10 SES 08 C, Research on Professional Knowledge & Identity in Teacher Education
While multilingualism is not a new development in our societies (Cenoz & Gorter, 2015), globalisation and increased transnational mobility are contributing to growing linguistic and cultural diversity, especially in educational contexts. This is a reality not only in Europe but also in countries where European languages are taught as so-called foreign or heritage languages. This diversity poses challenges not only for newcomer students integrating into a new language environment, but for teachers who are faced with reconceptualizing pedagogical approaches and instructional strategies to ensure the valuing of all languages spoken within their classrooms to help students become confident language users in the additional language(s) they are learning (Cummins, 2000). Preparing teachers for multilingual classrooms and supporting them in this endeavour through professional development must take into account teachers’ professional identities as an integral aspect of teacher education by considering the ways in which future and practicing teachers come to a new understanding about their role as language teachers and as legitimate or expert language users (de Mejía & Hélot, 2011).
Traditional, monoglossic conceptions of language learning (Zirotti, 2006) and the continued reliance on a native speaker standard constitute major obstacles in reconceptualizing a language teacher identity that can respond to the competences, experiences and needs of today’s plurilingual students (Derivry-Plard, 2016; Swan, Aboshiha, & Holliday, 2015). This is especially the case for language teachers who are themselves learners of the languages they teach and/or are speakers of minoritized languages. Instead of being recognized for the linguistic and cultural knowledge and experiences these teachers bring to the classroom as valuable teaching resources, they are ultimately only acknowledged for their ability to use the target language (whether mainstream or an additional language) (Hélot, 2010). In addition to this marginalisation, alternative varieties of standard European languages in so-called foreign or colonial language contexts continue to be seen as inferior or inauthentic and are often deemed inappropriate for the language classroom (e.g., Auger & Valdman, 1999; Higgins, 2003; Kircher, 2012). By extension, the teachers who speak these language varieties are often viewed as “inauthentic” or deficient as language experts and are often confronted with having to justify their professional legitimacy as language teachers. In the North American context, for example, this may require convincing parents or students that Quebecois or Acadian is just as appropriate for the French language classroom as Parisian French.
This paper presents findings from a multiple case study that examined the professional identity construction of French second language teachers from Canada on a professional development sojourn in France. The study’s research focus was on the way teachers conceptualised French language and culture as “authentic” resources in constructing a professional identity. The study’s main findings point to an overwhelming concern with a native speaker ideal, not only among teachers who are second language speakers of French but also those who self-identify as francophone. Teachers’ conceptions of “authenticity” (Lowe & Pinner, 2016; Train, 2007) grounded in native speaker ideologies were seen to intersect with language ideologies of Eurocentrism and linguistic purism, which in turn underpinned teachers’ reliance on monoglossic approaches to teaching French within a multilingual, minority language context. This presentation will centre on a discussion of data extracts that exemplify an orientation to standard and hierachised norms and monolingual or “official” language competencies, at times to the detriment of a professional identity as plurilingual speaker.
Methodologically, the study was grounded in a discursive-constructionist perspective (Kasper & Omori, 2010), which means that data were theorized from a social practice approach as collaboratively produced between researcher and research participants and as emerging from the research interaction. The study was conducted in two phases – in France during the two-week sojourn with the larger cohort of 87 French teachers and in Western Canada over the subsequent ten months involving seven focal participants. Data were generated through pre- and post-questionnaires, travel journal, semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, field notes and email correspondence. Data extracts presented in this paper are drawn from teacher-participants journal and interview accounts and analysed as discourse, with an interest in the thematic content (Braun & Clarke, 2013) as well as in terms of the discursive positioning evident in teachers’ narrative identity displays (De Fina & Georgakopoulou, 2012). An important component of a discursive-constructionist perspective is that the analysis takes a participant-relevant approach. This means that participants’ identities are only treated as noteworthy to the extent that they are made evident by the participants in a particular research situation – that is to say, identity is taken to be a resource oriented to by the participant as opposed to being imposed by the researcher or analyst. This analytic approach provides not only insights into how language as action is used to accomplish or construct particular identities, it also brings to light important methodological implications for the research process itself with regard to how multilingualism is addressed (or not) in educational research design.
The presentation and its discussion of findings point to significant implications not only in terms of how second language teachers of French construct their professional identities in the Canadian context but also what this means for teacher educators and curriculum design in multilingual education beyond North America. The findings presented here align with observations from European researchers who have come to similar conclusions (e.g., Hélot, 2011), pointing to a much-needed consideration of teacher identity in teacher education and professional development across international educational contexts. If current multilingual approaches to teaching additional languages seek to validate students’ home languages as an integral part of the learning process, then teachers themselves have to be able to view their own plurilingual identities as part of their professional expertise and themselves as positive models for their students. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly for European language researchers and teacher educators, this presentation offers an important reminder about the continuing impact of European languages and their associated ideologies adopted in colonial contexts, specifically the remaining tensions (Heller, 1999; 2008) that shape language policy and teaching practices outside of Europe.
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