Engaging pre-service English teachers with language policy

Engaging pre-service English teachers with language policy Abstract Teachers have the potential to be active agents in language policy and planning (LPP) processes when designing lessons or managing linguistic resources in their classrooms. A key consideration, then, is to guide pre-service educators towards an understanding of LPP principles and how they can be applied in practice. The present study documents an interactive LPP roleplay project that was designed to raise awareness among pre-service teachers about how they can engage with policy interpretation and negotiation. The project took place in the context of a sociolinguistics course within an English teacher education programme. Following the roleplay, pre-service teachers wrote reflective journals which were analysed inductively in order to investigate how they experienced the roleplay with respect to professional development. The findings show that roleplay helped these teachers see the relevance of policy to educational practice and also provided hands-on experience with the challenges and benefits of negotiating policy interpretations with colleagues. Introduction English teachers are on the front line of educational language policy and planning (LPP). Without exposure to conceptual tools for reflection and engagement, there is a risk that educators become uncritical implementers of top-down government initiatives (Shohamy 2006). In addition to the fundamentals of language and pedagogy, then, pre-service educators need guidance about the interpretation and negotiation of policy (Menken and García 2010a). The present study documents an interactive LPP project that was developed as part of an educational sociolinguistics course in an English teacher education programme. First, a brief exposition of how teachers are conceptualized as agentive policy actors—or arbiters—in LPP is provided. Next, the LPP project, a roleplay scenario emphasizing hands-on policy engagement with the aim of fostering pre-service teachers’ awareness of the benefits and challenges of their agentive role, is described. Then, turning to the heart of the study, an analysis is offered of the pre-service teachers’ reflections on the LPP roleplay in order to explore how they experienced it with respect to professional development. Finally, the outcomes of the project are considered and implications for other teacher educators who might wish to implement a similar language policy roleplay are discussed. Background: teachers as language policy arbiters It is well established in the field of LPP that educational language policy is multidimensional, involving scales of social organization ranging from (supra)national governments, regions, and states/provinces to municipalities, communities, and schools (Ricento and Hornberger 1996). Within institutions on each of these scales, individuals serve as policy actors who make sense of legislation and directives in order to craft curricular decisions (Compton 2013; Hult 2014). Contemporary LPP scholars have increasingly focused attention on the classroom as an especially salient scale and on the teacher as a particularly important actor in policy realization (Menken and García 2010a; for a thorough review, see Johnson 2013). Teachers have the potential to be what Menken and García (2010a: 1) and Johnson (2013: 100–01) refer to as ‘language policy arbiters’, actors who engage with curricular policy by using their training and experience to interpret its meaning critically and to understand the conditions and constraints it affords for the development of lessons that serve the needs of their students. Engaging with policy in this way can be empowering for teachers (Johnson ibid.: 98). Teachers, however, might not recognize their agency as arbiters, leaving policy to the domain of politicians and administrators; as Shohamy (2006: 78) points out, when educational policy and curricula are ‘implemented with no questions asked with regard to their quality, appropriateness and relevance’ teachers ‘serve as “soldiers” of the system who carry out orders by internalizing the policy ideology and its agendas as expressed in the curriculum’. If teachers do not critically address policy themselves, there is a risk of either blind adherence to dictates from supervisors or potential misunderstandings between what teachers believe policy to be and what it actually is (Shohamy 2006: 78; Johnson 2013: 98–99). So that they do not become mere automatous implementers of (perceived) policy, teachers must be made aware of the power they have as active agents to engage with policy directly (Johnson ibid: 100–01). In particular, engagement involves reading curricular policy documents first-hand, drawing upon pedagogical research to inform critical interpretation of policy, situating policy and curricula within a local context, and negotiating policy meanings with other educators (Menken and García 2010b: 264–67; Hult 2014: 174). Like other elements of educational practice, policy engagement is not necessarily intuitive, and pre-service teachers benefit from receiving guidance and the opportunity to reflect on their awareness-raising (Hélot 2010). Project and methodology As a language policy researcher teaching a course on educational sociolinguistics, I sought to use practitioner research (Zeni 2001) to provide a guided opportunity for pre-service teachers to engage with policy and to document their engagement. The course was situated in the English division of a five-year teacher education program in Sweden, a country with national curricula and subject area syllabi.1 The curricula and syllabi are not prescriptions for course structure or lessons, but broad content parameters that are designed to be operationalized by teachers locally. Thus, interpreting the national syllabus for English in relation to developing lessons is a key component of professional practice for English teachers in Sweden. In previous educational sociolinguistics courses that I have taught, I have included language policy as a topic in the syllabus. The focus had always been on key language policy principles with explanations and discussions about their relevance to teaching and learning. Even when pre-service teachers in these courses demonstrated an understanding of the principles, they seemed to struggle with their application. Although the educational sociolinguistics course is not a methods course, in the sense of having pedagogical techniques as its primary emphasis, it is nonetheless meant to provide pre-service teachers with knowledge to guide their professional practice. Learning about language policy, then, should not be only for abstract or intellectual interest but for empowering pre-service teachers with research-based foundations to make professional judgements with respect to policy—in short, to prepare them to act as language policy arbiters. Accordingly, I developed for the course a unit focused on educational language policy, with attention to both general principles of LPP and their application to English teaching. The unit took place across three of the course’s 14 meetings. It was grounded in readings from the course textbook, Hornberger and McKay’s (2010)Sociolinguistics and Language Education, coupled with research journal articles related to the Swedish context, and the Swedish national syllabus for English itself. Instruction took the shape of seminar-format discussion of LPP principles from the readings and how they can be applied in practice. The unit culminated in a roleplay project (see Appendix) that placed teams of five to six pre-service teachers in the scenario of developing a response to a school audit by the Swedish School Inspectorate. The scenario asked them to act as language policy arbiters by using the national syllabus for English as a mechanism to integrate research and practice. As such, the scenario also served to situate LPP, and educational sociolinguistics more broadly, as a scholarly foundation for ‘scientifically based’ teaching, meaning that education should be supported by research, which has become a core tenet in many countries, including Sweden.2 Following the roleplay, the pre-service teachers were invited to write reflective journals (Nunan 2010: 118–28) about their experiences with the scenario. In order to allow for a full range of perspectives, the focus was open-ended, asking them to consider what new insights they gained.3 Pedagogically, roleplay served the dual purpose of providing simulated experiential learning and prompting awareness-raising through a post-experience accounting (Yardley-Matwiejczuk 1997: 2). In keeping with ethics in practitioner research (Zeni 2001), participation in the study was voluntary, and options were provided to opt out of having LPP journals included or to write a reflection about another unit in the course instead. Sixty per cent of the class, a total of 12 pre-service teachers, chose to participate. Table 1 presents background information about the participants, including their subject specializations and previous professional experience. To examine their reflections, the journals were coded inductively for emerging themes (Saldaña 2012) and interpreted in light of the discourse analysis of language policy (e.g. Johnson 2013: 152–63) in order to bring to light how the roleplay project raised pre-service teachers’ awareness about their professional development as language policy arbiters. TABLE 1 Participant background information Participant First and second subject specializations Previous teaching practicum Other teaching experience Anna History (first) English (second) None None Britta Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Erika Music (first) English (second) Eight weeks in music across middle and upper secondary grades Youth sports coaching Johan Social science (first) English (second) Five weeks abroad in English and civics for upper secondary grades None Kajsa Swedish (first) English (second) None None Karin Music (first) English (second) Two weeks in music for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching a few classes of Swedish as a second language for adults Youth sports coaching Madeleine English (first) French (second) Five weeks in French for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching in various subjects for primary grades for one semester Non-certified teacher of Spanish for middle grades for one semester Malin Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Marianne English (first) Swedish as second language (second) Five weeks in Swedish as a second language for upper secondary grades Non-certified Swedish as a second language teacher for upper secondary grades for one academic year Marko History (first) English (second) Five weeks in history for middle grades None Selma English (first) German (second) None Substitute teaching in various language subjects for primary and middle grades for one academic year Zehra Swedish (first) English (second) None Summer school teaching for middle grades for one summer Participant First and second subject specializations Previous teaching practicum Other teaching experience Anna History (first) English (second) None None Britta Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Erika Music (first) English (second) Eight weeks in music across middle and upper secondary grades Youth sports coaching Johan Social science (first) English (second) Five weeks abroad in English and civics for upper secondary grades None Kajsa Swedish (first) English (second) None None Karin Music (first) English (second) Two weeks in music for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching a few classes of Swedish as a second language for adults Youth sports coaching Madeleine English (first) French (second) Five weeks in French for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching in various subjects for primary grades for one semester Non-certified teacher of Spanish for middle grades for one semester Malin Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Marianne English (first) Swedish as second language (second) Five weeks in Swedish as a second language for upper secondary grades Non-certified Swedish as a second language teacher for upper secondary grades for one academic year Marko History (first) English (second) Five weeks in history for middle grades None Selma English (first) German (second) None Substitute teaching in various language subjects for primary and middle grades for one academic year Zehra Swedish (first) English (second) None Summer school teaching for middle grades for one summer View Large TABLE 1 Participant background information Participant First and second subject specializations Previous teaching practicum Other teaching experience Anna History (first) English (second) None None Britta Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Erika Music (first) English (second) Eight weeks in music across middle and upper secondary grades Youth sports coaching Johan Social science (first) English (second) Five weeks abroad in English and civics for upper secondary grades None Kajsa Swedish (first) English (second) None None Karin Music (first) English (second) Two weeks in music for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching a few classes of Swedish as a second language for adults Youth sports coaching Madeleine English (first) French (second) Five weeks in French for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching in various subjects for primary grades for one semester Non-certified teacher of Spanish for middle grades for one semester Malin Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Marianne English (first) Swedish as second language (second) Five weeks in Swedish as a second language for upper secondary grades Non-certified Swedish as a second language teacher for upper secondary grades for one academic year Marko History (first) English (second) Five weeks in history for middle grades None Selma English (first) German (second) None Substitute teaching in various language subjects for primary and middle grades for one academic year Zehra Swedish (first) English (second) None Summer school teaching for middle grades for one summer Participant First and second subject specializations Previous teaching practicum Other teaching experience Anna History (first) English (second) None None Britta Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Erika Music (first) English (second) Eight weeks in music across middle and upper secondary grades Youth sports coaching Johan Social science (first) English (second) Five weeks abroad in English and civics for upper secondary grades None Kajsa Swedish (first) English (second) None None Karin Music (first) English (second) Two weeks in music for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching a few classes of Swedish as a second language for adults Youth sports coaching Madeleine English (first) French (second) Five weeks in French for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching in various subjects for primary grades for one semester Non-certified teacher of Spanish for middle grades for one semester Malin Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Marianne English (first) Swedish as second language (second) Five weeks in Swedish as a second language for upper secondary grades Non-certified Swedish as a second language teacher for upper secondary grades for one academic year Marko History (first) English (second) Five weeks in history for middle grades None Selma English (first) German (second) None Substitute teaching in various language subjects for primary and middle grades for one academic year Zehra Swedish (first) English (second) None Summer school teaching for middle grades for one summer View Large Findings: pre-service teachers engaging with language policy Language policy as an area of knowledge, with its specialized terminology and foundations in social theories, has the potential to be highly abstract (Johnson 2013: 26–55). It may not always seem immediately relevant to teachers, especially pre-service teachers hungry for practical applications, since language policy does not deal directly with pedagogical methods or with core language content (Hult 2014). Yet language policy is at the heart of professional practice in ELT because nearly all language teachers are expected to orient their lessons in relation to some sort of curriculum or guidelines that might come from national/regional governments, educational agencies/districts, their own institutions/departments, or a combination of these (Menken and García 2010a). In developing the roleplay scenario, then, I sought to move language policy away from abstraction and someone else’s responsibility by situating it in the purview of schools and teachers, thereby fostering ecological validity for how teachers might encounter language policy (Yardley-Matwiejczuk 1997). As one of the pre-service participants remarked: The issue we were to solve was also very realistic, and it did not seem to me like that sort of thing couldn’t happen in a real teaching situation. … Therefore I feel that it is very important that students such as myself get well prepared for the issues that might come up. (Britta) The scenario, thus, put the pre-service teachers squarely in the educational language policy action. The roleplay, as the findings presented here show, raised their awareness about serving as language policy arbiters who make policy interpretations in light of research-practice relationships and about the benefits and challenges of negotiating an LPP situation. In particular, with respect to the arbiter role, participants described interpreting policy and relating policy to practice. In relation to benefits and challenges, the participants highlighted negotiating conflicts about interpretation with colleagues and gaining realistic experience with policy engagement. Policy arbiters The scenario positioned the national syllabus for English as a conceptual instrument for making connections between research and practice, thereby highlighting the premise that policy is germane to the everyday work of English teaching. One participant, whose practical experience thus far was limited to a two-week practicum in music teaching and substitute teaching a few sessions of Swedish as a second language, confessed: When it comes to the syllabus, it’s not until this course that I’ve actually read the whole English section (I know, terrible …). I feel like I’ve understood the importance of this document now. It should be the foundation for our teaching. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t question it. It’s not perfect. I think it’s great that we get tools to interpret and work with these documents. (Karin) As Karin’s reflection shows, policy documents, such as the national syllabus, can fall below the level of awareness during teacher training. Drawing explicit attention to policy, as the roleplay did, not only placed it within a sphere of relevance but demonstrated that teachers should be active interpreters and critical thinkers not blind policy adherents (cf. Shohamy 2006). The roleplay scenario provided no prescriptions about the national syllabus. Rather, as in professional practice, the pre-service teachers were placed in the position of making their own interpretations together with their colleagues so as to highlight the interpersonal dimension of meaning-making (Yardley-Matwiejczuk 1997). In this way, as Zehra, whose other subject specialization is Swedish, comments, the participants experienced first hand that engaging with policy is far from a straightforward process of translating the syllabus document into lessons and activities: Today, I realize that the document is vague and that it is necessary to interpret some things. Also, I know that there are some tensions in it, as for instance the question of whether to use the target language or to mix languages during lessons. (Zehra) Educational language policies can be opaque in intentionality and sometimes reflect the contradictory ideological positions of different policymakers (Johnson 2013: 111–13). As language policy arbiters, teachers must navigate these muddy waters in exercising their professional judgement (Johnson ibid.: 98–101; Hult 2014: 168). Here, for instance, Zehra refers to the apparent contradiction in the national syllabus for English that teaching should be done in the target language as much as possible while also encouraging the development of plurilingualism. Zehra shows an awareness that teachers are in the position to make interpretations in order to navigate policy tensions. Johan, who had completed a teaching practicum abroad in both English and civics, further echoes that the scenario raised awareness about policy meaning not being fixed but open to multiple interpretations: This was also for me yet another reminder of how vague the curriculum and syllabus on which I am supposed to base my future work are. How we in the group thought differently, interpreted differently and wanted different aspects of the syllabus to be the focus of our presentation just goes to show that we can steer our future classrooms and students in many different ways and still be justified by the rules that are set up for how we should be teaching. (Johan) As his remarks show, the roleplay brought to light how the same policy document can be used to support different practices among multiple educators. Language policies often have some room for manoeuvrability—what both Zehra and Johan refer to as vagueness—where teachers can make judgements about what is linguistically and culturally appropriate for the learners in their local classrooms, a notion that Hornberger (2005) terms ‘implementational space’. Identifying implementational spaces must be based on informed professional judgement (Johnson 2013: 104; Hult 2014: 168). The scenario stressed the use of educational sociolinguistic research from course readings to support policy interpretations and the development of ideas for practice. The roleplay, accordingly, made research–practice relationships come alive for the pre-service teachers: A new thing for me when discussing the syllabus—making it [the roleplay] an authentic assignment—was to bring in the perspective of research-based sources. My choices for an assignment feel more valid, and I feel more confident in my teacher role when I can back up my choices with research. (Erika) It was very interesting to connect the academic readings to more practical aspects of the curriculum/teaching. This is something that I myself have not put that much thought into if I’m being completely honest. I just sort of assumed that these things would solve themselves. Or well, I know that they won’t. It’s just that we’ve never before been given the tools to think about it in this way. (Anna) By situating policy as a mechanism for making connections between research and practice, the roleplay scenario positioned research as concretely useful and relevant for educators. Pre-service teachers sometimes have difficulty connecting research to how they imagine themselves as practitioners. Erika, who had completed an eight-week teaching practicum in music, comments that it was a ‘new thing for me’, and Anna, who had no prior teaching experience, notes that ‘this is something that I myself have not put that much thought into’. In the scenario, as these two excerpts further indicate, research became a tool for problem-solving and a source of professional confidence as the pre-service teachers were given the opportunity to use the research they had read for the course in order to make policy interpretations and find implementational spaces. Challenges and benefits While the interpretable nature of language policy allows for varying degrees of practical flexibility, it also engenders potential conflict as there is often no single right answer to how a policy should be put into practice or how a point of policy tension should be resolved (Johnson 2013: 116–17; Hult 2014: 169). Not unexpectedly, challenges inherent in negotiating policy interpretations with peer colleagues arose during the roleplay, which became frustrating for a few participants and a learning experience for others. For some, the process of negotiation became the main sticking point: I believe that the way of doing it was not the best, not for me anyway. We didn’t have very good group dynamics, and it felt like we didn’t get as much out of it as we could have. … We understood what we were going to do, of course, but we weren’t on the same page at all. We couldn’t negotiate our ideas, and there were a lot of question marks among us. (Kajsa) As Kajsa, who had no prior teaching experience, explains, her team understood the policy interpretation objective of the scenario, but the challenges they faced in compromising made it difficult for them to develop shared ideas. The upshot for Kajsa’s team was first-hand experience with how the strong beliefs held by individual policy stakeholders can sometimes lead to interpretive divergence or even deadlock (Compton 2013; Hult 2014: 168–69;). Other participants expressed similar insights: It was a difficult task, but it served well as a reminder of what has stuck in my mind throughout this course … and also of the difficulty and/or rewarding aspects of working in a group of educators, which I will be doing in my chosen profession. I got insight into what the others thought was important and what I thought was important to convey. (Johan) Johan explains that the difficulty of the roleplay scenario contributed to its authenticity. By being placed in a position of listening to the views of colleagues and trying to understand them as well as articulating and justifying his own perspectives, he gained an awareness of the kind of negotiation and comprise that is part and parcel of engaging with policy in professional practice (Menken and García, 2010b; Johnson 2013: 210). The pre-service teachers generally found the roleplay beneficial to their professional development as language policy arbiters: All in all, I feel after this course that I’ve gained more insight into how to interpret the national syllabus and that I now possess more tools to actually apply research in my future teaching. (Madeleine) When I started at the teacher training program, I was still a bit anxious about it [working with the syllabus]. However, the sociolinguistics course has made everything clearer. … I do not feel like an expert yet; I believe that it takes time, and a lot of work, to become that. Therefore, I hope to encounter the national syllabus documents again in the teacher training program. (Zehra) The roleplay scenario created an opportunity for direct experience with the messiness of human interaction (Yardley-Matwiejczuk 1997) as participants negotiated with colleagues and faced the challenges of drawing upon research to justify interpretations. In this way, language policy came into the sphere of relevance for these pre-service teachers. As Madeleine, who had previously worked for a year as a substitute and non-certified language teacher and had also completed a five-week teaching practicum in French, explains, she has now been able to add skills as a language policy arbiter to her repertoire of professional practice. Zehra, too, remarks that hands-on experience with the practical application of policy has given her new confidence while also making her aware that policy engagement is a skill to continue strengthening as part of ongoing professional training and development. Reflection and conclusion Overall, using roleplay was a fruitful way to make language policy concrete for pre-service teachers, allowing them to gain first-hand experience with how it relates to educational practice (cf. Yardley-Matwiejczuk ibid.). It is useful, then, by way of conclusion, to consider the outcomes of the project from the point of view of the participants as well as from the point of view of the reflective practice of English teacher education. Summary of findings As they report in their reflections, the participants found the scenario realistic, which made language policy tangible, facilitating their investment in interpretation and negotiation. Participants became aware of how research can be used as a tool for making sense of policy as well as for justifying one’s understanding and implementational choices. The roleplay also offered a relatively safe space to experience the challenges and benefits of debating policy with colleagues. They came to see how even peers with similar training can arrive at substantially different professional judgements about the same policy and how such divergence has the potential for outcomes ranging from gridlock to flexible solutions. Practitioner reflection From a teacher educator’s point of view, roleplay was an effective way to engage pre-service teachers with LPP. The solutions-oriented focus of the scenario and the element of collaborative negotiation fostered active involvement. Rather than learning passively and abstractly about teachers as language policy arbiters or how research could inform policy interpretation, they lived it during the roleplay. The experiential nature facilitated professional development through raising awareness, deepening knowledge, and harnessing skills. For many participants, it was the first time they had thought critically about research–policy–practice connections. Here they gained insight into both what kinds of issues to think about and how to navigate making such connections. Other teacher educators might find roleplay useful for engaging pre-service teachers with language curriculum topics as well. The realism of the scenario provided credibility as the participants were all easily able to imagine themselves in the situation. In developing the scenario, I took into account what policy documents English teachers in Sweden are expected to engage with in relation to practice and what circumstances might prompt a convincing policy challenge to address. As noted earlier, educational policy in Sweden is designed to give local teachers considerable latitude for interpretation. Other countries may have more restrictive policy contexts. Nonetheless, as Hélot (2010: 65) points out, ‘even in a very centralized, hierarchical and monolingually biased education system, teachers can be key agents in the educational process from the beginning of their career’. Since language policy is highly socially situated, it would be important to develop a plausible locally situated scenario if one were to adapt this approach to teaching language policy in a different context. It would also be possible to extend the roleplay further. Since the present focus was on teachers as language policy arbiters, the only role for each participant was that of teacher. Roleplay has the potential to prompt reflection based on multiple points of view (Yardley-Matwiejczuk 1997). Thus, a useful way to develop a language education policy roleplay further would be to assign participants to other stakeholder roles including administrator, parent, student, politician, community leader, among other possibilities. The realism also motivated the pre-service teachers to take the roleplay seriously, which meant that professional disagreements also became very real. I had earlier in the course provided them with resources featuring expressions for oral academic discourse (e.g. agreeing, disagreeing, asking questions, changing the topic) that most of them used well during seminar discussions. It might have enhanced the roleplay experience if the pre-service teachers had also received additional guidance on using English for conflict resolution. This could include, for instance, reading about strategies and expressions in English for diplomatic purposes (Friedrich 2016). While most of the participants found any conflict to be constructive, some were hampered by it. Since conflict is a potential component of language policy negotiation,4 explicitly addressing strategies for conflict resolution could yield skills that would be useful during the roleplay and transferrable beyond engaging with LPP. Conclusion As research in LPP continues to show how teachers play a central role in educational language policy processes (e.g. Menken and García 2010b; Johnson 2013), it behoves us as teacher educators to prepare pre-service teachers to act as language policy arbiters. We can help them become aware that this role is part of their professional practice, and we can empower them with the conceptual tools to make research-based language policy interpretations and with the confidence to participate actively in policy negotiation and debate. Notes Footnotes 1 The national curricula and subject area syllabi are available on the Swedish National Agency for Education’s (Skolverket) website, http://www.skolverket.se/ 2 Skolverket elaborates its position (in Swedish) on research-based practice here: http://www.skolverket.se/skolutveckling/forskning/forskningsbaserat-arbetssatt. These ideas were discussed throughout the course, including the LPP unit. 3 The course was taught in the medium of English. To encourage a focus on expression and content, participants were instructed to free-write without special attention to accuracy in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Since the focus here is on content and not language proficiency, the excerpts presented in the following section have been lightly edited for readability without changing the meaning. All names are pseudonyms. 4 See, for example, this Language Policy Research Network brief by Lo Bianco: http://www.cal.org/lpren/pdfs/briefs/conflict-language-rights-and-education.pdf. Francis M. Hult is an associate professor at the Lund University Centre for Languages and Literature in Sweden. He works at the cross-roads of sociolinguistics, discourse studies, and education. His research examines multilingual language management in policy and practice, focusing on linguistic landscapes and language policy and planning through an ethnographic discourse-analytic lens. His books include the Handbook of Educational Linguistics (with Spolsky; Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), Research Methods in Language Policy and Planning: A Practical Guide (with Johnson; Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), and Language Policy and Language Acquisition Planning (with Siiner and Kupisch; Springer, forthcoming). Appendix: educational language policy roleplay scenario It is one year after you have completed the teacher education programme, and you are working as a teacher at a school. The Swedish School Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) recently completed an evaluation of the school and determined that there are major problems because (a) teachers were generally not connecting instruction to the national syllabi and (b) teaching was not clearly research-based (vetenskapligt grundad) or aligned with documented best practices (beprövad erfarenhet). As Skolverket has set forth: Education should have a foundation in research and documented best practices. To realize this in schools, teachers and principals need to have an ongoing discussion about what research-based practice concretely means and how research can support the development of teaching. (http://www.skolverket.se/skolutveckling/forskning/forskningsbaserat-arbetssatt-1.189571, translation mine) The poor evaluation of the school has caused major concerns among administrators, teachers, parents, and students. To solve this crisis, the principal has assembled teams from each subject to come up with ways to address the problem by reviewing the national syllabi and developing concrete ideas for teaching that can be connected to research and best practices. Your group has been chosen as the team to develop ideas for one level of English (see syllabus provided). In assigning you this task, the principal said: ‘You are the best people to do this because you just finished teacher education and have the most recent contact with current research and best practices.’ As a first step, you decide to choose two passages from the national syllabus for English on which to focus, with particular attention to how ideas from sociolinguistics can be helpful in developing and supporting concrete ideas. The principal asks you to prepare a five-minute summary of your team’s ideas to present to the school’s curriculum committee. The principal further says: ‘We must have concrete ideas for activities, lessons, and projects that can be clearly tied to the national syllabus. Also, remember that Skolinspektionen will be checking to make sure these ideas are research-based or reflect documented best practices so it is absolutely essential that we can support the ideas with academic sources.’ References Compton , S. C . 2013 . ‘ Implementing language policy for deaf students in a Texas school district ’. International Multilingual Research Journal 7 / 2 : 138 – 54 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Friedrich , P . (ed.). 2016 . English for Diplomatic Purposes . Bristol : Multilingual Matters . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Hélot , C . 2010 . ‘ “Tu sais bien parler maȋtresse!”: negotiating languages other than French in the primary classroom in France ’ in K. Menken and O. García (eds.). Negotiating Language Policies in Schools: Educators as Policymakers . London : Routledge . Hornberger , N. H . 2005 . ‘ Opening and filling up implementational and ideological spaces in heritage language education ’. Modern Language Journal 89 / 4 : 605 – 09 . Hornberger , N. H. and McKay , S. L . (eds.). 2010 . Sociolinguistics and Language Education . Bristol : Multilingual Matters . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Hult , F. M . ( 2014 ). ‘ How does policy influence language in education ?’ in R.E. Silver and S.M. Lwin (eds.). Language in Education: Social Implications . London : Continuum . Johnson , D. C . 2013 . Language Policy . New York : Palgrave Macmillan . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Menken , K. and García , O . 2010a . ‘ Introduction ’ in K. Menken and O. García (eds.). Menken , K. and García , O . 2010b . ‘ Moving forward: Ten guiding principles for teachers ’ in K. Menken and O. García (eds.). Nunan , D . 2010 . Research Methods in Language Learning . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . Ricento , T. and Hornberger , N. H . 1996 . ‘ Unpeeling the onion: language planning and policy and the ELT professional ’. TESOL Quarterly 30 : 401 – 27 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Saldaña , J . 2012 . The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers ( Second edition ). London : Sage . Shohamy , E . 2006 . Language Policy: Hidden Agendas and New Approaches . London : Routledge . Yardley-Matwiejczuk , Y.M . 1997 . Role Play: Theory and Practice . London : Sage . Zeni , J . 2001 . Ethical Issues in Practitioner Research . New York : Teachers College Press . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png ELT Journal Oxford University Press

Engaging pre-service English teachers with language policy

ELT Journal , Volume Advance Article (3) – Mar 8, 2018

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved.
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0951-0893
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1477-4526
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10.1093/elt/ccx072
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Abstract

Abstract Teachers have the potential to be active agents in language policy and planning (LPP) processes when designing lessons or managing linguistic resources in their classrooms. A key consideration, then, is to guide pre-service educators towards an understanding of LPP principles and how they can be applied in practice. The present study documents an interactive LPP roleplay project that was designed to raise awareness among pre-service teachers about how they can engage with policy interpretation and negotiation. The project took place in the context of a sociolinguistics course within an English teacher education programme. Following the roleplay, pre-service teachers wrote reflective journals which were analysed inductively in order to investigate how they experienced the roleplay with respect to professional development. The findings show that roleplay helped these teachers see the relevance of policy to educational practice and also provided hands-on experience with the challenges and benefits of negotiating policy interpretations with colleagues. Introduction English teachers are on the front line of educational language policy and planning (LPP). Without exposure to conceptual tools for reflection and engagement, there is a risk that educators become uncritical implementers of top-down government initiatives (Shohamy 2006). In addition to the fundamentals of language and pedagogy, then, pre-service educators need guidance about the interpretation and negotiation of policy (Menken and García 2010a). The present study documents an interactive LPP project that was developed as part of an educational sociolinguistics course in an English teacher education programme. First, a brief exposition of how teachers are conceptualized as agentive policy actors—or arbiters—in LPP is provided. Next, the LPP project, a roleplay scenario emphasizing hands-on policy engagement with the aim of fostering pre-service teachers’ awareness of the benefits and challenges of their agentive role, is described. Then, turning to the heart of the study, an analysis is offered of the pre-service teachers’ reflections on the LPP roleplay in order to explore how they experienced it with respect to professional development. Finally, the outcomes of the project are considered and implications for other teacher educators who might wish to implement a similar language policy roleplay are discussed. Background: teachers as language policy arbiters It is well established in the field of LPP that educational language policy is multidimensional, involving scales of social organization ranging from (supra)national governments, regions, and states/provinces to municipalities, communities, and schools (Ricento and Hornberger 1996). Within institutions on each of these scales, individuals serve as policy actors who make sense of legislation and directives in order to craft curricular decisions (Compton 2013; Hult 2014). Contemporary LPP scholars have increasingly focused attention on the classroom as an especially salient scale and on the teacher as a particularly important actor in policy realization (Menken and García 2010a; for a thorough review, see Johnson 2013). Teachers have the potential to be what Menken and García (2010a: 1) and Johnson (2013: 100–01) refer to as ‘language policy arbiters’, actors who engage with curricular policy by using their training and experience to interpret its meaning critically and to understand the conditions and constraints it affords for the development of lessons that serve the needs of their students. Engaging with policy in this way can be empowering for teachers (Johnson ibid.: 98). Teachers, however, might not recognize their agency as arbiters, leaving policy to the domain of politicians and administrators; as Shohamy (2006: 78) points out, when educational policy and curricula are ‘implemented with no questions asked with regard to their quality, appropriateness and relevance’ teachers ‘serve as “soldiers” of the system who carry out orders by internalizing the policy ideology and its agendas as expressed in the curriculum’. If teachers do not critically address policy themselves, there is a risk of either blind adherence to dictates from supervisors or potential misunderstandings between what teachers believe policy to be and what it actually is (Shohamy 2006: 78; Johnson 2013: 98–99). So that they do not become mere automatous implementers of (perceived) policy, teachers must be made aware of the power they have as active agents to engage with policy directly (Johnson ibid: 100–01). In particular, engagement involves reading curricular policy documents first-hand, drawing upon pedagogical research to inform critical interpretation of policy, situating policy and curricula within a local context, and negotiating policy meanings with other educators (Menken and García 2010b: 264–67; Hult 2014: 174). Like other elements of educational practice, policy engagement is not necessarily intuitive, and pre-service teachers benefit from receiving guidance and the opportunity to reflect on their awareness-raising (Hélot 2010). Project and methodology As a language policy researcher teaching a course on educational sociolinguistics, I sought to use practitioner research (Zeni 2001) to provide a guided opportunity for pre-service teachers to engage with policy and to document their engagement. The course was situated in the English division of a five-year teacher education program in Sweden, a country with national curricula and subject area syllabi.1 The curricula and syllabi are not prescriptions for course structure or lessons, but broad content parameters that are designed to be operationalized by teachers locally. Thus, interpreting the national syllabus for English in relation to developing lessons is a key component of professional practice for English teachers in Sweden. In previous educational sociolinguistics courses that I have taught, I have included language policy as a topic in the syllabus. The focus had always been on key language policy principles with explanations and discussions about their relevance to teaching and learning. Even when pre-service teachers in these courses demonstrated an understanding of the principles, they seemed to struggle with their application. Although the educational sociolinguistics course is not a methods course, in the sense of having pedagogical techniques as its primary emphasis, it is nonetheless meant to provide pre-service teachers with knowledge to guide their professional practice. Learning about language policy, then, should not be only for abstract or intellectual interest but for empowering pre-service teachers with research-based foundations to make professional judgements with respect to policy—in short, to prepare them to act as language policy arbiters. Accordingly, I developed for the course a unit focused on educational language policy, with attention to both general principles of LPP and their application to English teaching. The unit took place across three of the course’s 14 meetings. It was grounded in readings from the course textbook, Hornberger and McKay’s (2010)Sociolinguistics and Language Education, coupled with research journal articles related to the Swedish context, and the Swedish national syllabus for English itself. Instruction took the shape of seminar-format discussion of LPP principles from the readings and how they can be applied in practice. The unit culminated in a roleplay project (see Appendix) that placed teams of five to six pre-service teachers in the scenario of developing a response to a school audit by the Swedish School Inspectorate. The scenario asked them to act as language policy arbiters by using the national syllabus for English as a mechanism to integrate research and practice. As such, the scenario also served to situate LPP, and educational sociolinguistics more broadly, as a scholarly foundation for ‘scientifically based’ teaching, meaning that education should be supported by research, which has become a core tenet in many countries, including Sweden.2 Following the roleplay, the pre-service teachers were invited to write reflective journals (Nunan 2010: 118–28) about their experiences with the scenario. In order to allow for a full range of perspectives, the focus was open-ended, asking them to consider what new insights they gained.3 Pedagogically, roleplay served the dual purpose of providing simulated experiential learning and prompting awareness-raising through a post-experience accounting (Yardley-Matwiejczuk 1997: 2). In keeping with ethics in practitioner research (Zeni 2001), participation in the study was voluntary, and options were provided to opt out of having LPP journals included or to write a reflection about another unit in the course instead. Sixty per cent of the class, a total of 12 pre-service teachers, chose to participate. Table 1 presents background information about the participants, including their subject specializations and previous professional experience. To examine their reflections, the journals were coded inductively for emerging themes (Saldaña 2012) and interpreted in light of the discourse analysis of language policy (e.g. Johnson 2013: 152–63) in order to bring to light how the roleplay project raised pre-service teachers’ awareness about their professional development as language policy arbiters. TABLE 1 Participant background information Participant First and second subject specializations Previous teaching practicum Other teaching experience Anna History (first) English (second) None None Britta Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Erika Music (first) English (second) Eight weeks in music across middle and upper secondary grades Youth sports coaching Johan Social science (first) English (second) Five weeks abroad in English and civics for upper secondary grades None Kajsa Swedish (first) English (second) None None Karin Music (first) English (second) Two weeks in music for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching a few classes of Swedish as a second language for adults Youth sports coaching Madeleine English (first) French (second) Five weeks in French for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching in various subjects for primary grades for one semester Non-certified teacher of Spanish for middle grades for one semester Malin Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Marianne English (first) Swedish as second language (second) Five weeks in Swedish as a second language for upper secondary grades Non-certified Swedish as a second language teacher for upper secondary grades for one academic year Marko History (first) English (second) Five weeks in history for middle grades None Selma English (first) German (second) None Substitute teaching in various language subjects for primary and middle grades for one academic year Zehra Swedish (first) English (second) None Summer school teaching for middle grades for one summer Participant First and second subject specializations Previous teaching practicum Other teaching experience Anna History (first) English (second) None None Britta Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Erika Music (first) English (second) Eight weeks in music across middle and upper secondary grades Youth sports coaching Johan Social science (first) English (second) Five weeks abroad in English and civics for upper secondary grades None Kajsa Swedish (first) English (second) None None Karin Music (first) English (second) Two weeks in music for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching a few classes of Swedish as a second language for adults Youth sports coaching Madeleine English (first) French (second) Five weeks in French for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching in various subjects for primary grades for one semester Non-certified teacher of Spanish for middle grades for one semester Malin Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Marianne English (first) Swedish as second language (second) Five weeks in Swedish as a second language for upper secondary grades Non-certified Swedish as a second language teacher for upper secondary grades for one academic year Marko History (first) English (second) Five weeks in history for middle grades None Selma English (first) German (second) None Substitute teaching in various language subjects for primary and middle grades for one academic year Zehra Swedish (first) English (second) None Summer school teaching for middle grades for one summer View Large TABLE 1 Participant background information Participant First and second subject specializations Previous teaching practicum Other teaching experience Anna History (first) English (second) None None Britta Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Erika Music (first) English (second) Eight weeks in music across middle and upper secondary grades Youth sports coaching Johan Social science (first) English (second) Five weeks abroad in English and civics for upper secondary grades None Kajsa Swedish (first) English (second) None None Karin Music (first) English (second) Two weeks in music for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching a few classes of Swedish as a second language for adults Youth sports coaching Madeleine English (first) French (second) Five weeks in French for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching in various subjects for primary grades for one semester Non-certified teacher of Spanish for middle grades for one semester Malin Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Marianne English (first) Swedish as second language (second) Five weeks in Swedish as a second language for upper secondary grades Non-certified Swedish as a second language teacher for upper secondary grades for one academic year Marko History (first) English (second) Five weeks in history for middle grades None Selma English (first) German (second) None Substitute teaching in various language subjects for primary and middle grades for one academic year Zehra Swedish (first) English (second) None Summer school teaching for middle grades for one summer Participant First and second subject specializations Previous teaching practicum Other teaching experience Anna History (first) English (second) None None Britta Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Erika Music (first) English (second) Eight weeks in music across middle and upper secondary grades Youth sports coaching Johan Social science (first) English (second) Five weeks abroad in English and civics for upper secondary grades None Kajsa Swedish (first) English (second) None None Karin Music (first) English (second) Two weeks in music for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching a few classes of Swedish as a second language for adults Youth sports coaching Madeleine English (first) French (second) Five weeks in French for upper secondary grades Substitute teaching in various subjects for primary grades for one semester Non-certified teacher of Spanish for middle grades for one semester Malin Music (first) English (second) Five weeks in music across primary, middle, and upper secondary grades None Marianne English (first) Swedish as second language (second) Five weeks in Swedish as a second language for upper secondary grades Non-certified Swedish as a second language teacher for upper secondary grades for one academic year Marko History (first) English (second) Five weeks in history for middle grades None Selma English (first) German (second) None Substitute teaching in various language subjects for primary and middle grades for one academic year Zehra Swedish (first) English (second) None Summer school teaching for middle grades for one summer View Large Findings: pre-service teachers engaging with language policy Language policy as an area of knowledge, with its specialized terminology and foundations in social theories, has the potential to be highly abstract (Johnson 2013: 26–55). It may not always seem immediately relevant to teachers, especially pre-service teachers hungry for practical applications, since language policy does not deal directly with pedagogical methods or with core language content (Hult 2014). Yet language policy is at the heart of professional practice in ELT because nearly all language teachers are expected to orient their lessons in relation to some sort of curriculum or guidelines that might come from national/regional governments, educational agencies/districts, their own institutions/departments, or a combination of these (Menken and García 2010a). In developing the roleplay scenario, then, I sought to move language policy away from abstraction and someone else’s responsibility by situating it in the purview of schools and teachers, thereby fostering ecological validity for how teachers might encounter language policy (Yardley-Matwiejczuk 1997). As one of the pre-service participants remarked: The issue we were to solve was also very realistic, and it did not seem to me like that sort of thing couldn’t happen in a real teaching situation. … Therefore I feel that it is very important that students such as myself get well prepared for the issues that might come up. (Britta) The scenario, thus, put the pre-service teachers squarely in the educational language policy action. The roleplay, as the findings presented here show, raised their awareness about serving as language policy arbiters who make policy interpretations in light of research-practice relationships and about the benefits and challenges of negotiating an LPP situation. In particular, with respect to the arbiter role, participants described interpreting policy and relating policy to practice. In relation to benefits and challenges, the participants highlighted negotiating conflicts about interpretation with colleagues and gaining realistic experience with policy engagement. Policy arbiters The scenario positioned the national syllabus for English as a conceptual instrument for making connections between research and practice, thereby highlighting the premise that policy is germane to the everyday work of English teaching. One participant, whose practical experience thus far was limited to a two-week practicum in music teaching and substitute teaching a few sessions of Swedish as a second language, confessed: When it comes to the syllabus, it’s not until this course that I’ve actually read the whole English section (I know, terrible …). I feel like I’ve understood the importance of this document now. It should be the foundation for our teaching. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t question it. It’s not perfect. I think it’s great that we get tools to interpret and work with these documents. (Karin) As Karin’s reflection shows, policy documents, such as the national syllabus, can fall below the level of awareness during teacher training. Drawing explicit attention to policy, as the roleplay did, not only placed it within a sphere of relevance but demonstrated that teachers should be active interpreters and critical thinkers not blind policy adherents (cf. Shohamy 2006). The roleplay scenario provided no prescriptions about the national syllabus. Rather, as in professional practice, the pre-service teachers were placed in the position of making their own interpretations together with their colleagues so as to highlight the interpersonal dimension of meaning-making (Yardley-Matwiejczuk 1997). In this way, as Zehra, whose other subject specialization is Swedish, comments, the participants experienced first hand that engaging with policy is far from a straightforward process of translating the syllabus document into lessons and activities: Today, I realize that the document is vague and that it is necessary to interpret some things. Also, I know that there are some tensions in it, as for instance the question of whether to use the target language or to mix languages during lessons. (Zehra) Educational language policies can be opaque in intentionality and sometimes reflect the contradictory ideological positions of different policymakers (Johnson 2013: 111–13). As language policy arbiters, teachers must navigate these muddy waters in exercising their professional judgement (Johnson ibid.: 98–101; Hult 2014: 168). Here, for instance, Zehra refers to the apparent contradiction in the national syllabus for English that teaching should be done in the target language as much as possible while also encouraging the development of plurilingualism. Zehra shows an awareness that teachers are in the position to make interpretations in order to navigate policy tensions. Johan, who had completed a teaching practicum abroad in both English and civics, further echoes that the scenario raised awareness about policy meaning not being fixed but open to multiple interpretations: This was also for me yet another reminder of how vague the curriculum and syllabus on which I am supposed to base my future work are. How we in the group thought differently, interpreted differently and wanted different aspects of the syllabus to be the focus of our presentation just goes to show that we can steer our future classrooms and students in many different ways and still be justified by the rules that are set up for how we should be teaching. (Johan) As his remarks show, the roleplay brought to light how the same policy document can be used to support different practices among multiple educators. Language policies often have some room for manoeuvrability—what both Zehra and Johan refer to as vagueness—where teachers can make judgements about what is linguistically and culturally appropriate for the learners in their local classrooms, a notion that Hornberger (2005) terms ‘implementational space’. Identifying implementational spaces must be based on informed professional judgement (Johnson 2013: 104; Hult 2014: 168). The scenario stressed the use of educational sociolinguistic research from course readings to support policy interpretations and the development of ideas for practice. The roleplay, accordingly, made research–practice relationships come alive for the pre-service teachers: A new thing for me when discussing the syllabus—making it [the roleplay] an authentic assignment—was to bring in the perspective of research-based sources. My choices for an assignment feel more valid, and I feel more confident in my teacher role when I can back up my choices with research. (Erika) It was very interesting to connect the academic readings to more practical aspects of the curriculum/teaching. This is something that I myself have not put that much thought into if I’m being completely honest. I just sort of assumed that these things would solve themselves. Or well, I know that they won’t. It’s just that we’ve never before been given the tools to think about it in this way. (Anna) By situating policy as a mechanism for making connections between research and practice, the roleplay scenario positioned research as concretely useful and relevant for educators. Pre-service teachers sometimes have difficulty connecting research to how they imagine themselves as practitioners. Erika, who had completed an eight-week teaching practicum in music, comments that it was a ‘new thing for me’, and Anna, who had no prior teaching experience, notes that ‘this is something that I myself have not put that much thought into’. In the scenario, as these two excerpts further indicate, research became a tool for problem-solving and a source of professional confidence as the pre-service teachers were given the opportunity to use the research they had read for the course in order to make policy interpretations and find implementational spaces. Challenges and benefits While the interpretable nature of language policy allows for varying degrees of practical flexibility, it also engenders potential conflict as there is often no single right answer to how a policy should be put into practice or how a point of policy tension should be resolved (Johnson 2013: 116–17; Hult 2014: 169). Not unexpectedly, challenges inherent in negotiating policy interpretations with peer colleagues arose during the roleplay, which became frustrating for a few participants and a learning experience for others. For some, the process of negotiation became the main sticking point: I believe that the way of doing it was not the best, not for me anyway. We didn’t have very good group dynamics, and it felt like we didn’t get as much out of it as we could have. … We understood what we were going to do, of course, but we weren’t on the same page at all. We couldn’t negotiate our ideas, and there were a lot of question marks among us. (Kajsa) As Kajsa, who had no prior teaching experience, explains, her team understood the policy interpretation objective of the scenario, but the challenges they faced in compromising made it difficult for them to develop shared ideas. The upshot for Kajsa’s team was first-hand experience with how the strong beliefs held by individual policy stakeholders can sometimes lead to interpretive divergence or even deadlock (Compton 2013; Hult 2014: 168–69;). Other participants expressed similar insights: It was a difficult task, but it served well as a reminder of what has stuck in my mind throughout this course … and also of the difficulty and/or rewarding aspects of working in a group of educators, which I will be doing in my chosen profession. I got insight into what the others thought was important and what I thought was important to convey. (Johan) Johan explains that the difficulty of the roleplay scenario contributed to its authenticity. By being placed in a position of listening to the views of colleagues and trying to understand them as well as articulating and justifying his own perspectives, he gained an awareness of the kind of negotiation and comprise that is part and parcel of engaging with policy in professional practice (Menken and García, 2010b; Johnson 2013: 210). The pre-service teachers generally found the roleplay beneficial to their professional development as language policy arbiters: All in all, I feel after this course that I’ve gained more insight into how to interpret the national syllabus and that I now possess more tools to actually apply research in my future teaching. (Madeleine) When I started at the teacher training program, I was still a bit anxious about it [working with the syllabus]. However, the sociolinguistics course has made everything clearer. … I do not feel like an expert yet; I believe that it takes time, and a lot of work, to become that. Therefore, I hope to encounter the national syllabus documents again in the teacher training program. (Zehra) The roleplay scenario created an opportunity for direct experience with the messiness of human interaction (Yardley-Matwiejczuk 1997) as participants negotiated with colleagues and faced the challenges of drawing upon research to justify interpretations. In this way, language policy came into the sphere of relevance for these pre-service teachers. As Madeleine, who had previously worked for a year as a substitute and non-certified language teacher and had also completed a five-week teaching practicum in French, explains, she has now been able to add skills as a language policy arbiter to her repertoire of professional practice. Zehra, too, remarks that hands-on experience with the practical application of policy has given her new confidence while also making her aware that policy engagement is a skill to continue strengthening as part of ongoing professional training and development. Reflection and conclusion Overall, using roleplay was a fruitful way to make language policy concrete for pre-service teachers, allowing them to gain first-hand experience with how it relates to educational practice (cf. Yardley-Matwiejczuk ibid.). It is useful, then, by way of conclusion, to consider the outcomes of the project from the point of view of the participants as well as from the point of view of the reflective practice of English teacher education. Summary of findings As they report in their reflections, the participants found the scenario realistic, which made language policy tangible, facilitating their investment in interpretation and negotiation. Participants became aware of how research can be used as a tool for making sense of policy as well as for justifying one’s understanding and implementational choices. The roleplay also offered a relatively safe space to experience the challenges and benefits of debating policy with colleagues. They came to see how even peers with similar training can arrive at substantially different professional judgements about the same policy and how such divergence has the potential for outcomes ranging from gridlock to flexible solutions. Practitioner reflection From a teacher educator’s point of view, roleplay was an effective way to engage pre-service teachers with LPP. The solutions-oriented focus of the scenario and the element of collaborative negotiation fostered active involvement. Rather than learning passively and abstractly about teachers as language policy arbiters or how research could inform policy interpretation, they lived it during the roleplay. The experiential nature facilitated professional development through raising awareness, deepening knowledge, and harnessing skills. For many participants, it was the first time they had thought critically about research–policy–practice connections. Here they gained insight into both what kinds of issues to think about and how to navigate making such connections. Other teacher educators might find roleplay useful for engaging pre-service teachers with language curriculum topics as well. The realism of the scenario provided credibility as the participants were all easily able to imagine themselves in the situation. In developing the scenario, I took into account what policy documents English teachers in Sweden are expected to engage with in relation to practice and what circumstances might prompt a convincing policy challenge to address. As noted earlier, educational policy in Sweden is designed to give local teachers considerable latitude for interpretation. Other countries may have more restrictive policy contexts. Nonetheless, as Hélot (2010: 65) points out, ‘even in a very centralized, hierarchical and monolingually biased education system, teachers can be key agents in the educational process from the beginning of their career’. Since language policy is highly socially situated, it would be important to develop a plausible locally situated scenario if one were to adapt this approach to teaching language policy in a different context. It would also be possible to extend the roleplay further. Since the present focus was on teachers as language policy arbiters, the only role for each participant was that of teacher. Roleplay has the potential to prompt reflection based on multiple points of view (Yardley-Matwiejczuk 1997). Thus, a useful way to develop a language education policy roleplay further would be to assign participants to other stakeholder roles including administrator, parent, student, politician, community leader, among other possibilities. The realism also motivated the pre-service teachers to take the roleplay seriously, which meant that professional disagreements also became very real. I had earlier in the course provided them with resources featuring expressions for oral academic discourse (e.g. agreeing, disagreeing, asking questions, changing the topic) that most of them used well during seminar discussions. It might have enhanced the roleplay experience if the pre-service teachers had also received additional guidance on using English for conflict resolution. This could include, for instance, reading about strategies and expressions in English for diplomatic purposes (Friedrich 2016). While most of the participants found any conflict to be constructive, some were hampered by it. Since conflict is a potential component of language policy negotiation,4 explicitly addressing strategies for conflict resolution could yield skills that would be useful during the roleplay and transferrable beyond engaging with LPP. Conclusion As research in LPP continues to show how teachers play a central role in educational language policy processes (e.g. Menken and García 2010b; Johnson 2013), it behoves us as teacher educators to prepare pre-service teachers to act as language policy arbiters. We can help them become aware that this role is part of their professional practice, and we can empower them with the conceptual tools to make research-based language policy interpretations and with the confidence to participate actively in policy negotiation and debate. Notes Footnotes 1 The national curricula and subject area syllabi are available on the Swedish National Agency for Education’s (Skolverket) website, http://www.skolverket.se/ 2 Skolverket elaborates its position (in Swedish) on research-based practice here: http://www.skolverket.se/skolutveckling/forskning/forskningsbaserat-arbetssatt. These ideas were discussed throughout the course, including the LPP unit. 3 The course was taught in the medium of English. To encourage a focus on expression and content, participants were instructed to free-write without special attention to accuracy in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Since the focus here is on content and not language proficiency, the excerpts presented in the following section have been lightly edited for readability without changing the meaning. All names are pseudonyms. 4 See, for example, this Language Policy Research Network brief by Lo Bianco: http://www.cal.org/lpren/pdfs/briefs/conflict-language-rights-and-education.pdf. Francis M. Hult is an associate professor at the Lund University Centre for Languages and Literature in Sweden. He works at the cross-roads of sociolinguistics, discourse studies, and education. His research examines multilingual language management in policy and practice, focusing on linguistic landscapes and language policy and planning through an ethnographic discourse-analytic lens. His books include the Handbook of Educational Linguistics (with Spolsky; Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), Research Methods in Language Policy and Planning: A Practical Guide (with Johnson; Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), and Language Policy and Language Acquisition Planning (with Siiner and Kupisch; Springer, forthcoming). Appendix: educational language policy roleplay scenario It is one year after you have completed the teacher education programme, and you are working as a teacher at a school. The Swedish School Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) recently completed an evaluation of the school and determined that there are major problems because (a) teachers were generally not connecting instruction to the national syllabi and (b) teaching was not clearly research-based (vetenskapligt grundad) or aligned with documented best practices (beprövad erfarenhet). As Skolverket has set forth: Education should have a foundation in research and documented best practices. To realize this in schools, teachers and principals need to have an ongoing discussion about what research-based practice concretely means and how research can support the development of teaching. (http://www.skolverket.se/skolutveckling/forskning/forskningsbaserat-arbetssatt-1.189571, translation mine) The poor evaluation of the school has caused major concerns among administrators, teachers, parents, and students. To solve this crisis, the principal has assembled teams from each subject to come up with ways to address the problem by reviewing the national syllabi and developing concrete ideas for teaching that can be connected to research and best practices. Your group has been chosen as the team to develop ideas for one level of English (see syllabus provided). In assigning you this task, the principal said: ‘You are the best people to do this because you just finished teacher education and have the most recent contact with current research and best practices.’ As a first step, you decide to choose two passages from the national syllabus for English on which to focus, with particular attention to how ideas from sociolinguistics can be helpful in developing and supporting concrete ideas. The principal asks you to prepare a five-minute summary of your team’s ideas to present to the school’s curriculum committee. The principal further says: ‘We must have concrete ideas for activities, lessons, and projects that can be clearly tied to the national syllabus. Also, remember that Skolinspektionen will be checking to make sure these ideas are research-based or reflect documented best practices so it is absolutely essential that we can support the ideas with academic sources.’ References Compton , S. C . 2013 . ‘ Implementing language policy for deaf students in a Texas school district ’. International Multilingual Research Journal 7 / 2 : 138 – 54 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Friedrich , P . (ed.). 2016 . English for Diplomatic Purposes . Bristol : Multilingual Matters . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Hélot , C . 2010 . ‘ “Tu sais bien parler maȋtresse!”: negotiating languages other than French in the primary classroom in France ’ in K. Menken and O. García (eds.). Negotiating Language Policies in Schools: Educators as Policymakers . London : Routledge . Hornberger , N. H . 2005 . ‘ Opening and filling up implementational and ideological spaces in heritage language education ’. Modern Language Journal 89 / 4 : 605 – 09 . Hornberger , N. H. and McKay , S. L . (eds.). 2010 . Sociolinguistics and Language Education . Bristol : Multilingual Matters . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Hult , F. M . ( 2014 ). ‘ How does policy influence language in education ?’ in R.E. Silver and S.M. Lwin (eds.). Language in Education: Social Implications . London : Continuum . Johnson , D. C . 2013 . Language Policy . New York : Palgrave Macmillan . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Menken , K. and García , O . 2010a . ‘ Introduction ’ in K. Menken and O. García (eds.). Menken , K. and García , O . 2010b . ‘ Moving forward: Ten guiding principles for teachers ’ in K. Menken and O. García (eds.). Nunan , D . 2010 . Research Methods in Language Learning . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . Ricento , T. and Hornberger , N. H . 1996 . ‘ Unpeeling the onion: language planning and policy and the ELT professional ’. TESOL Quarterly 30 : 401 – 27 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Saldaña , J . 2012 . The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers ( Second edition ). London : Sage . Shohamy , E . 2006 . Language Policy: Hidden Agendas and New Approaches . London : Routledge . Yardley-Matwiejczuk , Y.M . 1997 . Role Play: Theory and Practice . London : Sage . Zeni , J . 2001 . Ethical Issues in Practitioner Research . New York : Teachers College Press . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)

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Published: Mar 8, 2018

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