Unpacking multilingual pedagogic practices to realise the potential of multiling

In this series of posts, I’ll be sharing my ideas and experiences of working with multilingual students within monolingual higher education institutions. Like with the previous posts (https://t.co/bBIUxxwt3w), I’m hoping these ideas and experiences will help colleagues in similar learning-teaching contexts to realise the potential of their multilingual students.

The first task described in the series requires students in groups of three to discuss different definitions, understandings, and uses of the terms “leaders” and “managers”. The information they gather should focus on how cultures, beliefs and knowledge systems may have defined these terms, thus they should be encouraged to use any of the languages they know. Once they have critically analysed the information collected, they need to share their analysis with the group in the language used for teaching.

After the different groups have finished their discussion, they may be invited to share the results of their discussions in a plenary session.

Example task: “Leaders” and “Managers”: definitions, understandings, and uses

You’re going to discuss approaches to defining, understanding, and using the terms “leaders” and “managers”. In particular, the discussion will focus on how cultures, beliefs and knowledge systems may have shaped how these terms are defined, understood and used in a particular cultural context.

To gather information about these terms, you can read texts written in any of your linguistic repertoires. To discuss the terms, you will present an analytical summary of what you have read in English so that the other two members of your group can contribute to the discussion. Explain whether and how you think culture, beliefs and knowledge systems have helped to shape the information you have read. To complete the task, draw comparisons between the definitions, understandings, and uses of the two terms.

If you wish, you could use the diagram below to organise your comparisons.

Finally, be prepared to share the results of your discussion with the rest of the class. When you share the results, think of how

  • you have met the requirements of the task,
  • culture, beliefs, knowledge systems may have shaped the concepts investigated, and
  • using your linguistic resources has helped you to do the task.

2- Unlocking our students’ multilingual resources

“When schools overlook the multilinguistic nature of our society, children are the ones who suffer – they are pushed to the margins or forced completely out of a system that does not recognize their linguistic reality.” (UNESCO, 2019)

This powerful statement made by UNESCO in 2019 encapsulates what happens in many monolingual learning contexts like some Anglophone universities even when they embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) principles. In such contexts, it is crucial for languages to take centre stage in the institutional approach to DEI, from including their students’ linguistic capital into the everyday communication practices (https://t.co/bBIUxxwt3w) to embracing multilingual pedagogies. This would allow universities to close the circle as multilingual pedagogies work best when firmly rooted within an institution’s approach to DEI.

Multilingual pedagogies can unlock insights into diverse cultures, traditions, beliefs, knowledge systems and literacy practices, and in this way benefit everyone: students, staff and management.

Apart from making the languages used by students, parents and staff visible throughout the institution, some simple multilingual pedagogic practices that can help us to realise the potentials of having a multilingual student population include:

– Designing multilingual research tasks in which each member of the group should use their linguistic resources to gather information which is then shared in English to make comparisons and contrasts.

– Offering multilingual texts on the same topic in order to demonstrate that not only the language of the text is different but so are the culture, beliefs and knowledge system embedded in it.

– Providing opportunities for multilingual students to become linguistic and cultural mediators so that everyone benefits from being part of the same multilingual and multicultural learning space.

– Making room on reading lists for students to contribute with sources published in any of their linguistic repertoires.

Unlocking our students’ multilingual resources enriches the linguistic and cultural experiences of us all in one single learning space, while making everyone feel part of the institutional community instead of pushed to its margins.

I’ll be discussing each of these multilingual pedagogic practices in the next  posts.




1- Multilingual recognition and inclusion in higher education

At a time when we’re working for greater tolerance and diversity in society, UK universities should double their efforts to understand and celebrate their multilingual students who, according to  the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), represent 22% of the students in UK.

Yet, many universities do very little to integrate the linguistic capital of their multilingual students to the daily communication practices of the institution and their curricular agenda, despite many calling themselves “multilingual universities”.

Students multilingual resources do have a role to play in the daily linguistic practices of universities, and in the curriculum of higher education. Only by recognising and celebrating multilingualism will we be able to achieve a truly decolonised and diverse teaching and learning agenda and environment. And there are many ways of making sure this takes place in very simple and inclusive ways. I will be discussing this in my following posts.

If you’d like to read more on my take on multilingual recognition and inclusion in higher education, I wrote a piece for the International Journal of Multilingualism https://lnkd.in/ecNGXF5a