Using literacies to question identity, culture, and difference in the intensive ESL classroom

Jill Marcy Gladstein, University of Pennsylvania


Topics associated with “culture” are commonly used in the intensive classroom as conversation starters or as “windows” into American Society. Discrimination, gender roles, as well as other themes are presented in order to provide meaningful and real language for students. But what does it mean for the student to have these topics used in class for language learning and cultural discussions when the students already have their own representations of the new society? When representations appear in classes they are often ignored whether because of fear of conflict between the teacher and student or because the representations' presence is not a language issue. This study looks at how a particular content and teaching approach, focused around the themes of identity, culture, and difference, (i,c,d) were created to have students become aware and responsible for the representations they possess and share in class. It is believed that i,c,d are connected to students' representations and therefore, they were asked to define and interpret these concepts in relation to the students themselves and American society. Several literacy theories such as holistic teaching and learning and critical theory were used in the curriculum design. The focus of research was on both the content of the curriculum and the methods used within it. This study argues that critical questioning is one way to have students address their own representations others while also being introduced to the differences that exist between the students and American society. The design of the study and its data collection methods create a multi-layered study. Data was collected from three different classes using journals, audiotapes, student written work, three types of interviews, site documents, and through the use of a homepage created specifically for the study. This study used the method of grounded theory to analyze the data collected. The results of this study show the need to look more closely at students' perceptions of experiences in and out of the classroom. By providing for a critical questioning approach, students were beginning to address the perceptions they had about American society as well as the intensive English program itself.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education

Recommended Citation

Gladstein, Jill Marcy, "Using literacies to question identity, culture, and difference in the intensive ESL classroom" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9937725.