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Participation and language learning in the multilingual pre-primary classroom

The purpose of this research is to investigate the construction of participation frameworks within contexts of multilingual preschool education - specifically while listening to a story during a preprimary classroom activity.

A culturally sensitive orientation and openness towards the heterogeneous resources of students from various cultural, social or ethnic backgrounds is a fundamental constituent of any sustainable learning approach, especially with reference to the motto of the European Union “United in Diversity”. A particular interest is to understand how students, who are starting to learn the curriculum language as a second or additional language, deal with the ongoing interaction during a classroom activity. Interactional competences such as noticing, focussing, processing and responding to cognitive and social stimulations have been recently introduced as learning outcomes by a reform of the national educational system in order to meet the demands of the knowledge society.

The main objective of this study is to understand collaborative learning processes in multicultural classrooms as taking place for instance in joint story reading. Our research is focussing on a preschool activity, where teachers negotiate with a group of multilingual students of Luxembourgish, Portuguese, Cap Verdean and Brazilian origins the construction of a participation framework during story reading. The study is sparked by the following questions

  • How does the joint construction of a participation framework takes place?
  • How does the nature of this process differ regarding two different classroom situations: a) a formal story-reading activity led by the teacher and b) an informal story-“reading” situation amongst peers?

Data are collected in Luxembourgish preschool classes with Lusophone and Luxembourgish students. The recordings center on children listening to a story told by the teacher and, later on, reading that same storybook in small groups without the adult. The joint construction of the participation framework is investigated through a sequence-by-sequence analysis emphasising the children “doing being” the listeners in the interactional context. The results shed light on topics such as positioning and negotiation of positioning, ratification of topics, relevance of a particular mode of interaction etc. They show different modes for sense making and interacting among the teachers and children, who construct the participation framework of listening by drawing upon moves, silence, interruptions and sequential turn allocation.

The significance of this research is substantial for conceiving sustainable learning environments in multilingual and -cultural preschool contexts.


For further information, please contact Delia Wirtz.