07 SES 11 B, Students' Diversity
The increasing migration rate in e.g. many European countries, leads to growing numbers of multicultural schools, which generates new demands in the local school context (Bunar, 2001) when some pupils may lack both previous formal schooling and language mastery in the language of instruction (Ekstrand & Nadarevic, 2010; Svensson, 2013). Due to that school classes in contemporary society are less heterogeneous from both a cultural and age aspect than before, traditional teacher steered whole class lessons become difficult to preserve. At Swedish schools, “own” work, where the pupils are to work independently is now the most frequent present-day working methods (Bergqvist, 2007). It is common today that the pupils work independently on tasks where they get the opportunity to plan their work and time, which is becoming important in a society where the individuals are to regulate themselves (Carlgren, 2015). However, León Rosales (2010) shows, from a pupils’ perspective amongst young immigrant boys in 6th grade, a good pupil is someone who helps peers, even if not “smart”.
Carlgren describes that the teachers often put in priority that the pupil finish the task, rather than to learn the content. The pupils on the other hand want to get a passing note, which does not always match a willingness to deepen their knowledge. Being able to show a behaviour responding to an ability, does not necessarily express a knowing-how or a required ability; the pupils’ development of knowledge is not necessarily linked to finishing tasks. Thus the teaching could be described as rather aiming at making the pupils pretend as if they “know-how” (Carlgren, 2015). Sources, such as the Internet are frequently used. In a study with upper secondary school pupils, Blikstad-Balas (2016) found that the pupils used Wikipedia for literacy practices related to school-work, due to it being flexible, easy to use, fast, and to the point.
The purpose of this ethnography study was to explore and seek to understand the culture of scaffolding peers, when dealing with lesson related written assignments in Swedish, and English as a foreign language at a Swedish municipal school where 50% of the pupils had a foreign background.
The research questions were:
What do the pupils scaffold each other with, when dealing with individual written assignments in Swedish and English as a foreign language?
How do the pupil scaffold each other with individual written assignments in Swedish and English as a foreign language?
The pupils’ more informal conversations with classmates was in focus. In this study, “written assignment” is defined as tasks given by the teachers during lessons for the pupils to accomplish and hand in for grading in Swedish, Social Studies and in English as a foreign language. The concept of ‘culture’ is used in many different contexts (Banks, 2004; Stier, 2004). In this article it describes shared values within a cultural sharing group such as a school class and its subgroups. It is considered flexible and developed in a social context.
This study takes a point of departure from a sociocultural perspective on learning, where pupils learn in interaction with others and the one who masters a proficiency guides and scaffolds the novice (e.g. Säljö, 2000/2010, Vygotsky, 1978). The pupils’ learning takes place through communication with peers and tools. All interplay leads to learning – but not necessarily the learning which was planned for and aimed at. The theory gives an opportunity to understand how schoolwork can both hinder and promote the aimed learning (Carlgren, 2015). The development of knowledge is therefore related to who is to be excluded or included, which thus becomes a democratic issue (Säljö, 2000/2010).
In ethnography research the researcher aims at reaching a profound understanding of the culture in focus (Stier, 2004) and it includes immersion, involvement and empathy – as well as scientific appraisal, objectivity and distance (Jeffrey, 2008). The researcher relies on the participants’ point of views as an insider (emic) perspective, and filtering the data through the researcher’s (etic) scientific perspective in order to develop an overall cultural interpretation related to the theoretical concepts of the study (Aspers, 2007). The method is context bound, emergent and formative, allowing multiple perspectives (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2011). The culture sharing group must have been interacting for long enough time in order to develop certain patterns (Creswell, 2013). The latter is the reason why one delimitation has been to have few newly arrived pupils (arrived to Sweden within the last four years) in the class. The study was carried out in an 8th grade class at a lower secondary school, though the pupils probably had been together in the class for a long enough time to develop patterns. A school where about 50% of the pupils had a foreign background, e.g. either born abroad or whose both parents were born abroad, was chosen through a selection of descriptive demographic statistics in 11 municipalities. A class in grade 8 (14 year-olds) with 25 pupils speaking 14 different languages (including Swedish), was then selected by the school’s head teacher. The triangulation with observations, video recordings and interviews gave a complex picture of the culture of scaffolding peers. Participant observation was carried out, and field notes were taken during four months. Three camcorders with external microphones and Dictaphones were later used to record the pupils’ more informal conversations with peers during lessons in Swedish, English as a foreign language and Social Studies. The camcorders passively staged a part of the classroom (and not particular pupils) where eight pupils had their seats. However, all pupils in the class occasionally went to this part of the classroom and all the pupils’ spontaneous flow of interacting with peers was covered. The recorded files were later synchronized with Adobe Premiere and transcribed in multiple transcripts and coded using the software Transana Professional 3.21. The analyzing level is on a group level. The Swedish Research Council ethical recommendation were respected (Swedish Research Council, 2002 and 2011) and the Regional Ethical Review Board in Umeå/Sweden reviewed the study.
The tools chosen in scaffolding peers were decisive to what the scaffolding comprised, how it was carried out but also where it took place. The oral and written scaffolding inside the classroom rendered possible to scaffold peers with various issues such as spelling, vocabulary, grammar, brainstorming, content, text structures that were mediated orally, but sometimes also in written using Google Classroom to correct peers’ language errors, and to write for them. The scaffolding outside the classroom wes communicated through digital tools such as smartphones and Social Medias, which rendered possible to copying, and rewriting peers’ assignments. According to Carlgren (2015) schoolwork can both promote and hinder the aimed learning. Inside the classroom, in the pupils’ one-to-one situation provided scaffolding with vocabulary or grammar features. Outside the classroom, copying, reformulating and writing texts for peers seemed occurred, which hindered the learning of enhancing the pupils’ writing skills and autonomy and also took place out of sight for the teachers’ supervision. The study’s analysis gave empirical proof that the pupils in this class showed a behaviour of “know-how” by handing in written assignments they had not written themselves to the teachers for grading – but maybe without “know-how” to independently produce the text. Language mastery and literacy proficiency, as well as the use of digital tools, created and maintained power relations between the peers in a very complex social and intellectual practice, which was intertwined with who is included and who was excluded - which therefore could be regarded as a democratic issue. The analysis shows that the culture in the class created a gap between the pupils, resulting in several excluding aspects such as: a) language mastery, b) gender, c) tools and socio-economic issues, d) space, e) academic (self)esteem and independence, f) social punishments and denied credit of their work and know-how.
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