Becoming bilingual: Funds of knowledge exchanged between school providers, educators and learners: Becoming Bilingual

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


Context and Aim
This presentation reports an ongoing integrated knowledge-exchange-within-research project involving the key stakeholders of school language leads/service providers, educators/teachers and learners/students across different education sectors, including: state versus independent sector modern foreign languages/MFL; mainstream (state or independent day schools) versus complementary (after-school/weekend heritage language) MFL; mainstream (tertiary/college, fee-paying or subsidised) versus community-based (charity/third-sector funded) English as an Additional Language/EAL or English for Speakers of Other Language (ESOL). It builds on our recent knowledge exchange series ‘Growing up bilingual’ (researcher-practitioner synergies) where academics and practitioners gathered to present and discuss their research findings and practice experiences from bilingual development (Lam & Layal, 2021), including those from our eponymous previous project (Husain & Lam, 2021).

Central to the current project are cross-sectoral peer observations and triadic (educators and learners, with providers) ‘innovation networks’ focus groups (Rothgang & Lageman, 2018). While extant research has trialled two-way/dyadic cross-sector (complementary/mainstream) teacher exchange with mutually beneficial results (Kenner, & Ruby, 2012), the importance of including the learner’s (as practice recipient) perspective has now been widely acknowledged (Cushing et al., 2021). Institutional and contextual remits should also be considered and these are not typically heard from the providers’ accounts. Innovation networks, which consider all of ‘actors’, KE ‘contents’ and ‘contexts’, have seen fruitful exchanges or co-creation in other sectors (e.g., IT; Rothgang & Lageman, 2018).

The chief aim of the project is to share, co-create and document funds of knowledge (Brazil, 2022) that are exchanged among providers, educators and learners across sectors of language education and can optimise learners’ journeys towards becoming bilingual. The presentation will focus on themes from peer observations and innovation networks as the key knowledge-exchange tools/activities that generate research data and drive potential interventions.

Fieldwork and Methodology
The peer observations are taking place in early Summer Term, with innovation networks to follow through the term. While most peer observations are taking place in this Spring term, most innovation networks will take place from late Spring into the Summer term. The observer-partners (educators and learners) are recruited through the Association of Language Learning, Newham Partnership for Complementary Education and Richmond EAL Friendship Group. Up to 24 (4 leaders/ providers, 10 educators and 10 learners) participants are involved in the activities who work or study in secondary, further or adult education across London. Most peer observations are performed in the ‘observed’s’ classrooms, but a minority will have other settings (language with cooking, ‘walk & talk’, arts and crafts) as creative practices. Each innovation-network focus group will take place shortly after mutual observations face-to-face.

While a considerable part of the focus groups will be based on the peer observations, other realms of knowledge will also address gaps in the literature and shared practice, in particular: catering to classes with diverse abilities in, and motivations for. language learning; boosting disadvantaged learners’ class engagement; creative language teaching/learning with limited/ under-resourcing; conditions that the sectors have in common.

While the innovative-network focus group data will be open-ended/qualitative and primarily inductively analysed (thematic analysis), indicators of impact from participants (subject and teaching or learning confidence, and application of knowledge exchange from the activities) before and after the peer observations and focus groups will also be collected which will be systematically compared (statistically) to assess the impact of these main project activities.

Findings and Implications
Post-analysis and before presenting at the conference, preliminary themes as documentable funds of knowledge exchange that can best corroborate and develop best practice from each sector/provision will be shared with the participants as checks for clarity and transparency in research practice. Beyond the academic community, findings and practice recommendations will be disseminated with a feedback survey to non-participants across the sectors, followed by an open forum for all stakeholders to discuss the findings and refine the recommendations. While this project focuses on secondary-age and above education provisions in London only, subject to the findings, feedback and recommendations, there will be scope to ‘upscale’ the programme to include the primary sector and other locations and stakeholders (e.g., parents) to build on the ‘funds of knowledge’ (Brazil, 2022) from further work involving knowledge-exchange-with-research.

Brazil, M. (2022). The power of a language-aware curriculum in multilingual classrooms. In K. Doull (ed.), Teaching a diverse primary curriculum. London: SAGE.
Cushing, I., Georgiou, A. & Karatsareas, P. (2021). Where two worlds meet: language policing in mainstream and complementary schools in England. International Journal of Bilingual Education & Bilingualism. Published online.
Husain, L. & Lam, V. (2021). Growing up bilingual: language proficiency, social identities and competences of complementary school-attendees and non-attendees in the UK. Language & Education. Published online.
Kenner, C. & Ruby, M. (2012). Co-constructing bilingual learning: an equal exchange of strategies between complementary and mainstream teachers. Language & Education, 26(6), 517-535.
Lam, V. & Husain, L. (2021). Beginnings for bilingual bridges. The Psychologist, 15th November, 2021. The British Psychological Society.
Rothgang, M. & Lageman, B. (2018). Structural characteristics of knowledge exchange in innovation networks. International Journal of Computational Economics & Econometrics, 8(3-4), 280-300.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2023

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