Decolonising Multilingualism in Africa

This month we published Decolonising Multilingualism in Africa by Finex Ndhlovu and Leketi Makalela. In this post the authors introduce the book.

It is often easy to perceive common sense assumptions about the nature and use of language in society as something of a natural kind – that it has always been the way it is. Yet, as we have come to know, we live in a world that has been invented or created following particular ideologies, belief systems and ways of knowing. Languages; our understandings of language diversity (multilingualism) and their practical applications in social and educational policy settings are not immune from ideological habits and practices that are traceable to the Euro-modernist colonial order of the world.

In Decolonising Multilingualism in Africa, we interrogate the problematic nature of common sense assumptions about languages and language diversity. We draw on data from the Global South, and specifically from diverse African communities, to illustrate the particular point about how popular and dominant understandings of multilingualism are tied to the colonial project of categorising languages and identities for the purposes of domination, control and the exercising of power. The packing of languages – through such instruments as national language policies – in a hierarchical order: minority vs major; official vs non-official; standard vs non-standard and so forth, is symptomatic of this logic of what we call global coloniality of language.

In this book, we present alternative approaches for re-imagining multilingualism. We introduce a promising avenue for unsettling colonial ways of knowing by taking into account diverse local knowledges about language and what living with multiple languages means for ordinary people in their everyday lives.

The book emphasises the importance of looking at multilingualism from the perspective of ‘languages of the people’ (the real everyday language practices of real people). This is a counter-narrative to the dominant understanding of language diversity that puts emphasis on ‘languages of the state’ (those countable language-things that were co-constructed with the modern nation-state). We re-visit the precolonial archive and draw attention to previously undocumented and often ignored knowledge traditions about language diversity, what we call ‘socially realistic multilingualism’.

Our goal is to enrich conversations about language diversity among both academic and non-academic communities; and to inform policy frameworks in such domains as language and literacy education, social service provision, intercultural dialogues, immigration and citizenship, and related areas where language is implicated. The book seeks to inspire an audience from differing social, cultural, political and ideological backgrounds to think outside the box; to appreciate that there are diverse ways of knowing about languages and multilingualism. Some such traditions of knowing, particularly those from the Global South, are currently marginalised and not present in mainstream conversations about what it means to live life and live it well with multiple language resources.

The book joins contemporary conversations on this topic in arguing that Southern ways of knowing are equally valid and legitimate. It is important for us to learn in partnership with the subaltern communities of the Global South and to re-centre their stories in our efforts to co-create alternative approaches to valuation of knowledge.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Rethinking Language Use in Digital Africa edited by Leketi Makalela and Goodith White.

Plurilingualism and (In)competence in Deaf Education

This month we published Critical Perspectives on Plurilingualism in Deaf Education edited by Kristin Snoddon and Joanne C. Weber. In this post the editors explain the inspiration behind the book.

This book was inspired by what we see as an unbalanced revitalization of sign languages. Around the world, national sign languages are increasingly popular as second language courses in schools and postsecondary contexts. At the same time, their learning and use by deaf children is in decline in countries that previously afforded the congregation of deaf children in some form, whether in special education settings or (more rarely) bilingual education classrooms and schools where a national sign language and written/spoken language are languages of instruction.

In many global North countries, this decline in deaf children’s learning of sign language is due to their medicalization in a framework of hearing screening and early intervention and policies that restrict families’ learning of sign language when a child receives a cochlear implant. In both the North and South, however, the way that governments and policy-makers have interpreted the tenets of inclusive education has meant the dismantling of deaf schools and other settings where deaf children can gather. Deaf people’s gathering inside and outside the classroom is critical to the transmission and maintenance of sign languages, even when teachers in these settings do not use a national sign language. Without sign languages, deaf children are at risk of language deprivation, which leads to poor educational and health outcomes.

However, there are new directions in plurilingual education for deaf children and youth in terms of classroom pedagogy, programming, and curricula. This research is driven by deaf ontologies, or what deaf people do with language. There is a need to further explore what concepts such as plurilingualism and translanguaging mean in the context of deaf people’s self-determination and empowerment.

Hannah Arendt (1961) wrote that in spite of efforts to build a new world through the education of children, children are introduced to a pre-existing world that has been constructed by those who came before us. Our book chronicles the history of education for deaf children and the suppression of sign languages in several contexts, including the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, and Canada.

As this book went to press, both of us learned that the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan, where we respectively live, are rolling out American Sign Language (ASL) curricula and classes for hearing high school students. At the same time, deaf children and youth across Canada are unlikely to receive broad support for learning in ASL via early intervention systems or schools. It is in these contexts and others that new directions in plurilingual sign language-medium education are needed, driven by the agency of signing deaf people.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might like The Legal Recognition of Sign Languages edited by Maartje De Meulder, Joseph J. Murray and Rachel L. McKee.

Phraseology and the Foreign Language Learner

This month we published Perspectives on the L2 Phrasicon edited by Sylviane Granger. In this post Sylviane explains how interest in the study of phraseology has grown.

We do not speak in single, independent words. As soon as we select one word, the number of words by which it can be followed or preceded becomes severely restricted. For example, the gap in I’m staying at home today because I have a ___ cold will typically be filled by adjectives such as bad, nasty or terrible, not by large, big or considerable. Such word partnerships come naturally to native speakers of English, but represent a major difficulty for foreign language learners. However, for a long time the study of lexis was largely confined to the study of single words. Multiword units were considered peripheral features of language, and the only units that were given prominence in foreign language teaching were semantically non-compositional units, i.e. units whose meaning could not be deduced from the meaning of their parts, in particular figurative idioms (to spill the beans), proverbs (the early bird catches the worm) and phrasal verbs (to give in).

Interest in phraseology, which can be roughly defined as the study of multiword units of various kinds, took a sharp upward turn with the advent of corpus linguistics, i.e. the study of language on the basis of large electronic collections of authentic language and automated methods and tools to investigate them. This major development opened up a brand-new world, in which phraseology took centre stage. Corpus studies have shown that opaque, figurative units are fairly infrequent compared with other units, in particular collocations, i.e. strongly associated pairs of words such as bad cold, and lexical bundles, i.e. longer recurrent word sequences, such as you know what I mean in speech and as a result of in writing. Unlike idioms, these two types of unit pose no particular problem of comprehension. However, they are very frequent and constitute a major hurdle for productive purposes. The reason is that these units, being semantically compositional, tend to go unnoticed: learners are often not aware of their formulaic nature and tend to transfer the literal equivalent from their mother tongue to the target language.

This widening of the scope of phraseology led to a greater focus on non-idiomatic multiword units in reference and teaching materials. For a number of years now, large corpora of native English have been used to show the company that words prefer to keep, in particular collocations, and, on that basis, to ‘phrase up’ dictionary entries, word lists and vocabulary exercises. The problem is that this exclusive focus on native use tells us nothing about the difficulty that learners experience with these units. Does learner use differ from native speaker use and if so, in what way? Do some types of unit cause learners more difficulty than others? Is use of these units greatly influenced by the learner’s mother tongue? Does phraseological use vary with proficiency and if so, how? Does phraseology function differently in speech and writing? These types of question can only be answered by analysing authentic learner data.

The main objective of this book is to make the voice of language learners heard. It does so by relying on learner corpora, i.e. electronic collections of writing and/or speech produced by foreign/second language learners. Scholars started compiling learner corpora in the early 1990s with the twofold objective of, first, contributing to Second Language Acquisition theory by providing a better description of learner language and a better understanding of the factors that influence it and, second, of producing pedagogical tools and methods that more accurately target the needs of language learners. In this book, learner corpora are used to investigate the impact of a range of variables (target language, language background, proficiency level, spoken vs written mode, degree of exposure to the foreign language, topic, time span) on learners’ use of multiword units, mainly collocations but also lexical bundles and lexico-grammatical patterns. The multiword units are extracted automatically from learner corpora on the basis of their frequency and strength of association. The studies in the volume highlight the power of new phraseological indices to assess the quality of learner texts, thus offering great potential for language assessment and automated scoring. Altogether, the book provides a unique window on the learner phrasicon and prompts further studies in this exciting and important research field.

Prof. Dr Sylviane Granger
sylviane.granger@uclouvain.be

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Idiomatic Mastery in a First and Second Language by Monica Karlsson.

Responding to Cries for Help from Teachers in Need of Support in Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Classrooms

We recently published Migration, Multilingualism and Education edited by Latisha Mary, Ann-Birte Krüger and Andrea S. Young. In this post Latisha explains the inspiration behind the book.

I recently listened to a number of teacher education students presenting their research projects conducted in linguistically diverse classrooms. Even though national curriculum documentation now specifically addresses the question of teaching in linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms, teachers are still struggling with this complex challenge. I was particularly struck by the intensity with which these students, in their final year of teacher education, were still sending out a clear ‘cry for help’: more information, more training and more support were needed if they were to be able to provide the inclusive classrooms in which their bi- and plurilingual pupils could thrive. Even more striking is that this is the same cry we have increasingly been hearing from practicing teachers, echoed by colleagues around the world as migration, displacement and mobility among families continue to increase. According to the OECD Education GPS approximately 5 million permanent migrants entered OECD countries in 2016. In addition, these statistics show that 13% of school pupils in 2018 were from a migrant background, which represents a 10% increase from 2009.

Recent research in a variety of contexts continues to show that teachers of all disciplines frequently lack the knowledge and pedagogical strategies to enable them, on the one hand, to take into account the linguistic and cultural diversity of learners and, on the other, to support the child, adolescent or young adult in her/his plurilingual development. The volume Migration, Multilingualism and Education, co-edited with my colleagues Ann-Birte Krüger and Andrea Young, emerged out of our desire to collectively and critically reflect on the field of inclusive teaching and learning in a variety of migration contexts from pre-school to university whilst focusing on the needs of both students and practicing teachers. Over the years, pre-service and in-service teachers have continually stressed upon us the need for teacher educators to link theory to practice, explicitly relating it to the lived realities of the classroom and to teachers’ everyday concerns.

We have endeavoured to meet these needs in this volume by including the voices of 14 experienced professionals working in multilingual contexts. Placed at the end of each chapter, these individual personal perspectives allow practitioners from diverse contexts around the world to relate their everyday experiences to the theoretical perspectives and empirical research presented in the preceding chapter. It is our hope that this approach will provide vivid examples of innovative practices, open doors to discussion and encourage reflection around such key questions as ‘how can I provide learning support to children whose home language I do not speak’?, ‘which language should I encourage parents to use at home’?, ‘what strategies have proven effective in fostering collaboration with parents who speak another language?’ or ‘how can educators empower multilingual learners in diverse migration contexts?’. These practical testimonies in conjunction with the chapters in the book are our way of endorsing the mantra, initially proposed by Jim Cummins, which has continued to inspire us over the years: Actuality implies possibility.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingual Literacy edited by Esther Odilia Breuer, Eva Lindgren, Anat Stavans and Elke Van Steendam.

English Fever in Asia

This month we published Young Children’s Foreign Language Anxiety by Jieun Kiaer, Jessica M. Morgan-Brown and Naya Choi. In this post the authors explain the concept of ‘English fever’ in Asia.

English in the modern age has well and truly ascended to the throne as the lingua franca of the international academic, business and political worlds, and proficiency in English is seen to hold immense social capital in Asia and most other countries around the world. This prestige has sparked a frenzied English education culture in Asian countries such as China, South Korea and Japan, where a huge amount of resources are funnelled into the English tuition industry each year. In South Korea, parents’ spending on their children reached a record high in 2018, according to the Ministry of Education and Statistics Korea. Total spending on private education was 19.5 trillion won, or roughly $17 billion dollars, marking a 4.4% increase on the previous year. The same survey also revealed that 82.5% of elementary school children were receiving private education. Parents spent more on English education than on any other subject – a total of 5.7 trillion won. Not only are parents looking to spend large amounts of money on English tuition for their children domestically, but students are often sent to English-speaking countries alone for as little as one year to their entire elementary or middle school periods for the purpose of attaining mastery in English.

The problem

Although it is widely accepted that second language acquisition is most efficient in one’s childhood, some children are forced to study English at such young ages that the child’s mental wellbeing and psychosocial development are compromised. There are increasing instances of children showing symptoms of stress at ages as young as 4 and 5 due to this pressure imposed on them by their parents. In English kindergartens, which are gaining in popularity in East Asia, students are often reprimanded for speaking in a language other than English. In some cases, young children who experience early English education can show low self-esteem, lack of concentration, hyperactivity and difficulty in controlling their emotions. Also, they often find it difficult to establish a stable relationship, even with their parents, and fear studying. This unnatural, oppressive exposure to English at the expense of a child’s mental health and cognitive development runs the risk of leading to a mass ‘English trauma’, where English proficiency is ultimately impaired, which is the case in many adults.

The solution

What matters is not when we are exposed to languages, but how. The early stages of a child’s development have lasting impacts on their attitudes towards learning, and children should be allowed to cultivate a healthy curiosity and joy towards cognitive inquiry. This naturally applies to language learning, where children should be exposed to other languages in ways that allow them to engage in a cheerful and inquisitive manner, rather than one that is imposed upon them forcefully. This will not only preserve the child’s proper psychological development, but also curbs any possibility of a widespread English trauma taking hold.

For more information about this book please see our website. We recently held an online event featuring the book, which you can watch here: 

Space and Place in Second Language Acquisition

This month we published Language Learning Environments by Phil Benson. In this post the author introduces the book and its relevance in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We are in the habit of thinking of space as empty space: as a container for objects of many kinds, including people, things, information and language. We tend to think of these objects as existing in space and moving across space. This I call the objects-in-space view, which is pervasive both in everyday thinking and in the theory and practice of linguistics and SLA.

But what if space is not an empty container? What if it is more like the image on the cover of Language Learning Environmentsa complex, entangled, writhing web of objects? What if objects are space, and what if their movement is the movement of space itself? How will we conceive of the spatiality of language and second language learning from this objects-as-space perspective?

In brief, I argue that we need to view language, not as an object-in-space, as a self-contained system, network or structural entity, but as an object that is integrated with the physical world in many different ways. Language only exists in the world in the forms of physical ‘language-bearing assemblages’. This is a significant point for SLA, because it calls for attention to the ways in which language learning is tied up with the mobility of people, things and information in an increasingly globalized world.

The approach to SLA that I propose connects with ecological, complex and dynamic systems, distributed learning and posthuman perspectives. The key idea is that of learning through interaction with language resources in the environment. But I also argue that it is important to evaluate language learning environments in spatial terms. This leads to three differences with these perspectives.

  • Many researchers now believe that there is no distinction to be made between second and first language learning because both involve interaction with the environment. However, the spatial circumstances of access to the language learned are typically very different. For second language learners, an important question is whether the target language is a scarce or abundant resource in the local environment.
  • We now think of multilingualism, rather than monolingualism, as the global norm for language competence. But it is also true that people become multilingual for specific reasons and have specific language repertoires. The specific character of multilingualism depends partly on individual agency, but more importantly on access to language resources in the local environment. This in turn has much to do with the spatial distribution of language resources globally.
  • Lastly, there is a tendency to foreground the local over the global. Globalization may be an overused term, but a spatial perspective suggests that the global mobility of language-bearing assemblages (people, goods and information) determines the abundance or scarcity of second language resources in local environments and, ultimately, the question of who gets to learn which languages where.
A ‘language-bearing assemblage’ on the streets of Hong Kong

Language Learning Environments has been many years in the making, but it was mostly written during the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020. We are now living in a world in which a spatial perspective on second language learning seems all the more relevant.

Global mobility drives second language learning. By smoothing the way for mobilities of people, goods and information, second language learning also drives global mobility. In the book, I point to a number of statistics that show how indicators of both global mobility and second language learning have mostly more than doubled over the last twenty years. In addition to the terrifying human costs of the pandemic, there has also been a drastic realignment of global mobilities as borders have closed. The mobility of people, and to some extent goods, has been dramatically slowed down. The mobility of digital information, on the other hand, is accelerating at a remarkable rate.

The future for the global mobilities of languages and language learners is uncertain. Will there be a return to the rapid acceleration on all fronts of recent years, or will there be some kind of longer-term adjustment in which we are less mobile physically, but more mobile digitally? We are already beginning to see important changes in the ways in which second language learners access language resources in their local environments. I believe that a spatial perspective can do much to help language researchers keep abreast of these changes.

For more information about this post please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Learner Autonomy by David Little, Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen.

Tourination: The Ruination By, Of and With Tourism

We recently published The Impact of Tourism in East Africa by Anne Storch and Angelika Mietzner. In this post the authors explain the concept of ‘Tourination’.

Beaches are problematic spaces. They are the porous sites of uncertain encounters, of contact between humans and spirits, firm ground and uncertainty. In many parts of the world, they are lined by the ruins of imperialism and colonialism, and by the excessive waste produced in global mass tourism. Paradise is depicted on nearby billboards, the flawless white sand and turquoise waters are a promise for all those who can pay their way in.

From places that seem destroyed, ruined or abandoned, new systems of togetherness emerge, as we describe in our book. The ruination by, of and with tourism is a concept we tend to call Tourination. Tourination is found in every single part and corner wherever tourism takes place. It describes how people and places change because of tourism and what emerges out of this change. We would like to propose making Tourination a term of its own in the discourse on tourism and change. A term that does not always imply a negative connotation of the term ruination, but rather a connotation that shows what comes out of it.

Meanwhile, the knowledge and techniques of creating spaces that are alive and allow for resistance and sovereignty remain. In Digo (a Bantu language spoken in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania), like in the languages of many other Indigenous peoples, there is a wealth of ways to express reciprocity and conviviality.

Utsi is managed by a group of elders, who figure out who is in need of the help of others and make this help happen.

Mweria is more about reciprocity. In a community, people help each other handling hard labour.

Harambee is an expression that can be used as a call, or shout, by a group of people who pull something heavy (a boat). It is also the name for asking around in the community for assistance in one’s own financially challenging tasks.

Merry-go-round is another possibility.

Saying nothing at all is a reply to an invitation to join a meal. One simply sits down and eats.

Or maybe we could sit down and listen, engage in a conversation here and there or just watch.

Angelika Mietzner and Anne Storch

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like the authors’ previous book, Language and Tourism in Postcolonial Settings.

Futures Perspectives on Tourism Inclusion

This month we published Inclusive Tourism Futures edited by Anu Harju-Myllyaho and Salla Jutila. In this post the authors explain the concept of inclusive tourism and provide examples of how we can influence inclusive tourism futures.

There are numerous academic and practical discussions concerning inclusive tourism, especially in terms of different stakeholders and actors. Yet, there is still room for futures perspectives on tourism inclusion. The aim of this book is to pay attention to inclusive tourism futures. We ask how to understand and enhance inclusive tourism development in academia and in the field of tourism. In other words, the purpose of this book is to set a basis for further discussion as well as to understand the various tourism stakeholder groups, viewpoints, methods and practices that are important for supporting inclusive tourism.

Inclusive tourism, as a dimension of sustainable tourism, is part of a wider societal discussion. Sustainable tourism is a multidimensional issue and neither of the different dimensions exist in a vacuum. This means that, for instance, ecologically sustainable tourism demands a recognition of its social dimension. It is very important to continue discussions and to commit to action regarding socially responsible tourism and environmental sustainability. However, such engagement also causes conflicts. If we must restrict tourism or compensate for the emissions it causes through taxation, who then has the right to travel? Does anyone? At the same time, we ask: who is permitted to take part in planning tourism and consuming it? Who benefits?

Along with the diversity of tourists, inclusive tourism emphasises the participation of local people (e.g. Höckert, 2015; Simmons, 1994). Inclusion also always requires acknowledgement of exclusion, both compulsory and voluntary. Chapters of the book highlight both guest and host points of view in versatile contexts. For example, in chapter one Höckert, Kugapi and Lüthje point out the role of development projects in inclusive tourism. Authors discuss their own project, Culturally Sensitive Tourism in the Arctic (ARCTISEN), in the context of the thoughts of hosts and guests. They note that inclusion also incorporates freedom of choice: that choice can be not to participate but to stay excluded. According to Höckert et al, inclusive development cannot be pre-organised. A certain openness to different ways of being, knowing and doing must remain part of the process. They suggest that development projects should nurture the idea that hosts’ and guests’ roles are reciprocal and that they change depending on the situation.

It is important to give a voice to future generations and to consider different possibilities and paths that might be pursued to achieve mutually desired goals. By anticipating alternative futures, while recognising different perspectives on inclusive tourism, it is possible to consider future actors and what might be best for them. The future has one positive aspect: we can have an impact on it. As futures researchers often say, we cannot predict the future, but we can make it ourselves. Thus, as a chronological dimension, the future is full of possibilities.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Impact of Tourism in East Africa by Anne Storch and Angelika Mietzner.

Disability, Language and Mothering

This month we published (M)othering Labeled Children by María Cioè-Peña. In this post the author explains the inspiration behind the book.

I never sought to study mothers. To be honest, mothers were never really a part of my professional circle. Yes, I worked with women who were mothers and I also engaged with my students’ mothers, but I rarely saw mothers as an asset; truth be told, I probably didn’t really see them at all. I remember many of my former students but very few of their mothers – the ones I do remember often tended to be the “squeaky wheel” mothers – the ones who came across as “irrational” and “demanding”.  As an educator, I didn’t really think about mothers, not the way I do now.

To be clear, I thought about parents. As a special education teacher, I had been trained to communicate with parents, to consider their emotional capacities, particularly around disability diagnosis or program placements, as well as their education level when communicating information and interacting with them. I was taught to be a co-conspirator, always working with parents towards more inclusive placements. As a bilingual educator I was trained to be culturally responsive and to consider parents’ cultural identity and language practices when communicating. All of this was under the guise of compliance and rarely under the umbrella of collaborative partnerships. After all, I had been trained to believe that culturally and linguistically diverse families needed teachers like me to advocate for them.

My relationship with parents in many ways took on similar characteristics to my relationships with children in special education – I was a helper to the helpless, a voice for the voiceless, an advocate for the powerless. Thus, my relationship to parents took on the same deficit framing that plagues emergent bilinguals and students labeled as dis/abled. So it makes perfect sense that parents, especially mothers, were outside of the scope of my inquiries. This is not to say that I did not have beautiful and meaningful relationships with mothers. On the contrary, I credit those relationships with my growth both as an educator and as a researcher, but at the time I did not recognize them as a part of my practice, rather I saw them as another feather on my cap; another thing that I did that made me great.

I was really interested in studying the ways in which my teacher training had failed me. I recognized that my teacher training had been an amalgamation of parts (special education training with a bilingual extension or a bilingual education training with a special education extension) and as such had failed to prepare me, and others like me, for the unique challenges that a bilingual special education teacher might encounter. It wasn’t until I did a pilot study centered on teachers that a participant made a claim that shifted my whole perspective. When speaking about changes that had arisen as a result of special education reforms in NYC, changes that encouraged Emergent Bilinguals Labeled As Disableds’ (EBLAD) placement in monolingual English Inclusive Co-Teaching (ICT) classrooms over bilingual self-contained special education settings, she commented that she felt badly for the mothers because they had no say in this transition. The bilingual special education classrooms were closed and students were placed in monolingual ICT classes, and while the children could adjust, the mothers had lost a huge connection to their children’s learning. While in the bilingual special education setting they could encounter a teacher who spoke their home language – that was not true in the monolingual ICT classes.

That comment sat and rattled around my head for weeks and months, until finally I realized that the problem didn’t lie in my training. It originated from the fact that these children were being treated as the sum of their classifications: English language learners, students with disabilities, culturally and linguistically diverse, Latinx, etc. My training was a hodgepodge of programs because the students were being viewed as the sum of their parts rather than as whole. Thus, in order to foreground children as whole, I needed to step out of the classroom and into the home. I needed to center their foremost teacher: their mothers. They are the ones who saw their children as whole first. They are the ones who rooted their children’s differences in a disabilities studies perspective. They are the ones who saw their children’s bilingualism as a linguistic human right central to survival not just capitalism. In order to help EBLADs, I first needed to center mothers’ expertise and experiences.

This book, (M)othering Labeled Children, does just that. It centers mothers, their successes, their struggles (inside and outside of their children’s schooling), their ideologies on disability, language and mothering. In order to see children as whole, we need to see their parents, especially their mothers, as whole first. In doing this work, I have come to better understand myself as a teacher and as a mother. In these women’s testimonios I see my mother, my aunt, and myself. I hope that in reading this book others will see the complexity that is motherhood and the ways in which schools can make this work both easier and significantly more difficult. I hope that this book becomes a step towards a more inclusive school model.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Bilingualism for All? edited by Nelson Flores, Amelia Tseng and Nicholas Subtirelu.

Where to Start When You Don’t Know Where to Start: Building a Philosophical Framing for Your PhD Research

This month we published Research Paradigm Considerations for Emerging Scholars edited by Anja Pabel, Josephine Pryce and Allison Anderson. In this post Allison explains where to start with your PhD journey.

When you start a PhD, there is usually a lot of emphasis on ‘defining your topic’, ‘stating your question’, ‘outlining your research aims and objectives’, or ‘finding your hypothesis’, which is usually quite fun, as it is nearly always in an area you know a lot about already. Once you’ve figured that out, you need to read everything related to the topic, and there is often some discussion about your theoretical framework and your methodology. All of these aspects support the confirmation of candidature process that you go through in the first six months of your PhD, which is generally quite an affirming and exciting process as you stride with confidence into your ‘publication plan’ and ‘milestone schedule’. Everyone tells you it’s going to be hard, and you listen, but really don’t see how that will happen with such a robust plan ahead.

When I started my PhD, I thought my methodology was simply a description of whether I used surveys or interviews to gather data, how I decided on sample sizes and what computer program I would use to analyse it all. I didn’t fully understand that I would need to connect these choices back to my personal viewpoint, how I view the world and the specific perspective of my research.

My supervisor started introducing the terms ‘paradigm’, ‘ontology’ and ‘epistemology’ as things I should be thinking about in my philosophical framing. I honestly didn’t know what a philosophical framing was, let alone what mine was, or what that of my research was. And worse, I hadn’t really allowed for this in my plan and I was feeling a little out of control. So I started reading. And to be frank, that really did not help. The definitions of these terms as described in formal sources were actually less helpful to my novice mind than those in Wikipedia. I was beginning to realise the importance of doing this, and I was frustrated at my lack of grounding and understanding, as well as at the lack of clear guidance available. I wondered whether I was really cut out to write a PhD at all.

I talked to my friends who were also doing PhDs. And I realised that I was not alone – nearly everyone I spoke to was having similar experiences with a lack of clarity or knowledge from their supervisors, a lack of grounding in philosophical thinking, and not knowing where to start. It became evident that we all needed to start somewhere, so we gathered together a core group of around ten PhD students from a diverse range of disciplines across the university and called ourselves the ROPE Group – talking about Research, Ontology, Philosophy and Epistemology. We found Jo (Pryce, co-editor of our new book), a delightful member of the academic staff who was very interested in paradigms and generous enough to attend our fortnightly meetings. I made sure to book the tea room in one of the faculties in the hope of engaging with other academics, and brought biscuits each week to keep the energy going. Jo introduced us to Guba & Lincoln’s (1994, 2005) table of paradigms, ontologies and epistemologies, which was a watershed moment for all of us and guided us on our exploration of the paradigms.

The ROPE group kept me sane throughout the highs and lows of my PhD journey, providing support, kindness, guidance, calories and the deep, reassuring knowledge that I was not alone. We all went on to complete our PhDs and as we did, we realised that PhD students everywhere face these challenges, not just within our group. Jo suggested that we write a book that might help others in the same situation, with each chapter covering a different paradigm used, how we applied it in practice and a reflection on our experience of using it. Anja (a fellow ROPE member) took the lead and reached out to our broader networks to invite submissions, and now the book is being released.

If you don’t know where to start when things get murky with paradigms and philosophical framings in your PhD journey, start with a group of fellow PhDs, a packet of biscuits, a tea room, Guba & Lincoln’s (1994, 2005) table of paradigms, ontologies and epistemologies, and very importantly, a knowledgeable and engaged academic who is prepared to spend time guiding your conversation. If these things are not available to you, consider buying our book. Or maybe just buy it anyway. It will help!

Allison Anderson

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Qualitative Methods in Tourism Research edited by Wendy Hillman and Kylie Radel.