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Decolonizing pedagogies for Indigenous children: Valuing multiliteracies in classrooms

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Title: Decolonizing pedagogies for Indigenous children: Valuing multiliteracies in classrooms
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: How do we perceive success in the language classroom? Which language capacities are valued, and which are ignored? This paper illustrates that school-valued literacy practices and standardized tests are often taken as norms in centralized education systems, while other abilities, such as Indigenous peoples’ multiliteracies and translanguaging practices, have not been considered appropriate or valued in schools (Author, 2007; Menezes de Souza, 2003). The overt and covert ways through which schools shape linguistic and cultural practices (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1990) must be considered in order to create educational environments which value, rather than discriminate against, Indigenous languages and cultures. This paper draws on findings from a critical-ethnographic-action-research (CEAR) project in Oaxaca, Mexico, to illustrate the benefits of recognizing and legitimizing multiliteracies and translanguaging abilities in Indigenous education contexts, whether in formal schooling or community-based education.

Similar to minoritized students in many classrooms, Indigenous children are struggling in the current education system in Mexico (Schmelkes, 2002), where their languages and cultures are largely excluded. As part of the CREAR project, for the past7 years a group of Mexican language teachers have attempted to decolonize pedagogy for endangered-Indigenous-language-speaking children in urban centers, taking students identity as the basis for adapting and innovating their teaching. The main goal has been to carve out curricular spaces in elementary classrooms where Indigenous children’s language capacities are validated and built upon. This research project utilizes theories concerning critical pedagogies (Pennycook, 2001; Norton & Toohey, 2004), heteroglossic views of language (García, 2009), identity texts (Cummins, 2006), and colonial difference (Mignolo, 2000). The data collection has consisted of classroom observations, semi-structured interviews with children and teachers, and the collection of children’s work samples.

From the triangulation and iterative analysis of the data and through Indigenous students’ work samples and video of students’ performances and interactions in the classroom, this presentation will focus on three main themes: 1) shifting perspectives of Indigenous students from being deficient monolinguals to being multilingual, translanguaging speakers; 2) children as multiliterate creators of writing systems; and 3) teachers as literacy and language learners. It is concluded that it is important for educators to value the multiliteracies and translanguaging practices that children bring to the classroom in order to create educational environments where language diversity can flourish and colonial-based perspectives and prejudices no longer determine who is included or excluded.

Bourdieu, P. & Passeron, J.-C. (1990) Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. Sage Publications
García, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Author. (2007). Beyond the alienating alphabetic literacy: Multiliteracies in Indigenous education in Mexico. Diaspora, Indigenous and Minority Education: An International Journal, 1(3), 1-16.
Menezes de Souza, L. M. T. (2003). Voices on paper: Multimodal texts and indigenous literacy in Brazil. Social Semiotics, 13(1), 29-42.
Mignolo, W. (2000). Local histories/global designs: coloniality, subaltern knowledges, and border thinking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Norton, B., & Toohey, K. (Eds.). (2004). Critical pedagogies and language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pennycook, A. (2001). Critical applied linguistics: A critical introduction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Schmelkes, S. (2002, Oct. 16-19). La enseñanza de la lectura y la escritura en contextos multiculturales. Paper presented at the VII Congreso Latinoamericano para el Desarrollo de la lectura y la escritura, Puebla, México.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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