Editor’s note: In this piece, Professors Eivind Torgersen and Anna Krulatz share information about the AcEngMulCla project, which was carried out by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, University of the Basque Country, the University of Utah, and TIRF. The work was supported by the Research Council of Norway under Grant 273406. The study has been approved by the Norwegian Centre for Research Data (Ref. 887519). The title of the project in Norwegian is Tilegnelse av engelsk i det flerspråklige klasserommet.
The growing multilingualism and multiculturalism in Norway has increased the need for a stronger focus on foreign language skills in Norwegian schools. English, which is notably the world’s major language for intercultural communication and international collaboration, is on the forefront of this change. However, there is a lack of focus on English in working with learners of multilingual backgrounds in Norway.
AcEngMulCla is based at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and funded by the Research Council of Norway. It investigates how English teachers perceive multilingual learners in their classrooms and how multilingualism affects acquisition of English as an additional language in linguistically and culturally diverse schools in Norway. The project examines what multilingual language learners are able to do in English at different levels of proficiency. It also investigates whether these patterns correspond to the learning aims in the national curriculum for the different years of schooling. English teachers need to know more about how languages are acquired and how English language develops alongside other languages in multilingual learners. Therefore, professional development for teachers in schools and collaboration between teacher educators and practicing English teachers are currently key considerations in Norway. The project addresses both these issues.
AcEngMulCla’s collaboration began in 2018 when TIRF Trustee, MaryAnn Christison, was invited to serve as a consultant on the project. To support TIRF’s research goals, Professor Christison suggested that her honorarium as a consultant be directed to TIRF. As a result, TIRF entered into a relationship with NTNU and AcEngMulCla.
Professor Christison, University of Utah, has served as one of the project consultants along with Professor Jasone Cenoz and Professor Durk Gorter, both of the University of the Basque Country. Co-PIs on the project are Professor Eivind Torgersen and Professor Anna Krulatz of NTNU. Professor Christison’s knowledge and expertise have been absolutely crucial in all stages of the project, from proposal and design to implementation and analysis. She has contributed not only as an advisor and consultant but also as a co-investigator and a co-author on several publications that have resulted from the project. The NTNU-based team want to express their immense gratitude for her input.
Findings to date have revealed that English language teachers generally hold positive beliefs about multilingual education. There is a positive relationship between teachers’ beliefs about best practices in multilingual contexts and their self-reported multilingual practices. That is, the more positive beliefs teachers hold about multilingual teaching practices and use of students’ home languages in the classroom, the more frequently they report employing multilingual teaching practices.
The development of teachers’ skills and knowledge relative to multilingual practices has been the result of professional workshops, including the construct of dominant language constellation (DLC) as a practical multilingual pedagogy. Researchers on our team are now working more closely with the learners to study their use of the English language. The group has collected detailed student data which include a linguistic background survey in the form of a “Language Passport” activity where students indicate what languages they know and use in what contexts. A five-part morpho-syntactic test for Grades 5, 6, and 7 was designed to investigate subject-verb agreement and verb placement. It was piloted and administered to examine whether a multilingual advantage is found in linguistically diverse mainstream classroom settings.
Preliminary analyses of the results indicate that as a group, multilingual students score slightly higher than their peers who only speak Norwegian at home. These results will be analyzed in greater depth in the coming months. A metalinguistic awareness test has also been adapted for administration in Norwegian EFL classrooms. The metalinguistic awareness tests are still in the process of being scored, and a statistical analysis of the results will follow.
So far, the project has resulted in many scientific, popular science, and teacher-training oriented outcomes. The most important ones are listed online – click here to learn more.
Further updates about the AcEngMulCla project will be reported in due course via TIRF platforms. Keep in touch with TIRF to stay updated.