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See detailUnderstanding multilingual pupils' translanguaging practices: a qualitative study in two primary schools in Luxembourg
Degano, Sarah UL

Doctoral thesis (2021)

Over the last decades, research in bilingual and trilingual schools has shown that translanguaging – the systematic alternation between two or more named languages – can promote children’s learning and ... [more ▼]

Over the last decades, research in bilingual and trilingual schools has shown that translanguaging – the systematic alternation between two or more named languages – can promote children’s learning and increase their opportunities to participate in class. Translanguaging can therefore provide more equitable access to the curriculum and address educational inequalities. To date, however, few translanguaging studies have researched older primary school children in multilingual schools. Similarly, few have explored the use of children’s non-linguistic resources in meaning-making processes. More recently, there has been an explicit call for a multimodal perspective on translanguaging, according to which translanguaging is conceptualised as the deployment of the semiotic repertoire. While multimodality studies have pointed out the potential of multimodal resources in education, there remains a paucity of empirical research that – with regard to more equitable educational practices – explores the pupils’ use of both multilingual and multimodal resources in class. With the aim of understanding what translanguaging means in two different multilingual primary schools, the present thesis addresses this issue. It presents a qualitative research on the ways in which multilingual fourth-graders in Luxembourg deploy and combine the resources of their semiotic repertoires to communicate and make meaning in interaction with their peers and teachers. The study was informed by the following questions – how is translanguaging practised in the classroom? How do pupils translanguage, drawing on their semiotic repertoire? How is translanguaging used to construct curricular meaning in interaction? I argue that the pupils’ translanguaging practices are interactively constructed because the ways in which they combine their multilingual and multimodal resources for communication and meaning-making in class reflect those of their teachers. Data was collected in two public primary schools in Luxembourg – one in the North, one in the East – from January to November 2018. This data took the form of observations, fieldnotes, video-recordings of lessons, semi-structured interviews with the pupils and the teachers, as well as stimulated recall interviews with the pupils. Over a duration of 130 hours, I observed and recorded four focal pupils of different language and education backgrounds as they deployed their semiotic repertoires in interaction with their teachers and peers in both Year 4 and at the beginning of Year 5. In order to explore how translanguaging was practiced in the classrooms, I conducted a thematic analysis of the 42 documents of field notes (analytic memos), totalling about 152,000 words. In addition, to investigate how the pupils combined the resources of their repertoires and drew on translanguaging to make meaning, I applied a multimodal interaction analysis and a sociocultural discourse analysis to 11 hours’ worth of video footage from 177 videos, ranging in length from 7 seconds to 24 minutes. The 13 hours’ worth of interview material were summarised by hand and served triangulation purposes. The study has shown that the pupils’ translanguaging practices were interactively constructed. Firstly, the translanguaging practices of the teachers and the pupils varied between school contexts. In both schools, the pupils learned French, German and/ or Luxembourgish, and regularly used several languages. However, while their translanguaging practices mainly involved shifts between German and Luxembourgish in the school in the East, they involved shifts between the three school languages as well as Portuguese in the school in the North. Secondly, all four focal pupils combined linguistic, extralinguistic and paralinguistic resources, but their semiotic combinations were influenced by the translanguaging practices of their teachers and, therefore, varied between schools and across year groups. In the school in the East, the focal pupils tended to deploy their semiotic repertoires more extensively in Year 5 than in Year 4; it was the other way around for the focal pupils in the school in the North. Thirdly, depending on their teachers’ translanguaging practices, the pupils orchestrated their multilingual and multimodal resources in complex ways to co-construct curricular meaning. They flexibly shifted between languages (e.g. school languages, home languages), modes (i.e. verbal mode of communication, non-verbal mode of communication) and modalities (e.g. speaking, singing), thereby combining different linguistic resources (e.g. English, French, German, Luxembourgish, Portuguese), extralinguistic resources (e.g. gaze, gesture, touch) and paralinguistic resources (e.g. intonation, sound effects, volume). The present study draws attention to the resourcefulness with which multilingual primary school pupils of different backgrounds can co-construct curricular meaning. It also emphasizes the role that teachers can play in constraining or supporting the pupils’ use of resources in class. This study has implications for teachers in that they can learn how important it is to allow pupils to use their own resources in class. It calls for professional development that will help teachers develop a translanguaging stance, that is the belief that pupils are able to leverage their semiotic repertoires to participate in class, make meaning and thereby access the curriculum. This is of particular importance for children of lower socio-economic status and with a migration background who continue to underperform. [less ▲]

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