Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Teachers on Bikes: A Case Study of a Teacher Preparation Program in Multi-Literacy Development


English Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


Abstract U.S. Census data clearly document the increase over the past several decades of the number of Americans who speak a language other than English at home. The current figure stands at 20% or 1 in 5. This linguistic reality has profound implications for educators: the number of children who come to U.S. schools speaking a language other than English has continued to rise, compounding the already high school failure rate for this population. National and state language policies have generally failed to nurture the rich linguistic resources of these children. Instead, such policies as No Child Left Behind at the federal level or Proposition 227 in California have mandated English-only instructional practices in the classroom and fed exclusionary attitudes toward linguistic diversity. In an effort to redress these issues, two English professors at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Michigan developed a study abroad program in Maastricht, Netherlands in 2005 for future English teachers, primary and secondary. The goals of the program are multiple: to provide students with an opportunity to live and study in a multilingual context; to have students consider comparatively EU and US language policies; to have students read and reflect on critical research by authors such as Collier & Thomas, Cummins, Gibbons, Fillmore, Phillips, and Krashen; and, most importantly, to have students participate in a field placement at an international school where instructional practices support mother tongue development.. The receiving school is the United World Colleges Maastricht (UWCM) Primary and Secondary, an international school that enrolls students from more than 85 different countries and territories with a mother tongue program supporting 34% of the students languages. UWCM offers GVSU students exposure to a rich array of classroom practices and program initiatives that support mother tongue development. UWC Maastricht offers a range of mother tongue maintenance opportunities from using the students first language as a means of navigating the new, instructional language of English in the classroom, professional development training for the Primary staff, establishing mother tongue lessons as part of the after school provision, enabling students to study their mother tongue as an academic subject as part of the IB MYP and DP programs. The GVSU students are exposed to these approaches during their time at UWCM, and they are encouraged to deepen their understanding of the implications of a multilingual student community. This is achieved through an introductory workshop about the school with an emphasis on cultural awareness and through a language-focused workshop to develop empathy towards the process of language learning. The GVSU students are encouraged to draw from their own experiences of being away from home to support this understanding along with their experiences in a crash course in Dutch to demonstrate good (and bad) language teaching practice! The presenters will showcase details of this 8-year collaborative trans-Atlantic project: the structure and curriculum of the GVSU study abroad program; the UWCM mother tongue program primary & secondary and UWCM teacher development efforts and, finally, measures of the impact of the program on participants in terms of cultivation of informed attitudes and instructional practices that support cultural and linguistic inclusion and mother tongue development. The presenters will share students writings from reflective journals and course assignments as well as comments from face-to-face interviews conducted with past participants who are now teachers as a means of gauging the programs impact on students attitudes and instructional practices.

Conference Name

Laura Vander Broek

Conference Location


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