Teachers’ perspectives on Chinese culture integration and culturally relevant pedagogy in teaching Chinese as a heritage language : a multiple-case study
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This multiple-case study investigated six teachers’ perspectives on their teaching practices and cultural integration in a Chinese heritage language school. This research also explored how the teachers’ instructional practices were linked to Ladson-Billings’ theories on culturally relevant pedagogy (1994). Qualitative in nature, multiple data sources were included, such as semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, and teachers’ artifacts. Data analysis included both within- and cross-case analysis. Within-case analysis showed that each teacher had her particular method of fostering students’ language learning. They also had unique ways of teaching Chinese culture; one held that culture is embedded in literature, another held that culture is the daily life of a group of people, another held that culture is gained through reading, a fourth held that culture is transmitted from one generation to the next, another held that culture is analyzed in relation to other cultures, and, finally, one teacher perceived that culture is hybrid and multifaceted. Based on the central tenets of culturally relevant pedagogy, four themes emerged from the cross-case analysis: (a) motivational and skill-building strategies to promote academic success, (b) individual, plural, and progressive ways to integrate and reconceptualize Chinese culture, (c) rebalancing authority to share power with students, and (d) culture identity development to enhance self-empowerment. Despite the link between the current study and Ladson-Billings’ theory, differences were found. For example, the Chinese teachers viewed heritage language learning as a way to help students connect their family members rather than to become active agents in the larger society. Besides cultural facts, the teachers incorporated cultural virtues and cultural reconceptualization. Instead of focusing on questioning inequities, the teachers encouraged students to build harmonious relationship with other ethnic groups. As the existing studies emphasized minority education for Mexican and African American students, the present study shed new light on language and culture instruction for Chinese Americans. This study suggests four implications: (a) developing heritage language teachers’ professional knowledge about implementing a “student-centered” approach, (b) enhancing heritage language teachers’ critical cultural awareness, (c) investigating heritage language teaching from diverse sociocultural backgrounds, and (d) introducing the theory of culturally relevant pedagogy in heritage language education.
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