Classroom Talk in Ghanaian Upper Primary Schools: Understanding English-Only, Teacher-Dominant Practices

Erling, Elizabeth J.; Safford, Kimberly and Tugli, Fritz Makafui (2022). Classroom Talk in Ghanaian Upper Primary Schools: Understanding English-Only, Teacher-Dominant Practices. In: Erling, Elizabeth J.; Clegg, John; Rubagumya, Casmir M. and Reilly, Colin eds. Multilingual Learning and Language Supportive Pedagogies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Routledge Series in Language and Content Integrated Teaching & Plurilingual Education. Routledge, pp. 79–98.



This chapter explores the status of talk for learning in Ghanaian upper primary school classrooms, where English is the official language of instruction and students, highly proficient in their home and community languages, have only emergent proficiency in English. It presents and discusses findings from empirical research in four Ghanaian government primary schools. Classroom observations reveal that lessons were highly transmissive, with two persistent and significant aspects of classroom practice and language use: (1) teachers use English as the language of virtually all classroom activity and (2) teachers use a limited repertoire of pedagogies, giving students few or no opportunities to speak in any language. Interview data provide insight into factors influencing these practices: (1) teachers believe that they are acting in students’ best interests by using English only and (2) teachers have limited awareness of multilingual pedagogies that support the development of content-related classroom talk; where teachers do have this knowledge, they feel that Ghana’s language-in-education policy leaves them no ‘implementational space’ to use multilingual pedagogies. This chapter closes by considering recommendations for policy and practice to encourage productive classroom talk, within the constraints of limited resources in Ghanaian government primary schools.

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