Reader Response Journal

Multimodal Pedagogies for Teacher Education in TESOL by Youngjoo Yi and Tuba Angay-Crowder

In this article, Yi and Angay-Crowder outline many of the challenges to integrating multimodal practices into TESOL teacher education classes. While many teachers recognize the benefits of multimodality, they often feel unprepared to make use of these new approaches in their own teaching. Differentiating between multimodality, “an interdisciplinary, social semiotic approach that understands communication and representation as the integration of multiple modes for meaning making” (p. 990) and multiliteracies, pedagogy that integrates “situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing, and transformed practice” (New London Group, 1996, p. 83), they view the former as the foundation for the latter. Next, they describe two multimodal assignments Yi introduced to her teacher education courses. The first involved her preservice and inservice teachers creating multimodal final presentations for an SLA course, based on the principle that teachers need to be able to use these techniques themselves before they will be able to use them productively with their students. The second required her students to create 5 minute digital stories to use as instructional materials alongside lesson plans they had designed for their students. The challenges in using these types of assignments in teacher education classes were threefold. First, multimodal representations are often seen as less legitimate ways of knowing, especially in academic contexts, where unimodal print-based learning dominates. Second, designing rubrics that accounted for both the teachers’ content knowledge and their multimodal project design was an issue. Finally, there was resistance and skepticism from the teachers themselves. Concerns about their own technical and content skills, lack of resources or time, and the need to prepare students for traditional tests are likely to be factors that influence teachers’ perceptions of multimodal learning. To counter these issues, Yi and Angay-Crowder encourage us to reconceptualize multimodal practices as relevant for all students, not just high or low achievers, and as legitimate as more traditional text-based methods. They also recognize the need to create assessments that match the teaching practices and allow students to represent their achievement multimodally. By reflecting on the widespread multimodality of our everyday literacy practices, and experimenting with multimodality within teacher education classes so that we can directly experience the process of designing and creating multimodal texts, they believe we can address the fundamental issues underlying the underuse of multimodality in TESOL teacher education.

One thing that really stood out to me was their suggestion to teach the metalanguage of multimodal texts, and to allow students opportunities to explain their design choices. When I was in graduate school, a friend of mine did a presentation on how we could be better integrate multimodality into our “teaching the four skills” class, which she encouraged us to reconceptualize as “six skills,” including both receptive and productive multimodal skills alongside reading, writing, speaking and listening. One of the things I remember most from her presentation was the way she demonstrated the meaning inherent in visual choices and how students can be taught to process those choices the same way they would another mode of communication. Perhaps if I was to do something like this with teachers I was training, I would ask for a short reflection alongside the final project, where they could highlight some of their choices. I also think the “teacher first” principle will be a useful one for me to keep in mind going forward, to make sure my teachers are able to use these new communicative modes before they expect their students to, especially in the less-digital contexts in which I work. Although, it is worth noting that multimodality is more than just digital, which was a misperception of mine when I first encountered the term. I’d be interested in ways to more explicitly integrate non-digital multimodality into teacher training as well, particularly movement.

Yi, Y. & Angay-Crowder, T. (2016). Multimodal pedagogies for teacher education in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 50(4), 988-998.

Reader Response Journal

Racism and Linguicism: Engaging Language-Minority Pre-Service Teachers in Counter-Storytelling by Hyesun Cho

This article examines the ways in which two teachers engaged their Asian non-native speaking teacher education students in counter-storytelling to create a space for them to explore their experiences with racial and linguistic marginalization in academia. This class was a part of a program specifically designed for language-minority teacher candidates, which is important given the disparity between US student and teacher demographics, where 40% of students are racial or ethnic minorities, compared to just 16% of teachers (Kohli, 2014). After explaining the basics of critical race theory, linguicism and counter-storytelling, Cho describes the context of her research. Her study took place in Hawaii and included five undergraduate students, all of whom were non-native English speakers (3 Korean, 1 Chinese and 1 Samoan), as well as herself, a Korean non-native English speaker, and a white native English speaking teacher, who also spoke Spanish. She describes how she encouraged students to tell counter-stories, which included they ways their peers and teachers positioned them as deficient because of their non-native speaking status, despite their academic success, which allowed them to challenge the linguicism they faced. This was done to investigate the ways race and language are enacted in dominant school practices. She then examines the differences in the students’ response to herself, an Asian NNEST, compared to her co-teacher, a white NEST. When the white teacher first brought up issues of race, the students initially defended the white teachers they had, which Cho hypothesizes might be because of the power balance and students not wanting to cause conflict with the white teacher. They also asked the white teacher questions about teaching non-native speakers instead of her own language learning experiences, while they asked Cho about her experiences as a NNES student, and felt like she could relate and empathize with what they were going through, because she was one of them. The students found validation in the way Cho elicited and responded to their stories. In contrast, the white teacher was cognizant of being separate from the rest of the group, due to her racial and linguistic identity. Conscious of not wanting to gloss over her white privilege or influence the students’ ideas as a result, she used race-conscious discourse to denormalize white native speakers as the unmarked default and lessen the power of her own white identity. Cho found that the collaboration between herself and the white teacher was productive because they could explore the differences in the students’ responses. Having a white NEST exposed the students to a white anti-racist and reinforced he idea that these issues are important for everyone to engage with, not just minorities. Having an Asian NNEST created a space where the students more actively engaged with issues of racism and linguicism and lead to increased solidarity due to their shared experiences. While Cho didn’t use the terms counter-storytelling with her students, she recommends using the term in the future, so students understand that their stories have a grounding in critical race theory.

The juxtaposition of the experiences of the white NEST and Asian NNEST experiences were really interesting to me. One of the things I was struck by was the way Cho’s students noticed and felt valued by her reactions to their stories, such as note taking, responding in depth and showing non-verbal support, which are concrete actions that teachers of any race or language background could use. It was also interesting the way Cho foregrounded the white teacher’s bilingualism and language learning experiences, which the students didn’t really engage with. It makes me wonder how much the dominant narrative of white native speakers as being monolingual affected the students relationship to her. Perhaps, solidarity and empathy could have been built up here along language learning lines, with a recognition of the fact that white and non-white language learners are not treated the same in societal discourse. It was also useful for me to see an example of how simple counter-storytelling can be, which makes them seem more accessible, since it’s basically just creating a space for students to discuss their experiences together and encouraging them to engage with racial and linguistic issues as they do. I think mentally framing conversations about personal experiences as counter-stories gives them more weight. It makes me wonder if the students would have perceived them differently if they had been given the label, or if it would have felt heavier somehow and made it more difficult to discuss. Especially, since I have the distance of being a white native speaker already. I wonder when in the process Cho would give students the term counter-storytelling and explain the CRT framework behind it.

Cho, H. (2016). Racism and linguicism: Engaging language minority pre-service teachers in counter-storytelling. Race, Ethnicity and Education. Advance online publication. 

Kohli, R. (2014). Unpacking internalized racism: Teachers of color and their challenge to racial hierarchies in the classroom. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 17(3), 367–387.

Reader Response Journal

Promoting Critical Racial Awareness in Teacher Education in Korea: Reflections on a Racial Discrimination Simulation Activity by Shannon Tanghe

This article describes a racial discrimination simulation activity that Tanghe carried out with her Korean teacher education students. Based off of Jane Elliott’s Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment and Kay Hammond’s adaptation, she divided her students into two groups, one of which was treated as privileged and the other as disadvantaged for half of the class period, before the two groups switched roles. Tanghe provides ample background on the “one race” ideology that is so prevalent in South Korea, as well as the nation’s increasing diversity and the ways that non-Korean or multicultural students face discrimination in Korean schools, to provide context for her students’ reactions to the simulation. Based on a pre-simulation survey, most of her students believed that racism exists in South Korea, but isn’t a factor in their classrooms. This is consistent with Korean policies that put the onus of assimilation on multicultural students or non-Korean immigrants, rather than addressing racism with mainstream Korean Koreans (a repetition Tanghe uses deliberately to disaggregate Korean ethnicity and nationality). However, the simulation and subsequent reflections did lead some teachers to reconsider their personal experiences with race and the relevance of race to their school contexts. However, others felt that it was not an appropriate issue to address in language classes. That said, Tanghe points out that the Korean national curriculum does, in fact, expect students to understand other cultures and develop a “cooperative spirit as a cosmopolitan citizen,” which means that addressing racial issues in Korean classrooms can be justified as part of the teacher’s job. Tanghe recommends that Korea implements multicultural education programs targeted at mainstream ethnic Koreans, not just ethnic minorities, and suggests that teacher training programs need to integrate diversity training and raise teachers’ awareness of their own privilege, as well as schools hiring more diverse teachers. By implementing these suggestions, she hopes that Korea can move away from its current practices of ignoring race as unnecessary in homogenous classrooms, and refusing to address it in diverse classrooms to avoid singling out non-Korean students and causing discomfort. Given the changing demographics of the country, race is an important issue for teachers to be able to address in class.

This article was interesting, because it describes a race-focused version of the linguicism demonstration that Tanghe presented at this year’s TESOL conference, which I am using as a starting point for my linguicism article for the SRIS newsletter. The background on Korea’s racial identity and changing demographics was interesting and seemed accurate to me, based on my informal perceptions when I lived there, so it was good to see that actual data and studies back up my intuitions about Korea’s racial problems. It was also both plausible and shocking that so many Korean teacher candidates viewed race as something so distant from them and their classes. It makes me wonder how else teachers of racially homogenous classes can productively address race in their classes in a way that makes it real and important for their students, not something that happens somewhere else far away, especially since colonial legacies mean systems of white supremacy and racial hierarchies are in place pretty much all over the world.

Tanghe, S. (2016). Promoting critical racial awareness in teacher education in Korea: Reflections on a racial discrimination simulation activity. Asia Pacific Educational Review, 17(2), 203-215.