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Episode 31: How Are You Positioning Multilingual Students? Empowering Math Learners w/ Kathryn Chval




Desiree Harrison 0:00

Chances are that if you are currently teaching or have taught in the past five years, you have students who are not yet fluent in English. So, how do you position multilingual students?


If you’re having trouble answering this question, you are not alone.


The Math education world talks a lot about positioning students for success, but What exactly is positioning? Turns out that the definition of positioning in the education world is not just about the physical location of one student versus another.


The type of positioning involved with ensuring students know they are competent and capable involves the labels a teacher assigns to students and the asset-based or deficit-based lens that an adult places upon a child.


It involves the roles, rights, responsibilities of children - so answering questions such as -

  • Do students see themselves as leaders or as someone who always needs help from others? Are students I serve allowed to share their thoughts and opinions in class or are they rarely called upon to share their thinking with others?

  • What kinds of assumptions am I making about students?

  • Why am I making these assumptions?


Today’s episode explores these ideas and how our actions as parents and educators influence how children see themselves through an explanation of something known as “positioning theory”. While this theory influences many demographics, our guest, Dr. Kathyrn Chval, who is The Dean of the College of Education for the University of Illinois-Chicago, and author of 18 books and over 50 research publications, has spent decades researching the intersection of positioning theory with multilingual learners as they are engaging with mathematics. If you’re a teacher, get your entire grade level team together to listen to this episode and talk through the strategies mentioned. If you’re a parent, make sure your child’s teacher and principal are aware of this episode in particular, because all students deserve to be positioned for success.


Desiree Harrison 2:57