging space, multiple modalities were combined to help the EB learn new words and develop an understanding of the text.
In sum, by integrating translanguaging into material development and design with multimodal resources, the PSTs frequently created translanguaging spaces which allowed the EBs to express ideas and thoughts multimodally. This served as a scaffolding tool to mediate the EBs’ language development and reading and writing processes (Orcasitas-Vicandi & Perales-Fernández-de-Gamboa, 2022).
Translanguaging through parent engagement. Translanguaging through parent engagement was the most prominent translanguaging practice employed by the PSTs. Empirical studies highlight that parent engagement is a critical aspect of students’ academic success (Epstein, 2001). The PSTs reported that it was particularly a useful translanguaging practice because they were not proficient in the EBs’ home languages.
During the Zoom virtual tutoring lessons, the PSTs built translanguaging social spaces in which the EB students relied on their own and their parents’ linguistic repertoires to tackle new vocabulary and enhance their literacy learning. Also, the parents brought their bilingual skills, such as Korean-English or Japanese-English cognates to enhance their children’s learning.
When assigning family literacy bag activities and offering Zoom tutoring sessions, the PSTs invited the EB parents to take on various roles that positively impacted their children’s learning experiences. For instance, when Carrie invited Korean parents to participate with their kindergarten child during her virtual tutoring sessions, the parents served as a content and cultural knowledge resource. The Korean EB student was assigned to read a multicultural book, “Bee-bim Bop!” (Park, 2008) which is a story about a traditional Korean dish of rice topped with vegetables. The Korean parents scaffolded their child’s reading comprehension by using specific terms for common vegetables in Korea and the U.S. They also shared their knowledge about the nutrition and health benefits of different vegetables and describe how they used vegetables in everyday lives. As an extension, Carrie asked the Korean family to fill out a graphic organizer with bilingual word banks as a family literacy activity. Figure 2 shows the family literacy activity that the Korean EB student and parents completed collaboratively.
Figure 2. A Family Literacy Activity Completed by the Korean EB Family
Overall, the PSTs employed translanguaging through parent engagement as a valuable tool for building and strengthening family-school connections. The EB parents could still participate in their children’s learning even though they did not speak English fluently. This evidence indicates that parent engagement was a crucial ingredient to maximize the effects of translanguaging on student learning in that it ultimately helped the EB children develop and utilize their linguistic and cultural repertoires, especially when the parents were engaged in discussions on family heritage, traditions, and daily activities in relation to the bilingual and multicultural texts.
Discussion and Implications for Teacher Education
This PAR study explored how the monolingual elementary PSTs constructed a translanguaging stance and enacted it as pedagogy in the DSL context within a semester-long ESOL methods course. The study found that by engaging with translanguaging as theory and pedagogy, especially through the DSL project, the PSTs developed a translanguging stance which valued linguistic and cultural diversity and recognized the importance of embracing multilingual ideologies as a means to dismantle educational inequalities caused by monolingual norms and practices in K-12 school contexts. This finding corroborates with previous studies that demonstrated the transformative potential of translanguaging in cultivating PSTs’ knowledge, pedagogical practices, and professional dispositions that disrupt monolingual bias in teacher education (Barros, Domke, Symons, & Ponzio, 2021; Dougherty, 2021; Flores & Aneja, 2017; Tian et al., 2020).
Although the PSTs’ initial responses contained concerns or skepticism toward the use of translanguaging in mainstream classrooms, the PSTs showed evidence of shifting toward multilingual ideologies that advocate linguistic diversity and educational equity as a result of their exposure to translanguaging theory and pedagogy. Their translanguaging attempts illustrated their deliberate efforts to develop translanguaging strategies that did not require themselves to be bilingual, such as translating using Google Translate. Their emerging translanguaging stance allowed them to further develop and implement translanguaging in three pedagogical ways: (1) translanguaging through bilingual and multicultural texts, (2) translanguaging through multimodal resources, and (3) translanguaging through parent engagement. From the feedback provided by the PSTs, one key factor for these positive outcomes could be that the DSL project offered a flexible, collaborative virtual context that strengthened the PSTs’ emerging stance of translanguaging through community resources and EB families’ funds of knowledge and reinforced their ability to implement it through direct interactions with the EB families.
Guided clinical experience, such as DSL is crucial in teacher preparation programs. Garcıa et al. (2017) assert that a translanguaging stance includes the promotion of collaboration “across content; languages; people; and home, school, and community” (p. xiii). The DSL project offered scaffolded clinical experience and created unique collaboration opportunities where the PSTs could apply translanguaging theory into practice through interactions with the EB students and families in a virtual social learning environment. The PSTs reported that the project provided an opportunity for all participating members to co-learn from each other. For instance, the PSTs had a chance to leverage existing resources from the course librarian. Given that translanguaging emphasizes the importance of cultural contexts and their impact on students’ language use (Tsokalidou & Skourtou, 2020), guidance from the course librarian supported the PSTs’ evaluation and selection of bilingual and multicultural literature, which broadened their conceptualization of translanguaging practices. They also gained situated educational knowledge about translanguaging and adapted to pedagogical challenges of drawing on the EB students’ multilingual and multicultural backgrounds. This helped them increase the EBs’ engagement in literacy activities and gain communicative competence (Perren et al., 2013; Smidt, Chau, Rinehimer, & Leever, 2021). These community-based DSL experiences that may not be made available within traditional teacher education classroom setting can be a valuable addition to teacher preparation programs in that they allow PSTs to gain a deeper understanding of translanguaging as both theory and pedagogy, move away from a mere use of it as an instructional strategy, and fully engage in translanguaging practices that support EBs’ use of diverse linguistic and cultural repertoires.
Moreover, this study expands research in the intersection of teacher education and translanguaging by recognizing the power of technology to create new pathways for EB parent engagement in translanguaging spaces and contributes to a growing body of work focusing on parent roles in EB student learning and teacher preparation. In the present study a technology-enhanced, family-friendly social learning environment was created. Through this virtual learning environment, the EB parents were invited to engage in familiar translanguaging activities with their children, such as reading bilingual texts, discussing family heritage and traditions using bilingual skills, and sharing their cultural knowledge and everyday lived experiences. The PSTs could directly observe the flow of the students’ and the parents’ bilingual practices for the purpose of meaning-making, which is referred to as translanguaging corriente (García et al., 2017). This consolidated the PSTs’ new understandings of translanguaging theory and pedagogy. Overall, the present study demonstrates that the service-learning approach combined with the flexibility and accessibility of technology presents a new model for teacher education programs to create collaborative translanguaging spaces that integrate the engagement of EB parents who may not be typically involved in transforming school education and teacher preparation for linguistic and cultural diversity.
Although the present study represented a small group of participants within the context of one ESOL methods course, it sheds lights on curriculum development and implementation as to how teacher education courses can create technology-enhanced, collaborative service-learning opportunities to support monolingual mainstream PSTs in embracing a translanguaging stance and transforming toward more equitable, asset-based approaches to teaching in order to advocate EB students’ dynamic language practices.
However, this study has several limitations. One limitation is that the impact of the DSL project on the EB parents and community partners was not deeply examined. Further research is needed to engage all program participants in program evaluations and feedback gathering. Feedback and insights from all parties involved could offer valuable ideas to sustain and establish more productive community-based DSL projects (Pacheco et al., 2019). Future research might expand research scope and design by including in-service teachers and other instructional professionals in school contexts as collaborators. Moreover, this study did not account for how individual differences of PSTs shaped their experiences with translanguaging. A body of translanguaging research can benefit from future research that explores unanswered questions as to how individual PSTs’ specific linguistic and cultural backgrounds and lived experiences influence their experience with translanguaging stance, design, and shifts.
About the Author
SunYung Song is an Assistant Professor of Education at Athens State University in the U.S., where she teaches courses in ESOL/TESOL teacher education programs. She has published journal articles and book chapters in the areas of K-12 teacher education, multilingual education, second language (L2) academic literacy development, and L2 pragmatics. Her research interests include K-12 teacher education, bilingual and multilingual education, translanguaging, technology-enhanced literacy learning, and ESL family engagement. ORCID ID: 0000-0002-2064-6859
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