Piet Van Avermaet

Report
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Who is afraid of multilingualism in school?
Linguistic diversity as a resource for learning
Piet Van Avermaet
Seminar organised by the
Language Policy Unit - DG II
Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France
www.coe.int/lang
“To reject a child’s language in the school is to reject
the child. When the message, implicit or explicit,
communicated to children in the school is “Leave your
language and culture at the schoolhouse door”,
children also leave a central part of who they are - their
identities - at the schoolhouse door. When they feel this
rejection, they are much less likely to participate
actively and confidently in classroom instruction”
(Cummins, 2001, p. 19).
We all have questions?
• How do I deal with the multilingual reality in classrooms?
– Forbid/suppress
– Using them in the learning process?
– Teach them?
• What is the impact of suppressing/making use of it/teaching
them?: cognitively, socio-emotional?
• How do we communicate with parents?
• What do we advise migrant parents to speak at home?
• …
• Many questions?
• www.meertaligheid.be
Teachers’ concerns
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Parents don’t want it!
Childrens’ L1 is poor, restricted.
Allowing the use of L1 paves the way to segregation.
I lose control of what happens in the classroom.
The time to learn L2 is already so limited.
I have more than 10 languages in my classroom.
School in Flanders (2009)
“In the interest of your
child we speak Dutch here.
And you?”
Multilingual reality
• Multilingualism a reality in all European societies, especially
in urban spaces
• In schools and classrooms more and more ‘superdiversity’
• Multilingualism is a reality in every person: plurilingual
repertoires
• ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ multilingualism
Within a context where ‘super diversity’ is becoming
the norm it is important to reflect on the boundaries
of the current recipes that are being used in systems
of (language) education.
As concepts like language, citizenship, learning, ... are
social constructs we have to consider reconstructing
them, given the new social contexts.
Theoretical framework: multilingual
education vs. L2 submersion
• Central question: which language education model is more
effective for L2 acquisition as well as for closing the
‘achievement gap’?
• Search for ‘one-size-fits-all’ model -> polarization
– L2 submersion (L2-only):
• Competition between languages ;negative transfer
• ‘Sponge’: young children are ‘automatic’ L2-learners
• Time on task / frequency of input: maximum L2 exposure &
exclusion of L1’s
– (Bi)-Multilingual education:
• Positive relationships between higher-order language skills
(Cummins)
• Positive transfer L1-L2
• Facilitation / scaffolding (constructivist learning)
Traditional bilingual education
– Separation arrangement:
• Spatial: separate, homogeneous classes/schools
• Temporal: separate lessons
• Segregated groups of learners
• Compartmentalized languages (Cummins, 2008)
• Multilingualism = parallel monolingualisms (Creese &
Blackledge, 2010)
– Educational arrangement:
• instruction by bilingual teachers
• Overall low involvement of mainstream teachers
Multilingual education: towards a new approach?
• Arguments
– Practical: is organization of bi-/multilingual education in
urban heterogeneous schools feasible?
– Theoretical: new sociolinguistic conceptions of
multilingual communication in the complex contemporary
world which break with ‘received’ ideas
Functional plurilingual learning
• Plurilingual repertoires as resource for learning:
– Repertoires as didactical capital for learning:
– functional use of home languages in multilingual, L2dominant learning environments
• Setting:
– Linguistically mixed mainstream classes
– Integrated: L1 and L2 learners
– L2 is dominant, but there are opportunities for
concurrent use of various languages
– Teachers do not have to speak (all) present L1’s
Functional plurilingual learning
• L1 as a tool for learning : scaffolding model
–
–
–
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Socio-cognitive: L1’s as a cognitive and didactic asset
Socio-cultural theories -> Vygotsky
Instructional strategies
Positive interdependency between ‘higer-order’
language skills
Functional plurilingual learning
• Conditions:
– From empirical research it is clear that ‘functional
plurilingual learning’ can only be effective when it is
structurally embedded in a school policy that opt for a
multilingual perspective
– From empirical research we also learn that creating
‘powerful learning environments’ is a fundamental
condition
Powerful multilingual learning environment
Safe and positive classroom
environment: L1 to comfort,
open climate, children are
appreciated, self-confident
Functional and
meaningful activities
with L1 as a means to
reach a real-life goal
Interactional support by
teachers or peers in L1
Research project
“Home language in education” (HLE)
Funded by Ghent municipality
conducted by UGent and KULeuven
HLE-project: objectives
• Objective A: The use of multilinguality (diverse
linguistic capital) in plurilingual powerful learning
environments
• Objective B: Academic literacy development in L1
Baseline study findings
Teachers (observations & interviews):
– Dominant monolingual L2 submersion model:
• Banning of L1’s from the classroom, esp. in primary
• Maximum L2 exposure
• Multilingualism has no cognitive & linguistic surplus value
– Shift concerning L1 usage at home
• L1 maintenance (additive bilingualism): L1 outside school is not
explicitly discouraged anymore
– Shift with some preschool teachers
• Spontaneous L1 tolerance within the classroom
• Incipient L1-related practices facilitating well-being (L1 has
positive socio-emotional function: to feel at home in school)
Baseline study findings
Before the project:
“the children were not allowed to speak their ‘own language’”
“we used to punish those children that spoke their home
language. That was very common”
“their was little interaction. September 1th, the children knew
that they were only allowed to speak Dutch. I presented
myself and nobody said anything. All children staid silent.
Their proficiency in Dutch was insufficient and they were not
allowed to speak their home language. So their was simply no
interaction”
Test score Turkish and Dutch
Process evaluation:
interim observations 2009-2010
in preschool classes
Teachers’ perceptions
(1) At the level of positive learning environment
Through the use of L1 more tolerance:
“If, for instance, a child uses an Arabic word, Turkish children will try to
pronounce it and want to learn it. This was not the case before the project.
Then the Turkish children would have said ‘bah, Arabic’.” (K3)
“since the project the children are more tolerant to each other regarding
the use of their home language”
Added value of the use of L1:
“the children rapidly felt that they were allowed to use their home
language and that they could make themselves better understand and
could help each other”
Teachers’ perceptions
(1) At the level of positive learning environment
More involvement of the children:
“The added value is that before a child often said nothing and was very
passive, it didn’t learn. That same child now is actively involved, talks all the
time and learns by doing.” (K3)
“ I notice already now that children are more talkative when entering the
classroom and are not afraid to ask something.“ (K2-3)
Teachers’ perceptions
(2) At the level of meaningful activities
Impact on L2 learning
“Children now want to learn more Dutch. They ask more for it than before.” (K3)
“Two Turkish children who were talking about a lobster in Turkish and
spontaneously asked me ‘what is this in Dutch?’. And they kept repeating the
word in Dutch.” (K3)
More awareness of multilingualism
“Language sensitizing tasks make me aware of the children’s multilingualism.
What we [as teachers] experience as something ‘special’ is common for the
children.” (K3)
Powerful plurilingual learning environment
Safe and positive classroom
environment: L1 to comfort, open
climate, children are appreciated,
self-confident
Functional and
meaningful activities
with L1 as a means to
reach a real-life goal
Interactional support by
peers in L1
Awareness of parents
“A mother who spontaneously said to me ‘I didn’t know that my
child new all these animals in Turkish”
“A lot of parents who are now more involved with their children
than before.”
Parents as partners
“Parents feel more at home in school because the L1 is present. […] They are
often invited to help in the classroom e.g. by reading a story in L1.” (K2-3)
Teachers’ perceptions
(3) At the level of support through interaction
Children helping each other
“They rapidly started to help each other. When I said something and one of the
children didn’t understand what I said, another child started to repeat it in
the home language.” (K3)
“I am not able to give feedback in a child’s home language but other children
can definitely do that.” (K2-3)
Teachers’ perceptions
(3) At the level of support through interaction
Use of L1 does not slow down L2 learning
“Since the project started, I have the impression that they already know more
words in Dutch than children I had in my classroom before it was allowed to
use the home language.” (K3)
The teacher as an ‘outsider’
“I often wonder what is going on in the head of the children. It’s a pity I don’t
understand what they say when they use the L1.” (K3)
Powerful plurilingual learning environment
Safe and positive classroom
environment: L1 to comfort, open
climate, children are appreciated,
self-confident
Functional and
meaningful activities
with L1 as a means to
reach a real-life goal
Interactional support by
teachers or peers in L1
It starts with a positive attitude
“It starts with a positive attitude, but also being well informed
what the project is exactly about and how the school looks at
it. The vision of the school.”
Conclusions
• Confirmation of Cummins’ linguistic interdependency
hypothesis at beginning of project;
• Shift from monolingual school policy and classroom practice
to functional plurilingual teaching/learning go hand in hand
with an observed shift from instructivist pedagogy to more
social constructivist paradigm of learning.
– When allowing to use L1, indications of a more powerful learning
environment
– Positive shift towards power of co-teaching
Conclusions
• FPTL seems to be more powerful and seems to have more
potential than traditional compartimentalised bilingual
learning. In superdiverse classrooms using the plurilingual
repertoires of children is taken as an asset, a resource for
learning
• More involvement of teacher; of children; more
interaction taking place in the classroom
Conclusions
• Positive impact on teachers’ beliefs and perceptions
• Teacher as an active agent in processes of the
reconstruction of old ‘recipes’:
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Training, coaching, feedback, co-reflection, co-construction
Empowerment and increased positive awareness of parents
co-construction with parents; parents as active stakeholders
Increase parental involvement and of change in parents beliefs in
role of L1 as good practice in classrooms (schools as local agents;
change from below)
– Teachers see positive effects of use of L1 on L2 learning
Change paradigm
Shift in perception, beliefs
From what children cannot
Into what they can.
Otherwise we will lose a whole generation of
children (not only migrants)
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THANK YOU
[email protected]
Language Policy Unit - DG II
Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France
www.coe.int/lang

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