Contexts for learning: English language learners in a US middle school

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Within the sociocultural theoretical framework that this paper adopts, learning, including second-language learning, is conceptualised as increasing participation in a community of practice. Thus it becomes of central importance to examine the nature of the community itself and the kinds of participatory opportunities that it supports or discourages. For it is through their engagement in the specific practices of their communities that students appropriate the knowledgeable skills that these practices involve. In this paper, based on the findings of an exploratory ethnographic study conducted in a US middle school, I examine the learning opportunities created for adolescent English language learners in three different classrooms and the ways in which these students took up these opportunities. I argue that, in addition to the particular subject matter to be taught, what appears to shape the kinds of learning opportunities afforded to English language learners is: (a) teachers' conceptualisation of the needs of second-language students; (b) the ways in which they perceive their own role in responding to these needs; and (c) the larger context of institutional practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-74
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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