The academic, linguistic and social development of bilingual pupils in secondary education: issues of diagnosis, pedagogy and culture

Moore, Alex J. (1995). The academic, linguistic and social development of bilingual pupils in secondary education: issues of diagnosis, pedagogy and culture. PhD thesis The Open University.



Different pedagogical and curricular approaches to bilingual pupils are examined at two institutions.

At the first institution, an off-site language unit, bilingual pupils are shown to be denied access to the full range of normal classroom discourses, being denied opportunities to initiate discussions, ask questions or work in small groups. When pupils attempt to take control of discourses themselves, their cognitive-linguistic inputs, imperfectly expressed, are often interpreted as incorrect. Typically, existing language and learning skills, including first-language skills, are not taken into account by teachers, and cognitive levels are set at levels commensurate with the pupils' second-language, rather than first-language, competences. This pedagogical approach, described as 'language led', results in pupils engaging in language-learning activities far below those appropriate to their chronological ages.

At the second institution, a mainstream comprehensive school, bilingual pupils are shown ostensibly to be provided access to a curriculum appropriate to their chronological ages, and to the full range of normal classroom discourses. It is argued, however, that particular discursive forms and genres imported into the classroom from 'out-of-school' cultures - for example, preferred ways of writing and drawing - are treated by teachers as incorrect and as symptoms of pupil deficiency. This results in unhelpful pedagogies which inhibit pupils' linguistic-academic development.

The thesis concludes by describing classroom situations in which more helpful pedagogical approaches are adopted, through teachers 'distancing themselves' from their own and their pupils' cultural preferences and through treating alternative forms of representation as different rather than as merely wrong. Such teachers adopt a policy of extending their pupils, cultural-representational repertoires, rather than seeking to replace one set of cultural forms with another. The thesis questions the extent to which teachers can, through such approaches, mount an effective challenge to existing perceptions that certain forms of representation are intrinsically superior to others.

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