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2017 Affordance Variability: Scaffolded Act. in Discipline-specific Classes w/ Secondary-level ELLs
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Sociocultural theorists posit that learning takes place in two planes, first in the social plane, through interaction with others, and then in the mental plane, as practices become owned by the apprentice and can be flexibly and appropriately applied to novel situations. However, ELLs in schools are offered few opportunities to engage in sustained discourse and to consciously focus on their evolving understanding and how to improve on it. The result? Their agency is eroded and their reclassification rates and overall academic performance are low.

This paper presents a view of disciplinary language learning which addresses three limitations discussed in the educational literature: 1) the scarcity of sustained, rigorous discipline-specific talk ELLs participate in during a school day (Clarke, 2015; Santos & Linquanti, 2015); 2) the notion that teachers need to be the initiators and managers of interaction with and among students in the classroom (O’Connor, Michaels & Chapin, 2015); and 3) the idea that productive interaction necessitates a “more capable” person interacting with a “less capable” one.

Classroom data gathered in contexts where teachers have received sustained professional development to grow specialized expertise show how these teachers design deep and generative tasks that structure--with choices--the opportunities for all students to participate in challenging and well-supported interaction and develop their self-regulation. Classroom videos and transcripts serve as data and sources for the discussion, which will also address van Lier’s approach to pedagogical scaffolding.

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