Constraints on agency in micro-language policy and planning in schools - with speaker Anthony Liddicoat (MOSAIC Seminar)

Room 224, School of Education (Building R19)
Wednesday 30 January 2019 (16:00-17:30)

Dr Elizabeth Chilton


MOSAIC Group for Research on Multilingualism seminar series 2019

Constraints on agency in micro-language policy and planning in schools: A case study of curriculum change 

With speaker Professor Anthony J. Liddicoat, Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick


In studies of language policy and planning (LPP) in schools, agency has often been understood in terms of the impact of teachers, students and parents on the implementation of top-down macro-LPP or of the ways that community stakeholders generate LPP from below. This presentation will consider the question of agency from the perspective of the school as an ecological context in which actors claim agency in school-based LPP and explore the ways that the local ecology has an impact on agency and constrains possibilities for exercising this agency. It will do this by examining the process of a school-initiated curriculum change to increase time for the study of foreign languages in a particular school as a case study of teachers’ agency in changing a schools’ LPP.

The school is a public secondary school with over 900 students. It identifies as a school with a strong focus on mathematics and science. The school offers German and Japanese and all Year 8 students are required to study a language. On completion of Year 8, language learning becomes an elective, which if chosen must be studied for a full year. In response to a call for government financial support for pilot projects to increase time of task for language learning, the school opted in by proposing a way to implement a model of ‘a lesson a day’ for each language through collaborative teaching of a part of the Humanities curriculum in German and Japanese. The pilot program was implemented for three years, but was ultimately found to be unsustainable for the school.

This presentation will investigate the ecology of factors that lead to the decision by school leaders that the model they had originally proposed could not be delivered by the school. It will investigate the ecology of forces that influenced the exercise of the language teachers’ agency as language planners within the school and the ways that this ecology of forces constrained their agentive possibilities. In will consider in particular, the impacts of prevailing ideologies of education and the place of language study within education, conceptualisations of curriculum as a cultural artefact, structural features of school organisation, and professional relationships between teachers of different disciplines. As the language teachers worked to design and implement the new curriculum, these forces worked in different ways to constrain their possibilities for acting and ultimately led to the failure of the initiative.

Agency in micro-LPP is complex and contextualised and needs to be understood with the local processes in which it is deployed. 

All are welcome at this free event but could you please register online if you wish to attend.

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