Scaffolding Disciplinary Engagement and Literacy for Reclassified as Fluent English Proficient (R-FEP) Middle School Students
Eng, Susanna C.
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This study investigated the instructional practices and aspects of the classroom environment that middle school social teachers used to establish and cultivate engagement and learning with content and discipline-specific understandings with text for their Reclassified as Fluent English Proficient (R-FEP) students. A framework of productive disciplinary engagement (PDE) (Engle, 2012; Engle & Conant, 2002) that integrated literature on literacy, bilingual/bicultural language learners, and key disciplinary concepts and practice in history and civics was used to examine how teachers framed and supported their R-FEP students’ interactions with text; students’ responses to instruction and scaffolds were also examined. The findings revealed complex tensions across three cases that detailed both opportunities for and barriers to developing discipline-specific engagement and learning with and from text. Analysis indicated that: a) teachers planned and enacted instruction that suggested that text and literacy were peripheral to content learning and engagement; b) teachers provided opportunities to encounter but not to develop key disciplinary concepts and understandings; and c) teachers demonstrated limited awareness of the influence of literacy and culture on R-FEP students.Encounters with difficult texts in combination with the types of reading strategies previously taught and research and writing supports provided bolstered the belief that learning was synonymous with the accumulation of knowledge. The teachers assumed that gathering factual information would naturally lead to conceptual understanding. While the teachers highlighted the importance of disciplinary concepts, such as historical context and argumentation, the primary supports to grapple with these concepts communicated completion over the consideration of relevance and purposeful thinking. Consequently, the R-FEP students held onto overly simplistic perspectives. There was a mismatch in salience and perceived relevance of language and cultural ethnic identity for R-FEP students in comparison to their teachers. Without a specific label and status of “ELL” attached to students, the salience of language was low for the social studies teachers who assumed these students no longer faced language and literacy challenges like their English dominant peers. This study has implications for the framework of PDE, demonstrating the critical role that text, literacy, language, and cultural ethnic identity influence the opportunities for engagement with content and disciplinary learning for R-FEP adolescents. This study also provided qualitative support that R-FEP adolescents are still affected by issues of language and literacy years after exit from ELL support services.
- Education - Seattle