Expanded Agency in Multilingual Science Teacher Training Classrooms

  • Silvia Lizette Ramos-De Robles
  • Mariona EspinetEmail author
Part of the Cultural Studies of Science Education book series (CSSE, volume 8)


Most European science classrooms are at present constituted as multilingual learning communities where two or three languages are used as resources to construct meaning. The CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) approach is being extended in basic and higher education institutions, thus placing new educational demands on science teachers and science teacher trainers. The main aim of this approach is to promote language immersion teaching where a new foreign language and content (mathematics, science, history, etc.) are learned simultaneously. This chapter explores the use of this approach for the promotion of preservice science teachers’ participation in the acquisition of new discipline-specific knowledge (science) and new communicative competences (learning English).

The diversity of resources (material and human) that are present within such educational contexts contributes to making them complex interactional social spaces. We consider that sociocultural approaches are powerful lenses through which to see the diversity of ways multilingual (Catalan/Castilian) student teachers construct meaning and reach science education activity goals. Our unit of analysis is students’ agency in using those resources. Our question is on how students expand their agency in the use of multimodal resources as a way of overcoming the difficulties derived from the need to construct a scientific explanation of natural phenomena using English as a foreign language.

To answer this question, we present a microanalysis of small-group interactions during an experimental activity when modeling the natural phenomena of plant growth. Students’ interactions were analyzed using a sociocultural perspective as a theoretical and methodological framework. In addition to the sociocultural perspective, we used conversational analysis tools to analyze discursive interactions. The data collection strategies included video recording of small-group interactions and a subsequent microanalysis of selective vignettes.

Analyzing the complexity inherent to CLIL science classrooms from a sociocultural perspective has helped us to identify the students’ diversity in enacting their agency. The uneven distribution of their own social and cultural capital, as well as the use of resources in a creative manner, transformed communicative difficulties into opportunities. These were characterized as leading to communicative synchrony and solidarity where partially distributed competences enriched the individual/collective dialectic. If European science teachers need to be able to simultaneously teach science and a foreign language such as English, we need to change our vision of what a competent communicative student in science is. This study provides evidence to support that multilingualism in science classrooms as a consequence of today’s globalization can be a richer context for science learning than we might think.


Science Education Science Teacher Foreign Language Student Teacher Cultural Capital 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Supported by Spanish MCYT grant (EDU-2012-38022-C02-02; Catalan PRI 2009SGR1543 and Spanish MICINN grant EDU2010-15783- subprogram EDUC).


  1. Atkinson, J. M., & Heritage, J. (1984). Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bourdieu, P. (1988). La Distinción. Criterio y bases sociales del gusto. Madrid: Taurus.Google Scholar
  3. Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Commission of the European Communities. (2007). High level group on multilingualism. Final report. Belgium: Official Publications of the European Communities.Google Scholar
  5. Drew, P., & Heritage, J. (1992). Analyzing talk at work: An introduction. In P. Drew & J. Heritage (Eds.), Talk at work: Interaction in institutional settings (pp. 3–65). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Espinet, M., Izquierdo, M., Bonil, J., & Ramos, L. (2012). The role of language in modeling the natural world: Perspectives in science education. In B. Fraser, K. Tobin, & C. McRobbie (Eds.), Second international handbook of research in science education. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  7. Goldin-Meadow, S. (2004). Gesture’s role in the learning process. Theory into Practice, 43, 314–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Kelly, G. (2007). Discourse in science classrooms. In S. Abell & N. Lederman (Eds.), International handbook of research on science education. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  9. Kress, G., Jewitt, C., Ogborn, J., & Tsatsarelis, C. (2001). Multimodal teaching and learning: The rhetorics of the science classroom. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  10. Lemke, J. (1998). Multiplying meaning: Visual and verbal semiotics in scientific text. In J. R. Martin & R. Veel (Eds.), Reading science (pp. 87–113). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Márquez, C., Izquierdo, M., & Espinet, M. (2006). Multimodal science teachers’ discourse in modeling the water cycle. Science Education, 90(2), 202–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Masats, D., Feixas, M., Couso, D., & Espinet, M. (2006, July). La docència en anglès en assignatures no-lingüístiques a la titulació de Mestre Especialitat Llengua Estrangera. Presented at the 3rd International Congress of University Teaching and Innovation, Barcelona.Google Scholar
  13. McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and mind: What gesture reveals about thought. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Pozzer-Ardenghi, L., & Roth, W.-M. (2007). On performing concepts during science lectures. Science Education, 91, 96–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ramos, S. L. (2010). Contextos CLIL para la formación inicial del profesorado de ciencias: análisis de la interacción desde una perspectiva sociocultural. Doctoral thesis, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona.…//slrr1de1.pdf
  16. Ramos, L., & Espinet, M. (2011, September 5–9). Using English to build scientific explanations: A sociocultural analysis of interactions. In European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) Conference, Lyon, France.Google Scholar
  17. Ramos, S.L., & Espinet, M. (2013). Una propuesta fundamentada para analizar la interacción de contextos AICLE en la formación inicial de profesores de ciencias. Enseñanza de las Ciencias, 31(2).Google Scholar
  18. Roth, W.-M., & Tobin, K. (2006). Announcing cultural studies of science education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 1, 1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sewell, W. (1992). A theory of structure: Duality, agency and transformation. The American Journal of Sociology, 98, 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Tobin, K. (2007). Collaborating with students to produce success in science. Journal of Science and Mathematics Education in Southeast Asia, 30(2), 1–43.Google Scholar
  21. Tobin, K. (2008). Structuring success in science labs. In A. J. Rodríguez (Ed.), The multiple faces of agency: Innovative strategies for effecting change in urban contexts (pp. 83–102). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  22. Tobin, K. (2010). Reproducir y transformar la didáctica de las ciencias en un ambiente colaborativo. Enseñanza de las Ciencias, 28(3), 301–314.Google Scholar
  23. Tobin, K., & Roth, W.-M. (2006). Teaching to learn: A view from the field. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  24. Van Eijck, M. (2009). Scientific literacy: Past research, present conceptions and future developments. In W.-M. Roth, & K. Tobin (Eds.), The world of science education: Handbook of research in North America (pp. 245). Rotterdam/Boston: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  25. Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvia Lizette Ramos-De Robles
    • 1
  • Mariona Espinet
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of GuadalajaraGuadalajaraMexico
  2. 2.Departament de Didàctica de la Matemàtica i de les Ciències ExperimentalsUniversitat Autònoma de Barcelona(Barcelona)Spain

Personalised recommendations