31 SES 07 B, Multilingual socialisation and agency
Modern societies have always been diverse but due to the general opening of markets, borders and ways of communication, migration processes are making them even more complex. One specific aspect of this growing diversity is an increasing language diversity, which has consequences for all areas of society, especially for education. In general, education systems have shown two main ways of coming to terms with this development: one is to strengthen a country’s or region’s “most important language(s)”, another is to question this “monolingual habitus” (Gogolin 1994) and to promote pluralism and multilingualism instead, thus supporting the inclusion of all members of society while respecting the existing diversity.
With regard to understanding these processes and to finding ways of approaching these changes, regions with autochthonous minority languages can offer valuable perspectives as their education systems have already been dealing with diverse linguistic situations by developing concepts so as to manage multilingualism in complex contexts. In this view, the Autonomous Province of Alto Adige-Südtirol (South Tyrol) presents an interesting example as the multicultural and multilingual province has also been notably affected by migration processes since the mid-1990s. Due to this, there have been major changes in the population structure and also in terms of an extended linguistic diversity (Engel & Niederfriniger 2016; Colombo & Stopfner in press).
In fact, multilingualism in South Tyrol today is neither limited to the three official languages of the Autonomous Province (German, Italian, Ladin), nor is it confined to formally taught (foreign) languages (e.g. English, French), but comprises also heritage languages of families that have (more or less) recently moved to the region (e.g. Albanian, Arabic, Punjabi). Within this increasingly diverse setting, school is one of the most important public spaces where individuals with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds can meet, work and learn to live together. However, the potential of diversity in the classroom as the source of an emerging multilingual and multicultural public sphere (Fraser 1990) is often neglected for the sake of educational goals that compartmentalize single languages instead of advancing plurilingual competences.
This is why in 2012, Eurac Research initiated the project “One School, Many Languages” together with all three educational authorities of South Tyrol, i.e. the German, Italian and Ladin school board. The long-term project on the one hand aims to further research on multilingual realities and plurilingual competences while on the other hand spreading and fostering the idea that linguistic diversity is an enrichment to the classroom and a valuable resource for teaching and learning. The final objective of the project is to establish multilingualism as a general educational objective in schools of the multilingual region of South Tyrol, overcoming borders between linguistic groups, boundaries between single-language orientation in didactics and the divide between the prestige of “old” and “new” multilingualism.
After providing a brief overview of the project “One School, Many Languages”, we will focus in our presentation on the following research questions:
- To what extent have schools in South Tyrol overcome the monolingual habitus of schooling?
- How do teachers perceive the potential of plurilingual diversity?
- How is plurilingual diversity lived and enacted in class?
- Which kind of activities prove to have a sustainable effect on social practices in schools?
Triangulating the results of more than six years of fieldwork in South Tyrolean schools, of more than 150 hours of systematic in-class observation and more than 90 hours of interview material with teachers and headmasters, we will provide empirically grounded insight into how multilingualism is perceived, managed and utilized in South Tyrolean schools today and what still needs to be done in the near future.
The project combines research and didactic activities that are based on the principles of multilingual didactics and plurilingual language acquisition as well as on pluralist approaches and frameworks for multilingual curricula. Our most recent studies integrate qualitative approaches such focus groups, semi-structured interviews and observation with quantitative methods such as questionnaires and language testing (Engel & Stopfner in press). In an initial exploratory phase, ethnographic participant observations were conducted in order to grasp the everyday reality of teachers and pupils and uncover patterns of their interaction in class (Spradley 1980, Kawulich 2005). In a second step, the results of the first phase of participant observation were used to devise the subsequent systematic observation (Beer 2003). Based on the observed patterns of interaction, a classroom observation scheme was set up designed to systematically capture central aspects relevant to the project aims, such as (in-)formally used languages in class, shared active communication, structure of the lesson etc. Special attention was paid to interaction patterns that coincide with Gogolin’s et al. (2011) quality attributes for plurilingual language teaching. By applying structured systematic observations, classroom interaction can be coherently compared throughout the entire term of the project, not only providing data for synchronic analysis, comparing different language classes and schools, but also for diachronic analysis, comparing classroom interaction from the first to the final year of schooling. In our view, the triangulation of different methodological approaches (Denzin 2009, Flick 2011) is able to paint a pluridimensional picture of the situation. Language assessment techniques such as C-tests and profile analysis, for example, provide reliable and valid data on communicative competences for single languages. However, they only offer a snapshot and “intrude as a foreign element into the social setting they would describe” (Webb et al. 2000, 1). Also, traditional language tests and assessments fail to capture plurilingual competences and are, thus, themselves caught in a one-dimensional, i.e. monolingual perspective. This is why the study combines pluralist approaches in language assessment and surveys with classroom observation and expert interviews. Parallel to the class observations, expert interviews at schools of all three linguistic groups were conducted in order to systematize the conceptual, administrative and didactic approaches of how schools are managing increasing linguistic diversity. By employing a grounded theory approach (Strauss & Corbin 1996), these findings are now being integrated in the wider project’s research framework.
Our research results show that the question raised by Gogolin (1994) of how the monolingual habitus of education can be changed still remains, also in officially multilingual regions such as South Tyrol. Yet, within the project “One School, Many Languages”, we move one crucial step forward by investigating ways in which schools can overcome the established but often restrictive boundaries of language policy and language planning. What is more, the project also aims to further develop didactic means by which teachers can break with their usual monolingual practice in order to meet the needs of plurilingual individuals while respecting national and regional frameworks and guidelines for language education and preparing all students for the demands and challenges of living in a multilingual and multicultural society. In fact, within the project, we have developed a range of didactic activities for supporting schools in their endeavour to promote a positive idea of multilingualism. These include teacher training courses, ready-to-use didactic materials, scientific support for schools that develop and implement multilingual curricula, tools for teachers and experts working with multilingual families, workshops in classes and a multilingual interactive travelling exhibition (Engel & Colombo 2018) on various surprising scientific and social aspects of multilingualism.
Beer, Bettina (2003): „Systematische Beobachtung.“ In: Beer, Bettina (ed.): Methoden und Techniken der Feldforschung. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 119-141. Colombo, Sabrina & Stopfner, Maria (in press): “Alte und neue Formen der Mehrsprachigkeit in Südtirol.” In: Dannerer, Monika/Mauser, Peter (eds.): Formen der Mehrsprachigkeit. Tübingen: Stauffenburg. Denzin, Norman K. (2009): The Research Act: A Theoretical Introduction to Sociological Methods. New Brunswick/London: Aldine Transaction. Engel, Dana & Colombo, Sabrina (in press): “Strategien in der Förderung von Multilingual Awareness im Rahmen der Südtiroler Wanderausstellung ‚Sprachenvielfalt – in der Welt und vor unserer Haustür‘.“ In: Nied Curcio, Martina & Velásquez, Diego Cortés (eds.): Strategien im Kontext des mehrsprachigen und lebenslangen Lernens. Berlin: Frank& Timme. Engel, Dana & Niederfriniger Inge (2016): “Zum Umgang mit (migrationsbedingter) Vielfalt in Südtirol – eine mehrsprachige Region entwickelt ihr Profil.“ In: Carvill Schellenbacher J.; Dahlvik J.; Fassmann H.; Reinprecht C. (eds.): Migration und Integration – wissenschaftliche Perspektiven aus Österreich. Vienna: Vienna University Press. Engel, Dana & Stopfner, Maria (in press): “Communicative Competence in the Context of Increasing Diversity in South Tyrolean Schools.“ In: Jessner-Schmid, Ulrike & Vetter, Eva (eds.): Multilingualism and Third Language Acquisition. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Flick, Uwe (2011): Triangulation. Eine Einführung. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Fraser, Nancy (1990): “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” In: Social Text 25/26, 56-80. Gogolin, Ingrid et al. (2011): Durchgängige Sprachbildung: Qualitätsmerkmale für den Unterricht. Münster: Waxmann. Kawulich, Barbara B. (2005): “Participant Observation as a Data Collection Method.” In: Forum: Qualitative Social Research/Sozialforschung 6 (2), n.p. Spradley, James P. (1980): Participant Observation. New York: Rinehart/Winston. Strauss, Anselm & Corbin, Juliet (1996): Grounded Theory: Grundlagen Qualitativer Sozialforschung. Weinheim: Beltz. Webb, Eugene J. et al. (2000): Unobtrusive Measures. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
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