31 SES 13 A, Teachers’ Practice and Subject Knowledge for Teaching Multilingual Learners: International perspectives on linguistically responsive pedagogy as a resource for inclusion
Increasing migration around the globe in the 21st century means that in more and more classrooms there are multilingual students. This places increasing demands on both teachers and students. In order to teach content well in a multilingual context, every teacher has to be a language teacher to ensure that all students can benefit from their instruction (Lucas & Villegas, 2011). This is recognized in the current Finnish core curriculum which calls for all teachers to have linguistic awareness (National Agency for Education, 2014). However, little is known about teachers’ current linguistically responsive practices in Finland. In this study, we investigate Finnish teachers’ (N=820) linguistically responsive practices in teaching multilingual learners. Data were gathered using an online survey that included Likert-scaled statements and open-ended questions related to teachers’ beliefs and practices. The results indicate that most of the teachers (71%) frequently used visual cues as extra-linguistic supports in their teaching. Moreover, 70% of the teachers frequently gave both oral and written instructions, and 44% reported that they also give visual directions on how to proceed with the assignments. However, students’ native languages were never (59%) or only seldom (22%) used as a learning resource, and many of the teachers reported that they never take their students’ Finnish proficiency levels into account when designing assessments (25%), or grading assessments (19%). The teachers’ awareness of differences between basic everyday language and academic language significantly influenced some of their practices. For example, there was a significant difference in teachers’ efforts to provide opportunities for their multilingual learners to interact with native Finnish speakers between the teachers who were not aware of the different dimensions of language and those who were aware of them. Prior training on linguistically responsive teaching was also associated with teachers’ practices; e.g. in drawing students’ attention to Finnish grammatical structures while teaching lessons not related to language. Interestingly, teachers’ expectations for students’ school success had the greatest influence on their practices. There was a significant difference between the teachers who reported it to be reasonable to have lower expectations towards multilingual learners and those who did not consider it reasonable; for example in highlighting texts to signal relevant information. The results show that teachers’ beliefs and knowledge about linguistic awareness are important factors behind their practices. This underscores the importance of focused training to increase teachers’ linguistically responsive practices.
Lucas, T. & Villegas, A. M. (2011). Preparing Linguistically Responsive Teachers: Laying the Foundation in Preservice Teacher Education. Theory into Practice, 52:2, 98–109. National Agency for Education (2014). Core curriculum for basic education. http://www.oph.fi/saadokset_ja_ohjeet/opetussuunnitelmien_ja_tutkintojen_perusteet/perusopetus
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