Reflection

My 2021 teaching practicum came at the heels of a worldwide pandemic. With many unknowns centering around COVID 19, I proceeded to begin my re-entry into a face-to-face class after having taught virtually for one and a half years. There were many changes and much to take into consideration, as the NISD (Northside Independent School District) Adult Education and Literacy program had undergone several changes to meet the new needs of teaching virtually. The program would entail a continuum of technology and digital-device use even as we returned to campus.  Thankfully, many returning students had already been in virtual classrooms, so the transition was not too difficult.  

I was assigned a high intermediate level of ESL (English as a Second Language) learners with different educational backgrounds from high school graduate to multiple degrees. They each had remarkably interesting  professional backgrounds in their countries of origin, and all  seeking  either job placement or job advancement, still others are working toward higher education opportunities. Each student offers skill sets invaluable to our learning environment and when teaching English to diverse students, it is important to recognize each individual and all their cultural capacities. According to Poehner (2019), Vygotsky claimed that human cognition arises as a reaction to a functional system formed by mental capacities as well as creation and use of cultural symbolic artifacts. He emphasized the integration of social, cultural, and biological elements in learning processes within a community of learners.  

With caution, care, and creativity, teacher and students began a new year in a new era of technology- driven instruction. Luckily for me, several of my students had enough experience and confidence to act as aides and facilitators with students less experienced with technology. This was our first confrontation with Culturally Responsive Pedagogy (CRP), which is structured around learners’ cultural histories,  lifestyles, and experiences.  This was the first of many opportunities for collaborative experiences where students could access their Funds of Knowledge (Fok) (Moll et al., 1992). 

I implemented a hybrid curriculum of six hours of face-to-face instruction weekly and twelve hours of online learning per month. Lessons are presented through digital applications and students login to web-based digital devices. For students who do not have a device, the school program provides a device through which students can check one out. Students then sign into Schoology where they access a daily folder with assignments, including PDFs, videos, links, and a slide presentation accessed through Nearpod. Within the Nearpod presentation are interactive collaborative boards, polls, open ended questions, fillable forms, videos, Quill activities, and more.  

My teaching practices follow a proposed theoretical design with ideas from L.S. Vygotsky Social Cultural Theory as my framework. The main belief that the theory upholds is that “human mental functioning is fundamentally a mediated process that is organized by cultural artifacts, activities, and concepts” (Lantolf et al., 2015, p. 207). In other words, humans’ cognitive development is influenced by the culture they live in and by interactions that take place within their environment. The pedagogical approach  I attempt to present in my class has a particular focus on the following SCT constructs: mediation (by symbolic tools), the zone of proximal development (ZPD), dynamic assessment (DA), group dynamic assessment (G-DA), translanguaging, and differentiated instruction (DI). 

My methods particularly focus on the construct of translanguaging, which utilizes an individual’s full linguistic repertoire instead of focusing on just one language. Translanguaging within the classroom not only promotes but celebrates inclusivity as it acknowledges each student and their individual backgrounds. Translanguaging helps to create a welcoming, safe, and fun learning environment. This enables the learners to feel comfortable expressing themselves while also learning about others and embracing each other’s learning and cultural differences. For example, when preparing for a presentation, students are encouraged to discuss and plan using their home languages and accessing translations with digital devices, when necessary, but final products are presented in English.  

According to Karimi and Nazari (2020), DI refers to in-class instruction that caters to each student’s cultural background and individual learning style(s). DI is constructed based on three major components: 1. Tailoring a class curriculum to ensure that students can comprehend the information taught to complete tasks that they are given; 2. Applying student interest and relevance to content learned and assigned in class; 3. Building an awareness of students’ learning profiles. DI works with SCT due to its instructional framework that centers around the role of cultural background in cognitive development. This teaching method ensures that inclusive learning takes place amongst my students, and I especially employ this in warm-up activities and lessons designed to activate prior knowledge.  

Overall, creating a learning environment applying these approaches and methodologies has been extraordinarily successful in creating a classroom of motivated learners. Students focus on goal setting, always making important connections to their  past experiences, always keeping in mind, and reflecting on educational and professional  accomplishments here in Texas and in their countries of origin.  

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