Exploring the intersections of local language policies and emergent bilingual learner identities: a comparative classroom study at an urban Arizona school
This multilevel, institutional case study used ethnographic methods to explore the intersections of local language policies and emergent bilingual students’ identities in dual language and structured English immersion (SEI) classrooms at one urban elementary school. Using a sociocultural policy approach as means to explore the ways that educational language policies are appropriated and practiced in schools and classrooms and an intersectional literacy identity framework, I engaged in a multilevel qualitative analysis of one school, two fifth-grade classrooms, and four focal emergent bilingual students. At the school and classroom levels, I sought to understand the ways educators practiced and enacted language policies as well as how they conceptualized (bi)literacy for emergent bilingual students. At the student level, I engaged in identity-text writing sessions designed around student interests yet aligned with the opinion/argumentation writing style the students were working on in class at the time of data collection. Additionally, I conducted one-on-one interviews with the participants at each level of analysis (i.e. school-level, classroom-level, and student-level). The primary data analysis sources included participant interviews, classroom observations, and student identity-text artifacts.
Findings highlight the dynamic in-school and classroom-level realities of emergent bilingual students in an Arizona educational-language policy context. Specifically, at the school level, there was an ongoing tension between compliance and resistance to state-mandated policies for emergent bilingual students. At the school and classroom levels, there were distinct differences in the ways students across the two classrooms were positioned within the larger school environment as well as variation surrounding how language and culture were positioned as a resource in each classroom context. The role of teachers as language policymakers is also explored through the findings. Analysis of student texts revealed the centrality of intersectional student identities throughout the writing processes. The discussion and conclusions more broadly address implications for educational practice, policy, and future research directions.