07 SES 03 B, Language and Multilingualism
In education, “the question about the childhood is always tied to adulthood, for which child education actually aims” (Varto, 2015). In our study on adult education, reversely, the question about adults is tied to children and youth. The learning outcomes of adult migrants will influence children and other family members of the learners. Target language skills are a requisite for guardians’ full participation in the lives of their multilingual children and youth (e.g. Lundahl, Lindblad, Loven, Marald, & Svedberg 2015). In addition to guardians, also teachers are the ones capable of supporting the learning and well-being of the next generation. For all age groups, target language skills are a tool to survive in the daily life (e.g. Lindberg & Sandwall, 2007).
Characteristic to the language education for adult migrants in Finland has been a dramatic change in the number of participants since the sudden growth of asylum seekers in 2015 (OECD 2018, 3). Responding to changes in the delivery of formal language education is sensitive to constrains. From the societal perspective these may be budgetary ones, from the individual perspective motivational. An evaluation of prerequisites for learning is needed to support the delivery of education pedagogically.
Key actors in the implementation of formal education are teachers, as in the case of successful Finnish basic education (see e.g. Sahlberg 2014; Simola et al. 2017). Themes of individual and societal multilingualism and language awareness have been introduced to Finnish education in the reform of national Core curriculum for basic education (FNBE 2014). A sensitivity to language and its implications to power relations contribute to a fear-free atmosphere in formal learning setting, another success factor identified in Finnish education (Sahlberg 2014, Simola et al. 2017). Our study demonstrates that the supporting role of teacher, an awareness of language in a multilingual society, and a safe space for learning are crucial in adult (language) education as well. These should remain in focus even if the learners’ path from integration (language) training to labor market may be accelerated (for Finnish policy, see FNBE 2019).
Our study approaches language learning as an investment (Norton Peirce 1995) in multilingual identity. In the analysis of narrative in-depth interviews with three established migrants in Finland, we identify pedagogical approaches that - through raising of language awareness (Van Lier 1995) - appear to result in transformative learning (Mezirow 1991, Illeris 2013, 2017). We ask: How would established migrants support the investment in language learning for a new generation of migrants? And further: How might these approaches be translated into language education for adult migrants?
Especially valuable in the narratives of our participants is a double-perspective of learning and teaching. At the time of the interviews, the established migrants originating from Hungary, Poland and Russia were working as teachers in Finnish basic, vocational and adult education, and thus participating in a multidisciplinary study program in Finnish higher education to obtain a class teacher qualification. Linguistically interesting, also from a European angle, is the absence of English as a lingua franca in the lives of the participants.
Our objective is to better understand the experience of adult learners in the second language context and to find ways to support the learning process pedagogically (e.g. Hu 2006; Krumm 2013; Stevenson 2012). Considering the socio-historical differences between countries (Rinne, Kallo & Hokka 2004), the definition of fundamentals of language (and) learning might offer insights into the development of formal second language education for adult migrants also internationally.
The data of our qualitative inquiry consists of three semi-structured interviews of established adult migrants participating in Finnish teacher education. Approaching language learning from sociocultural perspective, the focus is not “on language as input but as a resource for participation in the kinds of activities our everyday lives comprise. Participation in these activities is both the product and process of learning” (Zuengler and Miller 2006, 37– 38 in Johnson et al. 2015, 40). To demonstrate the socio-culturally perceived multilingualism of the participants of our study, we apply the theory of positioning (Davies, B., & Harré, R. 1990) and link that to the language repertoire of the participants. Due to a temporal approach adapted to the design of interview script and the coding process of data, we approach the interviews as narratives. The idea of narratives reflects our life-span perspective to learning in the lives of children, adolescents and adults. Narratives also respond to our objective of describing educational practice and experience through teacher accounts as individually and socially lead stories (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990). Narratives as stories further echo the complexity of lived experience within the framework of our study, instead of a more fixed way of presenting the ‘truth’, here the truth of the participants. The researcher’s position is relevant in allowing readers to question the ”researcher’s individual interpretations of given narratives and conclusions drawn from it” (Heikkinen, Huttunen & Syrjälä 2007, 14). Expressing shared experiences as part of the interview was a method to promote trust between the informant and the researcher. Such were the learning of a second language in a foreign country, the work as a teacher in Finland, and the participating in qualifying pedagogical studies in Finnish higher education in an era of “language-aware teaching” (FNBE 2014). The interview data is analyzed inductively and by applying the concept of investment (Norton Peirce 1995). By categorizing the information into past, present and future, and further to private and professional domains, we track findings that indicate an enhancement or decrease in the individual’s investment in learning, in particular that of the target language. To respond to the methodological quality principle of workability (Heikkinen et al. 2007, 14), our overall aim is to present actual workable practices in form of teaching methods.
As the results of the analysis of the narrative interviews of three migrant teachers, we present three pedagogical approaches as methods for teachers and education planners to support the investment in learning for adult migrants in formal learning. Thus, as the analysis of education is complex as the world is (Simola et al. 2107, 1), also our levels of analysis are multiple (Bray & Thomas 1995). Based on the analysis of learner-teacher narratives, we additionally specify the essential actors and purposes of education that would help ”to orient and support a fictional (or real) foreign policymaker, official, parent or teacher coming to work and living in the Finnish education system” (Simola et al. 2017, 127). In our specific case of language learning of established migrants, the actors to orient would be the ones implementing national curricular guidelines for teaching adult migrants, i.e. current and future teachers in educational organizations and teacher training (see e.g. Bray 2007, Larsen & Beech 2014). Due to the fundamental level of the proposed methods, the context could, however, also be that of another European space. By discussing the possibilities of language awareness as a means of supporting the learner’s multilingual identity and of enhancing the individual’s investment in transformative learning, our concluding remarks will draft a pedagogical reconstruction of the philosophical question that will be relevant to the learning of a language both in child and in adult education: ‘What is the role of language in our lives?’.
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