Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Childhood Education and Literacy Studies

Major Professor

Jenifer J. Schneider


language learners, language policy, literacy, multicultural, multilingual, verbal reports


A transdisciplinary notion of learning considers what is between, above, and beyond the disciplines. Adherence to such a perspective warrants examination of any research endeavor from multiple entry points and from openness to the changing nature and infinity of knowledge. In this dissertation, "Crossing Cultural Boundaries: Explorations in Multilingual Teaching and Learning," I approached the study of language and literacy teaching and learning across multilingual and multicultural contexts via an optional dissertation process that required completion of multiple studies. This dissertation option allowed me three entry points: (a) an understanding of literacy and language policy in relation to language learners at the K-12 levels in selected countries of the multilingual English-Speaking Caribbean; (b) linguistic and cultural diversity of multilingual teachers and teacher educators; and (c) the verbal report methodology as employed in original studies focused on the literacy practices of language learners at the K-20 levels across international contexts.

My first foray into this dissertation was in September 2010. All entry points undertaken concluded in December 2012. These entry points, as described above, consisted of exploratory research reviews, analyses, syntheses, research on practice, and a narrative case study. In my first entry point to this dissertation, I focused on two areas. I conducted a comprehensive literature review of literacy and language policies for K-12 multilingual learners across selected English-speaking Caribbean countries. Findings indicated that teachers were predisposed to English as the language of literacy instruction and that literacy initiatives, programs, and assessment reflected traditional conceptions of literacy. In addition, based on my examination of language policy in St. Lucia, the linguistic status quo appeared to function as the de facto policy for literacy education, St. Lucian Standard English was privileged as the language of instruction, and underperformance in literacy characterized students at all levels of the education system.

My second entry point to this dissertation was three-pronged. I first examined a multilingual English-Speaking Caribbean teacher's literacy practice beyond the context of the classroom, noting three recursive pathways, namely (trans) formation in attitude inclusive of shunning, accepting, and reflecting behaviors; the use of certain accommodative strategies such as the adjustment of language and speech; and distinct identity formation processes, including the construction of varied identities for school, home, profession, and friends. I secondly investigated my own practice. This investigation revealed components of multilingual awareness in my practice such as reflection, monitoring, attending to clues, following discourse patterns, and applying conversational strategies based on feedback. Further, I identified components of multicultural awareness, namely awareness of individual predispositions, awareness of other cultures, and attention to stereotypes, as well s noted the association between my multilingual and multicultural awareness via "facilitation" and "symbiosis." Through the course of the inquiry, I noted heightened awareness of practice as evidenced by "transformation" in my teaching. My final step in the second entry point to this dissertation was the identification of a framework, transdisciplinarity, to guide literacy teachers and teacher educators as they respond to linguistic and cultural diversity. Transdisciplinarity was used to demonstrate how teachers and educators might learn to know, do, live together with, and be.

In my third entry point to this dissertation, examination of the verbal report methodology as applied in literacy research revealed that researchers tended to adhere to recommendations related to the use of concurrent protocols, the elicitation of responses concerning current processing, and stipulations requiring participants to provide verbal explanations of thought, as guided by cognitivist perspectives. However, in many instances, based on the recommendations emanating from cognitivist approaches to verbal reports, researchers failed to slow down processing, to consider variations in participants' verbal abilities in interpretations of data, and to predict the probable contents of participants' self-reports. Moreover, in further exploration of the work done in this area, researchers concentrated heavily on comprehension, strategy use, vocabulary, and technology. Mixed-methods approaches proved to be most popular, with very few studies being solely qualitative or quantitative. Verbal reports appeared to be largely concurrent and quantitatively oriented, with little reliance on qualitative analyses. In a number of studies, cognitively based theoretical frameworks were employed, but in others, theoretical frameworks were absent. In the cases where the latter were used, researchers tended to rely on frameworks grounded in monolingual as opposed to multilingual reading processes.

Based on findings emerging from the three entry points to this dissertation, major implications for multilingual students, teachers, teacher educators, and researchers were identified. At the micro-level, the Caribbean region stands to benefit from a consideration of international approaches to literacy research as a means of developing a research base applicable to the social, cultural, and linguistic contexts in which language learners function in the multilingual English-speaking Caribbean. In addition, multilingual teachers and teacher educators in the Caribbean can learn from researchers' examination of the literacy processes of language learners in the particular contexts of the multilingual English-Speaking Caribbean identified in this dissertation. Understanding how such teachers and educators respond to linguistic and cultural diversity within and beyond these contexts, and as a result of their experiences, holds potential for informing literacy practice. With regards to researchers, the use of verbal reports must be tapped to further facilitate understanding of students' literacy processes. Through consideration of how a socio-cultural approach might be merged with cognitivist notions of protocol construction within the multilingual contexts of the Caribbean, researchers can obtain insights into the more holistic processes of students' literacy development.

At the macro-level, literacy research in the multilingual context of the English-speaking Caribbean might be enhanced by research endeavors that allow multiple entry points, as has been illustrated via the unique approach to this dissertation, which merged literature syntheses, theoretical and methodological analyses, and empirical research to explore multilingual teaching and learning. However, as teachers utilize literacy practices and researchers investigate literacy processes, the literacy needs of language learners, as determined by historical, geographical, social, linguistic, and cultural contexts, must remain central to literacy research in the Caribbean region, and beyond. Efforts underway to strengthen and extend literacy research in the Caribbean would benefit from a holistic approach as undertaken in this dissertation whereby an understanding of language learners' literacy practices are understood within their broader contexts.