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[en] The present case-study based in multilingual Luxembourg reports on the influence of professional development on two preschool teachers’ attitudes towards multilingual education and their emerging multilingual practices.
The need for multilingual pedagogies has been recognized and several countries in Europe have implemented multilingual programs in early childhood (García, Lin, & May, 2017; Panagiotopoulou, 2016). Nevertheless, practices often remain monolingual and focus on the development of the majority language (Kratzmann et al., 2017). In Luxembourg, new laws were voted in 2017 that require preschool teachers to develop the three-to-five
-year-olds’ skills in Luxembourgish, familiarize them with French, and value home languages. Before 2017, the language policy focused on Luxembourgish. Nevertheless, some teachers had implemented multilingual practices to address the diverse language needs of the children (Kirsch, 2017). In 2015/16, 63,5 % of the four-year-olds did not speak Luxembourgish as a home language (MENJE, 2017).
To develop inclusive multilingual practices, researchers at the University of Luxembourg developed a professional development program (thereafter PD) based on the pedagogy of translanguaging (García et al., 2017). The latter is supportive of social justice, places the learners at the centre and gives them some agency over their language use. The 30-hour program was collaborative and inquiry-based and included coaching. The practitioners were invited to implement activities based on books and rhymes in several languages and video-record these activities. The professionals reflected on their practices in the meetings.
The research project drew on both qualitative and quantitative research methods. The data collection drew on a questionnaire completed before, during and after the PD; six interviews; six observations of the course and 15 video-recorded classroom activities; four coaching reports and emails after the coaching. The methods of data analysis include paired samples t-test, correlational analysis and content analysis (Braun & Clark, 2006).
The findings show a positive effect of PD on the teachers’ knowledge about language learning and their attitudes towards multilingual education. At the beginning of the course, both teachers were influenced by the monolingual language policy in place, parental expectation, and the belief that children learn less Luxembourgish if they encountered other languages. The initial sceptics changed once the teachers began to implement activities in French and home languages, and realized the children’s motivation,engagement and continued progress in Luxembourgish. Both incorporated rituals and regular activities that drew on multiple languages. Both repeatedly acknowledged the impact of the PD, stating that the instruction, the reflection on their activities and the feedback helped them develop different perspectives on their own teaching.
The findings of this study confirm that long-term, collaborative and inquiry-based professional development can be transformative (Gaikhorst et al., 2017; Kennedy, 2005; Prenger et al., 2017). They also contribute to the dearth of literature on PD on multilingual education in early years (Egert, 2015).