The Dialogic Cconstruction of Bilingual Literacies, Disability, and Inclusion by Content-area Teachers

Open Access
Hults, Alaska Black
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 08, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Kathleen Mary Collins, Committee Chair
  • Patrick Willard Shannon, Committee Member
  • Elizabeth A Smolcic, Committee Member
  • Karen E Johnson, Special Member
  • ESL
  • Disability Studies in Education
  • Positioning
  • Professional Learning
  • Professional Development
  • K-12
This design research study explores the evolution of four rural Pennsylvanian education professionals’ discourse about their Emergent Bilingual (EB) students over the duration of an eight-week professional development (PD) course. The participants were asked to attend seven meetings, keep weekly reflective blogs, and incorporate the various pedagogical strategies and methods learned during the course into their classrooms. Viewed through the multiple lenses of sociocultural theory (SCT), positioning theory, and Disability Studies in Education (DSE), the data suggest that targeted PD courses may enable teachers to move the location of perceived problems out of the children and into their pedagogical strategies and curricula, both of which are areas that teachers generally feel empowered to change. Likewise, while teachers who have not been provided with appropriate PD opportunities may conflate disability and English language learning, thereby giving credence to the notion of an “English-Language Learning Disability,” this study provides evidence that teachers enrolled in PD courses begin to demonstrate an understanding of the role that a lack of appropriate linguistic supports plays in poor academic and behavioral outcomes. Finally, in order to provide a concrete example of how a teacher may move from believing his or her student is problematic and disabled to believing the student is capable, this study presents the telling case of Lucy and her student Alma. At the beginning of the study, Lucy and Alma are dis/abled by the discourse of the “Wild Child” which is perpetuated in the discourse of the school’s administration and faculty. While enrolled in the PD course, however, Lucy is able to transition from seeing Alma as a Wild Child to recognizing Alma as a student whose learning has been severely delayed by inappropriate pedagogical practices and an unsupportive learning environment, but who nonetheless has clear abilities that signal her capability to succeed in the proper learning context.