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¿Por qué no los dos? The Importance of Translanguaging in Bridging Language, Literacy, and Engineering

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 3

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Minorities in Engineering

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Joel Alejandro Mejia University of San Diego Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Joel Alejandro (Alex) Mejia is an assistant professor in the Department of Integrated Engineering at the University of San Diego. His research has contributed to the integration of critical theoretical frameworks and Chicano Cultural Studies to investigate and analyze existing deficit models in engineering education. Dr. Mejia’s work also examines how asset-based models impact the validation and recognition of students and communities of color as holders and creators of knowledge. His current work seeks to analyze and describe the tensions, contradictions, and cultural collisions many Latinx students experience in engineering through testimonios. He is particularly interested in approaches that contribute to a more expansive understanding of engineering in sociocultural contexts, the impact of critical consciousness in engineering practice, and development and implementation of culturally responsive pedagogies in engineering education.

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Melissa M. Arana

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Mireya Becker Roberto University of San Diego

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Nicole G. Reyes

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The population of Latinx-origin people in the United States has grown exponentially in recent years. Many of these Latinx individuals and communities exist transnationally, which means they never cut ties with their country of origin. Transnationalism and the practices embedded in it are of significant importance because they allow communities to continue to be connected socially, culturally, linguistically and even economically across borders. However, transnationalism is often not considered an important factor in the formation of students because the guiding frameworks used to learn in school continue to be outlined by whiteness and its reliance on Western approaches to education. Given that the children of Latinx immigrants are one of the fastest growing segments of the youth population, it is essential to look deeper into the ways in which transnationalism can inform and support the development of future engineers.

With the increase of Latinx students across the United States, schools have also seen an increase of English Language Learners and emergent bilinguals. Acknowledging transnationalism and the processes used by multilingual speakers to communicate while drawing from their linguistic repertoire to make meaning – also known as translanguaging – can contribute to the formation of future engineers and the professional development of K-12 teachers. Translanguaging becomes very important particularly for middle school contexts where students and teachers are being asked to learn about engineering though the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

In this paper, we allowed seven middle school bilingual (Spanish/English) teachers to use their own translanguaging strategies to make sense of engineer practices – a topic that was not within their areas of expertise. The seven teachers taught different subject areas (mathematics, social studies, science, and language arts) and were asked to worked together to create thematic units that aligned NGSS science and engineering practices to their units in an interdisciplinary manner. The goal of this qualitative study, which is part of a larger study investigating asset-based approaches to the teaching and learning of engineering, was to provide the space for the teachers to analyze the impact of translanguaging in classroom contexts while integrating engineering into the middle school curricula. The results showed that translanguaging contributed to a better understanding of engineering practices and to the application of engineering design in the classroom in a multidisciplinary and multilingual environment. We observed frequency translanguaging for meaning making during the planning process, and a repertoire of teachers’ language strategies (both English and Spanish) that served as a vehicle to identify, frame, and design the units for their curriculum. Teachers used a combination of dynamic and fluid practices to describe how engineering and science practices are interconnected, which is a practice that can be translated into middle school classroom to provide more culturally responsive education to the students.

Mejia, J. A., & Arana, M. M., & Roberto, M. B., & Reyes, N. G. (2020, June), ¿Por qué no los dos? The Importance of Translanguaging in Bridging Language, Literacy, and Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--33961

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