31 SES 11 A, Language Education in Plurilingual Europe: Professionalism, Performance, Positioning
The pedagogical use of students’ linguistic repertoires and language backgrounds is heralded as significantly advantageous in learning additional language (Baker, 2011; Cummins, 2018). At the same time, second language acquisition (SLA) research has clarified that plenty of meaningful ‘target language’ experience is a prerequisite for mastering it (Long, 1996; Swain, 2000). Both these findings raise the important question of how different language resources in plurilingual settings should be brought into pedagogical play and coordinated to optimize learning conditions for second language development. Moreover, in plurilingual SLA contexts, how can cooperation work effectively between language teachers and assistants with different ethnic, linguistic, and educational backgrounds to foster successful language learning? These questions have given direction and impetus to the action research project reported in this paper.
The above issues are particularly important for newly arrived adult immigrants for whom learning the host language is a primary means of integration and social cohesion (Abdulla, 2017). Yet, despite motivation and ambition (Nilsson & Bunar, 2016), the road towards proficiency in a new language can be long and arduous for adults (Lindberg, 2008). For these reasons, effective host language induction programmes for linguistic integration carry high stakes for both the learners themselves and for European agencies in the field of migration and integration (Beacco et al., 2017). These language learning difficulties facing adult immigrants are reflected in the educational results of the Swedish for immigrants (Sfi) language programme – Sweden’s national state-funded school form for teaching newcomers foundational skills in Swedish. Sfi has been the target of persistent criticism such as low flow-through rates, poor course achievements and inappropriate pedagogical approaches. Scant research exists to counter this negative picture and to address those aspects of Sfi work that studies have identified as deficient (School Inspectorate, 2018).
Following a vision that adult second language learners with limited or interrupted formal education learn foreign language more effectively through their strongest language, a team of Sfi teachers recruited multilingual language assistants (MLAs) as learning resource persons in the classroom (St John, 2021). MLAs in this context are those who speak one of the learner’s home languages and can use it strategically in the classroom to support the learning of additional language. This teacher vision led to action research designed to investigate the effect of mother tongue use via MLAs on the quality of instructional support for the Sfi adult students. The central goal of this project is to learn how language teachers and MLAs can cooperate effectively and develop strategic ways of coordinating their pedagogical competences to enhance conditions for student participation in second language instructional activity.
Part and parcel of cooperative competence in this context is the need to gain more detailed understanding of how classroom participants coordinate their different language moves to communicate coherently in the classroom and attain pedagogical objectives. Thus, a further central goal of the present study is to generate knowledge about ‘when’ and ‘how’ use of students’ home languages is advantageous in a context where there is a strong commitment to valorize students’ languages and a concurrent overriding educational goal to teach the majority language.
Theoretical orientation derives from second language acquisition (SLA) as an adult, the use of L1 in L2+ learning (e.g. Littlewood & Yu, 2011; Macaro et al, 2014). Furthermore, the concept of translanguaging corriente (García et al., 2017) proves apt for perspective on multilingual practice as pedagogical resource. Bakhtin’s (1981) insights into understanding (as responsive), utterances (as dialogically coordinated) and language relationships (as throwing light on each other) add theoretical dimension to the framework.
The research engine is action research in which teachers investigate their own classroom performance as a basis for understanding the relationship between teaching and learning and as impetus for bringing about change in teacher practice (Bailey, 2001). Teacher keenness to learn more about how to cooperative effectively with MLAs as alongside providers of language support in the classroom brought an appreciation of the need to explore the local classroom interactional context in greater depth. At the outset, the teachers and researcher agreed that analyzing filmed sequences of participant instructional practices was the way forward toward realizing relevant and sustainable professional change and growth. Video filming of classroom activity provides a far more detailed and reliable way of capturing the dynamics of speech and nonverbal performance than classroom observation and focus group interviews (Eidevald, 2017). From this research strategy, a practice-based research model has emerged comprising the following seven phases that are currently guiding project progress: 1. Identifying critical aspects of teacher – BLA classroom work in need of investigation and development 2. Video recording of focal classroom sequences 3. Analysis of the recorded sequences 4. Development of an action plan based on the changes to current practice identified as necessary for attaining the project goals 5. Implementing the chosen strategies into classroom practice and procedure 6. Video recording of adjusted or changed practice in order to observe the effects of the action plan on the conditions for students to participate in and orient to instructional content and activity. This phase makes possible a comparison of the effects of the action plan with the consequences of the previous practice. 7. Plan action and grasp opportunity, both locally and abroad, to disseminate the project’s research findings and fund of knowledge.
The quality of multilingual support for second language learners flows from the beliefs and approaches of the class language teachers as pedagogical leaders and collaborators alongside multilingual support staff. In this project, the MLAs have moved from apprentices to colleagues in the classroom. This pedagogical partnership has emerged because of the teachers’ open attitude to language use in the classroom, willingness to share their teaching tasks with MLAs and a firm confidence in the MLAs’ potential to handle such responsibility. Changes in the multilingual instructional practices have started with radical change in the teachers. To enable teachers to gain access to the voices and views of the students for the initial impetus and direction of their teaching sequences, MLAs need to engage in facilitating two-way communication between teacher and student. In this project, when MLAs began to do pivotal communicative intermediary work in the classroom, they managed to make teacher-student divergent communication intelligible to both parties. This enabled teachers to ground their teaching in student experiences and conceptions as well as making it possible for students to influence the course and quality of ongoing teaching. The task of first language use in second language learning is centrally to use the students’ home languages alongside other thresholding techniques to set up opportunity for students to make new language work for them communicatively. In this task, a clear understanding of the purpose of the teaching activity is a requisite for supporting students with actions that enable them to meet challenges rather than reducing them (St John & Liubinienè, 2021). An investment in raising MLAs consciousness of the purpose of particular teaching phases or tasks has been catalytic in MLA ability to provide scaffolding instruction that is truly collaborative and make room for student autonomous language performance.
Abdulla, A. (2017). Readiness or resistance? Newly arrived adult migrants’ experiences, meaning making, and learning in Sweden. Doktorsavhandling. Linköpings universitet. Bailey, K. (2001). Action Research, Teacher Research, and Classroom Research in Language Teaching. In M. Celce-Murcia (Ed.). Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, 3rd edition (pp. 489-498). Singapore: Heinle & Heinle. Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (5th ed.). Cleveland: Multilingual Matters. Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Austin: The University of Texas Press. Beacco, J-C., Krumm, H-J., Little, D, & Thalgott, P. (2017). The Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants. Council of Europe. Berlin: de Gruyter. Cummins, J. (2018) Urban multilingualism and educational achievement: Identifying and implementing evidence-based strategies for school improvement. In I.P. Van Avermaet, S. Slembrouck, K. Van Gorp, S. Sierens and K. Maryns (eds) The Multilingual Edge of Education (pp. 67–90). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Eidevald, C. (2017). Hallå, hur gör vi? Systematiska analyser för utvärdering och utveckling i förskolan. 2A Upplagan. Stockholm: Liber. García, O., Ibarra Johnson, S. and Seltzer, K. (2017) The Translanguaging Classroom: Leveraging Student Bilingualism for Learning. Philadelphia: Caslon. Lindberg, I. (2008). Andraspråksresan. Tredje upplagan. Stockholm: Folkuniversitet. Littlewood, W. & Yu, B. (2011). First language and target language in the foreign language classroom. Language Teacher 44(1), 64-77. Long, M. (1996) The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition. In W. Ritchie and T. Bhatia (eds) Handbook of Second Language Acquisition (pp. 413–68). New York: Academic Press. Macaro, E. et al. (2014). Exploring the value of bilingual language assistants with Japanese English as a foreign language learners. The Language Learning Journal, 42(1), 41-54. Nilsson, J., & Bunar, N. (2016). Educational Responses to Newly Arrived Students in Sweden: Understanding the Structure and Influence of Post-Migration Ecology. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 60(4), 399-416. School Inspectorate, (2018) Undervisning i svenska för invandrare. Stockholm: Skolinspektionen. St John, O. (2021). Doing multilingual language assistance in Swedish for immigrants classrooms. In P. Juvonen & M. Källkvist (Eds) Pedagogical Translanguaging: Teachers and Researchers Shaping Plurilingual Practices. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. St John, O. & Liubiniene, V. (2021). “This is not my world”. Essential support strategies for newly arrived adult migrants learning Swedish. Sustainable Multilingualism. Swain, M. (2000) The output hypothesis and beyond: Mediating acquisition through collaborative dialogue. In J. P. Lantolf (ed) Sociocultural theory and second language learning ((pp. 97–114). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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