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Teachers’ Perspectives, Practices and Challenges in Multilingual Education

Edited By Nagore Ipiña Larrañaga, Ainara Imaz Agirre, Begoña Pedrosa and Eneritz Garro

The aim of this book is to address teachers’ perspectives, practices and challenges in multilingual education. The book that brings together perspectives and practices in multilingual contexts could be of great interest for researchers, practitioners and stakeholders because it also provides ideas for pedagogical practice and new language policies. It covers key concepts such as emotional aspects of multilingualism, innovation in language teaching and teacher training and challenges in (foreign) language teaching.

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The collection of chapters in this book is not accidental. The chapters presented in this Festschrift in Honor of Pilar Sagasta are a result of a long collaboration among researchers and different institutions. Therefore, it is not unexpected that this intense collaboration and exchange of discussions and experiences have encouraged us to embark on a special project about multilingual education. In fact, a major concern in preparing this volume has been the desire to reflect Pilar Sagasta’s dedication to the development of multilingual education.

Pilar Sagasta labored under the illusion of posing new questions and giving meaningful answers to everyday worries. In that line, she has continuously carried out studies comprising key aspects on multilingual education and has recognised the importance of academia as well as practitioners and students on her work. In finding the balance between theory and practice, Pilar Sagasta’s approach to multilingual education has always been holistic and has considered developmental aspects, emotional variables, curricular perspectives, methodological approaches and sociocultural contexts in both pre-service and in-service Teacher Education. Therefore, it is not an easy task for us to show some instances of her committed work in this introductory section.

We have learnt about a different way to approach multilingual education with Pilar Sagasta. As shown in the first paragraphs, one of her main insistences has always been to involve the educational community and to respect all the voices. Moreover, the culture of each educational institution, the responsibility towards each sociocultural context, and the importance of interactional patterns among all actors were some of her guiding principles. She has attempted to highlight and foster discussion of multilingual issues by recognising that multilingual education comprises a heterogeneous community of professionals, teachers, researchers and learners.

Sagasta, in a career that spans more than forty years, may be said to be an embodiment of multilingual education in our context. In this spirit, what you will find here is a gathering of voices that evoke the work, principles and relationships that comprise a portrait of Pilar Sagasta’s studies. Sagasta started her path by framing the complexity of additive bilingualism in third language acquisition and emphasising the importance of students’ linguistic repertoire in contexts where a minority language is the main language of instruction at schools. Her first works derived into a constant effort on adapting and updating pre-service teachers’ curriculum. In doing so, Sagasta conducted rigorous studies to analyse ←9 | 10→critically the impact of the multilingual curriculum fostered in our teacher education degrees from different perspectives.

In that vein, she has published a big bunch of articles on the process of reengineering language education at tertiary level with the aim of sharing the lights and shadows with the educational community. In that context, Sagasta has analysed the impact of the multilingual curriculum on students’ language-competence development, and has deepened into contextual and emotional aspects. Hence, she has analysed student teachers’ attitudes towards the languages in the curriculum (Basque, Spanish and English) and emphasised the idea that attitudes are not developed in an isolated way in settings where languages are in contact and they are all used in the curriculum. Sagasta has claimed for a holistic approach in contexts in which students are exposed to several languages and multilingualism is the aim. Her work has therefore explicitly shown evidence of the connection and dynamic nature of languages, and along this line, Sagasta has worked on the idea that teachers should promote and bring into the classroom practice new insights regarding the attitudinal linguistic landscape present in each of their students and work on them from a holistic perspective.

Sagasta has always identified the challenges in multilingual education and been in line with the research agenda proposed in international discussions. Her latest work is an example of it as it focuses on spontaneous translanguaging practices enacted by emergent trilinguals. As regards language education approaches, Sagasta has investigated the impact of Content and Language Integrated Learning in multilingual contexts, provided tools to better understand the nature of integration and contributed to the discussion going on in the academic arena. Likewise, she has fostered and adopted a learner-centred approach in tertiary education and examined the opportunities to develop Pluriliteracies Teaching for Learning approach in our context.

Sagasta’s honest and brave research perspective could also be observed in the studies carried out intertwining digital literacy and multilingual education or the analysis of tools such as video playback to promote teacher learning and analyse patterns of reflection. Sagasta believes that reflective practice paves the way to the professionalization of teaching because it helps future teachers learn from experience and build professional knowledge. Her studies on the area confirm that reflective practice could elicit high levels of reflection but suggest that the process of reflection should be scaffolded. Thus, student teachers’ reflection was her worry. In fact, she has also examined the role of the facilitator or the teacher educator in promoting deeper thinking concluding that a culture of inquiry should be promoted to foster deeper reflection. Following the same idea and in line with her commitment with the community, Sagasta has analysed the ←10 | 11→impact of Professional Learning Communities on language educators’ professional development. Sagasta has provided accounts on how teacher educators can grow together and asserted that promoting a collaborative inquiry among teacher educators is needed at all educational levels.

As shown in this short review, Sagasta’s aim has always been to better fine tune multilingual education in our context and to contribute to the international agenda from the perspective of educational practice, institutional curricula and pre-service and in-service students’ engagement. Nevertheless, Sagasta is still critical with the development of the research studies on multilingual education. Conscious that studies on multilingual education have expanded exponentially from many points of view (theoretical scope, descriptive perspective and methodological aspects among others), Sagasta posits that more research is still needed to deeper understanding of how languages are learned when the context is uncertain, diverse and global.

The aim of this edited volume is therefore to gain some new insights and address pre-service and in-service teachers’ practices, perspectives and challenges in multilingual education. Thus, this is a volume that provides ideas for pedagogical practice and new language policies for researchers, practitioners and stakeholders, i.e. educational community. In line with Sagasta’s contributions, each chapter presents conceptions in multilingual education which pose new questions and provide new evidence to reflect on new challenges in multilingual pedagogies. The issues covered present new data in different contexts: perception on English as a Foreign Language (EFL) practices in pre-service teaching education contexts, secondary school professionals’ views on multilingual education, holistic approaches towards multilingualism in teacher education and reflective practice techniques in pre-service teacher education.

Chapter 1 focuses on pedagogical translanguaging and examines multilingual speakers’ perceptions of multilingualism. Cenoz and Gorter emphasise the importance of integrating languages in the curriculum and promoting coordination among teachers to take advantage of multilingual learners’ linguistic resources in their learning processes. It also examines multilingual speakers’ perceptions on issues such as the advantages and disadvantages of multilingualism.

In Chapter 2 Garro, Perez-Lizarralde and Lersundi present perceptions of secondary school teachers about language teaching approaches in a multilingual context. The aim of the study is to analyse teachers’ previous experiences, attitudes and perceptions. Researchers carried out five group interviews with 15 teachers, both language teachers and non-linguistic subject teachers, and proposed future challenges as regards language education.

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In Chapter 3, Schlöffel and Wendeborn present a work contextualised in Germany. Their work explains a two-year project that aims at providing physical education teachers methodological and reflective competencies to teach through a second language. Results presented from this study show that teachers are concerned about the development of methodological and reflective competencies when teaching in a second language.

Chapter 4 presents a research study carried with pre-service teachers throughout their teaching practice period. Iriondo, Plazaola and Zulaika present a study where learners’ awareness on their language instruction teaching performance is promoted by means of self-confrontation and peer confrontations sessions. Throughout the action research process, highly complex phenomena are identified. The study also draws evidence of the need for collaboration agreements between schools and universities.

Flores’s study in Chapter 5 shows the process followed to design the Effective CLIL Teaching Practice (ECTP) for pre-service Teacher Education and some of the results obtained as a consequence of using the ECTP tool. This study contributes to the multilingual ethos by dealing in depth with content and language integrated learning (CLIL) in Higher Education and by emphasising the importance of Teacher Education.

Chapter 6 presents three teaching and research experiences in the Catalan context implemented in University of Vic. Casas, Comajoan, Medina and Vallbona present a discussion on the changes in the education system as far as language teaching is concerned, and illustrate the challenges faced by faculties of education that train future teachers. The aim of such practices is to improve teacher performance in all levels of education.

Ipiña and Pedrosa’s study in Chapter 7 analyses how teaching education students perceive multilingual practices based on factors and variables developed by van Lier’s (2004) ecological perspective. Focus groups with student teachers and semi-structured interviews with teacher educators were carried out and the results show that the practices conducted are perceived as meaningful by the participants as a way to foster multilingualism.

Imaz Agirre and Bikuña in Chapter 8 aimed at examining the challenges 40 pre-service and in-service EFL teachers encounter. Teachers in the semi-structured interviews identify further insights in terms of teacher training, methodological issues in foreign language teaching and multilingualism and the use of the foreign language.

The volume is closed with Coyle’s concluding remarks. This chapter summarises the challenges faced in multilingual education over the time from an international perspective. The author pays special attention to subject literacy ←12 | 13→development and language learning development to foster multilingual education. The chapter provides deep insight into research studies carried out in different contexts as well as a reflection on key issues. Consequently, a new research agenda is presented in this chapter.

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