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Second language learning as empowerment : adult Latino immigrants as students, teachers, and problem solvers


How do parents in an English as a Second Language class evaluate their learning experience, and what impact does learning English --and how they learn it-- have on their teaching practices with their children at home? The Mexican immigrants whose learning and use of English was analyzed from a critical pedagogy perspective attended a CBET (Community-Based English Tutoring) program in a large urban school district in Southern California. CBET is the product of Proposition 227, a controversial initiative that virtually eliminated bilingual education but provided for free adult ESL programs. In exchange for free ESL classes, adult students must tutor young English learners in English. Consequently, parents in CBET classes receive training in pedagogical methods, family literacy, and parenting skills. This study examines how, in a program born of legislation that many viewed as anti-immigrant, Mexican immigrant parents take advantage of the knowledge and skills offered by CBET, and what, if anything, of their new knowledge and skills they apply to their children's learning development. Three research questions guide this work: (1) What do parents learn about teaching and learning and about parenting in their CBET program via classroom instruction and their training as tutors?, (2) Which teaching methods and philosophies, if any, do parents transfer to their home literacy practices, and, (3) What other teaching and learning practices beyond those related to literacy occur in the home? To answer these questions, three randomly selected Mexican immigrant mothers in a CBET class who have pre or school-aged children served as case studies. I observed 30 hours of classes and conducted interviews with the instructor, the parents, and their children, and observed learning events in each home. The mothers viewed CBET as a useful resource for learning English, but not as the primary source that guided their parenting, and teaching methods and philosophies. Findings from this study inform instructional practices for CBET teachers, adult ESL educators, and K-12 teachers, while providing insight into the teaching roles that Mexican immigrant mothers play at home, therefore challenging negative stereotypes of their parenting skills, and allowing for positive partnerships between families and schools

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