Dialogic classrooms, mediating the academic experience of linguistic minority learners

Beth Gerson, Fordham University

Abstract

This study investigated the academic achievement of linguistic minority students in mainstream social studies classrooms. By definition, linguistic minority students are those in whose homes a language other than English is spoken. While some of these students are thriving in the academic setting, others speak basic conversational English competently but lack the language that is necessary to cope with the academic demands of the classroom. Language was viewed theoretically as the primary semiotic tool through which students are enabled to successfully mediate the demanding academic milieu of the social studies classroom where both prior content specific and procedural knowledge are often anticipated.^ Specifically investigated were five strategies and conditions that appear to positively affect the academic competence and language growth of the linguistic minority students in three social studies classrooms in the middle and high schools. They included: (a) an instructional focus that develops and maintains a connection between classroom dialogue and text, (b) the teacher's elicitation of and responsiveness to student contributions, (c) the activation of relevant schemata, (d) overt teaching, and (e) the prevalence of assisted performance. Each element was analyzed within the context of the learning environment vis a vis the students' zones of proximal development.^ Three veteran teachers and 10 linguistic minority students participated in all aspects of the investigation. The research sites included: (a) one heterogeneous middle school class, (b) one college-preparatory high school class, and (c) one noncollege preparatory high school class. The sources of data included: (a) classroom observations, (b) teacher profiles and nonscripted interviews, and (c) nonscripted linguistic minority student interviews. The data were analyzed typologically and enumeratively.^ Two hypotheses were drawn from the findings and conclusions of the investigation. (1) In middle and high school social studies classes where cultural and linguistic diversity prevail, the teacher's consistent elicitation of and responsiveness to student contributions will positively affect student attitude and performance. (2) In middle and high school social studies classes where linguistic diversity prevails and students have not yet appropriated the procedural knowledge necessary to independently integrate text and classroom talk effectively, the implementation of text-based discourse as the medium of instruction will positively affect student attitude and performance. ^

Subject Area

Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Recommended Citation

Beth Gerson, "Dialogic classrooms, mediating the academic experience of linguistic minority learners" (January 1, 1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI9809003.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9809003

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