10 SES 10 A JS, Language and Teacher Education
Joint Paper Session NW 10 and NW 31
In a European educational context increasingly characterized by ‘super-diversity’ (Vertovec, 2007), teachers need to take into account students’ diverse language backgrounds in planning instruction. The present study responds to this call by exploring students’ heritage language competence (Cummins, 2005) as a resource in English writing instruction. The Council of Europe (2001) has long promoted plurilingualism as an overarching goal of language education. However, studies in various European countries suggest the prevalence of an ideological hierarchy by which schools value multilingual competence in major European languages but competence in heritage languages tied to immigration to a lesser extent (De Angelis, 2011). The range of multilingual competence that many students bring to school may therefore be sidelined, despite considerable research that points to the advantages that bilinguals bring to language learning, including metalinguistic awareness, cognitive flexibility, and learning strategies (Cenoz & Gorter, 2011). The recent emergence of research on English teaching for heritage language speakers in Norway (Dahl & Krulatz, 2016; Krulatz & Torgersen, 2016) has highlighted the need for multilingual perspectives not only in Norwegian L1 or L2 instruction but also in English teaching. These investigations into English instruction in Norway indicate limited awareness of multilingual competence as a resource in further language learning (Dahl & Krulatz, 2016; Krulatz & Torgersen, 2016). However, research on multilingualism suggests that cross-reference among learners’ languages both reflects actual language use (Canagarajah, 2013) and could better support the writing skill development of multilingual students (Cenoz & Gorter, 2011).
The present study therefore examines the positioning of students’ multilingual competence in English writing instruction, with a particular focus on heritage languages. Classroom language use and instructional practices are analyzed through the continua model of biliteracy, a language ecology framework (Hornberger, 2008), in order to explore how language environments can open up space for recognition of heritage language speakers’ full range of literacy competence. Particular attention is given to continua of monolingual vs. bi/multilingual literacy and majority vs. minority literacy, which are framed as traditionally more or less powerful in society, respectively. Hornberger (2008) notes that “there is a need to contest the traditional power weighting by paying attention to, granting agency to, and making space for actors and practices at what have traditionally been the less powerful ends of the continua” (p. 279) in order for pupils to draw upon the full range of the continua. Teacher practice can reflect or contest these traditional power structures (Hornberger & Johnson, 2007).
The study applies the continua of biliteracy (Hornberger, 2008) to exploring how an English teacher at an upper secondary school in Norway and her students (ages 16-18) who speak heritage languages use and conceive of multilingual competence as a potential resource in English writing instruction. These students include recently arrived immigrants with a variety of language backgrounds. The classroom was selected based on preliminary observation and interviews with English teachers at a number of upper-secondary schools with multilingual student bodies and is chosen as a ‘telling case’ (Mitchell, 1984) conducive to exploring multilingual writing practices. Specific research questions include the following:
- To what extent and how does the teacher engage students’ multilingual resources in English writing instruction?
- To what extent and how do students engage multilingual resources or translanguaging practices in school-based English writing?
- How do the multilingual students and their teacher discursively position heritage languages in English writing instruction?
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