Multilingual Classrooms – Global Challenges, Local Solutions

Time Thursday, 06/Sep/2018: 15:30pm - 17:00pm
Location D1.03
Speakers Rita Franceschini; Surette Van Staden; Ingrid Gogolin; Joana Duarte
Chair Edwin Keiner
Discussant Brigitte Gruson

Most of the world's education systems are confronted with a multilingual composition of their student body. One cause of this is international migration, which has risen significantly worldwide in the past decades. Another cause is the traditional constellation of different (majority and minority) languages on a (state) territory. In the traditions of research on linguistic diversity in schools, the different constellations of multilingualism are usually considered separately (Duarte and Gogolin 2013). The venue of ECER 2018, however, is a telling example of the fact that the separate approach bypasses both the reality of today's societies and the everyday multilingual practices of speakers. The aim of this invited session is to foster an integrated view on language diversity in classrooms, based on substantial empirical research.

The conference venue South Tyrol is a typical case of a region with historically rooted multilingualism from the early Middle Ages on. Today, about 70% of the population speak German; about 26% speak Italian, and about 4% are Ladin speakers. The school system is divided in a German-majority system (language of teaching is German, Italian as 2nd language), Italian-majority system (language of teaching is Italian, German as 2nd language) and Trilingual Ladin schools. Immigration from all over the world is now challenging this ‘balance’ and forces schools to find innovative ways to integrate multilingualism and diversity in general. The educational situation in South Tyrol is thus an excellent starting point for the transnational and interdisciplinary discourse about transferable principles – beyond all differences in the constitutionality and everyday practice of schools – of successfully dealing with the challenge of multilingualism. The session will lay the foundations for an innovative theory of language education in multilingual constellations which is not limited by the borders of national education systems or regional specificities of educational practice.

The session is conceptualized from an interdisciplinary and transnational perspective. From both, the perspective of educational science and a linguistic point of view, it relates to general developmental theories which focus on the conditions of successful learning in general. Core elements of this theory are that successful learning requires connecting with prior knowledge, supporting a high level of motivation and well-being of the learners, promoting their self-image as successful learners and their willingness to learn (Hasselhorn and Gold 2006). Transferred to teaching and learning in multilingual constellations, this means that the linguistic knowledge of learners – i. e. their multilingualism and their multicompetence to act in (super-) diverse settings (Franceschini 2017, Li Wei 2018) – must be taken into account as 'prior knowledge'; that their skills in more than one language should be explicitly recognized (van Staden and Bosker, 2014); that their self-image as multilinguals should be promoted; and that their willingness to invest in their multilingual development should be supported. The challenge for research is to measure the impact of sociocultural and linguistic aspects, to deduce operationalizable variables (van Staden and Howie, 2012) and to formulate evidence-informed proposals for the actual teaching practice – be it in Europe or in other parts of the world.

All contributions are based on insights from empirical research in educational practice. The research is not only about language learning in a narrow sense, but also about the linguistic dimension of subject-specific learning, enhancement of language awareness, effects of multilingualism for general linguistic and cognitive growth. The contributions present examples from Italy (South Tyrol), South Africa, Germany, The Netherlands and France. Key questions: What characteristics of the presented cases are suitable to support the successful development of multilingualism among learners? In which aspects are these characteristics transferable to the context of other education systems and their schools?

Upcoming ECERs

ECER'19, Hamburg
ECER'20, Glasgow
ERC'21, Geneva
ECER'21, Geneva
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The aim of the ‘European Conference on Educational Research’ is to create an inclusive platform for initiating, reporting, discussing and promoting high quality educational research ...
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