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Multilingualism in education. Problem or asset? Piet Van Avermaet Bruxelles Parlement Européen Label Européen des langues édition 2013 16 mai 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Multilingualism in education. Problem or asset? Piet Van Avermaet Bruxelles Parlement Européen Label Européen des langues édition 2013 16 mai 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Multilingualism in education. Problem or asset? Piet Van Avermaet Bruxelles Parlement Européen Label Européen des langues édition mai 2013

2 Overview Theoretical framework and sociolinguistic context The Ghent Home Language Education research project and its results Conclusions

3 Theoretical framework and sociolinguistic context

4 Current trends “Glocalisation” – Globalisation – Localisation Mobility Communication super diversity “Glocalised” super diverse societies and schools

5 Innovative answers to urgent language education issues Social inequality and unequal outcomes in education are a tenacious problem; Language spoken at home is often invoked as an explanatory variable (e.g. PISA); Causal reading of correlations; Language (i.e. the standard variety of the dominant language) is seen as pivot, condition and key to school success; Danger of “outsourcing” L2 learning processes from education

6 Monolingual ideological frame of reference Official national language: powerful index of group belonging and its mastery as pivotal for maintaining national order (Agha) Monolingual education paradigm is engrained so deeply that it even provokes resistance to multilingual practices within school settings among parents and pupils from targeted linguistic minorities (Bourdieu) Immune to cognitive/academic dissonance and palmed off as common sense thinking, as doxa

7 Search for the best language education model How language ideologies impact on school policies and classroom practices is well documented; Learning in the dominant language is seen as the legitimate norm: an L2 submersion model; Widespread advocacy in favour of bi/multilingual education model; Which language education model is more effective for L2 acquisition, children’s well-being, as well as for closing the ‘achievement gap’ between non-native and native students?

8 Multilingual education vs. L2 submersion ‘Clash of the Titans’? Search for ‘one-size-fits-all’ model -> polarization – L2 submersion (L2-only): Competition between languages / negative transfer -> deficits, confusion, delays, … -> exclusion of L1’s from classroom / school ‘Sponge’: young children are ‘automatic’ L2-learners Time on task / frequency of input: the more L2 the better -> maximum L2 exposure & exclusion of L1’s – (Bi)-Multilingual education (compensatory): Linguistic interdependence: positive relationships between higher-order language skills (Cummins) Positive transfer L1-L2 Facilitation / scaffolding (constructivist learning)

9 Within a context where ‘super diversity’ is becoming the norm it is important to reflect on the boundaries of the current recipes that are being used in systems of (language) education. As concepts like language, citizenship, learning,... are social constructs we have to consider reconstructing them, in the light of new and emerging social contexts.

10 Multilingual education: towards a new approach? Customary bilingual education – Separation arrangement: Spatial: separate, homogeneous classes/schools Temporal: separate lessons/moments Segregated groups of learners Compartmentalized languages: two solitudes assumption (Cummins, 2008) Multilingualism = parallel monolingualisms (Creese & Blackledge, 2010) – Educational challenges and consequences: Need instruction by bilingual teachers (not all are) Low involvement of mainstream teachers overall

11 Multilingual education: towards a new approach? Day to day realities of Belgian schools: – Multitude of languages and linguistic repertoires – School as a social space: in which not only language (L2) is learned (explicit/implicit); In which children want to interact, communicate and construct knowledge – Safe environment – Motivation – Involvement – Active actors

12 Functional plurilingual learning Exploiting plurilingual repertoires as didactical capital for learning: functional use of home languages in multilingual, L2-dominant learning environments (Translanguaging, García, 2009) A ‘multilingual social interaction model for learning’ as alternative for a ‘language learning model’

13 Motivations Social context: super diverse localities (including schools and classrooms) Practical: is it feasible to organize bilingual/multilingual education in urban heterogeneous schools? Theoretical: new sociolinguistic conceptions of multilingual communication in today’s complex world.

14 Functional plurilingual learning Two important conditions: – From empirical research it is clear that ‘functional plurilingual learning’ can only be effective when it is structurally embedded in a school policy that opts for a multilingual perspective. – From empirical research we also learn that the creation of ‘powerful learning environments’ is a fundamental condition.

15 The Ghent Home Language Education research project and its results

16 Research project 'Home Language in Education' (HLE) Background: Funding: city of Ghent Contesting and reconstructing Flemish monolingual policy Aims: alternative for traditional bilingual education programmes: exploiting plurilingual repertoires of children as an asset for learning L1-L2 interdependency (focus on literacy L1 skills first)

17 HLE distinguishing features Increasing linguistic diversity of urban school populations Persistent socio-ethnic segregation and inequality in urban school system Dominant language ideology: – Official policy line: Dutch exclusively the medium of instruction Educational position of low-status minorities: – Restrictive school policies: L1’s are not welcomed in school (e.g. banning, punitive practices, tattler policy) – Prevailing didactic paradigm: ‘Dutch-only’ & L2 submersion – Denial of linguistic capital: L1’s are not seen as useful resources, multilingualism is a problem, deficit – “multilingualism leads to zerolingualism”

18 HLE-project: objectives Objective A: Creating powerful plurilingual learning environments Aim: positive language attitudes, well-being, functional use of home languages (diverse linguistic capital) 4 primary schools in Ghent (linguistically diverse populations, lower SES) Target group: all classes (K1 – G6) (age: 2.5 – 12) Participants: teachers, school staff, parents, pedagogical advisers Objective B: Academic literacy development in L1 Aim: learning to read & write in L1 (Turkish) and L2 (Dutch) 2 of the 4 schools Transitional bilingual education (‘early exit’) Target group: K3; grades 1-2 (age: 5-8) Bilingual teachers (Turkish/Dutch)

19 What changes did we observe in classroom practices? Did the HLE project support teachers in creating powerful plurilingual educational environments? How did teachers exploit the L1 of the students? Data based on classroom observations in 2008, , – 2 (to 3) observations of classroom practice each period – Teachers K3 to G3 – 30 teachers → 20 teachers (6 Kindergarten + 14 primary school) observed twice:

20 20 Teacher introduces classroom activities in the home language : With the help of parents (as experts): e.g. telling stories With the help of pupils (as experts): e.g. making an own classroom dictionary With the help of internet: e.g. text on topic of the lesson Teacher stimulates pupils to use home language during peer work : In group work To support one another Teacher responds to what pupils express in their home language: Teacher builds on experience and knowledge expressed in pupils’ home languages E.g. Teacher asks pupils about the strategies they use in problem-solving in their home language Teacher encourages pupils to use home language on isolated moments: E.g. ‘Let’s count in Turkish’ ‘Let’s sing in another language’, ‘How do you say X in your language?’ Teacher tolerates use of home language: Home language is allowed for well-being: children should express themselves in their own language Home language is allowed if needed: e.g. to explain something to a weaker classmate Teacher ignores home language : Explicit remarks to forbid home languages are absent Home languages are tolerated, especially on informal moments Teacher opposes use of home language: Teacher intervenes when hearing home languages: ‘Only Dutch in the classroom!’, ‘Do I hear Slovak again?’ Teacher composes linguistically heterogeneous groups to prevent interaction in home language L1 suppression L1 functional use Observed use of L1: Change in kindergarten & primary school from 2008 till 2012 M I N MAXMAX MAXMAX M I N

21 Effect on Dutch language proficiency Teacher questionnaire (overall):  Primary school teachers report no positive/negative effect on overall Dutch language proficiency,  kindergarten teachers are more positive about impact on Dutch language proficiency Teacher interviews: Mixed beliefs "I think that because of the project the children are much more involved with language " (K3) "They're now talking in their own language but I do not think that they speak less Dutch. No, certainly not.“ (G1) "I think that they feel more confident, more at ease. But whether their Dutch improves, I don't know. Actually, I have my doubts." (G2)

22 Effects on Turkish language proficiency Turkish Teacher interviews:  Positive effects: richer vocabulary, standard Turkish improves in vocabulary and pronunciation "In the beginning, it took a long time, you know, before they understood the system [distinguishing sounds and letters]. That's why I cannot invest a lot in reading comprehension. I only have seven hours and a half and you have to spend much time in teaching the system. But for the pupils,... they really learn to read and write Turkish well. It's a pity that I have to stop after the end of January, because then it will be in Dutch. "(G1)

23 Socio-affective effects Teacher questionnaire (overall):  overall positive effect on well-being of pupils Teacher interviews: improvement in  Eagerness to speak  Well-being  Involvement in classroom activities  Personal relationship teacher-pupils  Motivation to read in Turkish "I feel that some children have fully blossomed. The fear of public speaking has completely disappeared" (K2/K3) "I think that our relationship has become a bit closer, maybe I should say: more bonding." (G2) "Now they are all interested in reading. The motivation is much higher. I think it's wonderful to see how the kids have opened up by learning to read in Turkish first." (G1)

24 Impact on teachers (1) Classroom practice: learning environment became more plurilingual (and more powerful)  Acceptance of home language use in informal situations: all teachers  Spontaneous interactions in home language: kindergarten teachers more responsive than primary school teachers  Language awareness: occasionally  Functional use of home language: peer-tutoring "More languages ​​open up a range of activities, you can do more. I use home languages more knowingly and constantly look out for materials in other languages​​." (K2/K3)

25 Impact on teachers (2) Attitudes towards home language of pupils and multilingualism in general – Positive attitude and appreciation in kindergarten – Growing awareness of linguistic diversity in primary school "I've grown in the use of different languages ​​in the classroom. I have a greater appreciation now for the language of the children." (teacher newcomers, primary school)

26 Conclusions

27 Shift from monolingual school policy and classroom practice to functional plurilingual teaching/learning go hand in hand with an observed shift from instructivist pedagogy to more social constructivist paradigm of learning. – When allowing to use L1, indications of a more powerful learning environment – Positive shift towards power of co-teaching

28 Conclusions FPT/L seems to be more powerful and seems to have more potential than traditional compartimentalised bilingual learning. In super diverse classrooms the translanguaging reality of children is taken as an asset, a resource for learning More involvement of teacher; of children; more interaction taking place in the classroom

29 Conclusions Positive impact on teachers’ beliefs and perceptions Teacher as an active agent in processes of the reconstruction of old ‘recipes’: – Training, coaching, feedback, co-reflection, co-construction – Empowerment and increased positive awareness of parents – co-construction with parents; parents as active stakeholders – Increase parental involvement and of change in parents beliefs in role of L1 and translanguaging as good practice in classrooms (schools as local agents; change from below)

30 MERCI Bruxelles Parlement Européen Label Européen des langues édition mai 2013


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