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- Language minority teacher identity and teacher education
- Access to higher education for language minority students
- Anti-oppressive education/Social justice and language minority education
- Critical theories in language minority education
- Immigration and schooling in international settings
My scholarship, teaching, and service focus on improving the schooling experiences and ultimately the lives of linguistic minority (LM) youth, especially bilingual students and English language learners (ELLs). To support this goal, I have worked to primarily focus all aspects of my work on re-envisioning the scholarship and practices of teacher education to ensure that teachers will be better prepared to teach LM students. A second major goal of my work has been the improvement of LM students’ access to rigorous curriculum and pedagogy.
My journey as an educational researcher addressing the needs of linguistic minorities began early in my career. I started by teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) and English as a second language (ESL) to a range of LM students of different ages, languages, nationalities, and heritages in Italy, the U.K, and the United States. During this time, I became aware of two key interconnected educational problems influencing my students’ social and academic achievement as well as their access to the larger society. The first was the lack of adequate preparation of and support for LM teachers (teachers of LM students) and the second was the obstacles that severely limit LM students’ access to academically rich pedagogy and programs. Although my primary line of research has been with LM teacher education and classroom teachers, addressing these two broad but significant issues has served as the impetus for my subsequent empirical work.
In addition to the empirical contributions of my work, I have sought to bring novel ways to conceptually frame and develop this work. I have ventured outside the confines of linguistic analysis and the traditions of my formal preparation to draw on sociocultural frameworks that use relevant anthropological and sociological constructs. These mainly address teacher and student development as being created within the co-evolution of agency and structure; how as individuals and groups they can develop and “make things happen” within structural opportunities and constraints.
In a similar vein, I have developed an interdisciplinary approach and knowledge base that integrates historically separate research areas, such as Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Bilingual Education. This is evident in the content of my scholarship as well as the range of audiences for my work. My work has appeared in top journals, such as TESOL Quarterly, Journal of Teacher Education, Language and Education, and Linguistics and Education as well as volumes and handbooks, such as a book I co-edited entitled Bilingualism and Language Pedagogy, and chapters in Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives and the Encyclopedia of Language and Education.
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2000
Varghese, M. (2012). A linguistic minority student’s discursive framing of agency and structure. In Y. Kanno & L. Harklau (Eds.), Linguistic minority immigrants go to college: Preparation, access, and persistence. Routledge.
In this chapter, I draw from an interview with a successful linguistic minority student at a four-year-college. Using Mills and Gale’s (2007) notion of constraint agency and a Bakhtinian lens and analytical tools of discursive construction and strategies, I show that it is not necessary to view agency as a set of completed actions but it can be revealing to show how students articulate their agency discursively through a narration of themselves and their paths to college. In this analysis, I show the discourses that are both available to this student as well as those she draws upon in the way she talks about her ability to navigate her postsecondary context. Such an analysis underscores the importance of how students can articulate themselves as powerful agents (or not) and what they draw on in terms of their beliefs and resources in such an articulation.
Kanno, Y. & Varghese, M. (2010). Immigrant and refugee ESL student’s challenges to accessing four-year college education: From language policy to educational policy. Journal of Language, Identity and Education 9 (5), 310-328.
Research on English as a second language (ESL) students in higher education has traditionally focused on their academic writing, leaving larger issues of their college access and success unexplored. This article examines the challenges that first-generation immigrant and refugee ESL students face in accessing four-year college education through a qualitative interview study at a U.S. public university. Drawing on Bourdieu’s cultural reproduction theory, we argue that what inhibits ESL students’ access to and participation in four-year college education is not simply their limited English proficiency but also the structural constraints unique to this population, their limited financial resources, and the students’ own tendency to self-eliminate. Based on our results, we call for a shift in higher education policy from one focusing narrowly on remediating ESL students’ limited English proficiency to a more comprehensive set of policies that address the structural and economic, as well as linguistic, factors that together inhibit ESL students’ college access and participation.
*Oropeza, M., Varghese, M. & Kanno, Y. (2010). Linguistic minority students in higher education: Using, resisting, and negotiating labels. Equity & Excellence in Education, 43(2), 216-231.
Linguistic minority students have been both under-researched and underserved in the context of research on minority students’ access to and retention in higher education. The labels ascribed to them have typically failed to capture the complexity of their identities. Additionally, much of the literature in higher education on minority students’ access and retention has focused on structural barriers rather than on how students negotiate these barriers. By bringing linguistic minority students into the forefront of this conversation, we show how four linguistic minority female students draw on their community cultural wealth and different forms of capital (Yosso, 2005) to access and navigate college while experiencing differing advantages and disadvantages based on institutional labeling. By employing critical race theory and its conceptualization of capital, we illustrate how students use, resist, and negotiate labels in attempts to access resources and services at a four-year institution. We conclude by calling for more research on this population as well as additive university practices and policies that reflect the richness of linguistic minority student identities.
*Varghese, M. M. & Park, C. (2010). Going global: Can dual language programs save bilingual education? Journal of Latinos and Education, 9(1), 72-80.
In this commentary, we extend the cautionary tales regarding dual-language programs raised by several scholars by considering the interface of such programs with global education. We consider the possible pitfalls of uncritically framing dual-language programs within the global education movement in the United States, especially in light of how this new framing will affect the educational opportunities and experiences of Latino/a students throughout the country. Key words: Latino/a students, bilingual education, dual language
*Varghese, M. (2008). Using cultural models to unravel how bilingual teachers enact language policies. Language and Education, 22(5), 289-306.
There have been calls to examine how language policy is mediated at the local level. Although there have been studies that have foregrounded the local, there have yet to be those that look at how language policies become adopted by individual teachers through a process of their personal and professional socialisation. Through the framework of cultural models and using ethnographic methods, I examine how four novice bilingual Latino/a teachers in three different schools in the United States come to share a cultural model of dual language education. At the same time, I highlight how the differences in their adoption of a particular policy are constituted by both their personal and professional experiences as well as the organisational structures in which they find themselves in. This study contributes to the understanding of how language policies are adopted by bilingual classroom teachers as well as to the discussion of the future of bilingual education in the United States.
Varghese, M. & Johnston, B. (2007). Evangelical Christians and English language teaching. TESOL Quarterly. Evangelical Christians are an enduring and growing presence in the field of English language teaching worldwide, and in the TESOL organization in particular. Yet to date, hardly any empirical research has been done on this population of teachers, or on the links between English teaching, religious beliefs, and mission work worldwide. This paper reports on a qualitative study of ten ESL/EFL teachers-in-training at two evangelical Christian colleges in the U.S. Using interview data, the study explores the religious beliefs of the participants and the complex, varied, and often still developing ways in which these beliefs relate to their perspectives on mission work and on the relationship between religious faith and English language teaching. We conclude by identifying key moral dilemmas raised by the participants’ values as related to several of the dominant discourses present in ELT.
Varghese, M. (2006). Bilingual teachers-in-the-making in Urbantown. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development. This study based on ethnographic methods explores how the professional identities of a group of bilingual (Spanish/English) Latino/a teachers-in-the-making in an urban public school district in the United States are formed and enacted. It illustrates the national and local discourses that influence novice bilingual teachers in their professional identities. But it also focuses on the structural influences and the ways that teachers respond to such influences. The study found that teachers developed a complex, sometimes conflicted, sense of their professional identities and these were mediated by their responses to their marginalization, their professional development, local setting(s) and their personal histories. Another important finding of this study was the resulting variation of professional identities the teachers enacted due to a host of influences, causing some to leave the profession and others to stay. This research suggests viewing professional development for bilingual teachers as a place where discussion and dissent is encouraged, and a process of what teachers may become rather than solely what they should know. It also underscores the importance of viewing professional development and the making of bilingual teachers as an interaction of structural and agentive influences.
Stritikus, T., & Varghese, M., (2005). “Nadie me dijo (Nobody told me)” Language Policy Negotiation and Implications for Teacher Education. Journal of Teacher Education. 56 (1), 73-87. Nationwide and statewide shifts and ambiguity in language education policy have created substantial instability for teachers. Through a cross-case study and analysis of bilingual teachers in two states, this article shows how these teachers participate in responding to and making decisions regarding language policy. This article shows how and why an understanding of language policy and the decision making involved with it is a crucial dimension of the professional roles of teachers who have second-language learners in their classrooms. Thus, the authors broaden the discussion on the teacher preparation for the instruction of English-language-learner students, which has narrowly focused on an awareness of language and methods, to include the dimension of policy making.
Varghese, M., Morgan, B., Johnston, B., & Johnson, K. (2005). Theorizing language teacher identity: Three perspectives and beyond. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 4(1), 21-44. Language teacher identity is an emerging subject of interest in research on language teacher education and teacher development. Yet relatively little attention has been paid to the ways in which teacher identity is theorized. The present paper explores ways of theorizing language teacher identity by presenting three data-based studies of teacher identity and juxtaposing the three different theoretical frameworks that they use: Tajfel’s (1978) social identity theory, Lave and Wenger’s (1991) theory of situated learning, and Simon’s (1995) concept of the image-text. It is seen that each theoretical perspective allows us to investigate different substantive and theoretical aspects of language teacher identity, and that there are strong conceptual resonances among the different approaches. While in isolation each theory has its limitations, an openness to multiple theoretical approaches allows a richer and more useful understanding of the processes and contexts of teacher identity.
Brutt-Griffler, J., & Varghese, M. (Eds.) (2004). Bilingualism and Language Pedagogy. Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters Ltd. Bilingualism and Language Pedagogy brings an understanding of language as a social practice, and bilingualism as the study of bidirectional transitioning, to the examination of bilingual settings in the U.S., Europe and developing countries. The volume suggests that language pedagogy needs to reflect new understandings of bilinguals. Focusing both on bilingual linguistic competencies among bilingual practitioners and students. The volume situates teachers as mediators and explores the key roles that they have as language and content educators. In discussing the experiences of learners, it takes up the linguistic competence of bilinguals, highlighting how their language use constitutes a resource for meeting the demands of social interactions, and foregrounds the significance of developing academic language proficiency in English among minority children to decrease the barriers facing them in residential and academic settings.
EDTEP 544: Differentiated instruction for Elementary Teacher Education. This class is for the Elementary Masters in Teaching teacher candidates. In this class, we will build on the foundational work we did in the first quarter about education for culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students in American public schools. We focus on principles of second language acquisition and development with an emphasis on academic language. The class also focuses on instructional strategies for supporting CLD students in mainstream classrooms and ways to assess their learning of both academic language and content.
EDC&I 545: Multilingual Acquisition and Socialization. The purpose of this course is to provide teachers with an overview of the processes and factors involved with learning a second language, especially in relation to English, and to make them more aware of the multidimensionality of issues that are relevant in learning a second language. Some of the topics which will be discussed are the nature of language proficiency, the role of age and other individual variables in second language learning, the role of the first language, and issues of identity construction. The social aspects of language learning will be also covered by examining questions such as why, at times, learners withdraw from full participation in language development. The course as a whole attempts to relate the discussion of second language acquisition to pedagogical implications for classroom teaching.
EDC&I 547: Seminar: Sociolinguistics and Education. This seminar explores a variety of relationships between language and society, including, for example, language and gender/social class/ethnicity. The different dimensions that will be considered are language in relation to society, variation, interaction and culture. The course specifically focuses on how these relationships impact the educational experience of all students, and of linguistically and culturally diverse populations in particular. The course assignments will have students engage in a qualitative project, and major course readings will revolve around reading two book-length ethnographies.
EDC&I 505: Seminar: Sociocultural theories in language and literacy research. Sociocultural theory is often viewed or assumed as a single, unified theory for understanding human behavior, as well as social, cultural and linguistic/literacy practices. In this seminar, we challenge this, proposing that multiple and sometimes, competing theories exist that refer to themselves as sociocultural. In this seminar, we explore the range of theoretical ideas and tensions in sociocultural theory and consider how they have been applied in contemporary research in language and literacy. Therefore, our major goals for this seminar are the following: first, to engage with the work of influential theorists, ranging from Bourdieu to Vygotsky, and Lave & Wenger to Bhabha; second, to delve into how current researchers in language and literacy (also relating to teacher education in these areas) have drawn on the work of these theorists; third, to critically examine and analyze how to put together a conceptual framework for your own work.
EDC&I 505. Seminar: Second language teacher identity and education. The research and practice around teacher education and teacher identity in mainstream teacher education has been under way for the past 30 years. However, second language teacher education and identity has only recently become an area of investigation in its own right. These two overlapping topics are critical in understanding the academic and social experiences of bilingual/multilingual children and adults as we chart the research and practice around the professional development and lives of their teachers. The central questions tackled are: 1) What and how do teachers learn to teach bilingual/multilingual students? 2) How do teachers affect/influence their bilingual/multilingual students? 3) How do teachers of bilingual/multilingual students craft a professional identity?
EDC&I 506. Seminar in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity. This seminar is a professional preparation and socialization course for doctoral students interested in cultural and linguistic diversity in the College of Education at the University of Washington. The overall goal of this course is to make more transparent and explicit the different skills, products, and practices that doctoral students can and should refine in order to be prepared more fully for pursuing a career after their graduate studies.