“I feel this challenge - but I don't have the background”: teachers’ responses to their bilingual pupils in 6 Scottish primary schools: an ethnographic study.
The Open University.
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The central question of this research project may be stated as 'What are the beliefs about best practice whic influence non-specialist mainstream class teachers when teaching bilingual pupils and how have these beliefs been formed?' This thesis reports on an investigation into the influences on mainstream teachers' practice as they respond to the needs of bilingual children in primary classrooms in the area of Scotland which, until 1996, formed Strathclyde Region. The research reported in this thesis derived from Smyth and McKee (1996) which found that newly qualifying teachers in Scotland did not feel equipped to support bilingual learners in the classroom. a multi-site case study was conducted in twelve classrooms in six education authorities using non-participant observation and interviews with class teachers. The transcriptions of the interviews were analysed to find the cultural models which inform teachers' practice. This analysis found that the Master Model which informed teachers' practice in the context being researched was that bilingual pupils need to become monolingual to succeed. This master model helps to shape and organise the teachers' beliefs and leads to a number of related cultural models. This thesis discusses three of these: Parents who do not speak English hinder the child's academic progress, by definition, their ability to become monolingual; the role of schools and literacy events is to promote monolingualism; those bilingual learners who do not fit the 'Master Model' i.e. those who do not operate monolingually in the dominant language are problematic and require learning support. The cultural models which were found to influence the teachers' practices were not exclusive to teachers in one school or of a certain length of experience, but were found to pertain across the sample of seventeen teachers, albeit with overlaps and internal contradictions. The subtractive view of bilingualism which was found to dominate the Cultural Models in the policy vacuum that exists as regards education for bilingual children in Scotland has been shown (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1981; Cummins, 1984; Gibbons, 1991; Thomas and Collier, 1997) to have long-term detrimental effects on bilingual children’s educational achievement
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