English as a Second Language - Bilingual Education

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Main Office

Curriculum & Instruction
School of Education
210 Teacher Education Building
225 North Mills Street
MadisonWI  53706

Tel: 608/263.4600
Fax: 608/263.9992

Email: curric@education.wisc.edu
or by contact form

English as a Second Language & Bilingual Education

Program Philosophy 

The field of ESL and bilingual teacher education are emerging. They have, historically, been largely separate. We believe that schools ought to support children to become fully fluent and literate in both their home and additional (English) languages, and that both ESL and bilingual teachers have important roles to play in this process. In the context of current debates about the language of instruction and program design, and as language learning and acquisition theory have moved from structural linguistics underpinnings, to those of “communicative competence,” and now towards those more informed by interdisciplinary social/cultural views of language, culture, and learning, the questions of what educators ought to know, and what teacher preparation should look like, have become ever more vexed. Given the diversity of views in the field, we provide a brief rationale for our programs that describes the view of language (and language learning and teaching) upon which they are based. 

Language is a complex social phenomenon. There are multiple varieties, forms and dialects of a language that embed into surface communications other messages about particular social identities (rooted in specific histories, practices and perspectives), as well as about the status and power of the groups that use the language. We see language as a situated social phenomenon, deeply integrated with (inseparable from) issues of culture, class, ethnicity, and identity. To “learn” a language means not only learning the rules that govern the language, as well as the specific social and cultural practices, beliefs and worldviews of the multiple groups that use the language, but also how language functions in the world to define individuals and social groups. To “teach” a language, therefore, means to fully understand what’s at stake in situated language usage and to engage students both in using the language and in doing knowledge work about the full meanings and messages that forms of language convey. 

In order to enable ESL and bilingual professionals to do just that, our programs include the critical exploration of: pedagogical tools for teaching; theories (and the application of such theories) of language choice, language usage and second language acquisition; ways in which institutions (including and especially schools), communities, and individuals construct specific language and literacy practices and the implications of those practices; and the interplay of discourses in situated social encounters.

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Program Information

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