Reference : Multilingualism and Early Education: An Ethnography of Language Practices and Process...
Dissertations and theses : Doctoral thesis
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Education & instruction
Multilingualism and Early Education: An Ethnography of Language Practices and Processes of Institutionalisation in Luxembourgish Early Childcare Settings
Seele, Claudia mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Integrative Research Unit: Social and Individual Development (INSIDE) >]
University of Luxembourg, ​Esch-sur-Alzette, ​​Luxembourg
Docteur en Sciences de l'Education
Honig, Michael-Sebastian mailto
Weber, Jean-Jacques mailto
de Saint, Ingrid mailto
Neumann, Sascha mailto
Kelle, Helga mailto
[en] multilingualism ; early childhood education and care ; educational ethnography ; sociolinguistic ethnography ; institutionalisation ; Luxembourg
[en] During the last twenty years, the Luxembourgish system of early childhood education and care (ECEC) has been undergoing some considerable transformations in light of growing demands by social, economic and educational policies. In the multilingual context of Luxembourg, these demands are especially complex, ranging from language promotion and school preparation to contributing to social cohesion and to the integration of a heterogeneous society. The early educational practice today is thus confronted with multiple, at times also divergent expectations. Instead of asking how effectively educational practices might meet these demands and expectations, my research rather takes a non-normative approach by investigating how multilingualism is actually dealt with in the everyday practice of the day care centres.
Drawing on praxeological and institutional perspectives as analytical tools, the thesis aims at a better understanding of the everyday accomplishment of the early educational practice in light of these societal developments. Language is thus regarded as a social practice, putting the focus on the actual doing of language and its contribution to the practical enactment of an institutional order. Institutionalisation, here, is understood as the intricate processes of referring and answering to external expectations in everyday practice in order to negotiate what ‘early childhood education and care’ actually is and means. Hence, not everything that happens in educational fields is per se ‘education’; rather it has to be performed and practically constituted as such in response to certain institutionalised norms, values and expectations.
In order to investigate how language practices contribute to processes of institutionalisation in ECEC, an ethnographic research has been carried out in three state-funded Luxembourgish day care centres over the course of three years. Pertinent questions that guided my observations and analyses were for example: What different kinds of language practices can be observed in the centres? How are these language practices, on the one hand, conducive to the accomplishment of an institutional order and are, on the other hand, themselves constrained by this order? What are the respective parts of adults and children in these processes? How is early education thereby constituted but also challenged or transformed?
Data analysis is based on a reflexive and constructivist Grounded Theory approach and yielded several interrelated aspects of language-mediated institutionalisation processes: First, language serves to constitute institutional boundaries and to differentiate the pedagogical social space from the ‘outside’ or ‘everyday’ world. Second, language also contributes to the creation of an institutional order ‘inside’ this pedagogical space and helps to position actors within this order. Third, language is part of processes of routinisation and incorporation that serve to stabilise the institutional practice. Finally, language is also involved in representing the early educational practice vis-à-vis its constitutive outside, such as the family and the school, thus supporting its claims to legitimacy. These processes, however, are not as straightforward as it may seem, because language also plays a part in destabilising processes of institutionalisation and bringing forward institutional changes. For example, language practices also transcend and fracture the monolingual imaginings of pedagogical space. They may not only constitute and support but also challenge and resist the institutional order as well as question its legitimacy.
The study raises some important further questions that are addressed in the final chapter: How can ethnographic research contribute to processes of practice development in ECEC? How do institutional factors both enable and constrain the early educational practice? In what ways do the children themselves contribute to the practical accomplishment of early educational realities? What are the limitations of the study and further lines of inquiry for future research?
FNR - Fonds National de la Recherche, Luxembourg

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