Expanded Agency in Multilingual Science Teacher Training Classrooms
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.
KeywordsScience Education Science Teacher Foreign Language Student Teacher Cultural Capital
Supported by Spanish MCYT grant (EDU-2012-38022-C02-02; Catalan PRI 2009SGR1543 and Spanish MICINN grant EDU2010-15783- subprogram EDUC).
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