19 SES 06 B, Pedagogic Approaches and Diversity
At the heart of this paper is an intention to write an ethnography of one primary school in England with respect to its response to language diversity. The presentation explores the recent four decades of pedagogy, policy and practice in this school where a substantial proportion of its pupils have learnt languages other than English at home, before starting school. The authors have been involved with this school as teachers and researchers for nearly four decades, and by exploring the previous and current teachers’ understandings of the lived experiences of the youngest children in their classes, the paper reveals insights into multilingual pedagogies over time. The central question is how is the support for multilingual pupils theorised, conceptualised and organised in everyday practice? This research question is explored by examining national policies, previous studies undertaken at the school, and teachers’ perspectives and by taking a historical perspective.
The presentation draws on our own ethnographic work in the area and, drawing on Moll et al’s (1992), Gonzalez et al’s (2005) and Rodriguez’s (2013) work, this research study of the school is based on a sociocultural theoretical framework. The ‘funds of knowledge’ approach views learning as occurring through participation in practice in different social and cultural contexts and is used to analyse languages, early years settings and social networks. The findings reveal tensions between the policy driven need to learn English and the consequent ‘silencing’ of bilingualism – and the development of young children’s home languages in the early years of schooling in England ( UNESCO Policy Paper (February, 2016) ‘If you don’t understand, how can you learn’), Robertson et al, 2014).
Drawing on the work of Syncretic Literacy Studies (Gregory et al, 2004), the authors’ own ethnographic approach builds on the earlies studies that explored how meaning is created in diverse educational contexts. The main big question for this paper centres on what counts as a multilingual learner in a primary school in England, and between 1980 to 2018, and how the conceptualisations of multilingualism and of a multilingual pupil have shifted in response to changing policies and national curricula demands. The authors are in a strong and privileged position to engage in this study because of their historical connection with the school, its teachers and community. The methods include field notes from previous studies, a focus group meetings with parents and Bilingual Teaching Assistants and interviews with teachers and Headteacher, Ethical considerations For us all ethical considerations are framed in social justice and we have endeavoured to present a trustworthy account of complex human meaning making processes by sharing and discussing old and new data, and research studies, field notes with our key participants. Participants – children, families and school staff - are co-researchers in the research process and all names are anonymised. Inclusive, ethical research is about relational practice and about pluralities of knowledge, and whilst the final decisions of what to include and how to theoretically frame the school’s everyday practice, the participants’ views have impacted on our decision. Their participation has been voluntary and the selection of research tools has been a shared process. Consent has been sought and granted from all participants.
In this presentation we map out some of the key policy developments in England, and specifically those that relate to multilingual pupils’ learning, and locate these within a timeline of migration into the area. These policy and demographical insights are then combined with real life accounts of teaching and learning at this school and ethnographic field notes. What emerges distinctly is the power of an individual member of staff to make a difference.
Drury, R. (2013) ‘How silent is the ‘Silent Period’ for young bilinguals in early years settings in England?’ In European Early Childhood Education Research Journal Gregory, E., Long, S. & Volk, D. (eds) (2004) Many Pathways to Literacy, London: RoutledgeFalmer Gonzalez, N., Moll, L.C., Amanti, C. (2005) Funds of Knowledge: Theorizing Practices in Households, Communities and Classrooms. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Moll, L., Amanti, C., Neff, D. and Gonzalez, N. (1992) Funds of Knowledge for Teaching: Using a Qualitative Approach to Connect Homes and Classrooms. Theory Into Practice. Vol. XXXI, No. 2, Spring, pp, 132-141. Robertson, L. H., Drury, R. & Cable, C. (2014) ‘Silencing bilingualism’ In International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Rodriguez, G. M. (2013) Power and Agency in Education: Exploring the Pedagogical Dimensions of Funds of Knowledge. Review of Research in Education. Vol. 37, pp. 87-120.
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