Kari Bratland and Elena Tkachenko

Second language students in early childhood education and their meeting with new academic literacy practices


Wednesday 6 November, 14.00-14.30, B1005

There is a growing number of students in pre-school teacher education who are ethnically and culturally diverse, and students who are second language (L2) users of the Norwegian language. Higher education insitutions should provide all student groups with equal opportunities for learning outcomes and create an inclusive learning environment. Students who are L2 users of Norwegian may have challenges in the educational system when they meet a new "text universe" of the academy and in profession. By “text” we mean an expanded text concept, which includes both written (practice report, examination paper, essay) and oral (class/group discussion, oral exam) texts. 

During the last years we have done R&D projects linked to language tutoring of multilingual preschool teacher students. In our presentation we will draw on these experiences to illustrate the various dilemmas and challenges that students face. Our overall goal is to discuss possible directions for the development of a learning environment that will give all students equal opportunities for learning and personal development, in their higher education, and later as professionals. 

Our experience is that the higher education may be shaped by essentialist view of language, where language skills are supposed to be acquired before students start in a regular study programme. Thus, higher education institutions have not traditionally considered development of language skills as a part of the professional study programmes, and L2 students who are in the process of developing the second language at the same time as they follow the study programme in their L2, often struggle with the assignments and exams. However, acquiring professional knowledge and learning the language are not separate entities. Thus, developing linguistic skills should be considered as part of the professional learning process. 

For students who have Norwegian as their L2, or who have a home culture that is very different from the one they face in the educational system, it may be difficult to understand new literacy practices and the norms and expectations that are sometimes taken for granted, and they may spend much time and effort trying to identify the framework and rules/norms for what is expected from them in the course requirements and/or what counts as a good text in higher education. We argue that higher education insitutions should clearly communicate their norms and rules and make literacy practices more transparent. Increasing awareness of the norms of different cultures can enhance the learning environment not only for students with L2 Norwegian, but for all students. 

Our theoretical background in this work is contrastive rhetoric (Connor 1996, Connor et al. 2008, Kubota & Lehner 2004), a theory that compares textual norms in different cultures. We also use language socialization theory, since education is an important step to be socialized into a profession, it also means being socialized into a text culture (Ivanic et al. 2000). We draw also on approaches to academic literacy derived from postcolonial theories (Canagaraja 2002, Lillis 1997, 2003, Zamel & Spack 2004, Turner 2011). 

Canagarajah, S. (2002). "Multilingual writers and the academic community: towards a critical relationship." Journal of English for Academic Purposes 1: 29–44. 
Connor, U. (1996). Contrastive rhetoric : cross-cultural aspects of second-language writing. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. 
Connor, U., E. Nagelhout, et al. (2008). Contrastive rhetoric : reaching to intercultural rhetoric, John Benjamins. 
Ivanic, R., D. Barton, et al. (2000). Situated literacies : reading and writing in context. London, Routledge. 
Kubota, R. and A. Lehner (2004). "Toward critical contrastive rhetoric." Journal of Second Language Writing 13: 7-27. 
Lillis, T. (1997). "New Voices in Academia? The regulative nature of academic writing conventions." Language and Education 11(3): 182-199. 
Lillis, T. (2003). "Student Writing as ”Academic Literacies”: Drawing on Bakhtin to move from Critique to Design." Language and Education 17(3): 192-207. 
Turner, J. (2011). Language in the academy: cultural reflexivity and intercultural dynamics. Bristol, Multilingual matters. 
Zamel, V. and R. Spack, Eds. (2004). Crossing the curriculum: Multilingual learners in college classrooms. New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Ass.