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Pedagogy of Social Imagination in Language Learning/Teaching

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The Pedagogy of Social Imagination in Language Learning/Teaching (PSILLT) project is National Professional Development Grant (CFDA#84.365Z) funded by the Office of English Acquisition, U.S. Department of Education for 2012-2015.

Theoretical framework:

The Pedagogy of Social Imagination in Language Learning/Teaching (PSILLT) uses Critical Sociocultural  and Cultural-Historical Activity Theory. It focuses on the need to promote a pedagogy that is expansive, using thinking and imagination as tools, and building on the strengths of diverse communities. PSILLT structures a university/school network that supports the Program of Bilingual/Bicultural Education (PBBE) at Teachers College, Columbia University to prepare quality bilingual teachers.


New York State requires that teacher candidates (TCs) have experiences in schools prior to student teaching and, traditionally, these are constructed as observations in public school classrooms. The PSILLT builds two teaching situations that are less restricted than classrooms: (1) in Language Awareness (LA) experiences with monolingual teachers in partner schools (PSs) and (2) in an Afterschool (AS) with elementary bilingual students in partner schools.

By engaging in these two teaching situations and supplementary learning situations, the TCs will (a) acquire a practical understanding of planning, enactment, and evaluation of rigorous and expansive learning, (b) acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to adapt expansive learning tools and lessons in differentiated context – more or less restrictive ones, and (c) strengthen their language proficiency so that they are more confident in the language they will be teaching in.

The mainstream teachers in the LA experience will learn sufficient language to open up conversations with new students and their parents and (b) improve their dispositions towards bilingually emergent learners as they reflect on their own process of second language learning.

The Dual Language (DL) teachers who will be supervising the AS experience will be introduced to new cultural tools through technology, science, and the arts as the TCs explore expansive learning events and create new models of language learning/teaching during the AS. We anticipate the Dual Language (DL) teachers will be exposed to teacher coaching and supervision and, eventually, explore how to introduce expansive learning into their own classrooms.

The PSILLT project will service 150 elementary school students in the AS. We view the AS students as co-negotiators of the meanings acquired of the cultural and technological tools and models of learning and teaching that emerge from such experience. We anticipate that the AS experience, which will be organized as project base instruction, will provide students opportunities for greater engagement with the language of instruction, improve their language skills, and enhance and deepen their understanding of the creative and socially imaginative potential of language.

Lastly, the University level participants will participate in an interdisciplinary conversation to collect data to strengthen the PSILLT work with TCs & PSs participants and to document the process to understand the elements that might need to be considered for scaling up the models at a school-wide level and beyond.

Project narrative [PDF]