From Skeptical to Favorable:
A Well-Informed Action

Promoting Bilingualism in the Era of Unz: Making Sense of the Gap Between Research, Policy, and Practice in Teacher Education presents what students think about programs for English language learners in the midst of shifting public opinion and policy. Katz examines efforts to promote bilingualism in a course for prospective teachers.

The research addressed the following questions: (1) How can we understand the discrepancy between research and policy that occurs in the area of bilingual education? (2) How can we address this discrepancy in our School of Education classrooms where we are training future teachers of bilingual children? The participants in the study were 200 teacher education students of diverse backgrounds. The researcher, who is also the instructor of the course, collected qualitative data through "literary events." These "literary events" included reflections based on readings and class sessions, field observations of bilingual and ESL classrooms, family linguistic history charts, oral debates on pro's and con's of Proposition 227, and an original, self-initiated project.

	The evolution of the prospective teachers' attitudes and reasoning about teaching English language learners reveal encouraging changes. The article provides three specific examples that demonstrate the general trends of the participants. The case studies describe the transformation of a Filipino American and two European Americans. A table is included which provides information about ethnicity and languages, original perspective, final perspective, and the significant literary event.

In general the findings suggest that the students' final perspective was less skeptical than their original perspective. Katz describes that "the field observations served as the most critical transformative point. If [the students] experienced a highly successful bilingual program...or teacher, they were more likely to transform their views towards being favorable." Katz concludes that the research shows that transformation is possible when people are engaged and deepen their understanding through social practice.

	One important implication of the study is the relationship between research, policy, and practice. A well-informed action should be based on social practice, such as classroom observations and action research. Educational policy makers should make an effort to engage in social practice by observing exemplary classrooms for English language learners before implementing decisions that may have detrimental effects on our students.

	The following student statement about Proposition 227 exemplifies the importance of being well informed. "I am extremely embarrassed to say that I was influenced by people who were fighting for assimilation and a common language - English. That was before I began taking courses that introduced me to the value of multiculturalism and multilingualism. It's hard for me to believe now that my ideas were once so narrow-minded, insensitive, and naive. I can now choose my position based on an informed and thorough perspective. I believe that bilingual education programs really do help our language minority students, and as a future teacher I have made the academic and social needs of all students my top priority." After all, hasn’t that always been OUR top priority?


Katz, S.R. (2000). Promoting Bilingualism in the era of Unz: Making sense of the gap between research, policy, and practice in teacher education. Multicultural Education, 8, 2-7.




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