Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor's Name

Eric Dwyer

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Benjamin Baez

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Phillip Carter

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Teresa Lucas

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Bilingualism, Biliteracy, Dual Language, Language Separation

Date of Defense



Bilingualism characterizes not only people, but homes, schools, and communities across the United States. While some bilingual people are forced to suppress their bilingualism, others are encouraged to develop their skill set to a level of becoming biliterate. Bilingualism and biliteracy are key features in dual language bilingual education (DLBE) programs where students are provided daily opportunities to develop two languages simultaneously, along with grade-level academic content. Research in DLBE suggest closure of the achievement gap (Valentino & Reardon, 2015). Traditionally, DLBE programs were designed to keep the two target languages (for example, Spanish and English) separate as designated by time, space, teacher, and academic content area. Teachers who work under these strict guidelines often find that policing language use is both restrictive and unnatural, thus interfering with the flow of bilingual language development.

This qualitative case study included 10 teacher participants from one rural school district in the Midwest. The study investigated how teachers perceive and respond to the constraints of language separation during instructional activities. Data were gathered from teacher interviews, classroom observations, and written informal interviews.

Findings from this study indicate that under the strict separation of language program model, DLBE teachers brought their unique personal bilingual experiences to their practice by creating opportunities for dynamic and flexible bilingual language use during instructional time. The following strategies contributed to their students’ dynamic bilingualism: (a) the student as teacher, (b) active learning, student engagement, and group work, (c) the use of cognates, (d) strengthening bridges between languages and metalinguistic transfer, (d) reading the word and the world or learning literacy with culturally and contextually relevant literature, and (e) code-switching and translanguaging as a means of addressing the subtractive nature of language learning within an additive bilingual model.

On the basis of the findings, the researcher recommends that DLBE program models open spaces for practicing dynamic and flexible bilingualism. Strategizing spaces for the use of two languages during instructional time fosters growth and development for students to become functionally bilingual and biliterate.





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