Bilingual Peer Mentoring with speaker: Dr James Chisholm (MOSAIC Seminar)

Room 107, School of Education (Building R19)
Tuesday 18 February 2020 (16:00-17:30)

Dr Elizabeth Chilton

james chisholm

MOSAIC Group for Research on Multilingualism seminar series 2019-20

Bilingual Peer Mentoring, Symbolic Power, and Racialization of ESL Students in a Diverse School

Speaker: Dr James Chisholm, University of Louisville

Using work on racialization – the process through which individuals and social categories are racially organized and maintained (Murji & Solomos, 2005; Omi & Winant, 1994) – and symbolic power and violence, my colleagues (Gast, Sivira, & Allen) and I analyze language surrounding ESL students, particularly Mexican and Central American students, in a diverse secondary school in the United States. We focus on a student-led bilingual peer mentoring program, which was created to help ESL students in a school with limited ESL staff and resources and growing immigrant populations. Drawing on longitudinal interviews, observations, and post-mentoring reflections, we examine how bilingual peer mentors and school officials working to support ESL students described and classified ESL students and how this language reinforced or broke down social categories and hierarchies.

We found that bilingual mentors circulated language about ESL students’ presumed lack of drive (“they don’t want to put in the effort”), educational values (“they don’t care”), and low college aspirations (“college isn’t her priority”). These assumptions reinforced a hierarchical system where Latinx ESL students were positioned as inferior. We discuss the implications of our findings for research and theory on immigrant integration and racialization, symbolic violence, and ESL programs in diverse schools, as well as next steps in our work with students and staff in this longitudinal project.


James Chisholm is a visiting scholar in the Department of Education and Social Justice in the School of Education at the University of Birmingham and an associate professor in the Department of Middle and Secondary Education at the University of Louisville (Kentucky, USA). His research on adolescents’ literacies examines issues of multimodality, agency, identity, and power during dialogic discussions of language and literature and arts-integrated inquiry. His work has been published in journals such as Research in the Teaching of English, Journal of Literacy Research, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, L1: Educational Studies in Language and Literature, English Teaching: Practice & Critique, and the International Journal of Education and the Arts. His current writing and research projects include collaborative studies of sociocultural and sociopolitical discourses in the teaching writing, critical literacy and engagement with the arts, English language arts teacher agency, and language brokering practices in a student-led bilingual mentoring program. Contact him at 

All welcome at this free seminar. 

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