How are Pre-service Teachers Being Prepared to Work in Multilingual Contexts?

This month we published Preparing Teachers to Work with Multilingual Learners, edited by Meike Wernicke, Svenja Hammer, Antje Hansen and Tobias Schroedler. In this post the editors discuss the project that inspired the volume as well as the research initiatives currently emerging from the project. 

Among the many challenges, the current COVID-19 global pandemic has brought to light a heightened need to take into account the reality of language diversity in our societies, especially in a time of crisis. Conveying rapidly changing information related to public health cannot only happen in the dominant or official language. Local communities require reliable, consistent access to relevant information in the languages they use, including minoritized languages that have historically been devalued and continue to be marginalized across many regions of the world. This sense of urgency is also a reality in educational contexts, where teachers are confronting an ever wider range of culturally and linguistically diverse students in their classrooms. This past year, with repeated lockdowns making home-schooling and online learning and teaching the only options, the importance of home languages has become all the more salient as teachers are navigating daily communication with students and their parents. An ever-important question that both pre-pandemic and the current realities raise is, “how are pre-service teachers being prepared to work in multilingual contexts?”

This edited volume responds to exactly this question. The chapters presented here discuss in detail the kinds of multilingual approaches that are being developed in teacher education programs and professional learning in countries across Europe and North America, in response to the national and regional language-in-education policies implemented over the past several decades.

What makes this volume unique is that it is not merely a collection of research studies centered on a common theme. Rather, the volume is the culmination of an international research project initiated at the University of Hamburg in Germany in 2018, bringing together emerging researchers from Canada, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Sweden and the United States for the purpose of exploring key approaches to linguistic diversity in current pre-service teacher education. Two webinars and a face-to-face workshop in Hamburg resulted in an exceptionally rich exchange of ideas on multilingualism, producing not only a much-needed overview of different international perspectives on multilingual teacher preparation, but also providing an opportunity for project participants to take a step back from their own educational setting and to situate their practices and perspectives within a larger context.

Notably, the chapters highlight the complexity of each educational context and the role that history, language policies, and institutional and programmatic priorities play in the development and implementation of a multilingual focus in teacher education. Of particular interest are the country-specific issues that have evolved due to the history and ongoing presence of multiple languages in educational contexts. The authors who have contributed to the volume take a critical view of how multilingualism itself is conceptualized within and across these settings, while considering not only migrant-background learners but also students from Indigenous, autochthonous and heritage language backgrounds, or speaking minoritized regional varieties. Overall, the book highlights the positive and valuable impact that explicit instruction on theories of multilingualism, pedagogies in multilingual classrooms, and lived realities of multilingual children can have on beliefs and practices of pre-service teachers.

To date, the MultiTEd project has already led to further collaborations for a number of the researchers in their respective contexts. For example, the book has prompted countrywide discussions among teacher educators, practitioners and researchers in Canada with an emphasis on “Centering multilingual learners in teacher education.” A Germany-Sweden collaboration is exploring pre-service teachers’ beliefs about multilingualism in different national settings while research partnerships between Italy, Germany and Estonia are working to expand cooperation in teacher education and are focused on inclusive linguistic practices and the promotion of social equity in educational settings through translanguaging pedagogies. Research extending from the study described in the US context is currently investigating multilingual, inclusive approaches in remote contexts, including online instruction during the pandemic and in teacher education. In response to the ideological and structural challenges highlighted by students and teachers in this research, the group is now exploring advocacy efforts to address state-level education policies as they relate to languages in the classroom. The MultiTEd project also underpins work in Finland connected with the research alliance FORTHEM Multilingualism in School and Higher Education. Moreover, it has initiated further international cooperation to commonly analyze the role of multilingualism in teacher education in Austria as well as South Africa. And not only is the volume providing a useful comparison for ongoing empirical investigations about teachers attitudes toward multilingualism or the volume’s contributors, the chapters are also being built into future research projects, seminars, and teacher education courses. In that regard, the authors and editors are happy to share their experiences and collaborate with interested scholars to further explore the subject in other national or regional contexts.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Preparing Teachers to Teach English as an International Language edited by Aya Matsuda.