05 SES 03 A, Grade Repetition, Connectedness and Minority Language Students
Handling the diverse needs of students with beginning level of the language of instruction is a global challenge schools and teachers face and a key aspect for reducing the educational disadvantages of students from immigrant backgrounds around the world. Paradoxically, inclusion is sometimes supported through exclusive practices, for example in temporary intensive language support classes which occur outside regular classroom teaching.The majority of EU Member States (23 of 28) seek to tackle the disadvantages students with immigrant backgrounds face by providing these students with separate language support classes. The main idea behind these ‘preparatory’, ‘reception’, or ‘transition’ classes is to secure students’ acquisition of the language of instruction before they participate in mainstream education.
This is the case in Austria, where in the school year 2018/19, separate German support classes called Deutschförderklassen were introduced to intensively support students who had previously little or no contact with the German language outside of school. These students have to attend these classes 15 hours a week in primary school and 20 hours a week in lower-secondary school. Within the typology of language support models (see Baker, 2011), the German support classes can be classified as a “structured immersion” programm. The main characteristics of such programms are that students who beginn to learn the language of instruction receive language support in separate classrooms. The teacher typically uses a simpler form of the language of instruction, however the children's first languages are not developed further, but replaced by the language of instruction. The aim is to teach the students the language of instruction as quickly as possible so that they can participate successfully in the regular class. Hence, such programms aim to assimilate students to the dominant culture and promote monolingual use of the language of instruction in school.
The German support classes have been strongly criticized for failing to engage with research and not complying with the recommendations of internationally recognized applied linguists and education scholars. Critics of this approach point out that teaching students in separate language learning settings bears the risk of disadvantaging them further since the corresponding segregation can negatively affect their social integration. They also run the risk of being stigmatized as ‘remedial’ and language learning from more proficient peers is prevented. Moreover, it has been consistently found that learners learn a new language best in context, through the learning of content knowledge, and through social interaction with teachers and peers and through drawing on their full linguistic repertoire.
Furthermore, the implementation of the German support classes was neither preceded by a pilot study to test its appropriateness and effectiveness, nor accompanied by evaluation and research.
The submitted paper presents the first representative findings from of a large-scale study on teachers‘ perceptions on the positive and negative effects of German support classes.
The study on teachers‘ perceptions of positive and negative effects of German support classes was conducted from September 2019 until January 2020. Teachers (n = 1,267) from all schools which had previously introduced at least one German support class were invited to participate. The study began with a series of quantitative questions and scales and concluded with a number of open-ended, explorative questions. The latter were subject of the analysis of teachers‘ answers for the paper presented here. To shed light on teachers’ perceptions of the positive and negative effects of German support classes, we asked participants to answer the following open-ended explorative question: In which areas do you perceive advantages and disadvantages of German support classes? The teachers’ answers were analysed using an inductive coding paradigm (Saldaña, 2015). In a first analysis step, these data were coded separately using thematic reduction. The data were categorized using single words and short phrases to produce an organized understanding of the effects. Relevant coding patterns emerged for both positive and negative effects for teachers who focused either on language learning or the social participation of students in German support classes. As the result of the final coding process, a typology for the positive effects was reconstructed (Kluge, 2000). In this step, types of teachers – we view them as ‘empirical types’ in contrast to extreme types, ideal types, or prototypes – were contrasted in order to gain insights into the overall positive and negative effects of German support classes. When developing the typology, we aimed at achieving maximum homogeneity within a type and maximum heterogeneity between the types.
Teachers reported negative effects of the German support classes on the (1) Structural and organizational level: German support classes are seen to have implications for school management, in particular for other subjects in the curriculum: these lose relevance, and students miss time in regular classes for subjects like mathematics. Teachers are concerned that students who are assigned to German support classes will not be able to catch up on other subjects when they return to regular classes. (2) Didactic level: The lack of language role models in German support classes was the most frequent negative effect at this level. Furthermore, teachers reported that they are unable to handle the heterogeneity of groups regarding diversity of languages, and differences in language and literacy levels in one class. (3) Social participation level: Teachers stated that German support classes foster segregation, exclusion, ghettoization, and othering processes. Students in these classes are socially excluded from regular classes and thus have fewer social contacts. Regarding positive effects, there are teachers („efficiency type“ and „individualized learning type“) who belief that students need a good command of German before they can participate in regular classes. They think that students can be integrated more easily into regular classes after attending German support classes and consider this model as an intensive training setting, in which students learn the German language not just ‘in passing by’. Other teachers („protective type“) perceive separate classes as a ‘shelter’, in which students are protected from being stigmatized as ‘problem children’. They think that students who learn German as an additional language are more vulnerable than other students and need to be protected in special settings. A small group of teachers („segregation type“) perceive positive effects for students in regular classes, who are thus separated from students who might ‘hinder’ their academic growth.
Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. New York: Multilingual Matters. Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2019). Integrating Students from Migrant Backgrounds into Schools in Europe: National Policies and Measures. Eurydice Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. Retrieved from https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/sites/eurydice/files/integrating_students_from_migrant_backgrounds_into_schools_in_europe_national_policies_and_measures.pdf. García, O. (2009). Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Wiley-Blackwell. Gogolin, I. (1997). “The ‘Monolingual Habitus’ as the Common Feature in Teaching in the Language of the Majority in Different Countries.” Per Linguam online: 38–49. https://perlinguam.journals.ac.za/pub/article/view/187/298. Herzog-Punzenberger, B., Le Pichon-Vorstman, E., & Siarova, H. (2017). Multilingual Education in the Light of Diversity: Lessons Learned. NESET II Report, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. doi: 10.2766/71255. Kluge, S. (2000). Empirically Grounded Construction of Types and Typologies in Qualitative Social Research [14 paragraphs]. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1 (1), Art. 14., Retrieved from http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0001145. OECD (2018). The resilience of students with an immigrant background: Factors that shape well-being. Paris: OECD Publishing. doi: 10.1787/9789264292093-en. Paradis, J. (2009). Second Language Acquisition in Childhood. In: E. Hoff und M. Shatz (Hrsg.): Handbook of language development. Oxford: Blackwell, S. 387-405. Portolés, L., & Martí, O. (2018). Teachers’ beliefs about multilingual pedagogies and the role of initial training. International Journal of Multilingualism 17(2), 248-264. doi: 10.1080/14790718.2018.1515206. Saldaña, J. (2015). The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers. 3rd Edition. London, Thousand Oaks: SAGE. Thomas, W., & Collier, V. (2017). Validating the Power of Bilingual Schooling: Thirty-two Years of Largescale, Longitudinal Research. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 37, 1-15. UNESCO (2016). “If you don’t understand, how can you learn?” Global Education Monitoring Report, Policy Paper 24. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000243713.
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