Reflecting on translanguaging by a monolingual: Is that paradoxical?

  • Philip ClarksonEmail author


This article is a reflection focused on Licona and Kelly’s (Cult Stud Sci Educ., 2019) paper dealing with translanguaging in science classrooms within a SSI context. I use a number of points that the authors of the original paper make to prompt my thinking about teaching in multilingual contexts, the most common type of classroom in the world. The original paper is a case study that has the advantage of dealing in depth with the specific details of the situation that unfolded. In this paper I try to place some of those issues in a much wider general context, something that is not available to the original authors since their methodology does not allow that to be done. I use my own work as a researcher of mathematics education (the crucial tale or tail-end of STEM/STEAM or maybe the foundation of the other branches?) both in Australia and Papua New Guinea and elsewhere to give a different context for this reflection, and occasionally experiences within my own family. I also write as a monolingual peering into the worlds of multilinguals, with all its inherent limitations and yet the position of many teachers and researchers. Taken together one hopes that these issues, first seen in the in-depth microstudy, then set against a much broader context, will help our peer community grasp again something of the importance of studying the language context of teaching/learning science.


Translanguaging Science education STEM teaching STEM learning Multilingual Spanish English teaching 



  1. Aguiar, O. (2016). Explanation, argumentation and dialogic interactions in science classrooms. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 11, 869–878. Scholar
  2. Barwell, R. (2016). Mathematics education, language and superdiversity. In A. Halai & P. C. Clarkson (Eds.), Teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms: Issues for policy, practice and teacher education (pp. 25–42). Rotterdam: Sense Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Borko, H., Roberts, S., & Shavelson, R. (2008). Teachers’ decision making: From Alan J. Bishop to today. In P. C. Clarkson & N. Presmeg (Eds.), Critical issues in mathematics education: Major contributions of Alan Bishop (pp. 37–69). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Clarkson, P. C. (1992). Language and mathematics: A comparison of bi and monolingual students of mathematics. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 23, 417–429. Scholar
  5. Clarkson, P. C. (1996). NESB migrant students studying mathematics: Vietnamese and Italian students in Melbourne. In L. Puig & A. Gutierrez (Eds.), Proceedings of the 20th conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (pp. 225–232). Valencia, Spain: International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education.Google Scholar
  6. Clarkson, P. C. (2004, Dec.). Researching the language for explanations in mathematics teaching and learning. Paper presented at the Australian Association of Research in Education annual conference.
  7. Clarkson, P. C. (2007). Australian Vietnamese students learning mathematics: High ability bilinguals and their use of their languages. Educational Studies in Mathematics., 64, 191–215. Scholar
  8. Clarkson, P. C. (2009a). Mathematics teaching in Australian classrooms: Developing an approach to the use of classroom languages. In R. Barwell (Ed.), Multilingualism in mathematics classrooms: Global perspectives (pp. 145–160). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clarkson, P. C. (2009b). Globalisation and mathematics teaching: The global importance of local language contexts. In J. Zajda & V. Rust (Eds.), Globalisation, policy and comparative research: Discourses of globalisation (pp. 135–156). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  10. Clarkson, P. C. (2016). The intertwining of politics and mathematics teaching in Papua New Guinea. In A. Halai & P. C. Clarkson (Eds.), Teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms: Issues for policy, practice and teacher education (pp. 43–56). Rotterdam: Sense Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clarkson, P. C., & Carter, L. (2017). Multilingual contexts: A new positioning for STEM teaching/learning. In K. Hahl, K. Juuti, J. Lampiselkä, A. Uitto, & J. Lavonen (Eds.), Cognitive and affective aspects in science education research (pp. 233–242). Cham: Springer. Scholar
  12. Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49(2), 222–251. Scholar
  13. Cummins, J. (2001). Language, power and pedagogy: Bilingual children in the crossfire. Clevedon: Mulilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  14. Gardner, P. (1976). Logical connectives in science: Some preliminary findings. Research in Science Education, 6(1), 97–108. Scholar
  15. Licona, P. R, & Kelly, G. J. (2019). Translanguaging in a middle school science classroom: Constructing scientific arguments in English and Spanish. Cultural Studies of Science Education. Scholar
  16. Lim, C. S., & Kor, L. (2011). Mathematics teachers communicative flexibility in multilingual classrooms. In M. Setati, T. Nkambule, & L. Goosen (Eds.), Proceedings of the ICMI Study 21 Conference: Mathematics and language diversity (pp. 168–176). Sào Paulo: ICMI.Google Scholar
  17. Muke, C., & Clarkson, P. C. (2011). Teaching mathematics in the Papua New Guinea Highlands: A complex multilingual context. In J. Clark, B. Kissane, J. Mousley, T. Spencer, & S. Thornton (Eds.), Mathematics: Traditions and [new] practices (pp. 540–547). Adelaide: AAMT and MERGA.Google Scholar
  18. Prediger, S., Clarkson, P. C., & Bose, A. (2015). Purposefully relating multilingual registers: Building theory and teaching strategies for bilingual learners based on an integration of three traditions. In R. Barwell, P. Clarkson, A. Halai, M. Kazima, J. Moschkovich, N. Planas, M. Phakeng, P. Valero, & M. Villavicencio (Eds.), Mathematics education and language diversity (The 21st ICMI Study) (pp. 193–215). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  19. Rocksen, M. (2016). The many roles of “explanation” in science education: A case study. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 11, 837–868. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education and ArtsAustralian Catholic UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations