The Complexity of Immersion Education: Teachers Address the Issues



The purpose of this study was to enlist practitioners in language immersion programs in the identification and elaboration of issues and challenges in immersion language teaching. Through focus groups and extensive individual interviews, 6 elementary Spanish-language immersion teachers in 3 school settings (a suburban full-immersion school and 2 inner-city magnet programs—1 partial and 1 full immersion) served as informants. Five major themes emerged: the primacy of language, the balance between language and content, assessment, the spectrum of learners in immersion programs, and the sociopolitical context of immersion schooling. Within each of these themes, teachers described the particular challenges of immersion teaching and illuminated the complexity of immersion classrooms on a microlevel. In a complex setting where the learning of curricular content and second language acquisition are expected to develop concurrently, teachers are in a unique position to add to our knowledge of immersion schooling.