Linguistic capital of trainee teachers: knowledge worth having?

Safford, Kimberly and Kelly, Alison (2010). Linguistic capital of trainee teachers: knowledge worth having? Language and Education, 24(5) pp. 401–414.



This research is an interpretive study of individual and institutional language practices based on an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from a large higher education institute of teacher training in Britain. The study explores dimensions of teacher professionalism in relation to language and examines the 'invisible' linguistic and cultural capital (cf Ellis 2004) of multilingual, minority ethnic student teachers. This capital is a potentially powerful contribution to student teacher pedagogy and professionalism, but in the two key domains of teacher education (university and school) where practitioner 'funds of knowledge' are manifested in events and activities (Moll & Greenberg 1990) the study reveals how multilingual student teachers struggle to create or access events and activities where they can demonstrate and develop their 'knowledge in action' (Schön 1987). The discussion frames multilingual student teachers and multilingual pupils as mirror participants in monolingual institutions and explores issues of subordination, investment and empowerment in relation to language use (Norton 1997; Lee and Norton, in press) as research participants describe their experiences of training to operate in a curriculum which offers little meaningful space for linguistic diversity (cf Heller 1995). The study presents multilingual student teachers as multi-competent language users (Pavlenko 2003) who could positively influence wider pedagogic knowledge and practices (and, potentially, the attitudes and achievement of pupils) but who are prevented from activating and enacting their linguistic, cultural and community expertise through institutional and professional lack of recognition.

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