Becoming Cultural Learners: CSD Bilingual Extension Students Lead Community-Based Service-Learning Project

Photo of CSD Bilingual Extension StudentsMost pre-service speech-language pathologists report feeling ill-prepared to make ‘surface-level’ decisions regarding the language to select for instruction/intervention, and, more specifically, selecting the types of linguistic targets on which their instruction should focus when their speech and language therapy involves children and families who speak languages different from English, and who embrace cultural beliefs and values other than the American mainstream. But, when speech-language pathologists become ‘cultural learners,’ they can come to know their students and the families of their students and provide culturally responsive and meaningful lessons that tap those students’ prior (home/cultural) knowledge.

The expansion of a Speech-language pathologist’s cultural knowledge tends to be best accomplished when submerged in the ‘messiness’ of real world contexts. Therefore, providing Speech-Language Pathology students with the opportunity to interact with Latino and Chinese-speaking families through service-learning might be deemed as crucial step in the exploration of deep linguistic and cultural barriers to the implementation of literacy instruction, barriers that would not be readily identified if the students were only exposed to traditional classroom-based pedagogical approaches to learning. After all, the cultural knowledge-base is the scaffold onto which every other aspect of service-delivery is built upon for the speech-language pathologist who will serve emerging bilingual individuals (Brea, 2014).

Under the guidance of Maria Rosa Brea, Ph.D., Clinical Associate Professor, and the clinical supervision of Alisha Ghandi, students in the Bilingual Extension Program led and participated in a service-learning project, providing parent workshops in two locations in our community: University Settlement and Lenox Hill Neighborhood House.

For this project, students in NYU Steinhardt’s MS in Communicative Sciences and Disorders Bilingual Extension Program were responsible for developing lesson plans using evidence-based strategies to use before, during, or after reading, implementing instruction in the families’ two languages, and providing supplemental materials that would allow a connection to the families’ cultural funds of knowledge.

Students collected parent resources and compiled their own descriptive and reflective field notes in preparation for and post the implementation of the intervention. In addition to the students in the Bilingual Extension Program, these parent book-sharing workshops provided an opportunity for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral bilingual-biliterate students to volunteer their time as interpreters and as collaborators in the instructional process. A total of 24 families attended the instructional workshops.

Collage of CSD Bilingual Extension Students

Students in the Bilingual Extension Program providing parent instruction on shared book-reading strategies Mandarin Chinese and in Spanish.