Teachers Theorizing English Learners' Math-Science Funds of Knowledge Through Community Activism
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Many teachers are inadequately prepared to teach math and science while addressing the cultural and linguistic needs of their increasing English Learner (EL) populations in mainstream classrooms (Duff, 2005). Additionally, many high poverty schools with a large population of ELs mandate scripted curricula which restrict teachers to adapt the curriculum so that they may teach to ELs’ funds of knowledge (FoK): bodies of knowledge and skills that are essential for individual survival (González et al, 2005). This study presents an additive approach on how a cohort of teachers learn to make-meaning and capitalize on ELs’ cultural and linguistic strengths, particularly math-science funds, as resources for learning. This participatory action research project adopts a case study method and collected data from weekly study group meetings, interviews, and classroom videos. Despite the teachers fear and resistance to conducting home visits, they explored ELs’ life-worlds through nontraditional activities, such as an ethnographic community walk, surveys, and extending in-class FoK discussions. Recognizing the importance of their ELs’ playground practices, prompted the teachers to work as agents of change to mobilize math-science funds for pedagogical action and advocate for a playground at their school while maintaining community support. Additionally, to mediate funds for math and science required the teachers to not be passive agents to scripted curricula, but adapters of it by becoming curriculum designers. The teachers expanded the curriculum from lesson planning a universal shared knowledge on playgrounds to leveraging ELs variations within and between their multiple funds. Importantly, a FoK discourse became the “language of power” since the teachers shifted to make communicating mathematically and scientifically accessible for their ELs to and through their funds. Furthermore, the teachers transformed ELs participation and content development by mediating FoK in conjunction with role shifts, higher order questions, tension, and third spaces. Finally, the teachers (re)conceptualized how they viewed math and science through ELs’ FoK. The significance of this study demonstrates the need to build bidirectional seamless boundaries between the in-school and ELs out-of-school practices so these students, like many of their mainstream peers, may learn from their familiar ways of knowing.
SubjectFunds of knowledge
English language learners