Partnering with Bilingual Educators to Improve Writing Instruction and Outcomes for Low-Income, Latinx English Learners
This project addresses the persistent achievement gap between Denver’s English Learners (ELs) and students whose first language is English. Specifically, our study focuses on two malleable factors impacting the literacy achievement of low-income Latinx students who are ELs: the writing instruction they receive and their teachers’ understanding of bilingual writing development. Our project addresses these factors through a new, design-based collaboration with the Denver Public School (DPS) district that will provide ongoing professional development (PD) support in writing instruction to bilingual educators and instructional coordinators. Our particular approach to writing instruction and development is grounded in genre pedagogy (Martin & Rose, 2008), a language-focused orientation that reframes writing as a vehicle for meaning-making rather than a set of discrete skills to be mastered. With this understanding, genre pedagogy aims to make explicit the structural and linguistic features of school-based ‘genres’ (e.g., narrative, argument, etc.), opening up spaces where students and teachers can engage in “powerful textual practices in service of equity” (Gebhard, 2018, p. vi). Research suggests that genre pedagogy is especially effective for ELs because it clarifies the role of language in expressing different discourse patterns and demystifies academic writing (Harman, 2018). In the fall of 2018, we began a partnership with DPS centered on improving writing instruction for ELs. We are currently engaging in this work with instructional leaders and bilingual educators at one K-6 Spanish/English dual language school in the southwest region of Denver. With funding from the CU Boulder School of Education Partnership Seed and the CU Boulder Outreach Awards, we are building upon and expanding our partnership with DPS to include a second school in Denver’s Montbello region that serves a large population of Latinx ELs through a transitional bilingual education program. The first year of engagement with the new school partner will include: (1) mapping the local context for writing instruction through focus groups, classroom observations, and teacher interviews, and (2) designing and delivering a series of genre-informed PD workshops that respond to the school’s specific writing instruction needs. Ultimately, this project seeks to collaboratively build local teacher capacity to provide high quality writing instruction for Latinx ELs and, in doing so, support the district’s goal of improving EL writing outcomes.
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