Languages Across Borders: Social Network Development in an Adolescent Two-Way Dual-Language Program
by Amanda K. Kibler, Allison Atteberry, Christine N. Hardigree & April S. Salerno — 2015
Background/Context: Two-way dual-language programs have become an increasingly popular educational model in the United States for language minority and majority speakers, with a small but growing number of programs at the high school level. Little is known, however, about how adolescents’ social networks develop in the contexts of these programs.
Purpose/Objective: This study examines how a two-way, dual language enrichment program for Spanish-language learner (SLL) and English-language learner (ELL) adolescents influenced students’ social networks with peers of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Setting: The program took place in a south-Atlantic state at a suburban/rural high school that has substantial within-school linguistic segregation.
Population/Participants: Program participants included 20 students: 10 English-dominant learners of Spanish, and 10 Spanish-dominant learners of English.
Intervention/Program: The two-way dual-language program was a voluntary extracurricular program in which adolescent Spanish-dominant ELLs and English-dominant SLLs participated in collaborative and student-led bilingual activities designed to foster the sharing of cross-linguistic expertise and cross-cultural knowledge over a seven-month period.
Research Design: In this mixed-methods study, student-level Likert-scale data is analyzed quantitatively and supported through analysis of qualitative interview responses and observational field notes. Quantitative results compare ELL and SLL participants’ demographic and baseline social characteristics, before-and-after social networks, the changing nature of reported relationships over time as a function of language status, and magnitude of growth in relationships’ strength before and after the program. Qualitative results examine the qualities and conditions of these relationships and the conditions under which they developed.
Findings/Results: Results suggest that despite participants’ demographic differences, ELL and SLL students in the dual-language program reported building new, strengthened, and mutually recognized relationships, particularly with students of different language backgrounds who worked together within long-term collaborative small groups.
Conclusions/Recommendations: When students are provided with a carefully designed instructional and ecological context that provides authentic purposes for using language and building peer relationships, this research suggests that both ELLs and SLLs may be able to build linguistically integrated social networks.
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