Teaching subjects as languages: academic English development in the multilingual post-primary classroom

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Collins, Mandy Jane
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University College Cork
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This action research study explores three classroom interventions in the context of Biology and Religion transition year classes (15 year old pupils) to answer these research questions: 1. How can academic language development be integrated into mainstream curriculum lessons to the benefit of all pupils in a multilingual post-primary context? 2. What are pupils’ and teachers’ attitudes towards classroom interventions designed to integrate academic language development into lessons? The study includes a detailed description of the post-primary educational context of Ireland and discusses ethical issues pertaining to school-based research. It reviews the literature around academic English, particularly at post-primary level. By analysing public examination papers, classroom texts and classwork written by pupil participants, this study offers a description of post-primary academic English specific to this context in real terms. Systemic functional linguistics, particularly genre theory, provides the linguistic theoretical framework, with sociocultural perspectives based on the work of Vygotsky providing the theory of learning. Language is integral to learning. As academic English development supports subject content learning, it should be a feature of all subject lessons, pre-planned and spontaneous. There is evidence of a lack of awareness of the importance of academic English development at all levels of the education system. Initial teacher education and continuing professional development for serving teachers is required to equip all teachers to integrate academic English development into their mainstream subject lessons. This will also address English as an additional language (EAL) and promote the ideal of plurilingualism. The study recommends raising linguistic awareness, in particular through teacher education, to the benefit of all post-primary pupils.
Irish post-primary education , Ireland , L. Vygotsky , M. A. K. Halliday , Teacher Acts, Class Speaks (TACS) , Academic English , Multilingual classroom , Applied linguistics , Linguistic analysis , Thematic analysis , Genre , Action research , Linguistic awareness
Collins, M. J. 2016. Teaching subjects as languages: academic English development in the multilingual post-primary classroom. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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