Online Teacher Education Resources in ELT: Cultivating Positive Dispositions With Multimodal Resources

In this third part of our blog series on virtual teacher education, we discuss how to help teacher candidates develop asset-oriented dispositions for teaching multilingual students. All teacher candidates have preconceived beliefs, and there are a number of assumptions about English learners and myths about bilingualism that may negatively impact teacher practice with multilingual learners. Teacher candidates may have had limited opportunities to interact with multilingual learners, and many do not share the backgrounds or experiences of their students. Moreover, though teacher candidates may think of themselves as allies to diverse students, they may struggle to put these stances into action through antiracist education. In this post, we explore the following question:

How can we use resources available online to help teacher candidates recognize their implicit biases and develop more asset-based perspectives?

Teacher Education for Justice and Equity

Our work as teacher educators is grounded in humanizing pedagogies, culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogies, and antiracist education. These resource pedagogies aim to help schools combat the inequities often present in the education of multilingual learners. The online resources we share in this post

  • help teacher candidates reflect on their own biases,
  • critically analyze how multilingual and immigrant students are presented in the media, and
  • approach multilingualism as a strength and a norm.

The activities we share are all designed to be accomplishable in remote instruction.

Reflecting on Identity

We encourage our students to make sense of their own identities and their positionalities with regard to multilingual learners and often begin our courses with such identity-exploring activities. One we call Cultural and Linguistic Autobiography can take the form of a written essay, a Prezi; or a digital story. In this assignment, teacher candidates explore their family history, cultural upbringing, education, and linguistic development, and reflect on how these impact them as future teachers of multilingual learners. The autobiographies can also be shared online with classmates, which promotes discussion about diversity, privilege, and bias.

Another stepping stone to such discussions is the diversity wheel, for example this one attributed to the Johns Hopkins University as well as this Social Identity Wheel by the University of Michigan. The wheel can be used to start a conversation about what it means to have certain visible or invisible, privileged or oppressed identities. Remote teaching tools can be used to ease students into this discussion, which can sometimes be met with resistance. For example, students can be placed in breakout rooms to discuss in smaller groups or they can post their thoughts anonymously using a tool such as Padlet.

Learning From Current Events

We also find it helpful for teacher candidates to have the opportunity to see how biases against multilingual learners play out in everyday life. One way to do this is to examine incidents reported in the news, such as when a Duke University professor asked students not to speak Chinese or a radio host attacked a landscaping crew in a blatantly racist and anti-immigrant manner. Examining such events helps teacher candidates understand the types of negative experiences their multilingual students may be subjected to simply because of their language or skin tone.

In our courses, we use news stories like these in an assignment we call Bilingualism Through the Public Eye. Teacher candidates take turns selecting and leading a discussion on a news story pertaining to multilingual students, thereby gaining an often newly found perspective on linguicism, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiments as frequent rather than aberrant parts of life in America. This activity has translated well into the online space, where we have students engage in small groups through Blackboard discussion boards.

Voices of Multilingual Learners

It’s also important to expose teacher candidates to the idea that multilingual learners in their classrooms are not a monolith, even when they may all speak the same language. In our first post, we discussed using language portraits of multilingual learners. A similar resource is the I Learn America Human Library, which features narrative writing by immigrant students. We also like to use podcasts such as Points in Between, which interviews immigrant students to discover more about how they “experience America through its schools.” The University of Minnesota has a digital archive of Immigrant Stories, which includes a curriculum for colleges and asks the fundamental question, “What changes when immigrants and refugees are given the opportunity to tell their own stories?”

These portraits can be paired with an anticipation guide, in which teacher candidates evaluate their agreement with statements such as “Immigrants come to the United States with little education” both before and after being exposed to the portraits. Reading and listening to the voices of multilingual learners and having thoughtful discussions about the diversity of their experiences can help teacher candidates better understand the students that they will be working with in the future.

Normalizing Multilingualism

Multilingual learners are often “othered,” and one way we try to help combat this is to treat multilingualism as an asset. One way is to highlight the already present multilingualism in the United States (and the world). This map by Business Insider, for example, shows the most common language spoken in each state after English and Spanish, allowing teacher candidates to visualize multilingualism in our country. There are also a number of TED Talks about bilingualism, such as “The Revolutionary Power of Bilingualism,” by Karina Chapa, and “Embracing Multilingualism and Eradicating Linguistic Bias,” by Karen Leung.

It is also important for teacher candidates to understand that a multilingual individual’s languages are not separated into different silos. Rather, multilingual students will often make sense of their world using translingual practices or translanguaging, in which they leverage all of their language assets for learning new content. We like to expose teacher candidates to activities such as having to make sense of a text in another language with a partner without being allowed to use English, which can help combat monolingual, antihome language stances many teacher candidates may initially hold.

Classroom Examples

Teacher candidates may find it challenging to apply these ideas to actual instructional practices in the classroom, especially in a remote or hybrid setting with limited opportunities for field-based experiences. We like activities where teacher candidates review actual lesson plans that are developed with an antiracist framework. Teacher candidates can review the content and instructional ideas as well as discuss ways to scaffold the lesson so it is accessible to multilingual learners.

Some useful resources for lesson plans and content include

Additionally, teacher candidates might also find the idea of incorporating multilingual approaches into their pedagogy daunting when they themselves identify as monolingual and/or are in the process of learning a new language. The CUNY-NYSIEB addresses this in a series of videos about working with bilingual students, when you don’t share the students’ language. CUNY-NYSIEB has also released a series of translanguaging guides that include sample curricula, lessons, and corresponding videos with actionable ideas for translingualism in the classroom.

We also recommend the Massachusetts ESL Model Curriculum Units which include unit plans, instructional materials, and corresponding videos of model lessons.

We want to close this blog post by acknowledging and naming some of the scholars who inform our perspectives and approaches to teacher education, including Lilia Bartolomé, Dorinda Carter Andrews, Suresh Canagarajah, Lisa Delpit, Ofelia García, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Tamara Lucas, Suhanthie Motha, Sonia Nieto, Django Paris, and Ana María Villegas. For those interested in reading more, we recommend the following books:

What ideas do you have for addressing implicit bias and developing asset-based perspectives with teacher candidates? Please share with us in the comment section below.

In our next post, we will introduce online resources for addressing content-area language demands.

About Christine Montecillo Leider and Johanna Tigert

Christine Montecillo Leider and Johanna Tigert
Christine Montecillo Leider is a clinical assistant professor at the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University. Her work focuses on antiracist and culturally/linguistically responsive pedagogical practices as well as policy and civil rights issues regarding teacher training and multilingual learners’ access to education. Johanna Tigert is assistant professor at the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Her work focuses on students’ right to maintain their home languages as well as on preparing content area teachers to effectively meet the needs of multilingual students.
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