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Urban Rev (2010) 42:159173

DOI 10.1007/s11256-009-0128-z

Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal


Education in US Classrooms
Andrea DeCapua Helaine W. Marshall

Published online: 26 August 2009


 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Abstract Considerable attention has focused on the challenges of English language learners without age-appropriate formal education and first language literacy.
They are viewed here as students with high-context learning experiences and
expectations (Hall in Beyond culture, Anchor, New York, 1976), and a collectivistic
orientation, with a pragmatic, rather than academic way of looking at the world,
who are marginalized and disoriented in US classrooms. Building on Ibarras
Beyond affirmative action: Reframing the context of higher education, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison (2001) cultural dissonance construct, the
two learning paradigms are contrasted, and a third, the mutually adaptive learning
paradigm, is posited as a pathway to academic success for this population.
Keywords ESL  Culture  High-context  Collectivistic 
Limited/interrupted formal education

Introduction
It is universally acknowledged that the United States is experiencing record levels of
immigration with a correspondent increase in school children who speak a first
language other than English (US Census Bureau 2007). These children, the majority
of whom are English language learners (ELLs), face the dual challenge of having to
A. DeCapua (&)
Multilingual Multicultural Education, Graduate School, The College of New Rochelle,
29 Castle Place, New Rochelle, NY 10805, USA
e-mail: adecapua@cnr.edu
H. W. Marshall
TESOL/Bilingual/LOTE Programs, Westchester Graduate Campus, Long Island University,
735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, NY 10577, USA
e-mail: helaine.marshall@liu.edu

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master English and learn grade-level content in a language other than their own.
ELLs are by no means a homogeneous group but have widely varied educational,
socioeconomic, cultural, linguistic, and psychological backgrounds and experiences.
(Rong and Preissle 2009; Rubenstein-Avila 2003; Peregoy and Boyle 2000). A key
factor that influences their academic success is their prior exposure to literacy and
formal education (August and Shanahan 2006; Freeman and Freeman 2002).
Significant numbers of Haitians, Hmong, and Somalis, for example, may be
attending US schools and relying on the printed word for the first time. Even ELLs
from countries with established formal education and substantial literacy levels,
such as China and Mexico, may not have participated fully in the educational
systems of their home countries. (See, e.g. Rong and Preissle 2008; Suarez-Orozco
and Suarez-Orozco 2001 for discussion of specific immigrant groups).
In efforts to distinguish these ELLs from other ELLs, various labels have been
used, including Students with Interrupted Formal Education or SIFE (New York
State Department of Education), students with limited or little prior formal
education (e.g. Freeman and Freeman 2002; Walsh 1999), newcomers (e.g.
Constantino and Lavadenz 1993; Short 2002), or unschooled migrant youth (e.g.
Morse 1997). These diverse labels reflect efforts of educators and researchers to
identify specific characteristics shared by these ELLs, regardless of ethnicity,
country of origin, or native language. These characteristics are: a lack of English
language proficiency; limited or no native language literacy; and limited or no
formal education. In this paper we adapt the acronym SLIFE used by DeCapua
et al. (2007, 2009) to refer to students with limited or interrupted formal education.
Because these SLIFE require more than English language instruction, specially
tailored programs have been developed to meet their language, literacy, and
academic needs. Studies of successful programs have identified key instructional
and support features found across such programs. Instructional features include
small group instruction, collaborative work, differentiated instruction, scaffolding,
strategy development, sheltered content courses, and theme-based and academically
challenging curriculum with language modifications (e.g. DeCapua et al. 2009;
Echevarria et al. 2006; Freeman and Freeman 2002; Ruiz de Velasco et al. 2000;
Short and Boyson 2004), as well as the incorporation of culturally relevant content
or funds of knowledge (Moll et al. 1992; Moll and Greenberg 1990).
Key support features for SLIFE include: close, ongoing monitoring of student
progress; coordination, cooperation, and planning involving all teachers and staff;
structure and consistency in the program; the development of close ties between
families and the school, as well as the larger community and other organizations;
and ample professional development opportunities for teachers and staff (e.g.
DeCapua et al. 2009; Mace-Matluck et al. 1998; Francis et al. 2006; Walsh 1999).
Although these instructional and support practices have shown promise in
helping SLIFE succeed academically, widespread school success for this population
remains elusive, evidenced in part by high dropout rates (Fry 2005; Tienda and
Mitchell 2006). With the exception of the funds of knowledge perspective, notably
absent is a consideration of cultural factors in learning. Even with respect to funds
of knowledge, the focus is on cultural content rather than on cultural factors in
learning and teaching. We suggest that a more informed approach to the instruction

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of SLIFE would include attention to two essential cultural factorsthe difference


between high-context and low-context cultures, and the difference between
pragmatic and academic ways of conceptualization. Taking into account cultural
factors in learning and teaching allows educators to reach SLIFE more effectively,
leading to greater academic success.

Low-Context and High-Context Cultures


According to Hall (1976), an important variable distinguishing cultures is whether
they are high-context or low- context cultures. Based on their orientations to time
and space, verbal and nonverbal messages, social and gender roles, interpersonal
relationships, and social and legal organization, among other factors, cultures can be
classified along a continuum from low-context (LC) to high-context (HC). Members
of LC cultures, for instance, emphasize the importance of time, planning, and
adherence to timetables and schedules; are more direct in their communicative
styles, have less extended family networks, and are more focused on the individual:
individual achievement, individual success, and individual self-actualization. Hall
suggests that Northern European cultures, such as German and Scandinavian, fall
closer to the LC end of the continuum, while cultures rooted in Mediterranean or
Asian traditions fall closer to the HC end. Halls grouping of entire nations into LC
or HC cultures is now generally viewed as overly simplistic since even relatively
homogeneous cultures such as Norway or Japan are not monolithic. Nevertheless,
the basic concepts of LC and HC remain useful if we consider them in terms of
specific characteristics applicable to certain cultures, ethnic groups, and/or
subcultures and if we keep in mind that the terms HC and LC refer to general
characteristic, not absolutes, and that these cultures, ethnic groups, subcultures, and
individuals fall along a continuum of the spectrum (See e.g., Samovar and Porter
2007; Gudykunst and Kim 1992; Lustig and Koester 2009). By so doing, we can
avoid overgeneralizations and/or stereotyping.
Cultures toward the HC end of the continuum are also generally collectivistic
cultures, that is, cultures where social relationships are highly valued and people see
themselves as interdependent members of groups (usually large kinship networks),
with concomitant responsibilities, obligations, commitments, and duties to others of
their in-group. Cultures toward the LC end of the continuum, such as mainstream US,
in contrast, are usually individualistic cultures. In such cultures people see themselves
as individuals with personal needs, wants, and goals (Triandis 1994, 1995).
Building on Halls work, Ibarra (2001) investigates the factors behind the
success, as well as the struggles of Latino graduate students at US universities. For
Ibarra, the US classroom setting is deeply rooted in LC northern European traditions
of learning, traditions which do not match the cultural experiences and expectations
of students from HC culture who are confronting, in Ibarras words, a cultural
dissonance. Ibarra argues that many Latino students hit a wall at the graduate level
because new values are rewarded here: specialization, fragmentation, attention to
minute detail and accuracy (p. 90), which, along with the virtual absence of social
support systems, contributes to a feeling of being cut off from the rest of the real

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world (p. 90). These sentiments are consistent with Halls categorization of HC
cultures as focusing on the primacy of information in context rather than in
isolation, on learning being connected to personal experience, and not exclusively
based on scientific analysis, and with relationships providing the foundation of
learning.
Like Ibarras graduate students, the SLIFE addressed here are frequently
members of HC, collectivistic cultures with norms, including ways of learning and
knowledge that are different from, and often at odds, with those predominant in the
US educational system. However, unlike Ibarras graduate students, these SLIFE do
not have strong academic backgrounds, literacy skills, or proficiency in English.
Furthermore, SLIFE are characterized by a second dimension, a pragmatic rather
than an academic approach to learning. Ibarras research is consistent with other
work done by various researchers who have found that a mismatch between US
classroom expectations, routines, and procedures and those of diverse students at
risk are related to low levels of academic success. (See, e.g. Gay 2000; LadsonBillings 1995; Li 2007; Portes 2005; Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco 2001).

Pragmatic Versus Academic Orientation


In his examination of what constitutes intelligence, Flynn (2007) argues that the
gains made on intelligence tests are related to changes in pre-scientific and postscientific operational thinking (p. 24). In examining the question, In what way are
rabbits and dogs alike? Flynn notes that the modern American will most likely
produce a response along the lines of both are mammals. An American in 1900,
he argues, would have said that dogs are used to hunt rabbits. The difference, Flynn
claims, is in the nature of the modern world, which is cognitively demanding and
characterized by abstract thinking and where people have donned what he terms
scientific spectacles. These scientific spectacles are the result of a formal
educational system based on a scientific ethos that encourages and demands
cognitive skills characterized by solving problems on a formal level, and by abstract
reasoning removed from the concrete world and real experiences. Without
minimizing Flynns important contribution, the labels pre-scientific and postscientific may imply value judgments to some; therefore, following in the tradition
of Spring (2008), we refer to these two types of cognitive thinking as pragmatic
and academic orientations (see DeCapua and Marshall in press, for more
discussion).
An American of 1900 and SLIFE from a HC culture share the fact that they have
not adopted an academic orientation. For members of HC cultures with a pragmatic
orientation, the meaning of messages must be embedded in context. The concept of
knowledge for knowledges sake has no relevance because knowledge in an
HC culture entails immediate relevance and/or application. In Flynns words, if the
everyday world is your cognitive home, it is not natural to detach abstractions and
logic and the hypothetical from their concrete referents (p. 24). Items derive their
meaning by how they relate to or contextualize one another, rather than by such
abstract categories as mammal, tool, or clothing.

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In his research on pre-literate Uzbek and Kirghiz farmers, Luria (1976) describes
how informants were shown four objects and told to eliminate the one object that
did not belong. Of the four objectsa hammer, a saw, a hatchet, and a logthe
participants invariably chose one of the tools but kept the log because the log, from
their perspective, was necessary in order to provide a meaningful context, i.e. that of
building something. In an LC culture characterized by an academic orientation, in
contrast, information need not be embedded in a context and knowledge for its own
sake is valued, aspects which are hallmarks of US education. Beginning no later
than kindergarten, formal education revolves around categorization, classification,
and other abstract thinking removed from concrete and functional referents. Thus,
SLIFE from HC cultures and habituated to a pragmatic orientation, enter US
schools, face even greater cultural dissonance than Ibarras students and have to
make even greater adjustments to meet the challenges of developing language
proficiency and learning content.

Contrasting Paradigms
The SLIFE this article addresses come from widely diverse cultures and languages;
our research has included SLIFE from Southeast Asia, the Dominican Republic,
Mexico, and Central America (Marshall and DeCapua in press). However, what
unites these diverse students is that they share a place on the high context end of the
continuum and bring their HC and collectivistic experiences and expectations to the
classroom (Trumbull and Rothstein-Fisch 2008). Based on our experiences, we
suspect that readers will find that they, too, work with SLIFE from other HC
cultures with similar experiences and expectations.
In addition, SLIFE have a pragmatic way of viewing and understanding the
world. The US classroom setting, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in low-context,
northern European traditions of learning, based on science and abstract reasoning
and logic. These latter traditions, which do not match the cultural experiences and
expectations of high-context ELLs (Hall 1976; Bennett 2007), result in cultural
dissonance (Ibarra 2001). Viewing this as a mismatch and not a deficit leads us to
suggest that these SLIFE be referred to as high-context learners.
Of the numerous attempts to address the cultural dissonance experienced by
SLIFE, perhaps most notable is the research on the previously mentioned funds of
knowledge. Funds of knowledge refers to knowledge that high-context SLIFE and
their communities possessknowledge that differs from academic knowledge, but
that is central to their lives and experiences, and much of which consists of
historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills
essential for household or individual functioning and well-being (Moll et al. 1992,
p. 133). Similarly, Gutierrez and associates (e.g. Gutierrez 2008; Gutierrez and
Larson 2007; Gutierrez and Rogoff 2003) have argued that promoting literacy
among this population entails attending to contradictions in and between the
academic literacy of educational and sociocultural practices. Unlike deficit models,
such research acknowledges that high-context ELLs enter US schools with rich and
varied life experiences and real-world knowledge that although different, are

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equally valid and that can and should be tapped to promote academic achievement
in US schools (Gonzalez et al. 2004; Gutierrez 2008; Moll et al. 1992). Consistent
with such approaches, this paper views SLIFE as different rather than deficient and
examines the ways in which these differences manifest themselves in the classroom.
Ones culture and ones learning paradigm are inextricably linked. Culture is
instrumental in shaping how one views and interprets the world, and in how we
organize and process information (Brislin 1993; Hofstede and Hofstede 2005).
Culture influences the learning process, with respect to both how people learn and
what they value as part of learning (August et al. 2006; Heller and Martin-Jones
2001). A learning paradigm may therefore be viewed as a cluster of culturally
determined schemata consisting of the conditions, processes and activities
commonly expected in an instructional setting. In light of the cultural factors
discussed above, we can expect that the learning paradigm of SLIFE will differ from
the one they encounter in US schools. We now examine their learning paradigm and
contrast it with the LC and academic worldview of the U.S paradigm to highlight
the cultural dissonance experienced by these students. First, we discuss conditions
for learning, followed by processes of learning and finally, activities for learning.
Conditions for Learning
Relevance
Learning has immediate relevance for SLIFE. Learning is immediately incorporated
into daily life or has practical relevance for tasks to be performed in coming years;
knowledge is utilitarian not theoretical (Yang 1993). New knowledge is most
commonly acquired at the time it can be applied. As they learn, SLIFE observe,
practice and obtain immediate feedback, as they learn the skills of every day life,
whether agricultural practices, household duties, childcare, carpentry, artisanal
pursuits or other. SLIFE need to see the direct connection between what they are
learning and the practical realities of their lives.
In the US, much of learning is theoretical and regarded as a foundation for future
experience. Teachers commonly stress that students need to learn such and such a
concept in order to be ready for the next grade, or ready for middle school, or ready
for high school. There is generally a focus on the next step rather than on the
immediate. Moreover, the real life for which the student is being prepared may
come long after the learning takes place. Classroom learning, by definition, is
designed to provide insight and skills that will be useful in the future. The relevance
embedded in this way of learning is largely conceptual rather than practical and
learners are not expected to see immediacy in this type of relevance. Except for
vocational training programs, there is little immediate relevance in this type of
learning in the sense to which SLIFE are accustomed.
Relationship
For SLIFE, learning is part of ones relationship to others. The cornerstone of
learning is the unity of people and knowledge. Learning must be interpersonal in

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that one normally learns directly from another person, one with whom one has an
established relationship.
There is very often a familial relationship between educators and students from
HC and collectivistic cultures, where educators interact with students in nurturing
and affectionate ways; engage in aspects of playfulness, reminiscent of Mexican and
Central American family interactions (Bhimiji 1997, cited in Rueda et al. 2004 pp.
71, 72); and frequently become the confidents of students with personal problems
and concerns. For Hmong families, the teacher is considered a second parent
(Hones 1999, p. 177). Furthermore, for many SLIFE, the individual is not as
important as the group to which they belong, a large network of relationships with a
mutual sense of shared obligations, responsibilities, and a strong sense of
connectedness (DeCapua and Wintergerst 2004; Hofstede and Hofstede 2005;
Triandis 1994). Research on diverse groups of students at risk in US schools
indicates that strong social interactions between students and between students and
teachers encourage academic learning (See, e.g. Cazden 2001; Nieto 2004; Portes
2005).
In place of relationship as a condition for learning, the US system encourages a
gradual separation of students and knowledge, from the early grades onward,
valuing independent learning and studying as a superior learning experience.
Although scaffolding learning is a major skill emphasized in pedagogy, especially
for ELLs (Gibbons 2002), the goal is for students not to need each other or the
teacher, but rather to learn on their own. At that point, the information, not the
relationship between learner and teacher is central. Students are asked to learn about
something by studying it, which is typically an isolated activity, rather than an
interpersonal one.
Processes for Learning
Group Responsibility
Learning is accomplished through sharing among SLIFE. The group functions as a
whole without individual accountability. Through jointly constructing knowledge,
SLIFE internalize the content, trusting the others to complement their own
understanding.
Although US educators have come to value and emphasize cooperative learning
(Kagan 1989/1990), individual accountability and achievement continue to be
stressed. As Ibarra (2001) points out, in the US, when learning is conducted
cooperatively it is a team effort. Each member has a specific role and responsibility
as an individual member of the team. Furthermore, even when classroom practice
includes collaborative activities, scholastic success is based on individual
performance.
Oral Transmission
Learning is an oral process for SLIFE. The emphasis is on the oral rather than on
the written. Oral agreements are as binding as written contracts, ones word is

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ones bond. Oral transmission of knowledge depends a great deal on memorization, requiring redundancy and repetition, and poetic devices used to facilitate
retention of information.
In LC cultures, in contrast, learning by reading and comprehending text is central
and required and expected from the earliest grades. While SLIFE do learn to read,
they can experience difficulty making the transition to using text to learn. As one
SLIFE explained:
when I go to school and I learn something by reading, I could understand
when I read, but if I was supposed to do it by hand, I didnt know how. So I
had to get help from someone in order to be able to do it [author emphasis]
(Shuter 1985, p. 106).
Activities for Learning
Experience Followed by Practice
Learning is experiential for SLIFE. The nature of the activities required of the
learner represents the largest overall difference between HC and LC learning. HC
learning is based on demonstration, imitation, and practice. SLIFE learn by doing,
by following a role model, by operating within a context, and by obtaining feedback
from the results themselves or from other people. In contrast to this, the US
educational system requires extensive analytical tasks, such as defining, categorizing and classifying, to develop students understanding, as we saw in the discussion
of pragmatic versus academic orientations. These tasks are not universal or
necessary for learning, but they are the way people in LC cultures are expected to
learn and the way in which members of these cultures define and assess learning
(Bloom 1956; Paul and Elder 2001).
Furthermore, a key feature of analytical tasks is decontextualization. For SLIFE
learning activities take place in a real-world context; thus, learning decontextualized
material presents a challenge (Carrell 1987; Denny 1991). The subjects in Lurias
study chose to discard one of the tools and keep the log in order to create some
context, i.e. that of building something. For these subjects, context was related to
function; the log was necessary in order to accommodate the functions of the tools.
No one would put four items together and then ask which one doesnt belong as part
of a learning activity, yet our school system requires and places The pre-school
Sesame Street activity, which one of these things is not like the others, is
evidence of how early this type of thinking is introduced.
The Academic Challenge Facing SLIFE
This discussion of the contrasting paradigms underscores the different cultural
factors in teaching and learning between LC and HC cultures. Each paradigm is
based on its own cultural expectations and assumptions that are rarely made explicit
but that underlie instruction. In the US, the goals of K-12 instruction are (a) to
produce an independent learner and (b) to prepare that learner for life after

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schooling. Furthermore, teachers expect learners to come with (a) an urge to


compete and excel as individuals and (b) age-appropriate preparation for both
literacy development and classroom activities requiring academic ways of thinking.
These expectations and assumptions differ from those of SLIFE who need
immediate applications, interpersonal relationships, collaborative opportunities, oral
learning components, and repeated contextualized practice. The key elements of the
US classroomfuture relevance, independence, individual achievement and
accountability, the written word, and academic orientation conflict with the SLIFE
learning paradigm. This conflict leaves learners feeling isolated, confused, and
inadequate, and marginalized by the discourse of academia, an unfamiliar and
alienating learning paradigm (DeCapua and Marshall in press; Marshall 1998).
What they need is not provided, and what is demanded of them is totally new,
resulting in this cultural mismatch or dissonance and risk of academic failure.
To address this seemingly intractable challenge, we propose the Mutually
Adaptive Learning Paradigm (MALP), originally developed by Marshall (1998),
and adapted and expanded here. MALP explicitly incorporates cultural factors in
learning and teaching and aids the shift from the HC learning paradigm to the LC
paradigm. MALP is informed by culturally relevant pedagogy, which holds that
how teachers teach deliver instruction influences how learners perceive the
curriculum and that it is critical for teachers to develop close relationships with their
students as well as to accommodate and respond to students academic, cultural,
language, and social needs through their teaching approaches (Gay 2000; LadsonBillings 1995). Only by forming these strong relationships and by taking into
account affective needs and cultural factors will teachers be able to effectively tap
the potential of diverse students (Gonzalez et al. 2004; Nieto 2004).

Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm (MALP)


SLIFE must eventually make the paradigm shift from HC learning to LC learning if
they are to succeed academically in the US. However, without some aspects of their
own HC learning paradigm to balance the unfamiliar formal schemata of the LC
learning paradigm, success will elude such learners. MALP represents a third
learning paradigm, a mutually adaptive one, which combines features from each of
the first two. With this new paradigm, SLIFE receive support throughout the
learning process, while being transitioned to the essentials of the LC paradigm.
Component 1
Accept the conditions SLIFE need: immediate relevance and a strong interpersonal
relationship. If culturally-based conditions of SLIFE for learning are met, it is more
likely that they will become engaged in the classroom. Create a curriculum that
includes items closely linked to the learners world. Infuse instruction with
interpersonal elements.

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Component 2
Design and implement learning experiences that combine elements of culturally
familiar HC processes with the new LC ones. Include both individual and
collaborative components and use both oral and written modes. Prepare SLIFE for
individual accountability on written standardized tests.
Component 3
Create analysis activities that isolate and teach decontextualization skills rather than
emphasizing the language or content involved. In order to facilitate the development
of scientific spectacles, or academic ways of thinking, make the language and
content familiar. Use either the native language or English previously mastered, and
material from the home culture of SLIFE or from earlier curriculum units. In current
approaches to test preparation, cognitively demanding subject matter and academic
English are commonly used in the exercises. Rather, a more effective way to move
SLIFE towards finding meaning and success in out-of-context learning activities is
to make the task itself the only unfamiliar component of the activity.
Applications of MALP
Class surveys are an example of an exercise that can be used to ease the transition
between learning paradigms because the acts of creating, conducting, and analyzing
a survey allow for an implementation of MALP. The survey itself is by nature
interpersonal and helps to establish or maintain relationships. With the learners
choosing the topics, it can have immediate relevance. The conditions for learning
are in place. Data can be collected orally, recorded on tape, or noted down, and, as
skills increase, questionnaires can be used. There is opportunity to move gradually
from oral transmission to the written word. All three stages of the survey work can
be completed either individually, in pairs, or in groups. The transition from group
responsibility to individual accountability can be gradual. The activities involved
are heavily analytical, yet the difficulty level can be controlled very easily; surveys
can consist of simple yes/no answers or can investigate complex viewpoints on
controversial issues. Depending upon the informants selected for the surveys,
learners can rely on the native language and/or familiar content to offset the
complexity of the analytical skills required.
To illustrate, consider a multigenerational family survey conducted by students in
a summer program for Southeast Asian SLIFE (See Appendix). The students
designed questions on such topics as priorities in life and typical daily activities.
They then analyzed the results across families and by generation. Much of the
interviewing of families was done in the native language and on familiar topics, yet
the analytical tasks were new. This survey generated a great deal of data because the
students lived in large, extended families. Although they had some awareness of
conflicting viewpoints, the students had not previously engaged in a formal analysis.
This survey enabled them to see their own familys experiences from a new

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perspective, using academic thinking to untangle multigenerational issues and to


draw their own conclusions, as evidenced by this statement:
The American culture is causing problems between the older generation and
the younger generation. The older generation is focused on the younger
generation but the younger generation is focused on the dominant culture. This
causes problems for the middle generation who struggles to keep the family
together (For complete survey results, see Appendix).
Another example is the shoebox activity (Hughes and Greenhough 2006). In
this activity, students decorate and fill shoeboxes with a variety of items special to
them and then bring these boxes to school. The teachers engage the students in a
variety of classrooms tasks based on the artifacts the students have gathered,
ranging from discussing the history of artifacts, to mathematics to literacy to
observational drawings. Selecting items with personal meaning helps establish
relationships among students and with the teacher and these are items that have
immediate relevance. Again, the conditions for learning are set. The shoebox
activity allows for a variety of oral and written language use; the various activities
can be completed individually, in pairs, or in small groups, and tasks are analytical,
with the items decontextualized.

Conclusion
Given the realities of the significant increase in immigration and in SLIFE, teachers
need to develop multicultural competence in both HC and LC learning paradigms
and to understand the difference between pragmatic and academic orientations.
MALP, a combination of the two learning paradigms, allows teachers to formulate a
pedagogical approach, design classroom activities and tasks, and create a classroom
learning environment that accommodates SLIFE, assisting them in making the
paradigm shift. As such, it is a transitional model that both supports the preferred
modes of learning of SLIFE and facilitates the development of new schemata and
eventual academic success.
The different ways HC cultures and LC cultures conceptualize learning and
knowing is a fundamental issue underlying the academic underachievement of so
many SLIFE. We believe that MALP provides a comprehensive framework that
moves beyond the well intentioned but inadequate initiatives currently aimed at
addressing the lack of success of large numbers of ELLs, most of whom are SLIFE.
By embracing a cultural perspective, outlining the differences between highly
contextualized experiential, pragmatic learning and the decontextualized learning,
academic type of learning expected in US schools, and proposing MALP, a
framework for approaching classroom instruction, we have attempted to shed light
on this difficult educational problem.

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Appendix: Sample Survey


Family Research by T.K.
On our first week at UWGB we found the important things of the older
generation, parent generation, and younger generation. We have learned that they
have many different goals.
The goals of the older generation are as follows:

live a long time


set a good example for children and grandchildren
teach great manners, culture, history
want children to have a good life
encourage younger generations, finance
return to Laos.
For the parent generation the goals are:

hope children will succeed


be good parents
go back to Laos, be soldiers
get better jobs, get off welfare
become rich.
The younger generation has these goals:

get a good job


get highest degree possible
get a good spouse
finish high school, college
be a lawyer
get a good home and buy it
missionary to Thailand
travel around the world
be a Congressman
be a pilot
set a good example for younger children
get good pay and a stable job
be nurse, doctor, surgeon.

The American culture is causing problems between the older generation and the
younger generation. The older generation is focused on the younger generation but
the younger generation is focused on the dominant culture. This causes problems for
the middle generation who struggles to keep the family together.
Results of a survey conducted by Hmong students in the University of
Wisconsin-Green Bay Pre-College Summer Program for Southeast Asian Students,
1990.

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