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.

How Does Literacy Work in a Multilingual Context?

We recently published Multilingual Literacy edited by Esther Odilia Breuer, Eva Lindgren, Anat Stavans and Elke Van Steendam. In this post the editors explain the inspiration behind the book.

When we met at one of the first meetings of the COST project on Strengthening Europeans’ capabilities by establishing the European literacy network, we soon realised the importance of research on multilingual literacy – even more so when we had to communicate with each other in our common foreign language English especially in writing, via different media. We experienced first-hand that writing in the foreign language presented us with some challenges. There are so many aspects which one needs to keep in mind! The search for words and for the correct spelling can interfere with your wanting to express yourself, which in turn can have a negative (and sometimes) demotivating effect on communicating with each other. However, at the same time these challenges to establish common ground presented opportunities to learn from the process and from each other. This interesting dynamic in itself was the stimulus and incentive to collect papers that shed light on multilingual literacy from different perspectives.

However, it is not only for us four that foreign language reading and writing has become ever more important: In the 21st century, we are living in a world in which multilinguality has become the standard rather than the exception. Many people have grown up with more than one language, or they have moved to countries in which their first language is not the common language. We are expected to speak fluent English, although it is a foreign language to us, not only in academic but also in many other contexts – and we also often do so in written form, either as the recipients or as the producers thereof.

Reading and writing in foreign languages has thus become the norm – but this does not make the processes easier. It is because of this that it has become crucial for people from many different contexts to explore how literacy works in a multilingual context, and to look for answers to the following questions:

  • What do we already know about multilingual literacy?
  • How do linguistic and social diversity interact?
  • How does multilinguality shape identity?
  • What is the impact of new literacy technologies on multilingual communication?
  • How can we support multilingual literacy?
  • And more generally: What can we learn from each other?

The chapters in the book address these and many other questions and we enjoyed reading them. We are sure you will too!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Assessing Academic Literacy in a Multilingual Society edited by Albert Weideman, John Read and Theo du Plessis.