Doctoral defence - Renata Emilsson Pesková
School experience of plurilingual students: A multiple case study from Iceland
About the project
Students’ plurilingualism is always present and active in their lives. The number of plurilingual students has steadily increased, and today, around one hundred different languages are spoken in compulsory schools in Iceland. Schools represent the diverse, democratic society and they prepare students for their future professions and participation in society. The objective of this research was to explore the interplay of plurilingual students’ linguistic repertoires and their school experience in Icelandic compulsory schools. This qualitative study explored plurilingual students’ perspectives about the use, the meanings, and the roles of their linguistic repertoires in their social and academic settings. The study further sought to answer to what extent their educators reflected and built upon the plurilingual students’ resources, and what roles family language policies played in the students’ school experience. The participants were five plurilingual compulsory school students from Iceland who learned their heritage language (HL) in community HL schools. Students’ plurilingualism develops in many learning spaces and more so when these spaces connect, interact, and inform each other. The interdisciplinary research was qualitative and had a multiple case study design. Thematic analysis and language portraits were employed as analytical tools. The students in the study navigated their social and educational settings and drew on their linguistic repertoires with ease and bravura, cleverly adjusting to circumstances. Highly motivated, proactive parents and HL teachers complemented compulsory schools in supporting students’ linguistic repertoires, thus creating together circumstances that allowed plurilingual students to feel well and do well academically. This study illustrates the importance of all languages for the students, the need to identify appropriate pedagogies and adjust school language policies, and for the families to shape their language policies. The findings suggest recognizing students´ plurilingualism and utilizing their whole linguistic repertoire in their educational and social settings, thus strengthening students´ self-image, a sense of belonging, and participation. The findings further contribute to the understanding of the shared roles and responsibilities of immigrant parents and educators to maintain and develop plurilingual students´ linguistic repertoires. This research establishes links among family language policies, HL education that takes place outside of the formal school system, and the study in compulsory schools.
About the PhD candidate
Renata Emilsson Peskova was born in the Czech Republic in 1978. She completed a B.A. degree in Andragogy and Personal Management at Charles University in Prague in 2004 and an M.A degree from Universität Bayreuth in Germany with major in Intercultural Communication / German as a Foreign Language in 2005. She taught English and German in Hlíðaskóli in Reykjavík for seven years. During the doctoral studies, Renata worked as a sessional teacher and an adjunct at the School of Education and the School of Humanities at the University of Iceland, as well as the chair-person and a board member of Móðurmál – the Association on Bilingualism. Renata´s research interests include plurilingualism and multilingualism, plurilingual pedagogies, language policies, heritage language education, and linguistic identities. In the fall, Renata will teach as an adjunct in the Department of Icelandic and Foreign Languages of the Faculty of Subject Teacher Education. Renata has one child, Jóhannes Guðmundsson.
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