Figured worlds and dual language experts in two-way immersion classes : an ethnographic case study
Two-Way Immersion (TWI) programs offer settings and goals that foster multilingual and multicultural communities; however, communities are complex and fluid, and have aspects that may or may not promote equitable education and learning. This research analyzes the actions and interactions of a group of first grade students to address how community develops during the first semester of implementation of a TWI program. Theoretical notions of figured worlds and communities of practice frame the analysis of ethnographic data to provide insight into the complex social and pedagogical dynamics of this setting 1) through conversations with teachers, 2) through observations of teacher-student interactions during teacher-centered activities, and 3) through observations of students interacting with less teacher presence. Findings describe the teachers’ discourses about their students, which centered on issues of equity and dismantling language status hierarchies. The findings also describe practices that the teachers themselves frame as promoting unified, equitable communities; however, analysis was mixed in finding that certain practices appeared to promote unity within the classroom and others appeared to reinforce divisions among students. Key findings also confirm the results of other researchers regarding the positioning of initially bilingual students in TWI as “dual language experts.” This study notes some ramifications of teaching practices and aspects of the specific 50-50 TWI model for the entire community of learners, which, while elevating balanced bilinguals may marginalize English learners and Spanish learners.