ERG SES E 01, Inclusive Education
Language is an important feature of content learning (Hasselhorn & Gold, 2006). A considerable proportion of primary up to secondary students in Europe use heritage languages in their everyday lives that are not the language of instruction (Oltmer, 2016). At the same time, empirical evidence is available which indicates positive effects on learning when students’ use of heritage languages during instruction is not excluded or even supported (Engel de Abreu et al., 2012; Poarch & Bialystok, 2017). In physics instruction, an explicit focus on language in general and active support of students using their heritage languages has been stressed as a means of facilitating learning in physics instruction (Hasselhorn & Gold, 2006; Tajmel, 2017). Thus, investigating how heritage languages can be included in regular physics classes is worthwhile and at the centre of the presented research project.
So far, there are ongoing and broad discussions in the German-speaking area about language support in classes (e. g. Boubakri et al., 2017; Tajmel, 2017). In this context, heritage languages are only included in bilingual, but not in multilingual settings (e. g. Möller et al., 2017). Evidence from such bilingual settings indicate positive effects on content learning (Prediger et al., 2016; Boubakri et al., 2017). Such settings differ from regular physics classes since all participants share both languages of instruction (e.g. Turkish and German). Evidence on the inclusion of multiple heritage languages in regular classes instead is scarce (international e.g. Ünsal et al., 2017). Still, there are indications that students use their heritage languages in regular classes for their learning process as long as teachers tolerate this (Flores & Smith, 2013; Adams et al., 2015; Duarte, 2016).
The central aim of the presented research project is thus exploring and evaluating physics classes that explicitly allow the use of students’ heritage languages. Thereby, the inclusion of heritage languages extends existing approaches to bilingual teaching. In the case of students using more than one language in their everyday life (further referred to as multilingual students), the use of everyday languages includes heritage languages sometimes in the way of translanguaging (García & Wei, 2014; García et al., 2017). On one hand, the role of translanguaging has already been highlighted e.g. in mathematics education (Garza, 2017). On the other hand, there is a danger that the inclusion of heritage languages in physics teaching is regarded by multilingual students, their classmates, teachers, parents or stakeholders as a violation of an implicit norm of how to communicate during instruction. Such norm restricts communication to an obligatory use of the language of instruction (e.g. German) at any time and has been criticized as an outcome of a monolingual habitus (Gogolin, 1994, 2010). As a consequence, allowing students in certain phases of instruction (e.g. while observing a natural phenomenon) to communicate in the way they do in their everyday lives might result in new forms of interaction among students and with their teachers, obstacles, concerns, fears or expectation of anybody involved (teachers, students, parents, stakeholders). A detailed analysis of the conditions and consequences of such a multilinguistic teaching approach provides information about its limitations and obstacles as well as chances and opportunities. The guiding research question for a pilot study therefore is:
Does and if yes in which way and to which extend a multilingual teaching approach in physics affect the perspectives of students, teachers, parents and important stakeholders (e.g. headmaster)?
This paper will present findings of our pilot study focusing on students’ perspectives on the inclusion of their heritage languages in physics classes.
Due to the social embeddedness of the research interest, our pilot study is based on an ethnographic approach. Data for the study was collected in a secondary school in Hamburg (Germany) during the last quarter of 2018. A strong reason for conducting this study in Hamburg was the linguistic composition of its population: As school monitoring in Hamburg has shown, throughout the past decade, multilingualism is a widespread phenomenon. 40-50 % of all families with children aged 4-6 years use at least one language at home next to German (e.g. IfBQ, 2008). At the same time, German is still the almost exclusively uses the language of instruction, whilst the use of any other language at school is almost always forbidden (Gogolin, 2010). Thus, Hamburg is an interesting place for investigating our guiding research question. Over a period of six weeks, two regular 10th-grade physics classes were accompanied by a researcher (first author of this paper). Both physics classes were chosen because their teachers agreed on including their students’ heritage languages in their physics classes. Data gathered consist of • interviews with students, • field notes on participatory observations in 8 physics lessons 90 minutes each over 6 weeks, • field notes on encounters with involved teachers, • questionnaire concerned with students’ language practices. This paper aims at a presentation of findings based on a qualitative analysis of nine open-ended group interviews with 15 students. The students were grouped according to their self-reported questionnaire-based language practices (monolingual, multilingual with and without classmates sharing the same heritage language). Each group has been interviewed at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the 6 weeks of instruction. Throughout these interviews, students were prompted to discuss with each other their perception of themselves and others. For example: 1. “In which situation have you used (or noticed the use of) a language other than German in physics classes?” 2. “Who will be supported in physics classes, if permitted to speak other languages than German?” Sequences of the interviews that cover multilingualism or multilingual interactions have been identified and transcribed. The data are currently analysed conducting Qualitative Content Analysis (Schreier, 2012).
The main focus of data analysis here is on gaining insight into students’ perspectives on multilingual interactions in regular physics classes. Due to the exploratory research question, data analysis is conducted in a strongly inductive manner. Depending on their own language practices, students will probably have different perspectives on multilingual interactions in physics classes. The following expected outcomes are thus formulated with regard to how the students were prompted during the interviews (see above): 1. Experiences with using other languages than German in physics classes: Students’ accounts of multilingual interactions provide insights into their views and perspectives on themselves and others while using a multitude of languages. These accounts can be expected to cover situations of multilingual interactions that are either explicitly concerned with learning physics or any other aspect which is relevant for the students. Meanwhile, normally not being allowed to use other languages than German in classes, multilingual students can be expected to doubt or even reject the use of those languages. 2. Being supported, if permitted to speak other languages than German in physics classes: Since the interview prompt suggests a need for being supported by others, students might focus on people with insufficient proficiency in German. A deficit-orientation towards multilingualism in physics classes instead of a resource-orientation might be a consequence. As a result, multilingual students might apprehend to lack support of their teacher or some of their classmates when using their heritage languages during instruction. Another result might be that students defend the monolingual norm because they fear not to be sufficiently immersed in a German-speaking environment. We expect changes in students’ perspectives across the course of instruction due to the new experiences they make in physics classes during this study.
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