Researching language in education in diverse, twenty-first century classrooms
10 September 2012
Thematic workshop jointly organised by the Institute for Education, Teaching and Leadership, School of Education, University of Edinburgh and the MOSAIC Centre for Research on Multilingualism, University of Birmingham.
The focus of this workshop was on the methodological challenges of research on language in education in contemporary classrooms. The speakers considered the particular challenges they had encountered in the specific contexts in which they worked and they described the ways in which they had adjusted their research lenses to meet these challenges.
Workshop programme and speakers:
9.20-9.30 Welcome and introductions
9.30-10.00 Dr. Sheena Gardner, Coventry University
10.00-10.30 Dr. Joanna McPake, University of Strathclyde
10.30-11.00 Coffee break
11.00-11.30 Prof. Geri Smyth, University of Strathclyde
11.30-11.45 Prof. Alison Phipps, University of Glasgow
11.45-12.00 Information session on Bilingualism Matters, the University of Edinburgh.
12.00 - 13.00 Lunch
13.00-14.00 Poster session
14.00-14.30 Dr. Andy Hancock, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh
14.30-15.15 Prof. Constant Leung, King’s College, University of London
15.15 - 16.00 Panel discussion
The workshop organisers were Dr Eleni Mariou, firstname.lastname@example.org and Dr Florence Bonacina-Pugh, email@example.com at Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh.
Accessing young learner perspectives through researcher initiated role play
Dr Sheena Gardner, University of Coventry
Conducting research into young learner experiences of school poses methodological challenges which are compounded when the classroom interaction is multilingual. ‘Grown up’ methods such as questionnaires and interviews can be adapted by using smiley faces and visuals, but alternative approaches are also needed to access learner perspectives more comprehensively. This paper explains how ‘researcher initiated role play’ was developed to shed light on how Malaysian children learn to read in different languages and contexts.
Play comes naturally to children, and valuable insights are gained from its observation. Gutierrez and colleagues have shown how when the discourses of school and play come together, productive learning spaces are created; Gregory and colleagues have shown how siblings at home spontaneously play school, to their mutual benefit, and how they syncretise discourses from different cultural contexts.
Researcher initiated role play (RIRP) builds on children’s natural instincts to play and make sense of their worlds. In role plays, children switch frames from acting out to negotiating the script and can reveal classroom experiences previously hidden from researcher observation. RIRP allows researchers to see not only what learners have internalised about their learning experiences, but also to gain insights into how they evaluate these experiences.
Gardner, S. 2008. ‘Transforming Talk and Phonics Practice: Or, how do crabs clap?’ TESOL Quarterly, 42, 261-284
Gregory, E. 2005. Playful talk, the interspace between home and school discourse. Early Years, 25, 3, 223-236.
Gutiérrez, K., Baquedano-López, P., and Tejeda, C. 2003. Rethinking diversity: Hybridity and hybrid language practices in the third space. In S. Goodman, T. Lillis, J. Maybin, and N. Mercer (Eds.), Language, literacy and education: A reader (pp. 171-187). Trent, UK: Trentham Books and 2000 Mind, Culture and Activity, 6, 4, 286-303
Yaacob, A. and S. Gardner. 2012. Young learner perspectives through researcher initiated role play. In S. Gardner and M. Martin-Jones (eds) Multilingualism, Discourse and Ethnography. New York: Routledge. pp. 241-255.
Ar Stòiridh: exploring practitioner ethno-theories about language learning and teaching in a pre-school immersion playroom
Dr Joanna McPake, University of Strathclyde
This presentation focuses on the potential of design-based research as a methodological approach to uncover ethnotheories about language learning and teaching, with particular reference to pre-school practitioners working in immersion settings.
Gaelic-medium education represents a key strategy through which the Scottish Government aims to revitalise the language. However, few children attending Gaelic-medium units now come from Gaelic-speaking families: most are from families where Gaelic is not used but where parents are keen for their children to become fluent in the language. Thus many first encounter Gaelic in the pre-school playroom, effectively an immersion setting. Maximising children’s exposure to the language and enhancing their use of it is an ongoing challenge for pre-school practitioners.
There is very limited initial and continuing professional education for pre-school practitioners working in Gaelic-medium immersion playrooms; and though there is an extensive international literature on immersion provision, this focuses mainly on outcomes, with little attention to the early stages of the process. Effectively we do not train practitioners for this role, and we know little about how they go about the task, how effective they are, or indeed how effective practice might be defined or measured.
A recent study, Ar Stòiridh, conducted by Joanna McPake (University of Strathclyde) and Christine Stephen (University of Stirling), in collaboration with Stòrlann, the Gaelic Educational Resource Agency, investigated the potential of an iPad app, Our Story, to stimulate greater use of Gaelic in the playroom. An unexpected outcome was the extent to which an intervention of this kind revealed practitioners’ underlying conceptualisations of how young children learn another language and how they understood their own role as linguistic models and language teachers. Drawing on design-based research, a methodology for investigating the relationships among educational theory, designed artifact, and practice (Design-based Research Collective, 2003), the presentation considers the potential of this approach for exploring practitioner ethnotheories, or cultural belief systems (Super & Harkness, 1995), as a starting point for identifying their professional development needs and aspirations.
What languages do you speak? A reflective account of research with multilingual pupils and teachers
Professor Geri Smyth, University of Strathclyde
This presentation will offer a reflective account of the research approaches used in linguistically and culturally diverse education contexts by an academic researcher from the hegemonic cultural mainstream. The discussion will cover some of the potential barriers to research with linguistically, ethnically and/or culturally diverse 'others' and consider why particular methodologies have been adopted in contexts with both pupils and teachers in order to overcome such barriers. The approaches discussed include critical ethnography, co-construction of research tools and digital photography. The presentation will also consider researcher relationships with the researched and will indicate some of the analytical perspectives (Critical Race and Whiteness theory and Bourdieu/ Foucault perspectives) adopted in order to shed light on the data collected in such contexts.
Between Gaza and Glasgow: Professional and community approaches to multilingual research for education and training.
Alison Phipps, University of Glasgow
This paper presents two case studies of multilingual research conducted through Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network and involving multilingual research into education and training. Firstly, the paper explores the case of designing and implementing research with health care practitioners, interpreters and migrant patients for the purpose of developing health education and training. Secondly, it takes the case of researching life-long learning in Gaza, and the development of research methodologies for education under siege. In both cases the question of economics and materials force a state of methodological bricolage. In both cases questions of human security are shaped multilingually. This has implications for the development of multilingual methodologies and intersects with work within GRAMNET on intercultural language ethics.
Bridging the gap between research and the community: the Bilingualism Matters experience
Prof. Antonella Sorace and Dr. Florence Bonacina-Pugh, University of Edinburgh.
Bilingualism Matters (www.bilingualism-matters.org.uk) is an information service established and directed by Antonella Sorace and run by a group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh. Its aim is to bridge the gap between the public perception of child bilingualism and the results of current research, which shows that early bilingualism brings long-lasting linguistic and cognitive benefits that go well beyond knowledge of two languages. On average, bilingual children have better awareness of language sounds, words, and structures; are better language learners and earlier readers; have enhanced attention and more mental flexibility; and develop earlier awareness that other people can have different perspectives from their own. Moreover, the speech delays that some bilingual children experience are temporary and do not affect development in either language. This research contradicts popular ideas that children will be confused by hearing two languages or that bilingualism is harmful for their mental development. It also reveals unexpected value in speaking a minority language in addition to a community language: bilingualism does not have to involve widely spoken languages in order to bring positive advantages.
Over the last four years, Bilingualism Matters has continued to grow. In addition to its many activities in the local community, it has developed partnerships in the UK, launched branches in Scotland and Europe (Tromsø, Norway; Western Isles, Scotland; Thessaloniki, Greece; Trento/Milan, Italy) and provided consultancy services to the private sector and to international organizations. It has also engaged with policy makers, including the Scottish Government, with the goal of informing decisions about second language provision in schools, about the linguistic integration of immigrant children and about language maintenance programmes. The positive experience of Bilingualism Matters shows hat universities and researchers have an important role to play in changing attitudes towards early bilingualism.
Unravelling researcher and participant identities
Dr Andy Hancock, University of Edinburgh
This presentation explores some of the methodological dilemmas associated with the interwoven positions of the researcher, research facilitator and participants when investigating pedagogical practices in a Chinese complementary school in Scotland. Striving to transfer meaning from one language and culture to another raises questions of inconsistent data and the challenges of working with multiple layers of interpretation. This presentation will question the idea of fixed identities and consider the notion of 'fluid spaces' where interactions, reflections and difference become tools in themselves for generating knowledge as different 'ways of knowing' are shared and debated. These rich zones of intercultural communication, collaboration and reciprocal learning are stimulated by classroom observations supported by interviews with teachers and conversations with primary-aged children. Illustrations will be provided of how children’s engagement with diverse orthographies helps shape their emerging and dynamic learner identities. Furthermore, it will show how approaches to teaching and learning in the complementary school are often not only a product of the teachers’ own experiences of education but are also influenced by the children, who draw on a range of bilingual and bi-literate resources at their disposal.
Researching English as an Additional Language – a view from Educational Linguistics
Professor Constant Leung, King’s College London
English as an Additional Language (EAL) in contemporary classrooms in the UK has been caught up in a web of curriculum policies and practices within a context of accelerating ethnolinguistic diversity in society. Research in this field has to navigate complex ideological and methodological terrains.
In this presentation the following issues will be addressed:
researchers’ own ideological values and the influence of curriculum policy dispositions on research topics
conceptual and methodological choices – differential affordances and yields
uses of research and research outcomes.
My arguments will be framed within the structure-agency debates. I will draw on examples of recent research in the EAL field related to models of language education, language development, language assessment, and language policy to illustrate some of the intricate educational, professional and scholarly challenges researchers have to work with.
New times, new mobilities and communicative practices: challenges for minority language research
Cyfnod newydd, mudoleddau newydd ac arferion cyfathrebu newydd: heriau i ymchwil ym maes ieithoedd lleiafrifol
2 - 3 May 2012
This two day thematic workshop at the School of Education, University of Birmingham, brought together researchers from Europe and North America who are engaged in sociolinguistic and ethnographic research with speakers of languages that have been historically positioned on the political and economic periphery e.g. Basque, Canadian French, Catalan, Galician, Irish, Sámi, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh. The contributors included Monica Heller (University of Toronto), Alexandra Jaffe (University of California), Patricia Lamarre (University of Montreal), Bernadette O’Rourke (Heriot Watt University), Joanna McPake (University of Strathclyde), Sari Pietikäinen (University of Jyväskylä), Joan Pujolar Cos (Open University of Catalonia), Mark Sebba (Lancaster University) and Daniel Cunliffe (University of Glamorgan). The focus was on the conceptual and methodological challenges posed in the field of minority language research by the large-scale social changes ushered in by globalization, by the advent of new media and communication technology and by shifts in political economy. The study of the new sociolinguistic realities of the times in which we live requires new research lenses and new epistemologies.
Abstracts / Crynodebau
Montreal on the move: An ethnographic study of the language practices of young adults in a city redefined
Patricia Lamarre, University of Montreal
Language in Quebec is a politically charged and much researched issue, yet much of the research to date has been unable to catch the complexity of a language dynamic in emergence. Research has heavily focused on language dominance, relying on census data and on surveys in which participants are asked which language they use the most often in the home, public places, and the workplace - the underlying concern being whether French is gaining or losing ground to English.
There has also been an inability to think in terms of a blurring of linguistic categories and the hyphenation or hybridization of linguistic identity (eg: being French-English) is difficult even to imagine for some. In a place where language politics colors most everything, there is very little data on actual language practices and, surprisingly, not much research on how these language practices are perceived and represented by actors in respect to social situations and identity. The complexity of current linguistic practices of young Montrealers, the majority of whom are bilingual or multilingual, has largely been ignored.
This instigated a new approach to data collection to examine how linguistic repertoires are drawn upon as people move through their daily lives and what lies beneath choices made about language use. More specifically, why does a speaker choose to use French in one situation, English in another, choose heteroglossic ways of speaking among friends or even customers and coworkers, and then adopt much more conservative unilingual practices in other settings or interactions? How are the stakes underlying these situations understood and what is being negotiated by speakers? And
finally, are traditional conceptions of language and identity salient to these young multilingual Montrealers? There are obviously many local policy implications for this study. At the theoretical level, the study contributes to the growing academic interest in metrolingualism/polylingual languaging, bringing to the fore constraints to heteroglossic ways of speaking.
A non-static approach to data collection will be presented, which was developed to follow young adults through their daily lives in the city, through social networks and a range of sites and activities, including in virtual space. The approach is inclusive, bringing participants into the analysis of data and engaging them in a reflexive process. Data from 15 completed case studies with young multilinguals will be drawn upon to illustrate the approach. In conclusion, what the study brings to theory will be discussed.
New Times, New Mobilities and “New Speakers”
Bernadette O'Rourke, Heriot-Watt University
In many parts of the world, traditional communities of minority language speakers are being eroded as a consequence of increased urbanization and economic modernization. Indexes of language endangerment, such as those proposed by Fishman (1991), identify a break in home transmission as the single most important indicator of language decline, an indicator which is also linked, at least implicitly, to the maintenance of a native speaker community. Romaine (2006) has however questioned what it means for a language to “survive” without home transmission, and therefore without traditional native speakers and the linguistic models they provide, thus turning our attention to “new speakers” or non-native speakers of a minority languages and their potential role in the
process of linguistic revitalization. The "new speaker" model prompts us to look at language reversal in a different way and to move away from a focus on "bringing the language back into social place with its past structure and social variety unchanged" (Jaffe 1999: 285). The "new speaker" model also prompts us to look at the methodologies that have tended to be used to assess linguistic vitality in minority language contexts. Large scale sociolinguistic surveys have provided useful insights into general patterns of language use, ability and motivation for use or non-use of a
minority language and have on this basis put forward predictions about the survival prospects of these languages. However, very often these surveys have been based on an understanding of language (and language practices) as bounded and fixed entities, sometimes failing to capture the in-between spaces of language reversal often represented by “new speaker” profiles. In this session, I will explore these in-between spaces, drawing on examples of “new speaker” life-histories with specific reference to two minority languages contexts – Irish and Galician.
Mobility, multilingualism and methods: Sociolinguistic ethnography in the globalized new economy
Monica Heller, University of Toronto
This class will explore the shifting realities of heretofore marginalized linguistic minorities, and ask what consequences these realities have for the questions we ask about minorities, for what counts as data in addressing those questions, for how to generate that data and for what constitutes legitimate knowledge production about "minorities" and "multilingualism". We will begin my examining my own experiences of reshaping my research methods while tracking the changing political economy of francophone Canada from industrial modernity to the globalized new economy. I will show how
that shift forced a move away from understanding fieldwork as community"- (or even institution-) based towards an encounter with mobility, and from "language" to a Bakhtinian view of communicative practice. We will then work with participants' concerns to formulate questions which use political economy and mobility as lenses, and to explore what kinds of data and data generation methods might be adequate to explore them.
Shifts and continuities on the ground and in the research paradigm: Reflections on fieldwork in Corsica
Alexandra Jaffe, California State University, Long Beach
In this presentation, I draw on my current research on Corsica to explore both conceptual and methodological shifts and continuities in my approach to studying language practices and ideologies with respect to issues of globalization, mobility and new media of communication. Using the example of my participation in Corsican adult language classes separated by a 20-year interval, I discuss how using the same method over time captures the complexity of the contemporary moment, which includes discursive and ideological shifts related to the use, value and positioning of Corsican as a "heritage" resource in a changing world-- but also includes striking forms of continuity. In a slightly different vein, I evoke changes over time in my own positionality (assumed and attributed) and the extent to which they are related to issues of globalization and mobility.
Secondly, I provide an overview of the multiple methods and data types that I am currently drawing on to address issues of multilingualism and mobility as lived realities/trajectories, as tropes/discursive formations, and as orientations for practice. In schools, these include visually based methods (the use of "reflexive drawings" as the basis for interviews that address both children's current language usage and their imagined (multilingual) linguistic trajectories and involving older children as analysts and collectors of linguistic landscape data "at home" and during school trips abroad) as well as ethnographic, interview and survey data on forms of mobility and exchange related to Corsican as it is positioned relative to its internal varieties and with respect to
other languages. I also discuss two school projects that explore how new media are implicated both as a medium of exchange, and as a catalyst for ideological shift in the way that the Corsican language, and what it means to be or become a speaker are imagined. Finally, I touch on ongoing and planned data collection in sites of exchange and representation involving tourists and tourism and the tension between language-as-heritage and language-as-(economic) resource they index.
This overview will, I hope, offer some insights into the particular values/limitations of specific methods alone, and in combination. It will also be the springboard for a reflection on some more general issues: 1) the tension "on the ground" and in the research between a focus on bounded codes
("languages," "dialects") vs. communicative activities and 2) what is "new" and what is not-so-new about the current moment and the methodological and conceptual tools we need to address it.
Starting out in Gaelic: Balancing language learning and early years pedagogy in a pre-school immersion programme – insights from qualitative research
Joanna McPake, University of Strathclyde
Educational provision via the medium of a minority language is one of the key ways in which language revitalisation programmes seek to reverse the fortunes of endangered languages, by supporting children who already speak the language fluently and encouraging others with little or no previous exposure to learn it.
This paper, based on two recent studies of provision for Gaelic-medium (GM) pre-school provision in Scotland, explores some of the challenges inherent in seeking to address both specific linguistic and broader (national) educational goals. The first study (2008-9), based on survey and interview data, and case studies of three pre-school settings, was commissioned by the Scottish Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig, to investigate supply and demand for GM pre-school provision, gaps and weaknesses, and opportunities for development and improvement. (Review of Gaelic medium early education and childcare. Edinburgh: Scottish Government
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/06/22090128/0) The second study (2010-11), drawing on playroom observations and discussions with children and pre-school practitioners over the course of a year, focuses on children’s experiences: how they encounter and use Gaelic, how they interact with adults and other children, and how they access the curriculum. This latter study was funded by the British Academy. (Young children learning in Gaelic
http://www.ioe.stir.ac.uk/research/projects/youngchildrenlearningingaelic.php). Both of these studies were conducted in collaboration with Dr Christine Stephen, at the University of Stirling and Dr Wilson McLeod, University of Edinburgh. This paper draws attention to ways in which the specific linguistic goals for GM pre-school provision fit (or not) with the national curriculum goals for all early years provision (in both Gaelic and English) in Scotland. It focuses on points of agreement and difference in the underpinning pedagogical theories and seeks to identify opportunities for synthesis, using examples of playroom discourse to illustrate current practice.
Issues of comparative fieldwork and analysis
Joan Pujolar, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and Kathryn Jones, IAITH: Welsh Centre for Language Planning
In this session, we are going to expound and discuss about our experiences of joint work in a comparative project on language, identity and tourism. In this project, three researchers from Catalonia (Joan Pujolar), Wales (Kathryn Jones) and Francophone Canada (Monica Heller) explored the different ways in which, in linguistic minority contexts, new initiatives were being developed to exploit local languages and cultures as tourist attractions or as touristic themes. We developed the concept out of our observation that local languages and identities were increasingly present in areas such as souvenir marketing or heritage sites. In Canada in particular, cultural tourism had been identified by both national and regional authorities as a strategic asset for the
economic development of minority Francophone communities. So we anticipated that a
comparative study of the different regions would help to appreciate, beyond local differences, the fundamental and underlying social processes that were at work in these developments.
We adopted a flexible, multi-sited, ethnographic approach to data collection that combined the gathering of documentation (mainly in the form of press reports and internet sites), the visit to tourist sites and interviews with actors involved in the development and management of these sites. The choice of sites was the first problem with regards to comparative procedure. We first sought to identify locations that were similar in the three areas; but found that our early explorations did not yield clear candidates. In Francophone Canada, for example, a great emphasis was laid on the staging of old villages or activities with large projects that had no parallel elsewhere. In Wales and
Catalonia, there were rather tentative discussions in tourist sectors about identity issues; but developments were small and disperse. The tourist industry was, in any case, substantially different in all three contexts, where the access of minority communities to the infrastructures and profits of tourism was also very different. In the end, we chose what we thought were the most significant contemporary developments in each region, no matter how different: the Acadian World Congress in New Brunswick, the literary heritage network in Catalonia, and the town of Glanporth in Wales. Interestingly enough, the project has yielded three interesting publications: one about Francophone Canada, one about Catalonia and one about Wales. Two of these started as comparative works in
the first drafts; but the comparative element was lost in the editorial process for various reasons. We shall describe what happened here with the article on literary heritage that the authors wrote jointly, and we will discuss about the conceptual and practical issues that rendered comparison impractical in this case.
Researching carnivalesque multilingualism in the indigenous Sámiland
Sari Pietikäinen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
In this paper, I wish to explore shifting and emerging multilingualisms in the indigenous Sámi community. More specifically, I adopt a bahktinian understanding of carnival as a temporal liberation from the prevailing truth and from the established order (Bahktin 1968:10) to study moments and spaces of multilingual transformations in Sámiland. The concept of carnival in this context seems to provide a way to study changing norms and emerging language and discourse practices across fixed boundaries and categories, now set in motion by the new economic, cultural and political conditions. In such nexus of competing forces, we can see creation and circulation of polyphonic performances, important for new identities and creative language practices, and yet at the same time, a challenge to established practices and norms (cf. Pietikäinen 2010, Blackledge &
Creese, 2010). Drawing on my longitudinal ethnographic and discourse analytical research in Sámiland (www.peripheralmultilingualism.fi) I will give examples on such performances and discuss some of the methodological implications in researching carnivalesque multilingualism in indigenous language community.
Bakhtin, M. (1968). Rabelais and his world. Trans. H. Iswosky. Indiana University Press
Blackledge, A. & Creese, A. (2010). Multilingualism: A critical perspective. Continuum.
Pietikäinen, S. 2010. Sámi language mobility: Scales and discourses of multilingualism in polycentric environment. International Journal of Sociology of Language 202, 79-101
Studying minority languages online: why, what and how.
Daniel Cunliffe, University of Glamorgan and Mark Sebba, Lancaster University
Despite a good deal of interest, the impact on minority languages of technology such as the internet is poorly understood. While policy makers and activists may claim it to be significant, the actual evidence is sparse. In this presentation, we will examine some of the claims and counter-claims and suggest factors which might indicate when the online domain could be considered significant for a particular language community. We will then consider what ‘things’ might be worth studying, both in terms of technologies (the WWW, email, mobile applications...) and focus (language use, language learning, attitudes, language policies...). Different ways of characterising and defining the online domain will be outlined (top-down vs. bottom up, public vs. private, artefacts vs. actors...). Two case studies will then be presented. The application case study will discuss the experiences
gained from three different studies of Facebook. The method case study will present an analytical framework for multimodal, multilingual texts. The case studies will be used to highlight practical and intellectual concerns of studying minority languages online. The presentation will conclude by drawing together common and unresolved issues, general principles and advice
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