Language and learning in transformative learning spaces – multilingual learner’s stories

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  • Elina Maslo
Proposal information:The necessity of knowing languages, many languages in fact, is emphasised in many different contexts in Europe, often in connection with globalisation. Languages are referred to as a key that opens a door – or many doors. Language is “a key to education”, ”a key to employment”, ”a key to mobility”, ”a key to culture”, ”a key to identity”, ”a key to success”, a key to – yes – ”a key to the world” are all examples of the widespread use of the key-metaphor. But are we speaking about one key or many different keys? And … Do some people have easier access to those keys than others? And … What about the language itself? How do we actually learn a language? And … What do we want to use them for? And what drives us forward and what holds us back?
This paper presents the findings from a study conducted at the Aarhus University in 2012-2014. The study “Multilingual ways to success – language and learning in transformative learning spaces” is a study of multilingual people’s experiences of their (language) learning processes. It is aimed to improve our understanding of human learning processes, not least the subjective dimensions of these processes. Despite rapid development of learning theory in general and language learning theory in particular, we still cannot provide an unequivocal answer to the question “Why do individuals, who presumably possess similar cognitive capacities for second language learning, achieve such varies degrees of proficiency?” (Benson & Nunan, 2005). The unequivocal answer simply does not exist: Learning is an extremely complex multidimensional process that happens differently to everyone. 
In this paper the focus is on how learning difference and diversity contribute to learning processes. The stories told by multilingual subjects participating in the study suggest that these processes are different for everyone. The stories challenge both the “one key for all”- metaphor and the traditional only cognitive understanding of what drives the learning. It presents and analyses the experiences of multilingual subjects in relation to learning languages in different contexts, at different moments in time and in different ways, based on different experiences, driven by different goals and achieving different results with different feelings. The learners themselves are changed as a result of their active engagement with learning languages and learning through languages. 
The research project is based on a broad understanding of language, where language covers over all linguistic and non-linguistic activities, that take place between and inside people in the physical, social, personal, cultural, and historical world they live in (van Lier, 2000). People can learn when they discover possibilities for learning, which appear in this complex world – so called affordances (Gibson, 1979). This happens in the interaction between people and their environment on the basis of their experiences (van Lier, 1996, 2010). In the project we believe that language learning follows the same principles as all other learning. Inspired by Illeris´ comprehensive theory of learning (Illeris, 2006), the broad understanding of learning is chosen for the project, and the main attention is paid to the different ways of interaction of cognitive, affective and social factors by different individuals. 
Methodology or Methods/Research Instruments or Sources Used:The study is based on 10 learning stories constructed on the basis of dialogs with multilingual language learners. Learning stories, where multilingual individuals are telling about their subjective experiences in language learning in particular and learning in general, are constructed by using a special developed methodology inspired by Claire Kramsch work on “The Multilingual Subject” (2009), Phil Bensons and Davis Nunans “Learners´ stories. Difference and Diversity in Language Learning” (2004) as well as Max van Manen “Researching Lived Experience” (1997). We believe that these learning stories can be used in the process of modelling of transformative learning spaces – physical and virtual, emotional and cognitive, individual and social space for successful learning, and learning through languages. The use of a phenomenological ecological approach to work with research data allows me to present unique learning experiences of multilingual subjects that challenge the traditional understanding of where learning comes from. 
Expected Outcomes:As a result of this study, 10 learner’s stories have been constructed on the basis of dialogs with multilingual language learners. These stories have been analysed with the aim to develop the concept of transformative learning spaces. ReferencesBenson, P. & D. Nunan (2004). Lerners´ stories. Difference and Diversity in Language Learning. Cambridge University Press. Gibson, J.J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Illeris, K. (2006). Læring. Frederiksberg: Roskilde Universitetsforlag.Kramsch, C. (2009). The Multilingual Subject. What Foreign Language Learners Say about their Experience and Why it Matters. Oxford University Press.Maslo, E. (2003) Mācīšanās spēju pilnveide. Rīga: RaKa.Maslo, E. (2013). Flersprogede subjekter på danskuddannelsen. En læringshistorie. I: Sprogforum nr. 57, s. 66-73, Aarhus Universitetsforlag.Maslo, E. (2015). Different ways to success in language and learning. (in press)Van Lier, Leo (1996). Interaction in the Language Curriculum. Awareness, Autonomy & Authenticity. Longman.Van Lier, Leo (2000). From Input to Affordance: Social-Interactive Learning from an Ecological Perspective. In: Lantolf, J.P. (Ed.). Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning. Oxford University Press, 245-259.Van Lier, Leo (2010). The ecology of language learning: Practice to theory, theory to practice. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. Elsevier. Van Manen, M. (1997). Researching Lived Experience. The Althouse Press. 
Intent of the Publication:This publication intends to provide a more nuanced understanding of human learning processes, not least the subjective dimensions of these processes. I hope that this paper will prove useful to the discussion about teaching and learning processes in language teaching, and in teaching in general.
StatusUdgivet - 2015
BegivenhedEuropean Conference on Educational Research: Education and Transition - Budapest, Ungarn
Varighed: 8 sep. 201512 sep. 2015


KonferenceEuropean Conference on Educational Research

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