University of Illinois at Chicago
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RE-positioning English Learners in Teacher Development: A Language Ideologies Approach to Urban Education

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posted on 2013-10-24, 00:00 authored by Joseph C. Rumenapp
As urban schools grow more and more linguistically diverse, there is an increasing need for teachers with expertise in teaching English Learners. Teachers are seeking education and development opportunities to continue to learn about how to address the needs of their students despite increasingly strict regulations on curricula and assessments. This study follows a group of teachers engaged in action research through a year-long professional development model. The teachers in this study work in a Midwestern Chinatown and grapple with issues of language, ethnicity, and other sociological factors they encounter in their classroom. Through a qualitative case study, this inquiry examined how students are positioned in a school in a Chinatown with a specific focus on how national and local features of “Chinatown” are implicated in the way teachers position students throughout an action research project. National and local features of “Chinatown” are emphasized to show how teachers, in a professional development program, learn to re-position the students. In this spirit and drawing on sociocultural models of professional development, positioning theory (van Langenhove & Harré, 1999), Cultural Historical Activity Theory (Engeström, 1999), and Language Ideologies in learning contexts (Razfar & Rumenapp, 2011), I looked specifically at how teachers reposition students into more equitable social and learning roles by engaging in action research. Findings include that there is a dominant ideological construct of “Chinatown” that is reimagined in the school and is implicated in social interaction within the school. As teachers engage in a collaborative research project, looking at students’ funds of knowledge and discourse, they reposition students socially and in the classroom context. Dominant, homogeneous constructs are complicated and challenged. Finally, I present a case study of one teacher to illustrate how she used action research as a form of on-going professional development for working with ELs. This study has implications for professional development and teacher education for teachers of ELs. Specifically, teachers can complicate dominant ideological constructs through visiting homes or doing a close analysis of the students’ cultural practices, thereby repositioning students. Additionally, teachers can reposition students in classrooms by studying the discourse and patterns of talk of classroom activities. Action research, as conceptualized in this study, can be a useful professional development tool. In the current study, this professional development model is seen as useful in the way teachers reposition their EL students.



Razfar, Aria


Curriculum and Instruction

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Gavelek, James Raphael, Taffy Morales, P. Zitlali Silverstein, Michael

Submitted date



  • en

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