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Teachers’ pedagogic discourses around bilingual children: encounters with difference

Flynn, Judith Margaret (2015) Teachers’ pedagogic discourses around bilingual children: encounters with difference. Doctoral thesis (EdD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This thesis seeks to open up a professional context in relation to practice around teaching bilingual children to seek further insights for myself and other educational professionals. It can be argued that the only differences between bilingual or monolingual children are those of linguistic and cultural repertoire. Therefore understandings were sought about how these differences were understood within education. This qualitative study loosely adopted a grounded theory approach, involving note taking and observations within a large multi ethnic primary school in the North West of England where the large majority of children were developing their English as an additional language. To gain further insights into the basis of educational practice, six primary school teachers were interviewed in relation to their teaching of bilingual children. The researcher also reflexively engaged with the inquiry throughout so that there was a relational engagement with the data and knowledge construction. The usefulness of Foucauldian insights into power being dispersed and embedded in discourse became evident and this was explored within the teachers’ discourses using generative rather than reductive theorising. It was realised that language was integral to the social construction of any perceived reality around bilingual children. The study became to centre upon discursive contexts and the social, political and historical aspects that were implied. Within these contexts I was able to situate my own professional experience alongside those of the teachers in a critical exploration of practice. The emergence of the themes of invisibility and inaudibility of the languages of bilingual children became evident in the school discourses. Within a further level of poststructural analysis, Ricoeur’s wider and philosophical understandings of language together with Rancière’s insightful link of sensory perception to politics, leads to a new interpretation. This is one that depicts how perceptions of those involved in education may coalesce to avoid genuine linguistic and cultural encounters within school and education. It is suggested that many perceptions are upheld by questionable assumptions. These assumptions include notions such as language separation which are inscribed within narrow curricula with limited educational aims. The thesis concludes by indicating that a broader social acceptance is consequent upon meaningful linguistic and cultural encounters within the school experience, including special educational contexts, which seek to help children to translate (in a philosophical sense) their home and school identities. Innovative use of theory supports a reappraisal of pedagogy around bilingual learners that seeks to reconnect professionals to a research-based pedagogy that perceives children in local, national and international contexts.

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