The demand for Ojibwe language education is outpacing the current number of ‘first speakers’ in the United States (Treuer, 2010). This inverse relationship between the number of learners and the number of fluent speakers means most teachers involved in Ojibwe language education are themselves language learners with varying levels of proficiency. Nevertheless, the experiences, practices, and ideologies of the ‘teacher-learner’ (Hinton, 2003) have received little attention despite their central role in the success of classroom-based, K-12 language programs. This study addresses this gap in the literature through an ethnographic and sociocultural analysis of language use within one teacher-learner’s Ojibwe kindergarten classroom. It examines classroom language and interaction, participant structures, and routines, documenting the languages and discourses that are used for academic, social, and spiritual purposes. It employs linguistic ethnography (LE) to first present a descriptive picture of the linguistic ecology of the classroom along with the teacher-learner’s practices and strategies. LE is then combined with critical discourse analysis (CDA) to unpack the beliefs and ideologies that shape these practices. Findings show how the teacher-learner’s reliance on routines and matrix-language framing to scaffold her own language opens up discursive space for learners to experiment, play, and relate to one another in English and Ojibwemowin. Furthermore, this study highlights the ideological constraints and openings that shape the learning and use of an Indigenous language within a colonial institution (school) that has long been a tool of assimilation and Indigenous language erasure. This study incorporates experiential knowledge from Indigenous educators and critiques of applied linguistics from Indigenous scholars to call attention to the obstacles and innovations that arise as multilingual Ojibwe language learners and their teacher(-learner) negotiate new terrain in classroom-based language revitalization. Findings provide a better understanding of how language teaching and use function in teacher-learner-led classrooms with implications for both language revitalization research and the development of heteroglossic Indigenous identities. Moreover, the inclusion of oft-dismissed Indigenous epistemology speaks back to the field of applied linguistics, arguing for an increased openness and commitment to difference and flexibility in multilingual language teaching and learning theory.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2017. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisors: Kendall King, Mary Hermes. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 171 pages.
Revitalizing language, reframing expertise: An ecological study of language in one teacher-learner's Ojibwe classroom.
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