07 SES 09 B, Language: Policies and Perceptions
As in many European countries, educational language policies in Flanders are characterized by a duality as to theory and practice. In policy discourse, home language is recognized as an element of identity building and cultural integrity, but policy measures demonstrate an underlying monolingual approach to language in education.
A deficiency paradigm of teaching and learning – based on monolingual ideologies – has been constructed, leading to policy measures principally focusing on learning and testing of the dominant standard language, in some cases even as a condition for participation in education. Pupils’ linguistic capital is not exploited as a didactical resource for learning. These monolingual ideologies not only impact teachers’ perceptions and beliefs, but also their inter-subjective relations, particularly teacher-pupil-relations (Woolard and Shieffelin, 2000; Pacini-Ketchabaw and Armstrong de Almeida, 2006; Wortham, 2008). This affects, in turn, pupils’ beliefs, their self esteem, classroom involvement and motivation for learning. Unwillingly, these mutually reinforcing mechanisms contribute to processes of social reproduction (Bourdieu, 1990; Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977; Ogbu, 1990, 1998; Lamont, 1992, 2005; Portes & Rumbaut, 2001 and Roosens, 1995, 1998).
Besides Bourdieu’s theory of social reproduction, the notion of social hypochondria (Schinkel, 2007, 2008) is used to explain the dynamics of monolingual ideologies, practices and beliefs both at teachers’ and pupils’ level.. Social hypochondria can be defined as social agents’ preoccupation with fears that a given social body has a serious disease or disorder, based on the social agents’ misinterpretation of the symptoms occurring in that social body (Agirdag, Van Avermaet & Van Houtte). Within an educational setting, the misinterpretation by policy makers, school staff and pupils (social agents) of educational failure (disease) as an almost exclusive result of insufficient language proficiency in the dominant language (symptom) can be seen as a demonstration of social hypochondria.
In this contribution, the findings of two longitudinal studies – both conducted in the city of Ghent (Flanders) will be compared. The first study was conducted in the second grade of three secondary schools. In this study, over a period of four years (2009-2012) teachers were interviewed regarding their perceptions and beliefs on the home language of pupils and their parents and the language use of pupils at school (in the classroom, during recreation or informal learning activities). This study was a qualitative study without intervention as to classroom interaction or teacher training. The second study was conducted over the same period (2009-2012) in four primary schools. In this study interviews with teachers were combined with coaching and training programs aimed at altering teachers’ monolingual perceptions and beliefs.
Using research data and findings of both studies, the following research questions will be answered: Do the national monolingual and mono-educational policies interact with teachers’ discourses and beliefs? Do the perceptions and beliefs teachers hold on language proficiency and home language interact with more general perceptions and beliefs they have regarding migrant pupils (e.g. parental involvement, academic and future expectations, motivation). Can perceptions and beliefs of teachers be altered by interventions directed at a more plurilingual approach of teacher-pupil-interaction?
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