Utilizing Community Cultural Wealth to Learn with Diverse Language Communities

June, 2020

Source: The Teacher Educator, 55:2, 148-164

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this article is to share the example of a community-based teacher education course based on Tara Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) framework (Yosso, 2005).
Based on completed course assignments and interviews, the authors explored the experiences of 15 preservice teachers and the potential impact of the activities designed for the course.
Specifically, the course described here is an English as a Second Language (ESL) literacy methods course and the preservice teachers engaged in a variety of experiences that helped them recognize and build on community assets in order to build relationships and encourage student engagement in literacy learning.
The ESL literacy methods course was designed in collaboration with a local elementary school to include an after-school tutoring program targeting students and families in the local community.
The school’s curriculum facilitator invited families of multilingual students attending the school to participate in this after-school program.
In addition to students from the elementary school, families brought older siblings up through eighth grade to participate in this program.
In all, 14 families participated, which included 14 adults and 21 school-aged children (ranging from grades 2–8).
The languages they spoke included Spanish, Arabic, French, Zarma, and Chinese.
The preservice teachers created weekly lesson plans divided into three 20- minute sections:
(a) community building, vocabulary instruction, and language exchange;
(b) a literacy activity; and
(c) workshop time to work on a story/video project. After each session, the preservice teachers wrote reflections using questions provided by the instructor.
Two of the questions were, “What types of assets (capital) surfaced during your interactions? How do you know?”

Data sources
To explore preservice teachers’ experiences and their application of CCW through community-engaged tasks, the authors reviewed their assignment submissions and used all assignments as a data source.
In addition, they interviewed each preservice teacher to invite them to share their experiences through these course activities and their understandings of CCW.
Fifteen of the 16 preservice teachers gave formal consent to have their assignments reviewed as data and to be interviewed at the end of the semester. Both authors conducted individual interviews with assigned preservice teachers using the same interview protocol.
After both authors read through all of the preservice teachers’ data and developed analytic notes, they returned to the data with two specific questions in mind:
(a) Which forms of capital did the preservice teachers identify? and
(b) On which activities/experiences from the course did preservice teachers reflect as having a salient impact on their thinking and teaching?

Findings and discussion
A project such as the “Learning from the Community” project can help teachers with asking, rather than assuming, what places are important to families.
When preservice teachers visit those places, they can challenge assumptions they might have about people and their communities, they can use the CCW framework to identify assets, and can engage in understanding how language and literacy are used. When preservice teachers take time to learn their students’ languages and not just learn about their languages, they must first take time to learn which languages are spoken at home and then can build on their language learning to enhance their interactions, instruction, and build relationships.
A project such as the “Stories from Home” videos can offer a space for families to share about their lives in a productive way that incorporates family involvement.
Finally, having devoted time each week to work with not only children but also their caretakers can impel preservice teachers to recognize how families can be part of the teaching and learning experience.
It can also help with building relationships with families.
These projects provided examples of how teacher education coursework can be designed to integrate direct interactions with learners and their communities in order to provide preservice teachers with learning opportunities to embrace and enact the theories and principles of culturally relevant education (Dover, 2013).
Using the CCW framework as a reflective tool that represents the core theoretical foundation for the course allowed both the teacher educators and preservice teachers to focus their observations, reflections, and discussions on the learning from students and community members.
The CCW framework was also useful for expanding preservice teachers’ notions of what literacy teaching is.
In a traditional sense of literacy teaching, they were learning how to conduct interactive read-alouds, support students through guided and shared reading, and assess students through taking running records (Clay, 2000).
Beyond this, they were also thinking about how to structure their teaching and their observations in ways that recognized students’ assets.
As they paid attention to students through a CCW lens, they looked for instances of students and their families demonstrating their aspirational, linguistic, familial, social, navigational, and resistance capital.
In recognizing these different forms of capital, the preservice teachers learned how literacy teaching can include plans for recognizing and drawing on these forms of capital.
They also learned to integrate language teaching and learning, such as determining their own areas of language development and incorporating the family’s first language into lessons that would have otherwise been planned solely in English.

The authors conclude that preservice teacher education is one area where addressing the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse communities can and should receive attention.
It is important that classrooms be welcoming places for families where teachers understand how to teach in community-engaged ways.
An important part of this process can be recognizing the assets in communities and knowing how to build relationships.
The authors hope the examples they provided here will provide some insight and support for teacher educators as they consider how to support preservice teachers in these endeavors and how to strengthen their courses and programs.

Clay, M. M. (2000). Running records for classroom teachers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Dover, A. G. (2013). Teaching for social justice: From conceptual frameworks to classroom practices. Multicultural Perspectives, 15(1), 3–11. doi:10.1080/15210960.2013.754285
Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? Race, Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91. 

Updated: Sep. 09, 2020