31 SES 01, Teachers and Multilingualism: From Beliefs to Practice
There is a strong tendency emphasize phenomenon and problem based learning, when developing school culture and simultaneously pedagogical practices (Fogarty & Brian 2009). This also applies to the latest curriculum process in the Finnish comprehensive school (NCC 2014). Further, the holistic learning tendency leads to trans-curricular contents and interdisciplinary learning, and in this process the language subjects also undergo transition (Vollmer 2006). The role and tasks of the L1 (Finnish) as a school subject are considered in a new way if we pursue the ideas of languages as cross-curricular subjects and encounter school languages as a learning resource in all subjects. An essential role has also been given to the promotion of multiliteracy competencies in all school subjects together with the Digital Turn in learning and the increasing amount of multilingual groups (Holm & Pitkänen-Huhta 2012). In bridging the gap between free time and school literacy practices among pupils, multiliteracy pedagogy is currently a topical issue.
Teachers’ professionality and willingness to create new pedagogical practices are challenged by all curricular changes. There is therefore a need for various in-service education initiatives for teachers and administrators. Regarding mother tongue and literature instruction, 80 % of the Finnish L1 syllabus is taught in primary education. Consequently, the need for in-service education among primary school teachers is considerable. We have responded to this challenge by constructing a year-long in-service education program in mother tongue and literature (Finnish), which a total of 61 teachers and almost graduated teacher students completed, each studying 15–25 ECTS: 29 teachers in 2011 and 32 in 2015.
In this paper, we concentrate on the language beliefs of the primary school teachers and the changes regarding these beliefs during the education program. There is evidence that the relation between beliefs and actions is dynamic (Barcelos & Kalaja 2011). So it can be assumed that if teachers are able to revise their beliefs about language, language use and its learning, it affects their pedagogical practices. Language beliefs reveal the ways language and its use are seen and considered. They can be defined as the attitudes towards language and its use, and are regarded as true by language users. Because of the labile nature of language beliefs, teachers’ beliefs can be affected in social situations and communication contexts, e.g. by colleagues and education policy. (McCarthey & Mkhize 2006; Barcelos & Kalaja 2011.)
The teachers’ in-service education program was composed of 5 modules, which were all founded on such pedagogical bases as right-time peer- and self-reflection of action, practical and virtual support of peers and educators, and guided testing in each teacher’s class. These are the elements which we expected to scaffold the practical and conceptual changes in attitudes and views of the teachers. As Borg (2006) notes, changes in language beliefs are tied to reflection and action. It’s also worth noticing that although beliefs are produced socially, everyone gives beliefs meanings of their own (Barcelos & Kalaja 2011). Despite all the modelling and knowledge provided during the program, it’s the teacher herself who works with her pedagogical ideas and creates practices in her class.
In this paper, we investigate the experiences, opinions, and attitudes of primary school teachers regarding language and its use in a pedagogical context. Our research questions are:
- How do the teachers describe their views about language and its use, language instruction, and the role of L1 as a school subject before and after the program?
- How is language use understood and its role valued in learning by the teachers before and after the program?
Andrews, S. 2007. Teacher Language Awareness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Barcelos, A. M. F. & Kalaja, P. 2011. Introduction to beliefs about SLA revisited. System 39(3), 281–289. Cots, J. M. 2008. Knowledge about language in the mother tongue and foreign language curricula. In J. Cenoz & N. H. Hornberger (eds.) Encyclopedia of Language and Education. 2nd edition. Vol. 6. Springer, 15–30. Fogarty, R. J. & Brian, M. P. 2009. How to integrate the curricula. 3rd edition. California: SAGE. Holm, L. & Pitkänen-Huhta, A. 2012. Literacy practices in transition: setting the scene. In L. Holm & A. Pitkänen-Huhta 2012. Literacy practices in transition. Perspectives from the Nordic countries. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 1–23. Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. 2004. A handbook for teacher research. From design to implementation. London: Open University Press. Mills, K. 2005. Deconstructing binary oppositions in literacy discourse and pedagogy. Australian Journal of Language Literacy 28 (1), 67–82. NCC = National core curriculum for basic education 2014. Helsinki: Finnish National Board of Education. Pahl, K. & Rowsell, J. 2005. Literacy and education: understanding the new literacy studies in the classroom. London: Chapman. Vollmer, H. J. 2006. Intergovernmental Conference Languages of Schooling: towards a Framework for Europe. Strasbourg: Language Policy Division.
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