This weeks LRDG talk will be by Euline Cutrim Schmid, University of Education Schwaebisch Gmuend, who will talk about: 

The impact of pluralistic approaches to EFL education on language learning processes and learners’ identity construction

Research focusing on the relationship between language, identity and power has shown that the meaning potential of multilingual learners is frequently constrained by the exercise of institutional power in educational settings (Potts, 2017; Norton, 2013; Stille & Cummins, 2013). Studies indicate that schools in many parts of the world often place limits on FL learners’ use of their plurilingual resources, who internalize “rules” on when and how their linguistic and cultural resources can be used. Several authors (e.g. Stille & Cummins, 2013; Potts, 2017) have thus pointed towards the importance of a) respecting and validating students’ plurilingual identities and b) creating FL classroom cultures in which multilingual learners are positioned as experts, knowledge producers, and change makers. These recommendations have stimulated a call for the development and evaluation of innovative pedagogical proposals and effective FL teaching practices that recognize synergies among languages, cultures and identities. Some of these approaches have been grouped together under the general umbrella of “pluralistic approaches to foreign language education” (Candelier, 2008). Despite the increasing use of these approaches, there is relatively little research having been carried out in EFL classrooms in order to gain insights into the everyday practices of using pluralistic approaches over an extended period of time.

This paper presentation discusses research findings of a qualitative study that responded to this call. The research is located at the intersection between teacher education and pedagogical innovation. The study can be broken down into two main phases. The first phase focused on the design and evaluation of a course module for EFL pre-service teacher education. The second phase concentrated on a classroom-based research of pluralistic approaches to EFL education. It involved the collaboration between pre- and in-service teachers for the design, implementation and evaluation of pluralistic EFL lessons. Five case studies were carried out in four primary schools and one secondary school in the south of Germany. The project aimed at examining 1) the underlying beliefs towards plurilingualism that shape teachers’ and learners’ behaviour 2) the pedagogical gaps that need to be addressed in language teacher education and 3) the impact of pluralistic approaches to EFL education on language learning processes and learners’ identity construction. The research approach adopted in order to answer these questions has been mainly qualitative and based on the analysis of classroom interaction data and the views of a range of participants. Research data were collected via a variety of ethnographic research instruments namely classroom observations and field notes, video recording of school lessons, in-depth interviews with pre- and in-service teachers, pre-service teachers’ reflective journals, anonymous questionnaires, and focus group interviews with learners. Drawing upon Norton’s (2013) concept of investment and Welsch’s (1999) concept of transculturality, the paper discusses how the use of pluralistic EFL activities created space for validating learners’ plurilingual repertoires as legitimate linguistic and cultural resources in the EFL classroom.

Candelier, M. (2008) Awakening to languages and language policy. In J. Cenoz and N. Hornberger (eds) Encyclopedia of Language and Education: Knowledge about Language (pp. 219-32). Berlin: Springer.

Norton, B. (2013) Identity and Language Learning: Extending the Conversation, 2 ed. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Potts, D. (2017) Critical praxis, design and reflection literacy: A lesson in multimodality. In R. Harman (ed.) Bilingual Learners and Social Equity (pp. 201-223). Springer.

Stille, S. and Cummins, J. (2013) Foundation for learning: Engaging plurilingual students’linguistic repertoires in the elementary classroom. TESOL Quarterly 47 (3), 630-638.

Welsch, W. (1999) “Transculturality – the puzzling form of cultures today.” In Featherstone, M. & Lash, S. (eds) Spaces of Culture: City, Nation, World (pp. 194-213). London: Sage.


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