A Student’s “Fund of Knowledge”

Educators often refer to a student’s background knowledge, what students have learned  formally in the classroom as well as informally through life experiences. Background knowledge is the foundation upon which all learning is constructed.Screenshot 2016-03-24 21.17.48

Today, I heard a new term “Find of Knowledge” while I was attending a workshop on English Language Learners (ELL), one of the fastest growing populations in many school districts. In 2012, ELL students were 9.2% of the US general  education population.

“Fund of knowledge” was a term developed by  defined by researchers Luis Moll, Cathy Amanti, Deborah Neff, and Norma Gonzalez in 2001 in order “to refer to the historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for household or individual functioning and well-being.”

This approach suggests that instruction can be linked to students’ lives in order to change the perceptions of ELL learners by viewing their households as part of their strengths and resources, as how they best learn. First-hand experiences with families allow students to  demonstrate competence and knowledge that can be used in the classroom.

Too often, ELL students are spoken in terms of what they are lacking (language) or as having a deficit. In contrast, the phrase fund of knowledge suggests that students have assets, and that these assets can be spent in the classroom.

This metaphor of a fund of knowledge as a kind of currency could include other financial terms that are also educational objectives: growth, value, and interest.

 

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