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Reciprocal Learning: Context, Students, and Colleagues

By Barbara Noel Asociación Escuelas Lincoln Barbara.Noel@lincoln.edu.ar Twitter: @Bfirstnoel

At Asociación Escuelas Lincoln in Buenos Aires, open a door to any classroom in our school and you will most likely see multilingual students engaging in an inquiry-based project. You’ll see a teacher engaged in conversation with a small group and other students working on projects in a variety of languages. At some point in the lesson, they transfer their learning to English or Spanish, our languages of instruction at school. English and Spanish are also our languages of inclusion and this means everyone is included in the conversation. This also means that our entire community has the potential to speak, read and write in both languages at high academic levels.

So how do we build a coherent vision that builds off the strengths of our multilingual learners and develops our two languages of instruction? How do we guide multilingual, global citizens to define their own cultural identity and construct an expansive world view? These were some of the broad questions explored at the WIDA Symposia held yearly at international schools.

This year, at the end of March, we were very lucky to have both Jon Nordmeyer, International Director and Tim Boals, Executive Director for WIDA join us. They each shared hot-off-the press research and best practices in the field. Additionally, two other researchers joined us virtually to share their cutting edge research with us.

Since we’ve already adopted an extensive Language Policy, the Symposium gave us the precise support to view our school through a systems approach. We explored a range of components such as: admissions, partnering with families, curriculum development and equitable assessment. A theme that resonated quite well was co-planning and collaboration between language specialists and content teachers. Discussion on this refueled our momentum as this is a path we went down two years ago. It is one that has led to significant gains for all students involved.

Since we hosted the event, we are able to have a large representation of our faculty and leadership with us over the weekend. We’d like to thank AASSA for helping us fund the event. We also gained from rich conversations with colleagues from the following schools: American School of Recife (Brazil), Academia Cotopaxi (Ecuador), Colegio Roosevelt (Peru), and Colegio Nueva Granada (Colombia). Through them and with each other at Lincoln, we’ve engaged in reciprocal learning and in the process developed a keener appreciation of how much we can learn from our multilingual students. This reciprocity, in turn, helps our institution evolve, becoming stronger and clearer each time in reaching our mission and expanding our capacity for change.

These quotes embody the general uptake by faculty at our school:

The Symposium has “helped me to advocate more precisely for students with language needs: further skill building with utilizing standards and language objectives; and further skills building with collaboration and training of other teachers.

I want to embrace the concept of translanguaging, which validates an idea that’s been on my mind. I also want to keep working on academic conversations to develop ideas, test and clarify them. WIDA was very new to me and I liked what I found out.

Bio: Barbara Noel

Currently helps lead teacher professional learning Asociacion Escuelas Lincoln, Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has been teaching, consulting, coaching, developing curriculum, conducting action research, and training local and international teachers within the U.S. and in Latin America for over 28 years. Her current areas of focus are: biliteracy; academic language development; differentiated instruction; and supporting language learners within inquiry driven programs. She earned her PhD from George Mason University, Virginia.

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