Language, Language Development and Teaching English to Emergent Bilingual Users: Challenging the Common Knowledge Theory in Teacher Education & K-12 School Settings

  • Christian Faltis
Keywords: language, bilingual, teacher education, k-12


Popular views about language and how children and youth learn language are based mainly in cognitive approaches in support of a common knowledge theory of language development. This common theory feeds into the efforts to increase teacher and learner accountability as measured on narrow assessments of what it means to use language well and in academic contexts. I show how certain scholarship supports popular view of language and of first- and second-language development, and explore further the connections between the common theory and educational policies for teaching emergent bilinguals students and English learners. The article concludes with a discussion of alternative approaches to language and bilingualism, and particularly, what these alternatives mean for teacher education and practicing teachers who teach emergent bilinguals and English learners across disciplines. Alternative approaches include arguments for language learning as a complex adaptive system in which language emerges from localized practice, self-organizes in unpredictable ways, and co-adapts in a nonlinear fashion depending on the kinds of interpersonal interactions learning bring to and are afforded by practices.