Supporting Reconnecting Immigrant Families with English Language Learners in Rural Schools: An Exploratory Study of Filipino Arrivals to Alberta

Volume 2(2): 2018

M. GREGORY TWEEDIE, University of Calgary

ANJA DRESSLER, Calgary Board of Education

CORA-LEAH SCHMITT, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools

ABSTRACT. Immigration in Canada has traditionally been associated with urban areas, but rural communities are host to an increasing number of new immigrants. As students of these immigrant families arrive in rural schools, there is increasing pressure on rural school divisions to meet the needs of a diverse student population of English Language Learners (ELLs), though often with limited previous experience with such students. In many of these situations, the nature of the workforce has led to family separation during the immigration process, with subsequent reunification in Canada. Newly-arrived immigrant students are thus having to develop academic English language proficiency as well as adjust to the dynamics of family reunification. This article recounts exploratory qualitative research on how Filipino secondary school immigrant students in Alberta, who are reconnecting with parents, acculturate and develop a sense of belonging when language and content acquisition, social-emotional, and acculturation supports are in place. Data is drawn from interviews with immigrant families from the Philippines and from teachers’ written responses to reflection questions on their growth as educators of ELLs. Although the needs of reconnecting immigrant families are multifaceted and complex, the findings from this study suggest a supportive role can be played by schools in assisting such families both through enhanced coordination with the immigrant community, and direct and explicit teacher training in pedagogical strategies for teachers of ELLs.

RÉSUMÉ. L’immigration au Canada est traditionnellement associée aux zones urbaines, toutefois les communautés rurales accueillent un nombre grandissant de nouveaux immigrants. L’arrivée de ces familles immigrantes dans les écoles rurales augmente la pression sur les instances scolaires quant à la nécessité de répondre aux besoins de diverses populations d’apprenants de l’anglais langue seconde (English Language Learners), alors que leurs expériences précédentes avec ces élèves sont souvent limitées. Dans bon nombre de situations, la famille a dû être victime d’une séparation pendant le processus d’immigration, suivi d’une réunification ultérieure au Canada. Les nouveaux élèves immigrants doivent donc développer leur compétence en anglais tout en s’ajustant à la dynamique qu’entraine la réunification familiale. Cet article décrit une recherche qualitative exploratoire sur la façon dont les Philippins immigrants à l’école secondaire en Alberta, renouant avec leurs parents, s’acculturent et développent un sentiment d’appartenance lorsque les appuis d’acquisition langagière et de contenus, sociaux et émotionnels ainsi que d’acculturation sont mis en place. Les données sont tirées d’entrevues réalisées avec des familles philippines immigrantes ainsi que des réponses écrites d’enseignants de l’anglais langue seconde sur des questions réflexives quant à leur développement professionnel auprès de cette clientèle. Bien que les besoins pour aider les familles immigrantes soient multidimensionnels et complexes, les résultats de cette recherche suggèrent la nécessité d’un rôle de soutien pouvant être tenu par l’école en assurant une meilleure coordination avec la communauté immigrante, mais aussi par la formation directe et indirecte des enseignantes de l’anglais langue seconde sur les stratégies pédagogiques qui leur sont propres.

Keywords: family reunification; immigration; rural immigration; English Language Learners; English as a Second Language (ESL); language proficiency benchmarks; rural education.

Transnational Family Reconnection, English Language Learners, and Rural Canada

One effect of globalization is the vast movement of people across international borders with hopes for an improved standard of living, and Canada is host to a large number of new immigrants annually (OECD, 2018). While immigration in Canada is typically associated with urban areas (IRCC, 2005), the population of immigrants in rural areas is also increasing, facilitated through various municipal and provincial schemes (CIC News, 2016; O’Doherty, Katem, & Turner, 2017). In Alberta in particular, an Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) allows skilled workers, along with their families, to make application for permanent residency (Government of Alberta, 2017), and several large Alberta employers with operations in rural areas actively recruit employees from abroad and support them and their families in seeking permanent residency (e.g., see Peterson, 2016). The result is that rural areas in Alberta are host to an increasing number of new immigrants.

These efforts to support families in transitioning from temporary worker to permanent resident status are certainly laudable, but the reality remains that extended family separation is often part of the migration process. Families facing limited economic prospects in their home country may opt for one parent to seek employment abroad while spouse and children remain behind; in some cases, both parents leave for employment while children are cared for by relatives. The separation period can be lengthy, with one study finding a median timeframe of eight years until reunification (Farrales & Pratt, 2012). The term ‘transnational family’ is often used to refer to “sustained ties of family members and kinship networks across the borders of multiple nation states” (McCarthy & Edwards, 2011, p. 188). Implicit in the term is the understanding that migration is not always a linear process, but frequently involves evolving relationships among family members spread across multiple borders. That Family relationships are enacted across international boundaries is in keeping with a larger trend in the modern world, where interactions and communications, as traditionally defined, appear increasingly fluid and flexible (Hawkins & Mori, 2018). Separation and reconnection of transnational families often contributes to considerable stress (Falicov, 2007; Suårez-Orozco, Todorova & Louie, 2002), and research suggests family separation during the immigration process impacts negatively on children’s academic success (Gindling & Poggio, 2009; McKenzie & Rapoport, 2011). The reality of family separation during the immigration process is an important factor for schools to take into account when considering how to best support newcomer students.

As students of these transnational families arrive in rural Alberta schools, there is increasing pressure on rural school divisions to meet the needs of a diverse student population of English Language Learners (ELL), though often with limited previous experience with such students, given the historical trend of urban immigration. Teachers in Alberta have access to a variety of resources to guide instruction and support the academic English language learning of students. These include documents such as the English as a Second Language Guide to Implementation (Alberta Education, 2007), materials included in broader discussions of instruction for diverse learners (e.g., Alberta Education, 2010), and the ESL Benchmarks (Government of Alberta, 2018a). It is, however, left to individual school divisions to determine how and when this information is disseminated to teachers. In many instances, professional learning sessions for teachers support the understanding of these documents, but to date, little research is available recounting their effectiveness in rural contexts. Additionally, much of the information in the documents focuses on language acquisition, and although language and culture are “inextricably bound” (Alberta Education, 2010, p. 144), strategies and assessment of the acculturation process are not explicitly identified in these documents.

This exploratory study will consider how the settlement process of such transnational reunifying families is affected when explicit support is offered for students’ academic language and content acquisition and families’ social-emotional needs. We examine the efforts of one rural school jurisdiction in its attempts to support students and their families during the challenges of reunification in settlement.

Literature Review

This section provides a review of the literature on students in families experiencing immigration and reconnection, presenting four different aspects of the transnational family and student experience: immigration as a whole; family separation and immigration; academic issues in reconnection scenarios; and culturally responsive pedagogies in schools. While literature on transnational families in general is referenced, readers will note a particular emphasis in this review on the Philippines, since, as will be discussed later, Filipino nationals make up the bulk of the transnational workforce in the school jurisdiction under study. Sources consulted range from peer-reviewed journal articles to news reports. The section concludes by stating the research question that guided this study.

Immigration in World Context

One impact of globalization is the movement of people across borders in search of a higher quality of life. As a world leader in both numbers of migrants received and in their share of the population percentage (OECD, 2018), Canada receives workers into a variety of jobs and careers, although mainly to urban centers (IRCC, 2005). Immigration to the Canadian province of Alberta—the site of this study—continues to increase. Between 2011 and 2016, over 207,000 people immigrated to Alberta (Simons, 2017), with only 15% of Alberta immigrants settling in rural areas (CIC News, 2016). However, numbers of immigrants to rural Alberta are on the rise.

Various municipal and provincial schemes have facilitated this increase (CIC News, 2016; O’Doherty et al., 2017), as well as the initiatives of several large Alberta employers for international workforce recruitment, often with the support of the AINP (Government of Alberta, 2017). Many immigrants have difficulty qualifying to bring their family to Canada after being separated, making employer support especially valuable in helping such workers realize settlement in Canada (Bragg & Wong, 2016). One particular employer in a rural Alberta town utilizes Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program to recruit qualified employees and then works with them to quickly apply for Permanent Residence and bring their family to Canada (Immigrant Services Calgary, 2014; Peterson, 2016). These efforts have led to an influx of immigrants into areas encompassed by the school jurisdiction in this present study.

Certain countries provide more workers for Canada than others, and this is reflected in the workforce composition within this study’s rural school district, where the bulk of the international labour force comes from the Philippines. It is not uncommon for a significant percentage of the Filipino population to seek employment abroad, with over one-tenth of Filipinos reported to be doing so (Madianou & Miller, 2011), creating a “culture of migration” (Falicov, 2007, p. 162). While traditionally seen as the father’s responsibility to move abroad to work and provide for the family, in recent years, mothers have also started to fill this role (Madianou & Miller, 2011). In some situations, families choose to leave the Philippines permanently and reside elsewhere, such as in Canada.

Family Separation and Immigration

As noted above, family separation is often part of the immigration process. One parent may arrive on an employment contract, with spouse and children arriving later, with the aim of the whole family experiencing a better quality of life (Jimenez, 2015). In other cases, a child may accompany a parent upon initial entry, with a spouse joining the family later. In either situation, the process of family separation and reunification often encompasses multiple years (Farrales & Pratt, 2012). These separations may be emotionally difficult, and the longer the separation period, the more the lasting effects on the family (Black, 2005; Suårez-Orozco, Bang & Kim, 2011). This migration process of transnational families has been associated with significant impacts on mental health for both parents and children (Falicov, 2007).

While separated, families seek communication and closeness using technology as an effort to bridge the physical and emotional gap. Mothers and fathers often devote significant resources of time and money to parenting from afar via the internet and mobile phones (Black, 2005; Jimenez, 2015; Parreñas, 2005), ranging from scheduled weekly phone calls or texts to money and gifts sent on a regular basis. Throughout the history of transnational families in the Philippines, the decreasing costs of mobile phones and associated services have helped families stay closer during separation, something the government of the Philippines hopes will help alleviate some of the social cost of separation (Madianou & Miller, 2011). However, a gender gap exists in transnational parenting. Mothers can end up “perform[ing] all of the parenting and emotional work from a distance” (Madianou & Miller, 2011, p. 460). Even when the father is at home with the children, the mother often does more nurturing from afar than her husband, who is physically present (Parreñas, 2005). Although technology can assist (virtual) communication during family separation, parents still suffer negative effects from the (actual) separation and reunification characteristic of transnational families.

Separation and Reunification: Challenges for Parents

Parents in transnational families face various issues related to separation from children and spouse to work abroad and then subsequently reuniting. While separated, the parent abroad is torn between their work–the reason they left–and being connected to family back home (Hertzsprung, 2004). If it is the mother who leaves to find work, she and her family may face the criticism that mothers should be physically present to care for their children (Hertzsprung, 2004). Once the family has been reunited abroad, parents may find that childcare is expensive and hard to find compared to the availability of extended-family childcare back home. In many cultural contexts, family means more than just the nuclear family, and so adjustments to the lost familial support network can be taxing on both mothers and fathers upon settlement in their new country (Falicov, 2007; Jimenez, 2015).

Reuniting as a family poses many challenges as well. Stepping back into the parenting role after years of absence is often delicate and awkward, as cultural differences between their previous and new context get in the way of sleeping arrangements, food, discipline, and parenting styles (Hertzsprung, 2004). The ability of mothers and fathers to once again assert parental authority over children they had been separated from for years is frequently difficult (Suårez-Orozco et al., 2011). Children of transnational families also face struggles during the migration process.

Separation and Reunification: Challenges for Children

Children and youth of transnational families encounter various challenges indicative of their circumstances. When one or both parents leave to find employment in a new country, children can feel abandoned, and attachment trauma due to migration, separation, and reunification is not uncommon (Jimenez, 2015). In one study, the length of separation, especially from the mother, correlated with rates of anxiety and depression in adolescents (Suårez-Orozco et al., 2011). Even upon being reunited, children may continue to struggle. Parents who had left can sometimes feel like strangers and the reunion is often problematic (Jimenez, 2015; Suårez-Orozco et al., 2011). Children are not always prepared and willing to have their parents once again fill parental roles in the new country (Suårez-Orozco et al., 2002). Children miss family and friends left behind when they go to reunite with parent(s), especially when those they left behind were surrogate primary caregivers in lieu of the parent(s) during the time apart (Black, 2005). The separation experienced by children during the immigration process is thus twofold: first from their parents who leave to work abroad, and then later from their primary caregivers when children migrate to join parents in the new country (Suårez-Orozco et al., 2002). These emotional struggles coupled with academic issues paint a fuller picture of the challenges that children of transnational families face.

Academic Challenges

Education is an important aspect of future success for all children new to Canada and is of particular cultural importance to Filipinos. Education itself is poorly funded in Philippines, but it is still highly valued (Hertzsprung, 2004). As a priority within families, education is viewed as the most valuable gift parents can give their children (Jimenez, 2015). In transnational families, parents abroad will often stipulate that pay remittances sent home go toward a better quality of education for their children (Dreby & Stutz, 2012).

Many parents in transnational families make education a priority and perhaps even migrated partly because of it; however, students from these families often suffer negative educational outcomes (Black, 2005). Overall, separation from parents has negative impacts on education in forms of depression, education gap, and higher dropout rates (Gindling & Poggio, 2009, 2012; McKenzie & Rapoport, 2011). Education gaps and dropout rates are higher compared to students native to the country and students in families who did not migrate (Gindling & Poggio, 2009). Also, the older a child at time of migration, the more troubles encountered in school; this is true also if separation was from the mother (Gindling & Poggio, 2012). The simultaneous experiences of being a newcomer and being separated from parents and extended family contribute to negative school performance (Gindling & Poggio, 2012; Patel, Clarke, Eltareb, Macciomei, & Wickham, 2016). With transnational Filipino children in particular, placement in Canadian ESL classes has been associated with lower educational success, in part due to non-credit programming, the lack of credits assigned and possible mismatch between the level of the content and the level of the students (Farrales & Pratt, 2012). Overall, the literature suggests experiencing separation from and reunification with family members may negatively impact the schooling of children of transnational families.

Strategies that Promote Academic Success

Research points to some factors that can impact the educational success of students in transnational families both positively or negatively. As noted above, mismatched ESL placement of transnational Filipino students is one factor (Farrales & Pratt, 2012). Trauma is another factor, any kind of which negatively impacts students’ abilities at school. Herman (1997) characterizes traumatic events as situations that “overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning” (p. 33), and knowledge of trauma-informed teaching practice is increasingly important for Canadian teachers given the realities of global events (Tweedie et al, 2017). Efforts to combat trauma, such as trauma from separating from loved ones multiple times, should include strong teacher-student relationships, classroom exercises to build self-regulation, and a focus on students’ strengths (Brunzell, Stokes & Waters, 2016a, 2016b).

Many elements of the school life of a student with a transnational background can be used to promote academic success. Factors leading to success in school for migrant students include feelings of appreciation from teachers and peers, teachers having high educational expectations of migrant students, and migrant families highly valuing education (Hoti, Heinzmann, Müller & Buholzer, 2017). These students succeed when they perceive that their teachers truly care about them, because students need to feel safe and cared for in order to learn (Dallavis, 2014). In this vein, creating a positive relationship between the family and the school is crucial to success for students new to the country to bridge the gap between home and school cultures (Szente, Hoot & Taylor, 2006; Tran & Hodgson, 2015). Course offerings also affect how transnational students feel about school. Music education in particular can be very beneficial as it transcends the language barrier through supporting students emotionally, socially, and cognitively (Skidmore, 2016). Finally, students with access to a community of their own home culture have better academic success in school, regardless of any other factors inside the physical school building (Wilkinson, 2002). Through this study we endeavour to explore how these, and other factors might promote educational success for transnational students in a rural context, through supporting both them and their families as they reconnect after being separated in the immigration process.

Research Question

Among the literature surveyed above are persistent calls for further research addressing the issues faced by transnational families. Black (2005), for example, called for studies looking at education programs for parents and other family supports. Other studies, such as Suárez-Orozco et al. (2011) ask researchers to further consider academic performance of children in transnational families. This study contributes to these gaps by exploring the following research question: How is the acculturation process of rural immigrant students affected when the language and content acquisition of students and the social-emotional needs of reconnecting immigrant families are explicitly supported?


The site of this exploratory qualitative study is a school district in Alberta, comprised of 22 schools, serving approximately 3,000 students and over 500 teachers. The school district encompasses areas classified either as rural or small population centres (Statistics Canada, 2017).

After permission from an institutional ethics body and corresponding approvals at district and school levels, potential participants were invited to take part either in semi-structured interviews exploring experiences of the immigration and reconnection process (students and their parents) or written reflections on experiences at supporting ELLs (teachers), as described below. After the interviews were transcribed, each of the three researchers worked individually to read through the transcripts and the teachers’ reflections, seeking to gain a holistic perspective. As the study’s objective was exploratory in nature, researchers attempted, as far as possible, to avoid allowing preconceived perceptions to be read into the data. Researchers then worked individually to hand-code themes; in subsequent research team meetings, these codes were subjected to further analysis to reach team interpretive consensus as interrelated themes were synthesized. Merriam’s (2009) constant comparative method informed the process of differentiating data sets between levels of conceptualization.

Given the circumstances of these newcomer families, every effort was made in the recruitment and data collection process to align with principles of fairness and equity for vulnerable research populations (Tri-Council, 2014). To keep participant recruitment confidential from the school jurisdiction and its schools, a third party (a local immigration agency) contacted families in their network who met the study criteria to explain the study and invite participation. After this initial step, the agency facilitated contact between the research assistant and interested families, in order to remove the possibility that particular schools or the school jurisdiction might be aware of who did/did not participate in the study. Two interviews were conducted with each family: first in the initial quarter of the academic year, and then again in the final quarter. At the interviews, the research assistant made explicit the voluntary nature of participation, and participants were given the option of being interviewed individually or together with their spouse or siblings if they so wished. Pseudonyms were chosen by participants at the initial interview, and any identifying features revealed during the interview (family names, school names, etc.) were removed during the process of transcription.

Teacher Reflections

Teachers attending professional development workshops conducted by the school district were invited to complete written reflections in response to prompts exploring understanding of the second language acquisition process as experienced by ELLs in their classrooms; teacher confidence levels with respect to teaching ELLs; and use of the Alberta Education ESL Benchmarks (see Appendix). To preserve anonymity, teachers who wished to participate were instructed to complete and return the reflections anonymously at their leisure, with no identifying features included in the response. Teachers were asked to mark their reflection with a symbol of their choosing (e.g.,* [asterisk]), which would then be used to match respondents in subsequent reflections. In total, six content area teachers, spanning various subject areas in grades 7 to 12, all with ELL students in their classes, completed reflections in the initial months of the school year. A second round of teacher reflections was completed by the same teachers in the final quarter of the academic year.

Family Interviews

A semi-structured interview with families was utilized to facilitate the use of planned questions based on the research question, but also to allow the latitude to explore other lines of inquiry that arose during the discussion. The questions were constructed following Wengraf’s (2001) model of underpinning Interview Questions (IQs) with Central Research Question(s) (CRQs) and Theory Questions (TQs); and were informed by surveyed research on the dynamics of family separation and reunification during migration, as described previously in the literature review section. In the second round of interviews, questions surrounding the family workshops and their effectiveness were added. Interviews began with a brief demographic survey regarding their immigration background (see Appendix).

Seven families participated in interviews: twelve parents (six female; six male), 13 children (six female; seven male), and one parental figure (female, older sister). All participant families were recent immigrants: One parent came first to Canada, and then after obtaining permanent residence, was able to bring their children and spouse to the rural area of the study. The country of origin for all participants was the Philippines; however, some participants had also lived in intermediary countries prior to arrival in Canada. Some families remained partially separated–for example, one parent remained in the Philippines–during the period of the study. Table 1 details the families within the study; all names are pseudonyms self-chosen by participants.



Parent(s) /

Parental figures

Students Interviews / Workshops attended
Ford Dustin (male; father) Rob (male; sr. high)

Bob (male; sr. high)

All family members were interviewed twice; attended 3 family workshops
Smith Sam (female; mother)

Jun Jun (male; father)

Gel (female; jr. high) All family members were interviewed once; did not attend family workshops
Applebaum Criselda (female; mother)

Sarah (female; elder sister of students)

Not included as participants: two teenage sons Parents/parental figures interviewed twice; attended 1 family workshop
Brown Ester (female; mother)

Julius (male; father)

Michelle (female; sr. high)

Candice (female; sr. high)

Jeyden (male; jr. high)

All family members interviewed twice; attended 1 family workshop
Bautista Michelle (female; mother)

Michael (male; father)

Angel (female; jr high) All family members interviewed twice; did not attend family workshops
Schumann Lyn (female; mother)

Tony (male; father)

Lisa (female; sr. high)

Jake (male; jr. high)

All family members interviewed twice; attended 4 family workshops.
Torres Hannah (female; mother)

Mike (male; father)

Ashley (female; jr. high) All family members interviewed twice; attended 3 family workshops.

Table 1: Demographic Information of Family Participants (Pseudonyms)

In qualitative research, trustworthiness is said to refer to the veracity of findings “based on maximum opportunity to hear participants’ voices in a particular context” (Hays & Singh, 2012, p. 192). The research team undertook a number of measures to strengthen trustworthiness as defined in this way. Throughout the study, the researchers endeavored to exercise reflexivity (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Merriam, 2009) through ongoing reflection on biases and assumptions via discussions with each other and colleagues. The researchers were also aware of a position of power imbalance with participants, and thus undertook to redress this in a number of ways with respect to data collection. Interviews opened with a thorough discussion of the consent form and its implications, with the interviewer making clear that participants were free to avoid answering any question with which they were uncomfortable, and that they were able to stop the interview at any time, or even withdraw from the study entirely. In several instances during interviews, matters of a sensitive nature arose that were pertinent to the study; however, the research team only committed to pursue further questions with a clear indication to do so from the interviewees. The research team also stressed to interviewees the study’s commitment to confidentiality, and therefore explained the data anonymization process to reduce the possibility that participants would only share what they perceived the interviewer wanted to hear. The research team deemed such measures to play an important part in enabling the voices of participants to be heard.


Findings, as guided by the research question, are presented according to data type.

Interviews: Families

As described previously, researchers working individually identified overarching themes from the data. Upon subsequent group discussion, these initial themes were collapsed into four (Challenges, Perceptions, Changing relationships, Strategies), with 27 identified sub-themes. Table 2 presents selected examples with extracts.

A number of themes grouped under Challenges included the loss of support networks of family and friends (parents linked this loss of support with difficulties in parenting). For students, there was an expressed lack of confidence in both understanding and speaking English in the classroom, along with adjustments to a new school system and school subjects. Particularly emphasized in the second round of interviews were reflections on the economic realities of Canadian life. For some families, a half-year from the first interview, spouses had still not yet managed to secure employment, and so any savings brought with them rapidly depleted as they navigated the high cost of living in Canada. In families where both parents worked, a common theme was the challenge of finding time together as a family, especially when parents’ jobs required shift work. In relation to this, one participant expressed the irony that bringing parents and children together had been a primary reason for whole-family immigration to Canada.

Theme Sub-themes Selected Extract [pre- or post-intervention interview]
Challenges Canada
Parent 1: The hardest things [about being a parent in Canada] I know that because it’s different, the children in here and back home in the Philippines you can discipline there. . .physically, but here you are not allowed to. [Pre-]



Parent 2: You don’t have time to talk to our native language even for a while, so it makes harder even for a little while maybe. That maybe it helps that there is a Filipino classmates for them to talk to especially during their early months that they are in Canada. [Pre-]
Strategies For success


Student 1: Sometimes my classmates, Pilipino classmates, they teach me how to do it. [Post-]
Perceptions Canada


Student 2: When I came here, when I’m speaking English, I feel like nervous to talk to everyone, but now I like have confidence, but sometimes not. [Post-]

Table 2: Interview Themes/Sub-themes – Selected Examples

Included among the theme labelled Perceptions were sub-themes such as (perceptions of) cultural differences; school in Canada relative to the home country; and the settlement process. Striking in this overarching theme of Perceptions was the positive framing of participants’ experiences with Canada in general, and the school system/school in particular, a theme sustained across data from both first and second round of interviews. Among the benefits of living in Canada expressed by the participants were secondary schools without tuition fees, free access to healthcare, and the relatively safe environment.

The theme of Changing relationships served to capture some of the dynamics at play as families reunited after separation caused by the migration process. Analysis of interview data revealed that responses from parent participants differed significantly from student responses. Student participants were more likely to note the positive features of family reunification. For example, one student, (pseudonym: Angel) described her relationship with her father when he was employed in a different country as “kind of awkward,” but here in Canada, she said, “I’m so happy because we are together now.” Three siblings (student participants) positively described “a lot of bonding” among their now reunited family.

Parent participants expressed gratitude at being reunited, but in contrast also remarked on challenges encountered through changing relationships. One mother referred to such shifting dynamics in Canada: “They [her children] have more changes outside [the home] that I don’t know. . .some things I don’t understand sometimes.” Parents from two different families expressed unease at how expectations concerning norms for child discipline differed in Canada. As one father explained the contrast, “In our country we can do what we want to discipline our kids. Even if we are using our hands, we can do it in our country.”

The theme Strategies evidenced the efficacy of social networks. Here, the importance of the existing Filipino community in providing practical support to newcomer families, both to parents and students, emerged as a key component in navigating the challenges of the settlement process. Parents described social networks as instrumental in undergirding emotional support and finding employment or other practical assistance, and students shared how Filipino classmates helped bridge the knowledge gap with respect to school expectations in general, and better understanding assigned work in particular.

Written Reflections: Teachers

A number of themes emerged from analysis of teachers’ written responses to the reflection prompts. Table 3 below lists these commonalities with accompanying interview extracts, followed by a discussion of these themes.

Theme Selected Extract [pre- or post-intervention reflections]
Valuable role of direct and explicit instruction for teachers My understanding of how students acquire a second language has increased as a result of the SIOP training; however, I now realize how little I understood in the first place! [Post-]

The sessions with [the professional development instructor] were beneficial in helping me to be more aware of the opportunities that arise during each lesson. [Post-]

I feel that my current understanding of second language acquisition has grown far more than I could have expected. I feel I have an excellent grasp on language acquisition. In this, I better understand how language can be learned, but also how to support learners who are struggling. [Post-]

Teachers’ interactions with the ESL Benchmarks I try to use the benchmarks to inform my teaching, but not as regularly as I should. [Post-]

I have attempted to use points from the benchmarks to inform my instruction and certainly I can see the potential for their use, but I have not been successful in using them on a consistent basis. [Pre-]

The tracking of these items can, at times, detract me from supporting students as I get lost in all the bullet points. As much as I now understand the necessity of each point to language acquisition, I also feel that there is too much in there for monitoring sake. [Post-]

My current relationship with the benchmarks is simply to do them for the sake of getting them done. . . I don’t have a meaningful connection between those numbers and any specific or effective classroom practices for students who are stalled or struggling in their language acquisition. [Pre-]

The document is too large, and the time it would take to assess a child on all of those points is huge. With the large number of ELL students I have, it is actually difficult to make use of all of the information provided in that document. The amount of information is actually also overwhelming. I still do not refer to these documents to inform my instruction, rather, I refer to students writing, speaking, and ability to comprehend texts. [Post-]

Professional learning as a tool to overcome challenges After explicitly trying some techniques [from the professional learning sessions] geared towards helping ELL students learn, I am more confident in my ability to provide the appropriate supports for my students. Having worked with more ELL students I am also more confident in understanding where they are at and what they could benefit from. I am confident that given more time in a day to prepare, I could create a class that has multiple activities and strategies implemented to meet the needs of a variety of ELL students. It will take me a few years to integrate all that I have learned, but my ability to understand and meet the needs of my students has already begun to improve. [Post-]

The strategies provided [in professional learning sessions] have been extremely useful, especially the focus on vocabulary development. I spent a lot of time focusing on vocabulary strategies with students so that they could use them in all classes. The growth seen with the student’s ability to write and read was amazing after only a few lessons. [Post-]

The additional resources that we were provided with were (and continue to be) quite helpful in building my confidence in the field of meeting the needs of the ELL students. [Post-]

Table 3: Teacher Reflection Themes – Selected Examples

Firstly, the importance of direct and explicit instruction for teachers was highlighted, both in terms of enhancing awareness of the second language acquisition process, and in increasing recognition of how the ESL Benchmarks might be better utilized. As one participant reflected in a post-training response: “I feel that my current understanding of second language acquisition has grown far more than I could have expected.” With respect to the Benchmarks, direct and explicit instruction were seen to be of particular benefit in helping participants develop awareness of what they thought they knew, but actually did not. One teacher, for example, expressed a strong sense of self-efficacy in the first reflection, self-describing as “very confident with the Alberta ESL Benchmarks. I have a strong working knowledge of all areas and what is entailed in each level of learning.” Post-professional development session, however, the same participant’s reflections contrasted sharply with their earlier self-confidence: “Although I felt I had a strong understanding of it before starting, I realized quickly that my understanding was more basic. The training in SIOP [Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol] and other strategies have supported me in understanding the Benchmarks much more, especially in regard to informing instruction.”

Improved knowledge of the Benchmarks notwithstanding, two-thirds of participants expressed doubts surrounding the document’s application. Of six participants, two gave positive assessments of the Benchmarks in their post-reflection: One teacher described them as “useful to helping students”, and another remarked on the Benchmarks’ role in providing “a better sense of the steps required in the development of English proficiency.” Four of six teachers, however, were less positive. One post-reflection indicated the participant felt “pretty much the same” about the Benchmarks after the training sessions, expressing the view that “the document is too large,” making its application for assessment to each ELL impractical. This view was echoed by another participant in a pre-training reflection, who described the Benchmarks as “far too unwieldy to be practical or meaningful.” This same participant’s post-training reflection did not result in a more positive view, but equated use of the Benchmarks with “using a screwdriver to pound in a nail. . .I can do it, but it’s not the right tool for the job. . . [there are] way too many categories to assess any of them meaningfully.”

A commonly expressed theme was an understanding gap in how the Benchmarks might apprise classroom instructional practices, one of the stated purposes envisioned by its creators (Government of Alberta, 2018b). As one teacher put it, “As a tool to inform instruction, I do not refer to the [Benchmarks] document at all, simply the final Benchmark number.” Another participant expressed a similar view: “As a general tool I am confident in using the [Benchmarks‘] level to gauge where a student is and what supports are required in the classroom,” but went on to add that, “Aside from using the overall [number] as a tool to see what the general understanding of a student/class is, I have not explicitly used the Benchmarks to inform my instruction.” Given the ambiguities expressed by teachers in this study, the use and application of the Benchmarks by teachers presents intriguing possibilities for further research.

Finally, participants’ written responses highlighted the role of professional development sessions in helping to overcome challenges associated with instruction of ELLs within mainstream classrooms. Cited challenges included a lack of time to prepare specific strategies for ELLs in the midst of the demands of other classroom preparation; the sheer numbers of ELLs in any one class; the masking of low reading proficiency by spoken language ability; and instruction of content-specific vocabulary. However, participants highlighted professional development sessions as positive steps toward supporting these learners. One teacher described the resources provided in the training sessions as “quite helpful in building my confidence in the field of meeting the needs of ELL students. . . . With my increased level of confidence, I have been able to offer them concrete ways in which they can participate in their language acquisition.” Another teacher’s post-training response remarked that strategies provided in the professional development sessions were overall “extremely useful,” and identified in particular “the focus on vocabulary development.” Describing application of vocabulary strategies to a specific class, the teacher noted “the growth seen with the student’s ability to write and read was amazing after only a few lessons.”


The belonging and acculturation needs of transnational and reconnecting families settling within a rural school jurisdiction were seen to be multifaceted and complex, even within the small sample considered in this study. The discussion presented here, therefore, set in the context of an exploratory inquiry, must be seen in light of this complexity. However, we assert still that these findings offer insight into how other rural school jurisdictions might offer support to ELLs and their reconnecting families.

First, the findings serve as an efficacious reminder to a reality unfortunately too often forgotten: That students’ academic progress cannot be considered in isolation but must be viewed as a subset of the larger complexities of challenges involved with the migration process in general, and family separation/reunification in particular. Such pressures are invariably brought to bear on student learning, and so to view academic language acquisition without consideration of the impact of these broader family dynamics is to overlook a critical dimension of the process. Schools and teachers of migrant students must look past the more apparent need for language learning and realize that adjustment to life in Canada involves considerably more (Due, Riggs, & Mandara, 2015). The findings of this study serve to underscore the import of a holistic perspective on education (Miller, Nigh, Binder, Novack & Crowell, 2018).

Second, as schools attempt to support ELLs within the context of reunifying families, this study’s findings also reinforce another obvious, but often overlooked point: the importance of forging support partnerships with the immigrant community that the school jurisdiction seeks to serve (Tran & Hodgson, 2015). Offering support for, rather than with, the community a school jurisdiction wishes to assist overlooks a critical element. A central benefit of the family workshops conducted, beyond the actual content, proved to be the networking afforded by bringing together families in similar circumstances. These families then began to forge informal networks for practical assistance ranging from help finding employment to sharing household responsibilities like cooking. We therefore recommend that schools/school jurisdictions, before rushing to provide programming to lend practical assistance, first consider opportunities to partner with existing networks–formal or informal–within the target community itself. Such an approach may represent a more sustainable and effective means of both identifying and supporting the complex and multifaceted needs of reconnecting transnational families.

Third, the findings affirm the important role of direct and explicit training for teachers in classroom strategies appropriate to ELLs. Comparative analysis of data from pre- and post-training teacher reflections indicate growth as practitioners, underscoring the benefits of such training. This serves as a reminder that teacher knowledge of the unique learning needs of ELLs cannot be assumed, and that targeted in-service professional development can play an important role in helping teachers better support these learners. Data also yielded a complex picture of teachers’ relationship with the Alberta K-12 ESL Benchmarks. While findings showed both teachers’ apprehension toward the Benchmarks as well as the valuable role of explicit teacher training in supporting their use, much work remains to be done with respect to utilizing the Benchmarks as a tool informing classroom instruction.


This study explored how support offered by a rural school district to reunifying families might impact the language acquisition of ELL students. Data drawn from semi-structured interviews with families and written reflections from teachers of ELLs pointed toward the multifaceted and complex challenges encountered by families separated and subsequently reunified during the immigration process. Findings underlined the relevance of a holistic approach to students’ learning by schools and their jurisdictions in seeking to support reunifying families. The results also pointed to consideration of support networks already extant within migrant communities, with the aim of offering support with, rather than simply for, intended recipients. Data from teacher reflections highlighted the benefits of direct and explicit professional development on instructional strategies for ELLs for teachers, with particular attention to expanding the role and use of the Alberta K-12 ESL Benchmarks. While this study is exploratory and preliminary in nature, the initial conclusions drawn are proffered forward in the hopes that other rural schools and school jurisdictions might benefit in their own endeavours to support the increasing number of families who are making rural Canada their new home.


Funding to conduct this research was provided by the Alberta Education Research Partnerships Program.


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Data Collection Instruments

Teacher Reflection Questions

Please reflect on and respond to the following questions regarding your current thoughts on teaching English Language Learners. Be as comprehensive as possible in your responses.

  • What is your current level of understanding the second language acquisition process that the English Language Learners in your content classes are going through?
  • What is your current level of confidence in understanding and meeting the needs of the English Language Learners in your content classes?
  • What is your current level of understanding and confidence in using the Alberta Education ESL Benchmarks as an assessment tool and as a tool to inform instruction?

Interview Questions – Students

Central Research Question (CRQ) Theory Question (TQ) Interview Question (IQ)
CRQ1: How is the acculturation process of immigrant students affected when the language and content acquisition of students and social-emotional needs of reconnecting immigrant families are explicitly supported? TQ1: Are children separated from families during migration experience anxiety and depression (Suårez-Orozco et al., 2010)?

TQ2: Does family separation during migration result in a negative impact on educational success (Gindling and Poggio, 2009, 2012)?

IQ1(a): What are some of the challenges you face within your family relationships?

IQ1(b): How might these affect your learning at school?

IQ2(a): How are the relationships between you and your parents different now than they were in your home country?

IQ2(b) How might this affect your learning at school?

IQ3: What do you think is most difficult about being a student in Canada?

IQ4(a): Are there adjustments to social life in Canada that make it difficult for you to learn in school?

IQ4(b): How about emotional adjustments that might make it difficult for you to learn in school?

IQ4(c): Are there any cultural adjustments that might make it difficult for you to learn at school?

IQ5: In general, what things help you learn at school?

Interview Questions – Parents

Central Research Question (CRQ) Theory Question (TQ) Interview Question (IQ)
CRQ1: How is the acculturation process of immigrant students affected when the language and content acquisition of students and social-emotional needs of reconnecting immigrant families are explicitly supported? TQ1: Are parents separated from children during migration experiencing stresses of separation and reunification (Falicov, 2007)?

TQ2: Do parents perceive that family separation during migration results in a negative impact on educational success (Gindling and Poggio, 2009, 2012)?

IQ1(a): What are some of the challenges you face within your family relationships?

IQ1(b): How might these be affecting your children’s learning at school?

IQ2(a): How are the relationships between you and your children different now than they were in your home country?

IQ2(b) How might this affect your children’s learning at school?

IQ3: What do you think is most difficult about being a parent in Canada?

IQ4(a): Are there adjustments to social life in Canada that make it difficult for your children to learn in school?

IQ4(b): How about emotional adjustments that might make it difficult for your children to learn in school?

IQ4(c): Are there any cultural adjustments that might make it difficult for your children to learn at school?

IQ5: In general, what things do you think help your children to learn at school?

Les Identités Multiples des Jeunes Canadiens

Volume 2(2): 2018

SYLVIE ROY, Université de Calgary

JULIE BYRD-CLARK, University of Western Ontario

RÉSUMÉ. Dans cet article, nous réfléchissons à l’importance d’accorder une plus grande attention aux identités multiples des jeunes Canadiens. À partir de données ethnographiques et sociolinguistiques provenant d’écoles de langue française et d’immersion française en Alberta et en Ontario, nous examinons les discours passés et présents sur les compétences linguistiques et culturelles afin d’envisager les identités multiples des jeunes et leur avenir. Ensuite, nous nous tournons vers la perception que certains jeunes ont de leurs propres identités, qu’ils ne conçoivent pas comme figées, mais en continuel changement. Pourtant, la façon dont les autres les voient a une importance cruciale pour eux. Nous avançons l’idée que la reconnaissance des répertoires linguistiques et culturels des jeunes qui vivent dans des contextes divers amènerait à une plus grande inclusion et un plus grand sentiment d’appartenance aux communautés canadiennes.

ABSTRACT. In this article, we draw upon our ethnographic and sociolinguistic data gathered in Francophone and French immersion schools in the provinces of Alberta and Ontario in order to reflect upon the importance of examining former and actual discourses on linguistic and cultural competencies as a means to consider the future of multiple identities for youth. The youths do not see they own identities as fixed but as continuously changing. Yet how others see them is of crucial importance to them. We suggest the recognition of the linguistic and cultural repertoires of young people living in diverse contexts for greater inclusion and belonging to Canadian communities.

Mots-clés: identités multiples, discours, bilinguisme canadien, idéologies.


Au Canada, comme ailleurs, la conception du bilinguisme ou du plurilinguisme se perçoivent encore comme l’utilisation des langues de façon isolée (une langue plus une langue) ou encore comme des compétences élevées presque standards, même si les recherches démontrent que l’acquisition d’une langue se fait à long terme et de façon hybride (Canagarajah, 2013; García et Li, 2013; Byrd Clark, 2012). Les locuteurs utilisent leurs langues de différentes manières à différents niveaux de compétence, selon les contextes dans lesquels ils interagissent avec les autres (Grosjean, 2008; Roy, 2015). En fait, Blommaert (2010) parle davantage de répertoires linguistiques, comprenant les variétés, les dialectes, les accents, que de langues: “We never know ‘all’ of a language; we always know specific bits and pieces of it. This counts for our ‘mother tongue’ as well as for the languages we pick up in the course of a lifetime, and this is perfectly normal” (p. 23).

Ces discours réducteurs sur le bilinguisme et le plurilinguisme (voire le biculturalisme ou le pluriculturalisme), qu’ils soient politiques ou individuels, sont idéologiquement résistants, et beaucoup de gens proclament encore parler une langue ou deux langues en lien avec une culture spécifique pour chacune des langues, surtout dans le cadre de l’enseignement et de l’apprentissage du français au Canada (Roy, 2015). Pourtant, depuis plusieurs années, plusieurs chercheurs démontrent l’importance de miser sur les langues premières des jeunes plurilingues pour une meilleure intégration en milieu scolaire (Armand et Maraillet, 2015; Armand et Dagenais, 2008).

Dans le cadre de cet article, nous aimerions démontrer que les discours monolingues du passé qui associent strictement une langue à une nation ne reflètent plus les réalités sociales des jeunes d’aujourd’hui qui vivent avec deux ou plusieurs langues et qui ont de « nouvelles pratiques » langagières, des identités complexes et des cultures mixtes. Ces diversités deviennent de plus en plus importantes à considérer au Canada dans un contexte qui se veut inclusif et promoteur du succès des jeunes. Nous ne pouvons donc plus continuer à conceptualiser l’apprentissage et l’enseignement des langues de la même façon, surtout celui du français. De plus, la persistance des idéologies linguistiques monolingues puristes, tant chez les francophones que chez les anglophones (et les allophones), mène à la non-reconnaissance des identités linguistiques imbriquées et complexes. Ces idéologies nuisent, à notre avis, à la vitalité même des communautés francophones par l’exclusion systématique de francophones bilingues, ou de jeunes multilingues, qu’ils le soient de naissance ou par choix (Byrd Clark, Lamoureux et Stratilaki, 2013).

Avant de nous tourner vers nos contextes respectifs pour discuter de langues et, surtout, des identités multiples des jeunes Canadiens, nous aimerions mettre en évidence les discours du passé qui demeurent présents dans notre société et également dans les milieux scolaires. Tout d’abord, nous proposons de contextualiser les espaces historiques pour mieux comprendre les idéologies linguistiques qui ont: (1) dominé et perpétué ces discours du nationalisme et du bilinguisme; et (2) eu un grand impact sur l’éducation et l’acquisition des langues. Les idéologies sont des idées préconçues qui ne sont pas souvent critiquées. Nous examinerons plus particulièrement les idéologies linguistiques ceci à travers les discours, c’est-à-dire la façon dont les langues sont perçues par ceux qui les utilisent en lien avec leurs identités construites (Kroskrity, 2010).

Les Contextes


Il est important d’examiner les contextes dans lesquels nous travaillons afin de mieux comprendre pourquoi certains discours persistent. En Alberta, par exemple, le français, qu’il soit vu comme langue première dans les écoles de langue française ou comme langue seconde dans les programmes d’immersion ou de français de base, est assez populaire si on considère le nombre d’écoles qui offrent ces programmes. La communauté francophone (c’est-à-dire les personnes qui se disent francophones) est passée de 68 435 personnes à 81 085 personnes entre 2006 et 2011, soit une hausse d’environ 13 000 personnes en cinq ans. Le nombre de personnes capables de soutenir une conversation en français est passé de 225 085 en 2006 à 238 770 en 2011, soit une augmentation de 6%. L’Alberta occupe ainsi le quatrième rang de la population bilingue canadienne (Statistique Canada, 2016). Si on se tourne vers la population étudiante, on peut se rendre compte que le nombre d’élèves inscrits dans les programmes de langue française de la maternelle à la 12e année en 2014-2015 en Alberta est en augmentation et se chiffre à 198 264, soit 29% des élèves des écoles élémentaires et secondaires de la province (Secrétariat francophone, 2017). Ces programmes se répartissent de la façon suivante: 42 285 élèves fréquentent les programmes d’immersion française, soit 6,3% de la population scolaire albertaine; 148 711 élèves suivent les programmes de Français langue seconde et 7 430 élèves fréquentent les écoles de langue française (Ibid., 2017). Malgré tout, le français reste une langue controversée dans cette province en raison des enjeux politiques et sociaux du passé. Comme Hayday (2005) le confirme, l’Alberta n’a jamais vraiment voulu donner autant d’importance aux deux langues officielles que les autres provinces canadiennes puisqu’il y avait déjà plusieurs autres communautés qui demandaient à être reconnues, telle que la communauté ukrainienne. Dernièrement, les programmes bilingues espagnol-anglais sont devenus de plus en plus populaires. Le choix d’apprendre l’espagnol démontre que les langues secondes sont importantes pour les Albertains. Certains parents qui choisissent d’inscrire leurs enfants dans le programme bilingue espagnol (50% en anglais, 50% en espagnol) pour être “différents” et pour être certains que leurs enfants apprendront l’anglais (Appelt, 2017).

Pour en revenir au français en Alberta, Macé (2017) précise que définir qui est francophone ou locuteur de langue française dans la province s’avère crucial. Comme cette auteure le mentionne:

À un moment où les locuteurs de français vivant en Alberta sont issus de contextes ethnolinguistiques et culturels plus hétérogènes et hybrides que jamais, les notions d’identité « canadienne-française » et « franco-albertaine » ne semblent plus fournir une représentation fidèle et satisfaisante de l’ensemble de la minorité de langue française albertaine. Dans ce nouveau contexte, l’on s’interrogera sur la manière d’appréhender, de définir et de nommer le groupe de langue officielle minoritaire en Alberta. Ceci nous amène à nous interroger sur la pertinence du seul critère linguistique. . . . [L]e fait de parler une même langue, de surcroît minoritaire en Alberta, se révèle-t-il déterminant quant à l’expression d’une culture et d’une identité communes? (p. 19).

Macé (2017) a conduit des entrevues avec plusieurs adultes au sujet de leurs identités culturelles canadiennes et en a conclu que certains répondants préfèrent exprimer leur appartenance plutôt en termes d’entre-deux, d’hybridité, voire de non-appartenance (« ni-ni »), et que certains choisissent d’exposer leurs multi-appartenances en utilisant l’expression « citoyen du monde » (p. 53).


L’Ontario, pour sa part, a connu quelques changements récemment, notamment en ce qui concerne le statut du français (Labrie et Lamoureux, 2016). Cette province compte la communauté francophone minoritaire la plus importante du pays avec 4,1% (550 600 personnes) de la population qui parle le français comme première langue officielle. Selon le recensement de 2015-2016, qui plus est, 212 714 élèves sont inscrits dans des programmes d’immersion française, ce qui représente une grande augmentation de 7% depuis 2011. Malgré ces changements importants, le français en Ontario est catégorisé comme une deuxième langue ou une langue minoritaire, au lieu d’une langue co-officielle pour les élèves, en raison des idéologies politiques et sociales. En Ontario, on relève deux conséquences majeures du statut du français: a) le refus de légitimer les pratiques linguistiques des francophones vivant en dehors du Québec, dans des contextes où le français est une langue minoritaire et minorée et b) le manque effectif de soutien officiel de la part des autorités de l’Ontario pour promouvoir et soutenir le développement des répertoires plurilingues et des identités plurielles chez ses citoyens. Ces idéologies linguistiques du passé ont un grand impact, surtout à l’égard de l’éducation. Les recherches de Byrd Clark et al. (2013), menées auprès de jeunes francophones et francophiles en Ontario, révèlent que, lorsqu’ils interagissent avec des francophones venant de régions où le français est dominant, ils sont régulièrement confrontés à des attitudes de rejet quant à leurs pratiques linguistiques en français. Ainsi, le français, dans plusieurs régions de l’Ontario, est vécu, représenté et ressenti comme une langue minoritaire et minorée.

Nos Objectifs

L’objectif que nous nous sommes donné dans cet article est d’examiner les raisons pour lesquelles nous devons changer les discours sur le bilinguisme et le plurilinguisme au Canada, et surtout sur les identités multiples des jeunes. Dans ce qui suit, nous présentons le cadre conceptuel de nos recherches ainsi que la méthodologie utilisée. Ensuite, nous examinons certains discours qui continuent de circuler dans les écoles d’immersion et de langue française dans les deux provinces, suivis des discours plus actuels, pour enfin démontrer l’importance de réfléchir aux changements à court et à long termes, et de permettre aux jeunes de se sentir véritablement inclus dans leurs communautés de résidence.

Cadre Conceptuel

Nos recherches s’inscrivent dans la lignée des travaux post-modernes (Byrd Clark et Dervin, 2014; Pennycook, 2010), écologiques (Kramsch et Zhang, 2018) et symboliques (Bakhtin, 1981; Bourdieu, 1982; Rampton, 1995). Celles-ci visent la construction discursive des identités multiples (Byrd Clark, 2009; Roy, 2010) en lien avec des idéologies linguistiques, les rapports de pouvoir, les pratiques hétérogènes et transdisciplinaires vis-à-vis des contextes historiques, sociaux et politiques (Blommaert, 2010; Byrd Clark, 2010, 2016; García et Li, 2014). Afin d’étudier les processus d’identification et de catégorisation sociale ainsi que la construction et la négociation des positionnements identitaires dans les pratiques langagières, il faut se rendre compte que les idéologies sont difficiles à changer, mais que ce n’est pas impossible de le faire.

Notre approche sera donc d’examiner les discours pour déceler les idéologies linguistiques puisque Verschueren (2012) montre que la manifestation visible d’une idéologie se fait par l’usage de la langue ou le discours qui reflète, construit ou maintient les modèles idéologiques. C’est en examinant les contextes sociaux, politiques, historiques et géographiques de façon globale en lien avec les pratiques langagières de situations immédiates que nous pouvons relever les tensions latentes concernant les identités des jeunes et en tirer des conclusions pour l’apprentissage et l’enseignement des langues. C’est en se questionnant sur ce qui semble être fixe que l’on commence à apporter des changements au niveau des idéologies (Verschueren, 2012), mais c’est également en examinant les discours qui se répètent que nous pouvons déceler celles qui reviennent souvent chez les interlocuteurs.


Notre approche s’insère dans un courant de recherche sociolinguistique et ethnographique qui s’intéresse au développement des langues et à la construction sociale des identités en tant que discours sociaux et historiques (Byrd Clark, 2009; Blommaert, 2010). Ce courant explore les rapports entre les structures sociales, les processus sociaux, les rapports de pouvoir, les idéologies et la signification que les représentations sociales ont pour les individus. Il faut préciser que nous utilisons le terme discours pour représenter les pratiques sociales et langagières auxquelles les individus ont recours dans leur quête pour comprendre, interpréter et justifier leurs propres actes ou leurs propres réalités sociales (Labrie, 2007). De plus, nous examinons les discours idéologiques sous différents angles à partir de recherches ethnographiques et sociolinguistiques menées dans deux provinces canadiennes, l’Alberta et l’Ontario. Ces recherches ethnographiques et sociolinguistiques subventionnées par le Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines (CRSH) avaient pour but l’examen des discours sur le français en immersion et dans les écoles de langue française. Pourquoi apprend-t-on le français? Dans quels buts? Qu’est-ce que les gens ont à dire sur l’apprentissage ainsi que sur l’enseignement de cette langue dans des contextes majoritairement de langue anglaise et quelles sont les idéologies linguistiques rattachées au français? Dans le cadre des recherches ethnographiques, nous avons réalisé plusieurs heures d’observation dans des salles de classes en plus de faire des entrevues avec les élèves, les enseignants, les parents et les administrateurs (plus de 200 entrevues). Nous utilisons l’analyse du discours pour comprendre les données recueillies. Nous examinons ce que les gens disent par rapport à leur vie quotidienne en lien avec des discours globaux et médiatisés, entre autres, ou provenant des générations passées.

Des Discours Traditionnels Encore Présents

Dans ce qui suit, nous examinons certains discours qui continuent à circuler puisque les idéologies linguistiques sont souvent très difficiles à déconstruire. Les discours du passé, même s’ils existent encore, ne reflètent plus les réalités sociales des jeunes d’aujourd’hui. Examinons par exemple ce qu’un administrateur bilingue dont le français est la langue première et qui habite depuis plus de trente ans en Alberta raconte (Che: Chercheure, Cha : Charles, directeur d’école):

Che: Est-ce que les enfants en immersion deviennent bilingues?

Cha: Je pense que le but de l’immersion est d’enseigner les enfants le français pour qu’ils soient capables de communiquer, mais selon moi, à la fin de la 12e année, ils ne sont pas encore bilingues, s’ils ne vont pas vivre dans une culture qui est totalement française, où l’anglais est moins présent.

Che: Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire être bilingue d’abord?

Cha: Pour moi être bilingue c’est d’avoir une belle compréhension de la culture, aussi de la langue française.

Comme nous le remarquons dans cet extrait, les enfants issus de l’immersion ne sont pas considérés comme étant bilingues puisqu’ils ne vivent pas dans un milieu majoritairement français. Charles, lors de son entrevue, nous a indiqué que si un jeune veut vraiment être considéré comme bilingue, elle ou il se doit de vivre la culture francophone et d’avoir une compétence élevée dans les deux langues. Comme il nous l’a dit, « moi je suis plus bilingue qu’eux puisque mon français est meilleur ». Cette notion qu’il faut très bien connaître le français afin d’être accepté dans la communauté francophone est de plus en plus remplacée par une réflexion sur ce que l’expression « être compétent dans une langue » veut dire et sur ce que sous-entendent les comparaisons avec des locuteurs natifs du français, surtout chez les jeunes.

Une adolescente de 9e année inscrite dans un programme d’immersion tardive souligne ainsi (C: Chercheure, E: Emily, élève):

C: Do you think you’re bilingual?

E: Like as fluent in French and English?

C: Yes.

E: Almost there. Getting there. I wouldn’t say completely. . . . Like not totally. I think pretty much. Like we could . . . fluent is a bit of a loose term too, so it’s kind of hard to say.

Emily ne parle pas nécessairement de son identité, mais examine la notion de compétence en français afin d’être considérée comme locutrice bilingue. Il faut noter que les élèves anglophones qui n’ont pas une compétence assez élevée en français pour satisfaire la norme que les francophones imposent, qu’elle soit implicite ou explicite (comme dans le cas de Charles par exemple), ne se considèrent pas francophones. À partir des entrevues que nous avons menées avec plus de 100 élèves en immersion, ils diront qu’ils sont bilingues en devenir ou anglophones qui parlent français. L’extrait suivant provient d’une entrevue avec un élève albertain de 7e année qui communique dans une langue africaine à la maison, en plus du français et de l’anglais. Lui aussi réfléchit au fait d’apprendre le français et l’anglais (C: chercheure, Michel: étudiant):

C: Comment tu te sens face aux francophones?

M: Je sais que je peux pas parler le français aussi bien que les francophones alors . . . Il y a des temps où je parle avec un francophone, mais je me sens . . . « ah . . . je ne sais pas la langue du tout . . . », mais ça va. Il y a quelque temps comme ça, mais pour la plupart, parler avec un francophone c`est vraiment intéressant, parce qu`ils savent la langue plus bon que moi, alors je peux apprendre d’eux, comme j’apprends les nouvelles, pas les nouvelles mots vraiment mais une nouvelle façon.

Macé (2017) nous propose de réfléchir à la notion « francophone ». Qui se dit francophone et pourquoi? C’est en se posant des questions comme celles-ci que nous pourrons déconstruire les idéologies qui sous-tendent les discussions sur le droit d’appartenir à une communauté ethnolinguistique spécifique (Verschueren, 2012). Mais, dans le cas de Michel, qui apprend le français depuis la maternelle en immersion française, il est important de souligner qu’il nous a aussi révélé, dans le cadre de son entrevue, qu’apprendre le français est un accomplissement académique. Il se démarque des autres élèves de la section anglaise de son école puisqu’il connaît deux langues, en plus d’apprendre « une nouvelle façon » de vivre ou d’être. Michel se dit « bilingue », et, comme il nous l’a mentionné, « il ne serait pas éliminé s’il va au Québec ».

En somme, nous retrouvons encore beaucoup de discours sur la séparation des langues et des cultures dans un effort de se nommer ou de nommer les autres. Le concept d’identité est encore trop souvent relié à la séparation idéologique entre la langue française et la culture française et ce sont souvent les locuteurs natifs qui reproduisent ce discours. Roy (2015) a spécifié que plusieurs élèves en immersion ne se sentent pas à la hauteur en français et qu’ils ne se sentent donc pas à l’aise de se nommer bilingues; ils sont encore moins à l’aise de se nommer francophones parce que la communauté francophone ne les accepte pas toujours comme locuteurs légitimes. Louis, un élève chinois en immersion va jusqu’à mentionner qu’il perd sa langue chinoise au détriment du français, comme si ce n’était pas possible d’apprendre le français et l’anglais et de garder le chinois en même temps. Dans cet extrait, il parle de son avenir (C: Chercheure, L: Louis):

L: Actually it had a lot to do with my job because I could make a lot more money, I think, if I’m bilingual, with a job. And I’m also planning to move to Montreal because my dad lived there for twenty years. So I’d kind of want to experience it too because it seems like a cool place. Yes, that’s about it. And also because they’re the two official languages of Canada and it would be kind of cool to be bilingual.

C: Do you speak another language already?

L: I used to speak Chinese but when I started learning French, I started losing my Chinese. Right now I can understand but I can’t speak.

Il serait intéressant de se demander si ce jeune possède une ou des identités puisque nous sommes d’avis, tout comme Lay (2018), qu’être Chinois consiste avant tout à faire partie de la communauté chinoise, même si la langue n’est pas maîtrisée. Dans l’extrait précédent, Louis raconte qu’il est bilingue (anglais-français) même s’il comprend le chinois; cela nous permet de stipuler que les langues et les cultures sont encore vues comme séparées pour lui.

Les Discours Changeants

Les données ultérieures nous ont donné un aperçu des discours qui continuent à mettre l’accent sur les idéologies qui associent une langue à une culture et à une nation. Dans ce qui suit, nous offrons des discours différents, ou du moins qui commencent à changer.

Dans l’extrait suivant, nous présentons Maverick, un jeune homme canadien de 25 ans, qui raconte ses expériences dans un camp d’été quand il était plus jeune. Il offre une réflexion sur les langues, surtout à l’égard de l’accent préféré au Canada. Dans cet exemple, on peut voir que Maverick se positionne en tant que « caméléon » qui peut facilement négocier ses identités et ses pratiques langagières multiples, et s’intégrer dans des différents contextes avec des différents interlocuteurs avec aise (C: Chercheure; M: Maverick).

M: I remember when I went to Québec for summer camp, well I certainly don’t have a Québec accent—mine is more, if I had to categorize, Eastern Ontarian, from the city of Ottawa—but I remember there, I was kind of like the English guy, but it wasn’t anything terrible. . . . I don’t think anyone ever thinks anything when they see me. . . I don’t think anyone ever places me in categories, yeah I mean, I’m like a chameleon, I can blend in (laughs), I dunno (laughing).

(Premier entretien au camp de football pendant l’été)

M: D’où, d’où venait les/son acte de violence vraiment (en parlant de Zidane, joueur de foot), mais moi-même, quand j’étais en école primaire, on a été toujours victimes d’attaques verb, des attaques verbaux uh, quand on a—langue, on s’entendait même like « French fags, French frogs » on les entendait toujours ça, mais on a habituellement presse contrôlé, mais d’autre fois, euh neuf fois—

C: Ça devient trop difficile, oui.

M: Oui.

(Autre contexte et entretien, avec sa famille, chez ses parents)

Maverick rapporte des termes « French fags, French frogs », mais nous ne savons pas trop en quoi ces deux termes sont reliés dans son discours. Il est intéressant de constater toutefois que Maverick n’est pas reconnu comme locuteur légitime, ni au Québec avec son accent différent en français, ni à l’école puisqu’il y parlait français et non seulement en anglais. Son identité est hybride, mais ce sont les autres qui ne la reconnaissent pas comme telle.

L’extrait qui suit provient du discours de Sara. Sara est une jeune Canadienne qui s’identifie à huit identités différentes. De ces identités, elle constate qu’elle a une grande affinité pour les Canadiens-Français, surtout les Québécois. Elle a fréquenté une école de langue française en Ontario, mais elle se sent québécoise, canadienne française et franco-ontarienne, les trois en même temps (S: Sara).

S: Il est étonnant de voir combien d’identités différentes tu peux avoir en toi-même, comme quand je vais au Québec je ne veux rien savoir sur rien, je suis Canadienne française, Canadienne française pure vrai de vrai, tu sais ce je veux dire, je vais au Québec, et je suis l’une d’eux, c’est juste que j’habite dans l’Ontario, et qu’ils trouvent ça (pause) et c’est marrant parce que quand je suis au Québec, je…je n’ai pas grandi au Québec, je n’ai jamais habité là, mais parce que mes parents sont d’abord venus là, je me considère autant québécoise que Canadienne française et quand je parle aux gens je suis aussi Ontarienne parce que c’est très cool d’être une Ontarienne qui parle français à la québécoise là-bas, c’est vraiment bizarre, n’est-ce pas?

(Premier entretien)

Pour Sara, le français détient plusieurs valeurs. Elle imagine qu’il lui permet de se distinguer des autres et elle considère sa connaissance du français comme un vrai trésor, un outil de grande valeur qui la rend spéciale, différente et qui lui donne plus de droits, de légitimité pour affirmer sa nationalité canadienne. Elle ajoute également qu’elle est une vraie Canadienne, plus canadienne que beaucoup d’autres, ces autres qui ne possèdent pas cet avantage d’avoir le français. Mais son discours est rempli de contradictions, et cela nous permet de voir comment elle s’attache aux images et aux idéologies de langue et de culture, surtout au discours d’homogénéité nationaliste, en disant être une vraie, une « pure » Québécoise. Ce discours est néanmoins compliqué parce que d’un côté, elle crée et imagine un nouvel espace où elle ne serait pas née au Québec, où elle n’y aurait pas vécu, mais en même temps, elle explique qu’elle a l’air et qu’elle se sent québécoise, qu’elle partage donc quelque chose avec les Québécois. D’un autre côté, elle parle du peuple québécois comme étant un tout homogène, une seule entité qui parle une langue et qui a une culture, même quand sa propre position est hétérogène et plurielle. Il est important de voir la contradiction qu’elle produit quand elle raconte qu’elle est une vraie Canadienne-française et qu’ensuite, elle se rend compte qu’elle n’est pas née au Québec. Son discours et son positionnement changent à ce moment-là alors qu’elle constate qu’elle est reconnue comme étant une Franco-Ontarienne au Québec et que cela est « très cool ». Sara s’identifie donc à trois identités simultanées dans cette interaction: franco-ontarienne, Québécoise et canadienne-française. Nous pouvons également constater qu’elle catégorise ses propres identités. Elle reproduit l’image d’un Canadien anglais ou anglophone comme unidimensionnel et monoculturel. Elle semble bien vouloir se représenter sous le chapeau de n’importe quelle identité, sauf de celui d’une Anglophone. Elle ne semble néanmoins pas être consciente du fait qu’elle reproduit exactement ce même discours hégémonique, par exemple, en imaginant la culture comme une entité homogène. En fin de compte, le discours de Sara reflète sa position d’intermédiaire linguistique, c’est-à-dire de quelqu’un qui est reconnu comme étant un locuteur légitime et authentique du français et comme un citoyen avec un bilinguisme idéalisé. Elle va même plus loin en disant, à un autre moment de l’entretien, « I have the world at my fingertips », soulignant ainsi que son bilinguisme est synonyme de mobilité économique et géographique ascendante.

Nous verrons cependant encore qu’il y a une différence entre le fait de parler la langue et le fait d’être reconnu comme étant un locuteur légitime dans certains contextes (comme avec les exemples de Michel et de Maverick présentés plus haut).

Lors d’une discussion avec son ami George, Sara fait un mouvement discursif différent de celui réalisé auparavant dans son entrevue (S: Sara).

S: (à l’extérieur de l’université avec ses amis) Yeah, when I go to Québec, « ah tu parles français pour t’une uh une placque d’Ontario?». « Mais je suis ontarienne ». « Tu parles un bon français!». « Mais le français là-bas c’est pas comme uh si, aussi mal que ça ». (À ce moment, elle imite un accent anglais en parlant français). Ils pensent que je vais parler comme ça, je ne peux pas prononcer mes rs and un franglais très bien, ouais un franglais.

C’est au travers de cette dernière interaction que nous pouvons apercevoir le changement de discours et donc de positionnement, car dans ce contexte, ce n’est plus très « cool » d’être une Franco-ontarienne au Québec (comme Sara l’avait mentionné dans l’extrait précédent). Il est intéressant de constater que Sara fait référence à une certaine discrimination linguistique. La variété linguistique du français que parle Sara n’est pas reconnue comme étant légitime (« ils pensent que je vais parler comme ça ») et que cette personne du Québec trouve surprenant le fait que Sara puisse vraiment parler français, étant donné qu’elle vient de l’Ontario. L’activité discursive est en effet traversée par des pratiques de catégorisation sociale qui permettent de penser ou d’imaginer des groupes et de manifester son affiliation ou sa différence par rapport à ces groupes. Mais ces représentations sociales et les groupes auxquels elles renvoient ne sont ni finis ni mutuellement exclusifs et, en ce sens, un unique référent identitaire peut faire l’objet tantôt d’une identification, tantôt d’une distanciation (Byrd Clark et Labrie, 2010).

Discussion et Conclusion

Les idéologies qui associent une langue, à une culture et à une nation dans les discours du passé sont encore très présentes dans les extraits que nous avons analysés ici. Les jeunes se sentent davantage comme faisant partie de plusieurs groupes en même temps, tout en s’interrogeant sur la façon dont les autres les voient et les nomment. Ils vivent avec des contradictions. Ils veulent faire partie des communautés dans lesquelles ils vivent avec tous leurs répertoires linguistiques et culturels, mais, en même temps, ils reproduisent également cette notion qui associe une langue et à une culture (voir l’exemple de Sara). Qu’ils se trouvent en Alberta ou en Ontario, leurs expériences d’apprentissage des langues se caractérisent par des questionnements. Les jeunes se demandent qui ils sont et comment les communautés les acceptent ou les rejettent en lien avec leurs compétences dans les langues en question et la connaissance des cultures concernées. Ces jeunes ont des pratiques linguistiques et culturelles diverses qui pourront, à long terme, changer les idéologies présentes, à condition que les communautés dans lesquelles elles et ils vivent admettent et mettent à profit ces multiples identités afin de bâtir une société plus juste dans laquelle les répertoires linguistiques et les différentes cultures s’entremêlent.

Le Canada comporte des diversités. Ce sont surtout les jeunes qui vivent ces diversités et qui peuvent apporter des changements au niveau des idéologies. Nous croyons qu’il est important de déconstruire les idéologies actuelles pour l’inclusion de toutes et tous et pour que les jeunes se reconnaissent et s’identifient comme de véritables membres des communautés auxquelles ils appartiennent, et ce, surtout dans l’enseignement/ apprentissage du français dans des provinces anglophones telles que l’Alberta et l’Ontario. Si on veut que les jeunes apprennent le français dans toutes les provinces, nous devons accepter tous les répertoires linguistiques et culturels qu’ils apportent avec eux, selon le niveau de compétence qu’ils acquièrent à l’école ou dans leur communauté. Comme Byrd Clark (2010) le mentionne:

Finally, we need policies to reflect the very real, heterogeneous practices people use in their everyday lives—to stop working from a deficit model in French language education—policies that value linguistic heterogeneity and diversity in order to create conditions for the inclusion of multilingual repertoires and societal multilingualism in classrooms in Canada and beyond. (p. 403)

Nous n’avons pas de solution en ce qui concerne la politique linguistique ou la façon de changer les idéologies afin que tout le monde soit inclus, mais nous pensons que si nous acceptons les jeunes comme ils sont avec leurs compétences linguistiques en français et en anglais (ainsi que dans d’autres langues) qui ne sont pas « pures », nous aurons la chance d’avoir des jeunes qui veulent apprendre plusieurs langues et faire partie des diverses communautés linguistiques canadiennes. Les discours doivent changer à différents niveaux, soit au niveau du gouvernement, des institutions scolaires ou des communautés pour que la population canadienne comprenne l’importance de la diversité, de l’inclusion et des identités. Cela n’empêchera pas les communautés francophones de s’épanouir, mais leur permettra, au contraire, de compter plus de membres et, ainsi, d’accéder à plus de ressources économiques, politiques et sociales à long terme.


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Notes de Fin de Texte

  1. Entre 2011 et 2016, le taux de bilinguisme anglais-français est passé de 17,5% à 17,9% avec une augmentation de 0,4%, ce qui représente « un nouveau sommet pour le bilinguisme anglais-français dans l’histoire canadienne » selon Statistique Canada (Extrait de
  2. Cette catégorie est utilisée par le gouvernement de l’Ontario pour signaler les personnes qui ne sont pas nées d’un parent francophone mais qui s’identifient comme francophones par choix.

Reframing FSL Teacher Learning: Small Stories of (Re)Professionalization and Identity Formation

Volume 2(2): 2018

MIMI MASSON, University of Ottawa

ABSTRACT. French as a second language (FSL) teacher flight in Canada has become a serious issue, endangering the health of existing FSL programs (Masson, Larson, Desgroseilliers, Carr, & Lapkin, in press). One way to address FSL teacher retention and well-being is to develop a model for professional learning rooted in a sociocultural approach to (re)position teachers as active learners as a means to reclaim their agency. This case study describes the formation of two core French teachers’ professional identities over four years in a teacher-led Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) network. Positioning analysis of the teachers’ small story narratives reveals the strategies they used to (re)negotiate their professional selves in the CSCL network. The teachers’ success developing a strong professional identity was linked to the validation they received for their learning experiences in the network, developing deep ties to their communities and to other teacher-professionals in the CSCL network. This paper discusses how (re)imagining FSL teacher professional learning through a sociocultural lens can have a significant impact on addressing issues of retention and well-being in the profession.

RÉSUMÉ. Le taux de renoncement des enseignants de français langue seconde (FLS) met en péril la santé des programmes de FLS actuels (Masson et al., in press). Un moyen d’améliorer la rétention et le bien-être des enseignants de FLS consiste à développer un modèle de développement professionnel basé sur des théories socioculturelles qui (re)positionnent les enseignants en tant qu’apprenants actifs dotés d’agentivité. Cette étude de cas suit le développement identitaire de deux enseignantes de français cadre, qui ont participé dans un réseau d’apprentissage collaboratif en ligne (ACEL) où elles ont géré elles-mêmes leur apprentissage professionnel pendant quatre ans. L’analyse de positionnement des « petites histoires » des enseignantes montre qu’elles ont pu (re)négocier leur statut professionnel dans le réseau d’ACEL. La construction identitaire professionnelle réussie des enseignantes s’attribue à la validation et le soutien qu’elles ont reçu dans le réseau pendant leurs expériences d’apprentissage, ainsi que les liens profonds qu’elles ont su développer dans leurs communautés professionnelles scolaires et avec d’autres enseignantes dans le réseau d’ACEL. Cette recherche suggère que la (ré)invention de l’apprentissage professionnel des enseignants de FLS sous un angle socioculturel peut avoir un impact important pour remédier à leur rétention et à leur bien-être dans cette profession.

Keywords: French as a second language, teacher learning, professional identities, teacher retention and well-being, positioning analysis.


The success of French as a second language (FSL) programs in Canada depends upon the success of its FSL teachers. And yet, FSL teachers have expressed feeling de-professionalized and disenfranchised from their practice (Karsenti, Collin, Villeneuve, Dumouchel, & Roy, 2008; Knouzi & Mady, 2014; Mollica, Philips, & Smith, 2005; Richards, 2002). Matters are exacerbated by ‘teacher flight,’ the fact that many FSL teachers consider leaving the profession or move out of French into the English-language stream (Lapkin & Barkaoui, 2008; Lapkin, MacFarlane, & Vandergrift, 2006). The situation today in many provinces across Canada, has reached a crisis point. Despite market saturation where teachers have difficulty finding work (Ontario College of Teachers, 2016), when it comes to filling French-language teaching positions, school boards lack the numbers they need to ensure thriving successful French-language programming. Amid threats from Ontario school boards in 2017 to cancel some of their FSL programs, due to insufficient numbers of FSL teachers, at a Symposium on FSL hosted by Canadian Parents for French (CPF) the Ontario Ministry of Education pledged to launch an investigation into the matter and push to increase FSL teacher recruitment (Canadian Parents for French, 2017). While this welcomed, and much-awaited effort is necessary at this stage, ensuring we patch the leaky pipeline by retaining FSL teachers and supporting newly recruited teachers to avoid FSL teacher flight are also paramount steps to take in order to ensure the continued success of FSL programs in Canada.

Situating the study

Teacher Learning: Welcoming FSL Teachers into a New Paradigm

Professional learning rooted in sociocultural approaches, such as inquiry-based learning and action research (i.e., Banegas, Pavese, Velázquez, & Vélez, 2013; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009), (re)places teachers at the centre of their practice. Shifting the paradigm on teacher learning is one approach to promote teacher well-being and (re)professionalization. This approach flourished in the fields of English as a second language (ESL) and General Education (GenEd) but has yet to make its way in the area of sustaining FSL teacher learning. Knowing that collaborative learning promotes professional well-being (Campbell, Lieberman, & Yashkina, 2013; Fullan & Hargreaves, 2016; Lieberman, Miller, & Von Frank, 2013), could this be an approach well-suited to FSL teachers as a form of support to remain in the profession? At the moment, little is known about FSL teachers’ professional learning contexts and what FSL teacher learning looks like.

This ethnographic study reports the findings of a longitudinal multiple case study following the evolution of two FSL teachers’ professional learning through small story narratives (Bamberg, 2007; Georgakopoulou, 2006). The two FSL teachers were part of a project involving 17 teachers who sought to lead their own professional learning in a Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) network which implemented a sociocultural approach. The paper addresses two issues: first, it provides information about the FSL teachers’ professional learning experiences. Second, it demonstrates the potential of having FSL teachers lead their own professional learning in a CSCL network. Specifically, the study explores how this experience affected the FSL teachers’ sense of professional identity and well-being.

Despite calls for research on in-service FSL professional learning networks to address issues of teacher well-being and socially equitable practices in teacher training (Heffernan, 2011; Mandin, 2008), such research remains scarce.

Kristmanson led a number of studies on Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in French Immersion (FI) contexts (Kristmanson, Dicks, & Le Bouthillier, 2009; Kristmanson, Dicks, Le Bouthillier, & Bourgoin, 2008; Kristmanson, Lafargue, & Culligan, 2011). PLCs are collaborative learning networks with the explicit goal of improving student learning via teacher professional learning (Lieberman & Miller, 2008). Kristmanson’s studies (2008; 2009) involved action research projects in an elementary and a middle school. The research team created a PLC with FI teachers based on teachers’ identified need to develop students’ French writing practice. The PLC promoted discussion, active participation of all the PLC members, balanced reflection and action, and experiential learning as a starting point for dialogic inquiries. The teachers reported increased collaborative practice with their colleagues and valued the time they were given by their administration to consult with one another and share pedagogical practices.

Kristmanson’s most recent study using PLCs (2011) was a cross-disciplinary action research project involving 10 high school language teachers (5 of them FSL teachers) working together to integrate the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and the Electronic Language Portfolio (ELP) into their practice. The PLC met six times, for one-hour meetings, over the school year during full release days. Using a participatory approach, with researchers doing research with teachers rather than on teachers, the research team shared the analysis of their discussions with the teachers, prompting a spiralized approach to collaborative reflective practice. Findings show the teachers sought to uncover their philosophical stance before developing an action plan, suggesting PLCs can promote critical thinking skills when teachers are given the time and space to unpack assumptions about learning and the constructs they attempt to integrate into their practice. The researchers mediated the teachers’ learning if/when needed (i.e., providing insight, asking questions), but ultimately, the teachers led their own inquiries, identified personal needs and found individualized solutions based on their unique teaching contexts.

The current study extends this form of research demonstrating further potential of PLCs (in the form of a CSCL network) on teacher learning, albeit with an added focus on the long-term effect such work has on teacher professional identities. As such, the guiding questions are: How do two FSL teachers position themselves in the stories they share in the CSCL network over time? What do these small stories reveal about their professional identities?

Teacher Identity: Qui sont les French Teachers?

Developing a strong sense of professional identity is central to the process of becoming an effective teacher (Alsup, 2006; Goodnough, 2010); and yet, there remains a need for deeper understanding of teacher identity development through the knowledge-base of second language teachers (Kanno & Stuart, 2011). Identity has been conceptualized as a fixed set of attributes in psychology and behavioural sciences (Ricento, 2005). Studies addressing issues of identity in FSL are mainly rooted in critical and/or sociocultural paradigm(s) (e.g., Byrd Clark, 2008, 2010; Knouzi & Mady, 2014; Wernicke, 2017) which frames identity as a dialectic phenomenon of co-construction realized by the interaction between the individual and their social context, mediated by language.

A shift in FSL teacher identity research begins by acknowledging that a majority of FSL teachers are themselves second language speakers of French (Lapkin et al., 2006) at times in need of language support (Bayliss & Vignola, 2000, 2007). They may even be plurilingual and speak languages other than French and English (Byrd Clark, 2008; Gagné & Thomas, 2011). Identity has already been established as a dynamic composite of intersectional factors, such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, linguistic background, geographical location, among others (e.g., Gu & Benson, 2014; Huang & Varghese, 2015; Jenlink, 2014; Motha, 2006; Rodriguez & Reis, 2012; Simon-Maeda, 2004). In the field of FSL, this implies the importance of (re)negotiating who can access FSL teacher status to include all those who would like to teach French and expand the idea of what an FSL teacher is expected to look and sound like.

Byrd Clark leads the charge in questioning the implications of being a multilingual FSL teacher in Canada and working within a professional setting in which “languages are still viewed as autonomous, separate systems” (Byrd Clark, Mady, & Vanthuyne, 2014, p.134) with little or no connection to other facets of the self. Discourses that silo social, cultural and linguistic aspects of teachers’ lives deny the complexity of language learning and the heterogeneity of linguistic identities overlooking the potential that these might have on informing FSL teacher practice (Byrd Clark, 2010, 2011, 2012). Discourse, here, refers to spoken or written interactions between people and the ideologies, beliefs, social practices, and cultural knowledge bound up in their exchanges (Foucault, 1972; Gee, 2014).

For her part, Wernicke (2016, 2017) explored how hegemonic discourses around standardized (usually Parisian) French affect FSL teachers’ sense of identity. Her research followed a group of in-service FSL teachers from British Columbia in a study abroad program in France aiming to improve their French-language proficiency and pedagogical practice. During the research, the teachers negotiated sociocultural and sociolinguistic tensions when they either encountered narratives in France that de-legitimized their status as French speakers, or when they questioned their own sense of belonging in the francophone speaking community. Her research highlights how social discourse around language is tied to status and power and how that affects FSL teachers’ sense of self, their confidence levels, and their feelings towards French language and culture. It also underscores the urgency to create space and legitimacy for Canadian speakers of French who come into the language and culture through the bilingual education system we have created in Canada. Given that feelings of illegitimacy and power struggles for status can negatively affect teacher professional identity construction (Gu, 2013), Wernicke’s research suggests a need for more open discussions about French-language proficiency and non-native speaker status in the Canadian context for FSL teachers to come to terms with their professional identities as qualified, confident teachers.

Knouzi and Mady (2014) examined an additional under-investigated facet of FSL teacher identity that involves understanding how teachers make sense of themselves and their chosen profession in relation to the status that French is afforded in their local context. The case study research, commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Education, investigates this issue from three core French teachers’ perspectives using activity theory (Engeström, 2001) to explore the relationship between literacy teaching beliefs and practices. The findings reveal that tensions between the status of French in the Canadian educational context and their professional identities affect their teaching practice.

Studies explicitly on in-service FSL teacher identity remain sparse. Given the importance of identity research in other fields (such as ESL and GenEd) and the current issue with FSL teacher flight, I argue that the gap in research about core French teacher professional identities warrants further and deeper investigation.

The Study


The study originated with a group of teachers working across various disciplines and grade levels in Ontario and Michigan. Some of the teachers had worked with the research team previously (Kooy, 2015; Kooy & Colarusso, 2013; Kooy & van Veen, 2012), and requested the creation of a PLC to continue developing their professional inquiries. Additional teachers joined the study through a sample of convenience. The research provided the teachers with full-release days during the school year. Two cohorts of 17 teachers (total) participated in six online video conferences each year from 2011-2015, to discuss their professional learning inquiries and their practice. The conferences were teacher-led, and participants were free to set their own learning inquiries based on their particular needs within the school context. Additionally, they supplemented these collaborative discussions throughout the year by using a private online forum. They also met face-to-face once a year for three-day Summer Institutes to debrief what they had worked on from the previous year and set learning goals for the coming year. Throughout the study, the teachers also completed open-ended surveys that provided data about their experiences in the project so far, including any changes or desired future directions.


This qualitative research inquiry, rooted in critical sociocultural discourse analysis (Lewis, Enciso, & Moje, 2007), explores the development of the two core French teachers’ professional learning and identities who were part of our CSCL network. The aim of this study is to examine what these FSL teachers reveal about their professional learning experiences to date, and how this has affected their sense of professional identity and well-being. The study uses positioning analysis to uncover the discursive practices that teachers use in their small stories (Barkhuizen, 2009; Georgakopoulou, 2006) to locate themselves in their professional practice. Small stories are “the ephemeral narratives emerging in everyday, mundane contexts” (Watson, 2007, p. 371), as opposed to big stories which represent idealized projections of our selves.

The small stories teachers tell about themselves, their profession, and their work contexts reveal how they negotiate change. For the purpose of this study, I consider the teachers’ stories as narratives, a unit of analysis to explore constructions of their identities. I extend the definition of narratives of personal experiences to short written, or spoken stories, that help the teller make sense of their experience(s) over time (Ochs & Capps, 2009). Narratives thus serve the function of rationally and reflexively monitoring self-hood (Bamberg, 2012), which shapes and is shaped by our life experiences. Narratives, which provide meaning, also help to communicate teachers’ understandings of meaning (Bruner, 1986), leaving space to infer the sociocultural influence on the teachers’ professional selves.


The study’s participants are two core French teachers, Sophie and Christina (both pseudonyms), who are working full-time in southern Ontario public schools. The importance of focusing on these teachers’ professional narratives is to provide an in-depth, thick description (Geertz, 1973) of the cultural context of learning that these teachers find themselves in.

Sophie is a multilingual Canadian woman of Western European descent in her early 30s who speaks English fluently and learned French at school in Canada. She also has family in France and lived there for three years. Working at a large middle-class high school in an urban center in southern Ontario, she had 5-10 years of teaching experience when the research project began in 2011. At the time of the study, Sophie was Head of Department for FSL and ESL at her school. Sophie also began an MEd degree during the project. For Sophie, joining the CSCL network was an opportunity to learn more about how PLCs function and “to interact more effectively and better support the teachers in my department” (June 2011). Her goals were to “see teachers get more release time during the day to get together and build community and improve student learning” (June 2011).

Christina is a multilingual Canadian woman of South Asian descent in her late 20s who teaches at a newly-opened progressive middle school (grades 6-8) with a large population of multilingual and immigrant students in a middle-class urban centre in southern Ontario. She had 5-10 years of full-time teaching experience when she joined the study in 2012. She described herself in this way:

I have taught core French to grades seven and eight for several years now. I am a product of the core French program. I immigrated to Canada and am a culturally and linguistically diverse individual like all of my students. I have learned French, and two other European languages here in Canada and often pass as a native speaker of any language I speak when speaking to native speakers of that language. I love language and believe that all of my students can and should speak French well after studying it for six years. I still remember feeling shocked after taking a grade ten additional language class; I realized that I had learned more of that language in that one year than French in nine years of core French (French started in grade one at my grade school). I dropped core French after grade nine and returned to it in University at which point I was completely fluent in the other language after studying it for three years. I don’t want my students to drop French forever and I know they will if something isn’t done to help them. I also believe that tensions between French and English-speaking Canadians would be alleviated if we didn’t superficially pretend to be bilingual. Over the past several years, I have developed a French program my students are excited about; they love French and they can speak it better after one year in my class. I am still developing my French teaching strategy. This study will help me to be a better teacher for my students and will enable me to share this unique French program with you. (November, 2013)

The Data

The data consist of oral and written excerpts from Sophie and Christina. The oral interactions stem from discussions led by the teachers at the yearly Summer Institute meetings and the monthly online video conferences. The written data comes from online forum posts.

Data Analysis

In analyzing the data, I applied the principles of narrative analysis (Bamberg, 2012; Georgakopoulou, 2006; Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998) to Bamberg’s suggested three levels of positioning analysis (Bamberg, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2007). Positioning Analysis (PA) examines the tension between person-to-world and world-to-person directions of fit that emerge within the discursive practices of storytelling. This makes stories “the empirical ground, where identities come into existence and are interactively displayed” (Bamberg, 2004, p. 2). I use PA to explore the constitutive nature of stories and acknowledge a reciprocal direction of fit. Bamberg distinguishes between two subject-positions: In some cases, the subject is “being positioned” (Bamberg, 2004, emphasis in original) (e.g., Davies & Harré, 1990; Harré & Langenhove, 1991; Linehan & McCarthy, 2000) in already existing (and at times) contradicting and competitive discourses. The discursive choices the subject makes, the discursive repertoires and resources they use, reveal how they position themselves as they ground their identities in discourses. In other cases, the subject is “positioning self” (Bamberg, 2004, emphasis in original) through identities as performance (e.g., Butler, 1995; Butler, 1997). The performative self involves self-reflection, self-criticism, and agency; it is dynamic and in constant revision. This means that discursive resources and repertoires are constructed by the subject as needed. These two approaches to understanding the relationship of teacher agency in their identity formation opens up a site for investigating “where and how subjects come into existence. . . where positions are actively and inactively taken (and explored) for the purpose of self and world construction” (Bamberg, 2004, p. 3).

The analytic approach amounted to a three-step process in which I asked: (a) Who are the characters in the story and how is the story told?; (b) What discourses are running through the story and what do they reveal about the characters?; and, (c) How are the characters positioned in relation to the discourses they have explicitly or implicitly been previously identified? With each question, I was able to, respectively, conduct a linguistically-oriented analysis that examines the language choices made by the storyteller (i.e., being positioned), perform a sociolinguistically-oriented analysis that examines the discourses that emerge in the story (e.g., positioning self), and ultimately create a content analysis of findings which involves contextualizing all these questions and putting them in conversation. With these three levels of analysis, I shifted my focus on the data from local to global (Watson, 2007), a tactic that was particularly useful when working with the teachers’ small stories. Small stories are an effective means of understanding the details of daily life and how these shape the professional sense of self (Vásquez, 2011). Narrative analysis, then, focuses on the content of the story being told and the way the content has been organized to tell the story. In thinking of identity as narrative (Benwell & Stokoe, 2006), the “attention is on human beings in action and on the mechanisms underlying human action” (Sfard & Prusak, 2005, p. 14). In this sense, exploring teachers’ stories and what meaning they take from them “revolves around. . .the ways in which narrative and discourse shape and are shaped by identity” (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009, p. 181) and how the narratives themselves become socioculturally situated.

Findings and Discussion

Sophie’s Narrative: Finding Community

During her discussions with colleagues in the CSCL network, Sophie describes her perspective towards the type of professional development (PD) she is experiencing in her board:

This passage reveals the crucial role that emotions play in helping Sophie make sense of her professional learning experience thus far. Indeed, emotions as an everyday part of teachers’ lives often define their professional identities (Cooper & Edmonton, 2002). Emotions are an important facet of teacher professional identities, which Clarke (2013) advocates discussing in the context of policy, politics and passion rather than being embedded in the techno-rational discourses of teaching. In this case, Sophie’s feelings towards the treatment she experiences in her board colour her attitude towards the PD being offered there.

This passage also demonstrates a chasm between “us” and “them up there” (line 1) (van Dijk, 1995). Sophie is at a standoff with her administration where she feels a hierarchy is looking down on teachers and imposing their will on them. Her interpretation suggests this is about the way the administration wants to exert “control” (line 3) over teachers, and her reference to “not about us” (line 3) implies that it has nothing to do with the quality or capabilities of the teachers. The passage suggests French teachers, in her school board, are afforded little autonomy when it comes to their own professional learning. In fact, Sophie argues she is perfectly capable of reading up on new policies, such as “Growing Success” (line 6-7) on her own. She laments this approach to PD she feels wastes money (line 5) and time (line 8). The “disgusting” (line 10) treatment Sophie faces continues to exacerbate her feelings of alienation in the profession. Sophie demonstrates critical awareness (Brookfield, 1995) by recognizing tensions in some of her professional learning experiences. She states: “It has been the same way for so long that we just endure it and it’s hard to imagine it being different” (August 2012, summer institute) which marks a critical point along her professional learning journey.

Her narrative thus far echoes reports of professional marginalization experienced by FSL teachers in previous studies investigating their working conditions (Karsenti et al., 2008; Mollica et al., 2005; Richards, 2002).

Despite reaching this crucial realization, Sophie needs time to take stock of her situation and to attempt to implement change. A wide net is cast in her reflections as she explores how she feels about board-level PD sessions and school-level policies about PD.

Sophie points out limitations in school policy around “teacher learning circles (TLC)” (line 1-2), which are a type of PLCs her board has implemented. The idea that teachers are considered experts about learning when it comes to their students, and yet are not expert enough when it comes to their own professional learning creates cognitive dissonance. Her colleagues feel this application of PD is punitive (line 2), and as a result, “they’re not taken seriously” (line 2) by teacher professionals. Again, Sophie identifies “time” (line 7) as missing in this formula for professional learning noting that time is important for building “relationships” (line 5) and “connecting” (line 5). Sophie delves deeper into the implications of the absent presences (Derrida & Caputo, 1997) in her professional learning experience: they have serious consequences for her teaching practice. For instance, not having time to discuss books being assigned to students in FSL from a feminist perspective, means teachers “kind of stick to the same old” (line 14). Here, Sophie posits that teachers who want to learn and improve themselves need to be able to move out of their comfort zone and explore new and complex ideas (i.e., feminist theory) or competencies.

Throughout her narratives around professional learning, Sophie resists the idea of teachers being positioned as passive recipients, standard automatons, or pre-determined knowledge processors. Instead, she is intent on creating a narrative which positions her as an intellectual and expert on learning, capable of grappling with new theories and ideas, and determining where to take her professional learning. Sophie also identifies building meaningful relationships and trust as a key aspect of teacher learning that she feels is missing and wants to develop in her practice. She highlights the lack of trust she faces from her administration, which seems to play an important role in the future quality of Sophie’s professional learning.

Emotion is part of the transition process for Sophie who is creating a vision within her work context of what meaningful learning looks like that she can report to her superiors. Over time, Sophie takes a more active role and advocates for the kind of PD she feels is effective:

At the start of Year 4 in the CSCL network, Sophie signals an institutional change in her board’s approach to PD. The administration has taken a critical stance towards their practices by “taking a good hard look at the TLC process we currently have” (line 1-2). Sophie shifts the way she positions herself in her board using “we” (line 13). This indicates that she feels in-groupness with the administration who are now on board with examining their own PD policies. The lines of communication have opened, and everyone can express their position “with brutal honesty” (line 3), a novel experience for Sophie and her colleagues (line 4). The administration used a critical framework for improvement, encouraging teachers and administrators to collaboratively question the TLC process (line 5) and come up with solutions (line 5-6). In this extract, Sophie finds her voice when she brings up the work she has been doing in the CSCL network as an example of successful professional learning (line 7-8). She positions herself as an experienced teacher who knows what an “ideal professional learning community” (line 7) looks like and an expert who can contribute to the administration’s goals. They respond by becoming “very interested in what [the CSCL network teachers have] been doing and would like to see how it works” (line 7-8). Sophie’s ability to share her CSCL network experience in her work context is an opportunity to validate the approach to professional learning she has been working on over the last four years.

Sophie expresses pride and happiness (line 12) towards her work and her relationship with the administration: “I feel like we’ve turned a corner” (line 18). She feels listened to and valued by her administration who now seem “serious about respecting teachers’ needs to drive their own PD” (line 19). She writes “Admin” (line 16) with a capital A signaling the increased status she affords them.

Sophie is also aware that the changes the administration is looking to implement will not be easy. It took Sophie four years to reach this point in her learning, and she is concerned about “how we can get others to buy in to “‘self-directed PD or Inquiry’ to make it meaningful and not be seen as an add-on to what they’re already doing” (line 14-15). Her aim is to avoid repeating past experiences with PD that felt like “a chore” (line 16). Interestingly, Sophie includes herself with the administration in this statement when she uses “we” (line 14); she is now collaborating with the administration to implement “a radical mind shift” (line 13) in the school board’s views and ways of implementing professional learning.

Although Sophie does much of the work on a personal level, one clear factor emerges in determining the success of Sophie’s professional learning: her interpersonal relationships with administrators and how she is positioned in their interactions.

Christina’s Narrative: Dealing with Exclusion

Christina also experiences some challenges with professional learning in her school, particularly in terms of access and being able to establish herself as a professional FSL educator. Christina describes her opportunities (or lack thereof) for professional learning and collaboration with colleagues at her school:

In her school context, teachers have “common prep time” (line 4) to “talk if they choose” (line 6), and “do planning together” (line 7). However, Christina reveals that she does not “do it” (line 19) because she is a French teacher. In her school, “French teachers are kind of left out of that” (line 19-20). Christina’s February 2013 extract provides further evidence to previous research suggesting that FSL teachers are often left out of ongoing school initiatives (Knouzi & Mady, 2014; Mollica et al., 2005). Even though her school shows innovation and consideration towards other teachers, giving them time to work and plan together, French teachers are left out of this particular professional learning opportunity. Christina does not include herself in the teacher “in-group” referring to them as “they” (line 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 20, 21, 22). She makes one reference using “we” (line 4) when describing her school’s initiative, while she affiliates herself as being a member of this particular school, despite not having her own teaching partner as a form of inclusion.

Nevertheless, Christina distances herself from the marginalization she experiences by evaluating the school initiative from an administrative standpoint. She deems the initiative successful for other teachers in her school and Christina gives advice to her CSCL colleagues about what to look into (line 12) should they want to set up a similar initiative. She makes suggestions using “would” and “could” (line 11, 13, 14). In keeping with her projected goal of becoming an administrator, Christina positions herself as a knowledgeable expert on what works in schools (line 10-14).

Christina seeks critical engagement with her practice through other means. Given that she is currently doing an MA, professional learning through higher education is important for developing her practice.

Christina is very “excited” (line 4) about engaging with new people and new learning opportunities. Her students, whom she calls “my kids” (line 7), are a great motivator for her because they are “so amazing” (line 7). However, Christina describes herself as someone who is very “scattered” (line 1), recognizing that her learning interests are dispersed, being interested “in like fifty things” (line 1) and “a whole bunch of new things” (line 6-7), ultimately stating, “I have too many interests” (line 4). For Christina, being “scattered” (line 1) is “a problem” (line 2) because she cannot focus her attention deeply on any one thing and she is “so busy doing everything else” (line 3-4). This extract raises questions about how to channel a teacher’s excitement about professional learning to avoid feeling overwhelmed and burnt out from working on too many things.

Christina identified other ways in which French teachers are excluded from professional learning in her school:

Christina includes herself in the marginalized French teacher in-group by using “we” (line 1). Because French teachers are excluded from “math and language-based professional development” (line 1), she wonders “what happens at those meetings” (line 2). Christina shows that teachers want to feel a sense of belonging and validation of their subject matter in their school (Kastelan-Sikora, 2013). But Christina deals with her exclusion by switching her stance, rejecting the opportunity for those professional learning sessions and devaluing them: “From what I’m hearing now, it appears that I haven’t missed out on much” (line 2-3). Moreover, Christina claims that the teachers who do participate in those sessions now want to do what she is doing: lead their own professional learning through higher education. Suggesting it “is exactly what everyone is saying they want to do” (line 3-4) adds value to professional learning via higher education, such as “an MA degree” (line 3), which Christina was completing at the time. When Christina represents it as the most sought-after way of moving forward in a teacher’s career, she also positions herself as already part of the in-group of teachers who is accessing this “higher” form of professional learning.

In the end, one way that Christina addresses her marginalization as a French teacher is to make herself indispensable and dependable in other areas, specifically in areas of leadership. For instance, Christina is a union representative for teachers at her school and she leads extra-curricular social justice programs to initiate students and other teachers to equitable practices. Perhaps because she is not being heard in the area of FSL, she is not shy about speaking her mind, letting her ideas be known when it comes to community and leadership. She positions herself as a solution finder and a leader.

Implications and Concluding Remarks

The findings suggest that fostering strong positive relationships with their administration, by way of open communication and negotiation, benefits FSL teacher actualization. Being in a CSCL network, the FSL teachers found support among peers. They were able to combat feelings of isolation and/or marginalization and to develop a sense of purpose through validation of their professional learning inquiries. For Sophie, the experience in the CSCL network allowed her to take ownership of her learning and assert her profession status. In the long run, this transformational process benefitted Sophie’s professional well-being. She became a leader in her school by advocating for change and spearheading new initiatives in teacher professional learning. For Christina, her experience in the CSCL network allowed her to notice the differences in treatment that FSL teachers receive in her school. It also revealed how Christina negotiates feelings of marginalization by dismissing PD experiences she is excluded from and developing creative projects (such as her MA or by starting an after-school social justice group) to (re)position herself as an essential and knowledgeable peer. Overall, it seems the dialectic reflection Sophie and Christina engaged in with their social and professional surroundings allowed them to explore e issues related to their professional status and practice in depth, and with confidence. The CSCL network provided them with a space and the support to embark on this transformative process.

The study also provides evidence of the important role that emotions play in teachers’ changing professional identities. They either work as a conduit for reflection, becoming a catalyst for action, or as a means of actualizing or resisting projected identities reified in the discourses around them/used by them. The findings also suggest extending the notion of FSL teachers as learners beyond that of language learners, as already established (e.g., Bourdages & Vignola, 2009; Christiansen & Laplante, 2004), to include their identities as lifelong learners of their craft.

Through the use of positioning analysis of the teachers’ narratives (Bamberg, 2004), the study captures a distinctive professional learning journey during which Sophie and Christina discursively construct their selfhood (Linehan & McCarthy, 2000) and navigate social relationships with their administration, their colleagues, and their CSCL network colleagues. Sophie and Christina’s professional learning narratives reveal the interwoven, long term, and active negotiation of the self that occurs outside of traditional professional learning formats. Contextual factors, such as time, access to space, emotional support, also played an important in their professional identity formation. They demonstrated multifaceted and highly adaptive identities based on their contexts. This included awareness about their own, their colleagues’ and their learners’ needs.

The analysis also reveals the complex moves these two FSL teachers make as they renegotiate their professional selves in the CSCL network. Upon entering the study, Sophie feels disempowered and dissatisfied with the way FSL teacher learning unfolds in her school context, while Christina displays professional curiosity, seeking alternative ways to engage with and develop her practice. Both of their narratives pick up on elements that are made evident in the research about FSL teachers (e.g., Karsenti, Collin, Villeneuve, Dumouchel, & Roy, 2008; Knouzi & Mady, 2014; Mollica, Philips, & Smith, 2005; Richards, 2002): for instance, Sophie feels unsupported in her practice; meanwhile, Christina touches on her professional isolation when she explains that she does not have a teacher partner in her school because she is an FSL teacher. Both express the feeling that current professional learning approaches are un-adapted to their needs, either because they are based on the one-shot workshop model (Sophie), or because they are not offered to FSL teachers (Christina). Through the professional learning inquiries, they engage in with the CSCL network, both teachers resist the ways policy and discourses shape exchanges in their boards.

It is important to point out as well that although some elements found in the literature about FSL teachers emerge in Sophie and Christina’s narrative, the evolution in Sophie’s narrative and the entrepreneurial spirit of Christina’s approach to her own professional learning calls into question the way FSL educators are portrayed as small players in their learning who are constrained by restrictive policies and practices (Ramanathan & Morgan, 2007). The analysis suggests there is room for a more textured interpretation of FSL teachers’ professional selves and that the discourse in the research community may need to evolve to reflect alternative realities for FSL teachers.

The Future of FSL Teacher Learning?

Approaching FSL teacher learning from a sociocultural perspective (Johnson, 2009; Vygotsky, 1978), the teachers involved in the CSCL project were afforded the position of experts of their own knowledge and active agents in their learning. Under this paradigm, teacher knowledge is recast as a process of co-construction (rather than purely acquired from outside sources). Privileging decontextualized outside knowledge through “one-shot workshops” and foregrounding academic research as a source of knowledge runs the risk of placing teachers in a passive position. It remains rooted in a techno-rational discourse about teachers’ skills (Clarke, 2013) that reduces matters of professional learning to meeting standards of technical efficiency and developing competencies. The techno-rational discourses usually found in traditional PD narratives position teachers as deficient in their learning and professional knowledge, affecting decision-making and exacerbating feelings of dissatisfaction. Research and PD that focuses on finding “best practices” and developing a tangible “product” of learning that teachers can then “transfer” to their contexts implies that teacher learning can be “one-size-fits-all”, when in fact, teacher learning should be highly situated to the teachers’ context and needs (Johnson, 2009).

Freeman and Johnson’s (1998) critique about language teacher education programs, which also applies to in-service teacher development programs, remains relevant today in FSL. They warn against emphasizing how to teach via research and strategies to develop teacher knowledge, rather than supporting teachers to learn to teach. Bypassing steps to support teachers on how to conduct their own professional inquiries robs them of the opportunity to develop a critical stance towards research and their practice. Putting teachers in the driver’s seat is one way for them to reclaim a sense of purpose and agency in their profession. It also privileges teacher knowledge as the source for growth. This entails adopting a view of learning in which the teacher is also a learner and fostering a culture of self-regulated learning (Johnson & Golombek, 2011).

This research suggests a sociocultural approach to professional learning, in the form of a CSCL network, offers considerable potential for FSL teachers to counter and address feelings of isolation and marginalization. Future professional learning structures for FSL teachers need to provide them with opportunities to build their own support networks, either in their schools, their boards, or across boards with colleagues across the country. This aligns with recent reports which suggest more collaboration is needed to improve professional learning experiences among FSL teachers (Arnott et al., 2015; Karsenti et al., 2008).

Current technologies are changing the landscape and realm of possibilities for CSCL networks of FSL teachers. For instance, video conferencing platforms such as Google Hangout, Adobe Connect and Skype make this approach to professional learning a very real and affordable possibility. However, to be at their most effective, teacher-led CSCL networks need school-sanctioned time and support. Collaborative work applications, such as Slack and What’s App, offer the security and privacy needed for collaborative learning and support so that teachers can create their own culture of learning and professionalism within self-directed virtual communities. These apps also offer the added benefit of documenting the teachers’ learning should they need to access or review their professional learning trajectories.


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Thinning the Classroom Walls: Graduate Student Perspectives on Blogging as Pedagogy

Volume 2(2): 2018

ALISON CRUMP, Marianopolis College

ABSTRACT. In this digital age, learning is happening in many places and spaces outside classrooms; however, pedagogies do not always reflect or connect with digital and open access spaces for learning. In this article, I share results from a research project I did with former graduate students on their experiences contributing to a course blog for a course I taught in fall 2016. Data come from a focus group and survey. Findings show that blogging as pedagogy, from the perspectives of the graduate students, provided an opportunity for peer and collaborative learning, which enriched their own self-reflections on their learning. In addition, writing for a legitimate audience beyond a single instructor and beyond the walls of the classroom, created a third space where the students could have their own opinions and voices validated. I argue that thinning the classroom walls through open pedagogies, such as blogging, is essential for fostering skills that graduate students need for their emerging scholarly identities.

RÉSUMÉ. En cette ère numérique, l’apprentissage s’effectue dans de nombreux endroits et espaces en dehors des salles de classe. Toutefois, les pédagogies ne permettent pas ou ne sont pas toujours liées aux espaces numériques de libre accès pour l’apprentissage. Dans cet article, je partage les résultats d’un projet de recherche mené auprès de mes anciens étudiants quant à leurs expériences à contribuer à un blogue dans le cadre d’un cours donné à l’automne 2016. Les données proviennent d’un groupe de discussion et d’un questionnaire. Les résultats démontrent que la pédagogie par le blogue, du point de vue des étudiants aux cycles supérieurs, permet l’apprentissage collaboratif et par les pairs, ce qui enrichit leur analyse réflexive individuelle sur leur apprentissage. De plus, l’écriture pour un auditoire légitime, au-delà de l’enseignant et au-delà des murs de la classe, crée un troisième espace où les étudiants peuvent faire valider leurs opinions et voix propres. Je soutiens que de développer une pédagogie ouverte, comme le blogue, est essentiel pour favoriser les habiletés nécessaires aux étudiants des cycles supérieurs afin de constater l’émergence de leur identité universitaire.

Keywords: blogging, pedagogy, community of practice, graduate studies, public scholarship.


In this digital age, learning is happening in many places and spaces outside classrooms.  Collins and Halverson (2009) remarked that despite this, pedagogies do not always provide opportunities to connect with those spaces of learning. In this article, I share results from research I did with some of my former graduate students on their experiences blogging for a graduate course I taught in fall 2016. The article begins with a discussion about blogging as pedagogy. I then outline the context of the blogging as pedagogy research project and describe the research project. This project was designed to enrich my own reflections on my pedagogical intentions to thin our classroom walls through blogging with students’ perspectives.

I taught undergraduate and graduate courses in (second) language education at McGill in Montreal for over a decade. When I taught the course that is the focus of this article, it was my first time integrating open access learning in a face-to-face course. Before that, I relied on a more conventional pedagogical approach, which had students hand in a number of learning artifacts during the term and then produce a larger final piece at the end of the course. In this approach, students are, for the most part, writing and demonstrating their knowledge for an audience of one—the instructor. Their knowledge is developed and displayed inside the closed walls of the classroom. Every year, I see excellent term papers that could meaningfully contribute to others’ teaching practices or pedagogies, but in the traditional model, opportunities for sharing and expanding knowledge are limited, since only the instructor sees the work. After making a change to my pedagogical approach to open up spaces for connected peer- and publicly-engaged learning, I am no longer convinced that a model that emphasizes displaying knowledge to a singular audience is best serving our students. This is especially true in the field of education, which is unquestionably about engaging in public and social work. As teacher educators, we teach our students about social constructivism and reinforce that learning is social. If we embrace the philosophy that scholarship is “making knowledge together” (Paré, 2016), we need to be providing students with “opportunities to demonstrate their learning in legitimate contexts outside the classroom” (Collins & Halverson, 2009, p. 25). This has inspired me to push beyond the walls of the classroom in my teaching. I did this through blogging as pedagogy.

Blogging as Pedagogy

I am certainly not the first person to use blogging and other social media platforms as a way to extend learning beyond the classroom in a philosophy of open access and connected learning (e.g., Cormier, 2010; Honeychurch, Stewart, Bali, Hogue, & Cormier, 2016; Nunan & Richards, 2014; Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011; Steel, Cohen, Hurley, & Joy, 2012). Stewart (2015) argued that social networks are sites of scholarship, and in fact, extend beyond Boyer’s (1990) four components of scholarship—discovery, integration, application, and teaching—by “fostering extensive cross-disciplinary, public ties and rewarding connection, collaboration, and curation between individuals rather than roles or institutions” (Stewart, 2015, p. 1). In socially networked learning, power hierarchies that are sustained in the peer review system, which reinforces the idea that certain people can authoritatively comment on the value of an individual’s scholarly work, are challenged. Blogging can provide a low-stakes writing space for peer learning and collaborative production of knowledge; in other words, it can foster the emergence of a community of practice (Wenger, 1998), a group of people who have common interests and can learn more about them through their interactions within the community than they would on their own. Blogging as pedagogy also allows for a shift from teacher-centred to student-driven inquiry-based learning and provides students with diverse sources of knowledge (Collins & Halverson, 2009). In the field of education research, there has been particular interest in blogging as a learning tool for English Language Learners (e.g., Alrubail, 2015; Campbell, 2003; de Almeida Soares, 2008; Richards, 2014; Stanley, 2005) and for pre-service teachers’ professional development (e.g., Hramiak, Boulton, & Irwin, 2009; Justice et al., 2013; Nambiar & Thang, 2016; Oner & Adadan, 2011).

What I have not seen as much in the scholarship is a focus on the role of blogging as a pedagogy for graduate studies. One exception is Guerin, Carter, and Aitchison’s (2015) case study on the use of a blog called Doctoral Writing SIG (Special Interest Group: to support doctoral students’ writing. The researchers found that the blog fostered a supportive community of practice where doctoral students could get feedback and valuable advice on their writing. In a blog post published in the New York Times, Will Richardson (2017), long-time advocate for integration of media and technology in K-12 education, wrote that because the why, what, and with whom of learning has changed, and learners have more control over their learning. As Richardson (2012) elsewhere argued, this shift puts the onus on teachers to “unlearn and relearn much of our own practice” and rethink our roles as educators. He suggested that we do this by thinning the classroom walls and sending work out into the world; making connections beyond the classroom; and learning along with our students (Richardson, 2012).

For me, these three recommendations resonate deeply with graduate-level teaching as well. Graduate courses are often designed with the goal to help students develop the skills graduate students need for thesis research. In the traditional model of academic scholarship, which privileges peer review, the emphasis is on students demonstrating to a professor that they can take a stance on a research issue, critically analyze and synthesize large bodies of scholarship, write a research paper, and do in-class presentations. However, we are at an important juncture for re-thinking our roles as educators at the graduate level. The Canadian Tri-Council agencies now require that publicly-funded research be published in open source platforms (Government of Canada, 2016), and we are seeing a shift in higher education towards publicly-engaged scholarship across the disciplines (e.g., the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies’ (CAGS) project to Rethink the PhD; University of British Columbia’s Public Scholars Initiative, which supports diverse forms of collaborative doctoral scholarship; and, the increasing popularity of public scholarship competitions for graduate students, such as the 3-Minute Thesis, or 3MT).

As educators, we need to recognize what it means to be a scholar in the digital age of open access scholarship and how this impacts our pedagogies. We need to embrace pedagogical approaches that support our graduate students’ identities as emerging scholars in this changing higher education context. Blogging as pedagogy is one such approach.


In Fall 2016, I taught a graduate course in McGill’s Faculty of Education called Educational Sociolinguistics. In the course syllabus, I described the course as follows:

The course takes as a premise that language (as a noun and as a verb) is a social construct and a social practice shaped by language ideologies. With this foundation, the course explores the social, cultural, and political dimensions of (second) language education. It pays special attention to areas of sociolinguistics most pertinent to language education, including language variation, language attitudes and ideologies, teacher and learner identity, language contact, multilingualism, and language planning and policy.

My 2016 cohort was the largest graduate class I have ever had, with 37 students. Most of the students had language teaching experience, in formal and non-formal learning contexts around the world. Many of the students were in their first term of graduate studies at McGill and more than two thirds were international students (primarily from Asian countries) or from out of province, so new to Montreal. When planning the course, I knew that I would not have a teaching assistant and that I would need to find ways to make spaces for the students’ diverse perspectives on and experiences with language education and sociolinguistics. I was not confident that the face-to-face classroom hours alone would be sufficient. I designed the course with pedagogical intentionality to allow for scholarly work that would extend beyond the traditional closed walls of the classroom and give everyone an opportunity to participate in collaborative and connected learning. I did this by creating a course blog ( that we would all contribute to. The blogging assignment was called “sociolinguistic noticing” (see Appendix 1). It asked students to write about connections between what we were reading or talking about in class and their experiences teaching or learning a (second) language. On the first day of class, I spoke about the blog in the context of making connections between contributing to and becoming part of an open access scholarly community and the important identity work that graduate students do as they develop their scholarly identities. When I had previously taught the same course, I had set up this assignment on a closed online discussion forum. I wrote about my rationale for moving this assignment to a public-facing blog my first blog post for the course:

I decided to take this part of the course beyond the classroom walls and face outwards, to the public. Sociolinguists are, at the core, interested in understanding how language is used (or not used) in social practices and settings. We are not often interested in remaining within closed walls. Language teachers who are sociolinguists are interested in understanding the implications of sociolinguistics to theories and practices of language learning in formal and non-formal educational contexts. And so, why keep our sociolinguistic noticing to ourselves? Why not open up this forum and turn it to the public? Why not engage with a broader audience and, in so doing, expand our own thinking and understanding? (September 8, 2016)

The students were expected to write three blog posts over the 13 weeks of the semester. They could choose when they wanted to write their posts and I evaluated them based on content. There was also a small percentage of the grade for this assignment for blog engagement; that is, commenting on at least six other blog posts. I did not evaluate the content of the comments, but simply whether or not they posted the minimum number of comments. To manage this, I asked students to email me at the end of the course with a list of the URLs of the posts they had commented on. Many students exceeded the minimum of six required comments. Although there was no grade for the content of the comments, I was very impressed with the respect the students showed for each other’s work—many comments were longer than the blog posts themselves, provided additional resources and suggestions, and were constructive and thought-provoking.

I also participated in the blog by writing posts throughout the course and commenting on students’ posts. As Keiren, one of the participants in the focus group said, “it really helped me that you had already prepared a blog to start it. It gave us an idea of what we were expected to do.” Another participant, Monica, also commented on my participation in the blog: “at the very beginning, you posted your comments and you kind of set up a role model for us. What kind of content we should post, and what length that we need to post.” My participation served as a model for students, but it was also a way for me to engage in learning with and from the students.

Blogging was a new pedagogical venture for me, and I expected it would be new for the students as well. As such, I built in a few measures to appease what I expected could cause some anxiety for the students. First, I gave students the option to write and publish under a pseudonym. Fifteen of the 37 students opted to use a pseudonym. Also, I set up a discussion forum on our closed learning management system where students could ask for feedback from peers on a blog post before publishing it to the blog. This closed space was only used twice. I was somewhat surprised that they didn’t use the feedback forum more but realized during the course that the students were comfortable enough with each other to share feedback on the blog itself. In terms of technical support, I provided students with detailed instructions on how to submit a blog post, how to embed media, and how to post comments. I expected there to be some technical support questions along the way, but there were none. At a practical level, I set the blog up so I was the sole author of the blog. Students submitted their posts to me and then I published them. This allowed me to ensure that there was never anything inappropriate published on the course blog. This was never an issue, although there were a few times when I sent the author an email and asked them to add forgotten references and re-submit.

When we started the term and I introduced the blog assignment, I did not know if we would find an audience beyond the class cohort. Over the 13 weeks of our course, we published 113 blog posts and posted almost 400 comments. By the end of the course, there were over 5000 hits from 37 countries, with more every day even though the course is over (as of the date of publication, there have been over 11,000 hits). I think it is fair to say that we did indeed find an audience. What does that mean for the learning experience of the students who contributed to the blog? Over the course of the term, I had many of my own reflections on the blogging as pedagogy experience; however, in this article, I did not want to write on behalf of my students, but rather give them the chance to share their own perspectives and reflections. This motivated the research project I undertook after the course ended.

Methods, Participants, and Data


The goal of this project was to better understand students’ experiences with the course blog. I designed a qualitative inquiry that used two methods to generate data: focus group and a survey. Both were based on the same set of open-ended questions (see Appendix 2). In January 2017, after the course was over and I had submitted my final grades, and after receiving approval from McGill’s Research Ethics Board, I reached out to my former cohort and invited them to participate in a focus group discussion. I explained that this was the first of two steps in the research project and that they would hear from me again shortly with an invitation to participate in an anonymous online survey. I included the survey in the research design because I anticipated that those who volunteered to participate in the focus group would be students who had had positive experiences with blogging. In addition, I was aware that the focus group participants might be inclined to share only positive aspects of their experiences because of the inherent power differential between us. The anonymous survey was included in the research design to help address the possibility of a biased skew towards the positive. The survey also offered the whole class cohort the opportunity to participate in the study and share their perspectives on blogging.


The participants in this study were drawn on the basis of the availability of volunteers; that is, it was a non-random convenience sampling (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). There were five students who volunteered to participate in the focus group: Monica, Sky, Keiren, and Vera, and Miley (all pseudonyms). All but Monica were in their first year of graduate studies at McGill, and all are either international students or from another province in Canada.

When we started arranging the focus group schedule, Monica was not able to find a time when she could meet with the rest of the group. She suggested that I meet her over Skype. As a result, I did one Skype interview and one focus group with the other four participants. I did the focus group first, which allowed me to carry threads from the group conversation into the interview with Monica. The interview lasted 30 minutes and the focus group discussion was one hour. I audio recorded both and transcribed the recordings the day after the interview and focus group, respectively. After this first phase, I sent the entire cohort of former students the link to an anonymous online survey that had five open-ended questions. There were ten survey respondents (36.7% response rate).

Data Interpretation

Interpreting the data began with transcription. As I was doing the transcriptions, I wrote my preliminary interpretive reflections on the transcripts proper in square brackets. I then used an open coding process (Corbin & Strauss, 2015), which involved reading through the transcripts and identifying words or themes that repeated, and then re-reading and refining the themes. This iterative process led to the four themes that are discussed below.

Themes and Discussion

In this section, I share vignettes from the focus group/ interview data and extracts from the survey data according to four themes. The themes are not presented in order of significance as none were more prevalent in the data than the others. There is also considerable overlap among the themes.

Learning From and With Peers: “It’s not only myself learning this course”

All participants (focus group, interview, and survey) said that when I first presented the blog assignment in class, they felt nervous, unsure, skeptical, or worried about it. However, this changed over time, as they saw the first few posts from peers. Monica, for instance, shared her initial hesitation about writing in public, but after having seen some of her peers’ posts, she realized that she had things to share as well.

You need to write down your words and I’m not good at academic writing as well, so at first I was so worried about that. . . . Then I saw maybe three or four blogs which is very interesting and I suddenly felt that maybe I can share my opinion as well. . . . I grew up in China so I have my personal experiences, and here, maybe people grew up in different areas and they have different feelings about sociolinguistics. . . . It’s not only myself learning this course. For example, right now, I have other courses, but sometimes I have my opinions and I want to listen to others’ opinions as well, but sometimes at the class, they speak very fast and I cannot catch up with them and I cannot raise my questions to them. And also, I have my opinions as well but I’m afraid of speaking out. But the blogging provides a platform for us to share opinions and for us to make interactions with each other. I think this is quite awesome.

For Monica, the blog gave her the experience of learning with her peers. This helped her feel that she had something unique and important to contribute to others, which was not something she had felt in other graduate courses. Although she was hesitant initially to contribute, Monica became a very engaged participant on the blog, writing many long and thoughtful comments in response to her peers. She also said that she appreciated how the blog was a “platform for teacher-student interaction. I think this is not common for Chinese students.” Her experience resonates with what Cormier (2010) has written about how open access pedagogy shifts didactic learning, where the teacher is seen as the knowledge-provider, to community as curriculum, which fosters distributed learning across flattened relations of power.

Vera had a similar initial hesitation when I first introduced the blog assignment. Like Monica, seeing her peers’ posts gave her some confidence to write her own:

For me, it was quite a novel idea because I’ve never had this kind of assignment before. And I wasn’t sure what you want from a blog. Do you want us to reflect what we are talking about in class or you want us to combine our own experience? So, I was struggling for a while. But after I’d seen others’ posts, it felt good.

One of the survey respondents wrote about how reading blog posts enriched their own learning: “Since I lacked working experience, I was particularly curious about what they [classmates] encountered when they were teaching. I learned a lot in others’ blogs as much as in classroom.”

Miley described the blog as a community-building space, where she could get to know her classmates and learn about diverse perspectives:

I also think the blog creates a third space. Like usually we come to class, we hear presentations or lecture, then we go back home, and we never know our classmates. But the blog created a place for us to really know our classmates, their thoughts, their language, their story. And I think it feels more like a community. Feel more close to others.

There is a rich body of literature on Third Space, inspired by postcolonial theorist, Homi Bhabha (1994) and cultural geographer, Edward Soja (1996). In the context of digital communications, Stewart (2016) argued that third space “is a potentially transformative space between the roles of student and teacher, a hybrid space where identities and literacies and practices can actually change on both sides” (italics in original). Miley’s comment lends support to the interpretation of third space as transformative.

Keiren replied to Miley by adding that “I felt it’s not just about us getting to know each other, but it’s also about, it’s kind of like a stepping stone to begin a conversation with people who share the same interests.” Here, Keiren is speaking about the blog connecting with a community beyond our class cohort. She had been contacted by someone outside the class who had read her blog post and was interested in what she had written. This suggests that the blog helped to foster the emergence of a community of practice (Wenger, 1998), which extended beyond the students in the class. That is, it brought people together who share a similar interest, which they developed further through ongoing communication and sharing of stories, experiences, and practices (Guerin, Carter, & Aitchison, 2015).

One aspect of the blog that surprised me somewhat was the degree of engagement in the comments. Because I did not grade the content or quality of the comments, I wondered if students might simply write “nice post” and get the mark for commenting. However, the comments students wrote for each other far exceeded this. As Keiren said “[Writing comments] wasn’t about the grade. It was about the space we had created. And because you appreciated the fact that you were getting feedback, you wanted to provide feedback back. It was a kind of give and take. It was good.” Miley added “Because we are trying to respect others’ work and at the same time, we are looking for others’ feedback.” I see this as evidence of a sense of a learning community among peers.

Overall, the participants felt that the blog was a community-building space that fostered collaborative and connected learning, which took place beyond the classroom walls. While they expressed that they learned with and from their peers, this sense of learning community also including me (the instructor) and extended beyond the class cohort.

Reflecting: “It pushes me to reflect in daily life”

Many of the participants spoke or wrote about how contributing to the blog helped them reflect more deeply on their own teaching practices and learning. Sky, for instance, talked about how the blog pushed her to reflect and engage more deeply, both with her classmates and with the content of the course. She also appreciated being given the agency to make her own choices with respect to what to write about.

It [the blog] actually pushed me to engage. Well, I think it was the content of the course coupled with the blog that pushed me to engage with things on a deeper level. There was always ideas percolating in my head for blog posts. I wrote 3 and I had probably 10 formulated in my mind that just didn’t materialize. I really enjoyed it. And I liked having the freedom to choose which aspect of the course we wanted to engage with on a really personal level. Because that’s always what you end up coming out with, too, is the parts that you really made your own. I really enjoyed that and it was a new type of learning experience for me. I have always gone through classes where things were very structured—these are the 3 topics you can choose from and these are the requirements. So, I really enjoyed having the freedom to engage with it on my terms.

Similarly, Miley commented on how knowing she would have to write blog posts made her listen actively and attentively during class and that it helped her develop her final project.

I think it really helped me to catch the fleeting ideas, fleeting thoughts in class. I know that I need to write 3 blogs so every time I think about things, I write it down. It forced me to make a lot of notes. And the first blog that I wrote, it was about my own experience and [it] developed into being my final project, which is about language attitudes and ideology. So, I think it really helped me.

Vera found that writing for the blog changed how she thinks about aspects of her daily life that she used to take for granted. It also helped her develop a sense of praxis—that important meeting of theory and practice.

For me, it pushes me to reflect in daily life. I read everyone’s posts and they are talking about themselves, their own experiences. [Before], I wasn’t reflecting while I was teaching. I thought that teaching and what you learned are quite separate. So, after the blogging, I tried to combine the two. Like in real life, you will notice something that is about languaging or it is about identity. So, I think it’s a good way to mix what you’ve learned and what you are doing.

Sky also talked about how the blog pushed her to engage in deep self-reflection, a critical practice for educators:

Blogging pushes people to self-reflection because blogging is by nature much more personal. . . . It affected not just what we were blogging about, I found, but the fact that I was always thinking about potential blog posts had me engaging in personal reflection in just about everything we did. . . . Even if you don’t realize it, you carry a huge set of attitudes or beliefs into the classroom or into your research, so it’s fantastic to be pushed to stop and look at what those attitudes and beliefs are and if there are any that you want to change.

Earlier in the article, I explained that I had decided to include the survey in the study to guard against a sampling bias and allow for anonymous responses, which might represent diverse perspectives. On the whole, the participants expressed very positive experiences with the blogging. However, one student’s experience stood apart. In the survey, this student wrote:

I thought it [the blog] was a little tedious and lacked direction. . . . The instructions were too vague and there were no guiding questions. It was not fun when I didn’t have any topic in mind to write about. . . . I had a hard time finding topics I was really interested in and it just felt like I was feigning interest for the sake of the assignment.

This perspective is important reminder to me as an educator that my own reflections on and experience of a pedagogical approach do not necessarily mean that all students shared the same position. I intentionally did not give students a great deal of guidance with respect to what to write about on the blog, though sometimes in class, I would suggest a topic that students might want to explore further in a blog post. By design, “sociolinguistic noticing” encourages the students to have ownership of their own learning and reflect on and write about issues or topics that resonated with their own experiences. This student’s perspective is a good reminder that everyone comes to a learning situation with their own expectations for what will work for them as learners and this can influence how open they will be to novel approaches that do not necessarily align with those expectations.

Another indication that all 37 students were not equally as invested in the blog was that there were some students who left writing and submitting their posts until the end of term. They treated their three posts as assignments to complete and submit, rather than participating in the community-building aspect of the course.

What I found was that students who were on board with the blog were very on board and their level of engagement led them to deeply reflect on their own learning beyond the context of the blogging and to participate more actively during class, by taking notes or listening attentively. On the other hand, some were less engaged and saw the blog as another assignment to complete and did not see the potential benefits to participating actively. The reflection that most of the participants spoke to is closely related to the first theme (peer learning) as well as the next theme—knowing that they are writing for an authentic audience.

Writing for an Audience: “I could be more faithful to myself as an individual”

As I discussed in the opening of the article, the traditional pedagogical model in graduate studies is a closed model, which has students producing learning artifacts for an audience of one—the instructor. In the focus group and interview discussions, we talked quite a lot about what it meant to be writing for a public audience and how that affected the students’ thinking and writing. Throughout the course, I periodically shared blog statistics on the number of visitors we had as well as what countries they were from to reinforce the message that the students were indeed sharing their work in legitimate contexts outside the classroom.

Keiren talked about feeling encouraged when someone from outside the class cohort left a comment on her post: “it was so encouraging when you got feedback or a comment. . .because it means you’re writing something interesting and capturing and getting someone’s attention.”

Because she knew her post would be in a public space, Vera said that she wanted to make sure she was “writing something interesting and [she was] willing to explore the literature to support [her]self.” She also talked about wanting to make her writing accessible:

I was thinking about trying to make it interesting. How to make things you have read be accessible to others who haven’t read the paper you’ve read. And they won’t feel that you’re just dropping a term, but it’s from your own experience and I want to make it smoothly translated. That’s way different, because if I write for a professor, I would presume she has read a lot and what I’m talking about, she must know this, so I don’t bother that much to make it interesting.

Vera saw writing for the blog as very different from writing for just the professor because she was expected to do more than display her knowledge. It encouraged her to think about her writing differently because she wanted to engage and connect with readers when she shared her ideas.

Miley, likewise, put effort into making her blog posts interesting, not just for the benefit of the reader, but to initiate a conversation with the reader(s). She said, “I also wanted my blog to be interesting because of the audience. I wanted them to comment on it or they can share some common thoughts or provide some suggestions for me.” Sky said that writing for an audience helped her approach her writing with intentionality.

I found too that it made me a lot more careful about how I put things together. . .it’s really easy for me to fill a lot of space, but what are you saying in that space? I really found that having the constraints of keeping it to an appropriate length for a blog post pushed me to make sure that the content of every paragraph really counted. . . . I put a lot of thought into accessibility. . .because it’s not just our class that can access it, it’s anyone. I wanted to make sure that what I wrote was understandable and engaging to some stranger who happened to type a keyword into a search engine.

As one survey respondent shared “I felt like I could be more faithful to myself as an individual. I was able to let the ‘student’ take a back seat and share my thoughts as an individual.” This comment resonates with the notion of third space, that potentially transformative space where new identities can emerge (Stewart, 2016). For this student, the blog was a space where they could perform an identity other than student. Another survey respondent also commented on the role of the blog in opening up spaces for to perform different identities: “I enjoyed the experience writing for the blog. It allowed me to engage with both the material and my classmates’ ways of thinking about that material. A lot of the insights into the readings provided by my fellow students also opened a window into their own identities and perspectives.”

Another survey respondent wrote about communicating with an audience: “It is great to have a platform where you can share your opinion with others instead of just handing in assignments without a chance to communicate. And blogging encourages you to think in the position of the readers and organize your idea in a reader-friendly way.” As with the others, this participant recognized the value in writing for a legitimate audience outside the class.

In my own preliminary reflections on this project, which I shared in a non-course blog post, I wrote:

Writing for an audience beyond just the evaluator/ prof/ instructor can have an important impact on the development of students’ identities as writers; that is, they can see themselves as someone with valid and important ideas. . . . The blog was a space where students could develop (or nurture) identities as writers and this is because they were writing, not just to display knowledge to the prof for marks, but to engage an audience, connect with readers, share ideas. In fact, the focus group participants referred to each other and their peers as authors – something I have never heard among a cohort of students before. (March 5, 2017; italics in original)

Hearing the focus group participants refer to each other and their former classmates as authors, rather than classmates, suggests to me that they emerged from the course with a sense of themselves and others as writers. This is an important insight into the potential impact of blogging as pedagogy because emerging scholars often struggle to position themselves as writers within academia (Fazel, 2018).

Overall, for the participants, writing for an audience validated their opinions and perspectives and pushed their writing skills by encouraging them to think intentionally about making their writing interesting for and accessible to a broad audience. In short, writing for an audience gave opportunity for the students to authentically engage, share, and connect, and open up identity spaces beyond ‘student.’

Having a Voice: “Your own ideas are actually valued”

With a class of 37 graduate students, as I wrote earlier in the article, I did not think that the face-to-face hours of our class would allow for everyone to participate in a collaborative learning space. In addition, with the large number of international students, I expected that some would experience in-class language anxiety (i.e., stress, tension, or fear that language learners experience) that inhibited them from speaking in class. The blog was a space where everyone contributed and several of the participants, both in the focus group and the survey, commented on how the blog provided them with a place to express themselves. As Monica said,

I really loved to read others’ stories. We have talked about language anxiety and I think for me, I’m afraid of speaking in front of public and also in the classroom because of my language and sometimes I’m afraid of making mistakes. And also whenever I have some ideas when you’re lecturing or people are giving their presentations, I just note down the ideas and then I will share it on the blog later.

Monica not only found the blog was a place she could share her ideas, but knowing that she had to write blog posts also encouraged her to listen actively and attentively during class. For Monica, the blog did not stand alone, but was an integral part of the whole course. In fact, there were a number of students in the cohort whose final projects developed directly from a blog post they had written, integrating feedback or suggestions they had received on their ideas in the comments.

Sky saw the aspect of voice from a different perspective. She said, “I know I’m one of the people who talks a lot in class, maybe too much. I try to tone it down, but it was really fantastic to get a chance to read blog posts from my quieter colleagues because I want to get to know everyone, not just the people who talk lots in class.” She appreciated being able to hear her classmates’ voices on the blog because she didn’t in class. This suggests that she saw her classmates as colleagues and collaborators.

Likewise, a survey respondent wrote: “The blog was a great way to hear a wide range of voices; I particularly enjoyed hearing from students who had a point of view and background that was very different from mine.” Once again, what echoes in this statement is that the blog was a space for the diverse voices that make up a community of learners.

Miley and Vera shared a similar perspective on how the blog was a place where they felt their ideas were validated, as seen in this exchange during the focus group:

Miley:  The blog was a creative space for us to really think about our personal life.
Maybe it is not academic or not that valuable to some professors, but it is very valuable for us.
Vera:  Yeah, your own ideas are actually valued.
Miley:  Yeah, it is valued.

Miley and Vera are both international students who did not speak a great deal during class. The blog gave them the opportunity to have their ideas and knowledge validated by their peers.

Knowing that their ideas were valued encouraged participants to engage more deeply during class (e.g., by active listening and note-taking). This seems to have been especially important for students who did not feel comfortable talking in class. The blog allowed for everyone to be heard and the participants saw this co-constructed learning as valuable. When learners feel that they have a voice that is valued by others, this contributes to a sense of community and collaborative learning. This is the real work of scholarship.

Before turning to my closing thoughts, I would like to share a few pedagogical notes on challenges I experienced as part of my reflection on the blogging assignment.

Pedagogical Notes

As with all teaching, but especially when trying a new approach, there is always room for reflection and refining. Over the term, there were a few challenges that I experienced with the blog assignment, which could be mitigated with slightly different pedagogical design.

The first challenge had to do with the blog posting schedule. Because I wanted to create space for student agency in the course, I did not give deadlines for blog posts. I simply told them that they had to contribute three posts before the end of the term. What this meant was that some students left some or all their posts until the end of term even though I tried to encourage them to write throughout the term. In the focus group, I talked about what this was like from my perspective:

A lot of people left blog posts till the end, so then it was too crazy because I had all the final projects to grade as well. I felt so badly because I was reading these amazing blog posts and I wanted to respond and write back, but I just couldn’t do it. . . . I had a bit of a blog crisis in December. I tried to nudge people to post before the end of term. Maybe that’s something I need to think about in my planning for the future, not to let it [the blog assignment] go right to the end of the course, but maybe a couple of weeks before. I tried to reply to and comment on all the posts, but by the end, when there were so many, I was reading them, and they were so good and there was so much I wanted to say, but I couldn’t.

At the end of the course, the blog lost some of the richness of collaborative knowledge-making that I had seen throughout the earlier part of the term. One of the survey respondents suggested that I provide three deadlines for the posts, so students would need to write one post per month.  This is something I would consider in the future.

Another aspect of the blog that presented a challenge for some participants was the lack of feedback they received on their writing (grammar/ style). I evaluated the posts on the basis of three criteria: 1) Evidence of critical engagement of course readings and concepts: that is, making links between the readings and their experiences/ observations as a language learner/ speaker/ teacher and asking questions to push their own and others’ thinking forward; 2) integrating other articles/ blog posts; and 3) language. I tried to comment on all the posts and give feedback on the content of the posts, and this proved to me an immensely time-consuming goal. Two of the survey respondents wrote that they would have liked to have received feedback on the language in the blog posts in order to improve their writing. With the class size I had, and the number of blog posts and comments being published, this was not feasible. I would like to encourage any teacher who is considering integrating blogging into their pedagogy to carefully consider the time investment needed to remain actively engaged with the blog throughout the course. I do agree that feedback on writing would add an important layer to the pedagogical design. This would have been a great task for a teaching assistant, if I had had one.

Another challenge was shared by one of the survey respondents, who commented on the difficulty of finding topics to write about.

The challenge for me is thinking about and choosing the topic to write about because I don’t want to just analyze a theory. I want to vividly tell a story or describe a language phenomenon worth noticing. Of course, it’s not easy. At first, I had to spend a long time searching my mind for a piece of story. But later I became alert to what and how people use languages and it became easy gradually.

One way to help manage this would be to brainstorm possible topics for blog posts in class.  However, since the goal of “sociolinguistic noticing” was to provide an opportunity for individuals to reflect on how their own experiences teaching and learning a (second) language related to what we were covering in the course, I intentionally did not provide much direction with respect to the blog topics. That said, this is an aspect of the design that could be better scaffolded in the future.

Another aspect to blogging pedagogy that I would like to build into future course designs comes from a suggestion by a survey respondent who wrote, “I think blogging was hard for me because I wasn’t exactly sure what I was allowed to write and what I wasn’t, or what was appropriate and what was not. If we had a quick exercise about safety in writing blogs, it may have helped.” I appreciate the students’ feedback and suggestions—my future blogging pedagogy will be enriched because of their contributions.

Closing Thoughts

Blogging as pedagogy, from the perspectives of graduate students, provided an opportunity for the students to become a community of practice, where they learned collaboratively from their peers and others, which enriched their own self-reflections on their learning. In addition, writing for a legitimate audience beyond a single instructor and beyond the walls of the classroom, gave them a space where they could have their own opinions and voices validated, where they could hear others’ voices, and it allowed them to position themselves as writers, an identity that is crucial for emerging scholars to be able to perform.

Fisher (2011) stated that “learning is only as powerful as the networks it occurs in” (p. 59). With some exceptions, blogging in the course did provide opportunities for powerful connected learning. However, approaches to thinning the classroom walls seem to be less common in graduate studies. I strongly believe that graduate students should complete their degrees with the conventionally expected skills of being able to write academic papers and present scholarly work at conference. However, in the context of the shift in higher education towards open access, the findings of this study reinforce the importance of providing graduate students with opportunities to connect with a wider public in meaningful knowledge-making. Engaging, connecting, and sharing ideas—these are a critical part of developing an identity as an emerging scholar, and should be impacting our in-class pedagogies with graduate learners. Thinning the classroom walls through open pedagogies, such as blogging, is essential for fostering spaces for graduate students need to discover and perform scholarly identities. Blogging as pedagogy is just one way to thin the classroom walls. My hope is that this article may encourage other graduate educators to explore open pedagogies that help thin the classroom walls and engage students in public and networked scholarship.

In closing, I would like to sincerely thank my cohort of former students for bravely embarking on this pedagogical adventure with me, as well as the participants for sharing their insights and suggestions with me. It was a truly enriching and humbling experience to join in this blogging as pedagogy journey with them.


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Appendix 1

EDSL 624: Educational Sociolinguistics

Assignment 2: Sociolinguistic Noticing – Course Blog (30%)

I am a firm believer in scholarship as public discourse; that is, scholarship that is open, accessible, and connected to other people. As such, I have set up a course blog (, which will serve as our public-facing course space. Through the blog, we will have the opportunity to engage with the wider community. We will seek out connections with others, through blog posts, Twitter (if you have an account), Facebook groups, and other academics.


The purpose of this assignment is to engage in deep noticing of sociolinguistic issues and consider how they relate to language education and do so in an open forum.

Minimum expectations

  1. At least 3 original posts any time over the 13 weeks (8% each = 24%), roughly 500 words each.
  2. In your posts, make connections between something we have read, talked about, or that you’re thinking about, and your experiences teaching or learning a (second) language. You may also want to offer a critique (see Note 1) of one of the readings we have done in class. You are expected to demonstrate a critical engagement with the course topics. Pose questions to elicit responses and engage your readers. What do you want to know more about?
    • If you want someone to read your draft before posting, ask your peers in the class for feedback in the MyCourses discussion thread called “Peer feedback, please.”
  3. The remaining 6% of the marks for this assignment are for engagement; that is, responding to 6 other blog posts (1 response = 1%). I will not evaluate the content of your responses, but will track that you are engaged in contributing to the discussion on the blog.
  4. It is possible that people outside our class will respond, too. It is good blog etiquette to respond to readers.
  5. You are welcome to exceed the minimum expectations for posting to the blog.

Note 1: Critique does not only mean being negative. You can offer a good critique, if you think an article/ study is deserving. Tell us why you think it is good (e.g., Is it methodologically sound? Does it offer a new theoretical perspective on an issue?, etc.), or not.

* See the document “Blog Instructions” in MyCourses for step-by-step instructions on how to submit your blog post.

Evaluation Criteria

  1. Evidence of critical engagement of course readings and concepts: that is, making links between the readings and your experiences/ observations as a language learner/ speaker/ teacher and asking questions to push your own and others’ thinking forward
  2. Integrating other articles/ blog posts
  3. Language is error free

Grading Scheme

A (exceptional): Expectations of the assignment have been surpassed and demonstrate creativity and originality. Work shows in-depth understanding and critical awareness of links between the individual assignment and other class readings and activities, in line with the goals and major themes of the course itself and goes beyond the course content and material. Language and format of the work are exceedingly well-structured, eloquent and error free.

A- (very good): Understandings and insights in the work are apparent, and there is evidence of critical engagement with the subject matter. Expectations are met, and some are surpassed. The language and format of the work are very well-structured and error free.

B+ (good): Expectations of the assignment have been met. Understandings and insights are apparent, and there is some evidence of critical engagement. The language and format of the work are well structured but may contain a few errors.

B (acceptable): Basic expectations of the assignment have been mostly met. Understandings, insights and evidence of critical engagement are somewhat apparent. The organization and structure of the work lack consistency and the work contains more than a few language errors.

B- (adequate): Some expectations of the assignment have been met. Work lacks organizational structure, logical coherence and clarity with frequent language errors.

F (Fail) (inadequate): Does not meet expectations.

Appendix 2

Survey Questions

  1. What was your overall experience writing for and contributing to the EDSL 624 blog?
  2. How did you feel when you first heard about the blog assignment? (How) did your feelings about it change over the term? If so, why?
  3. In what way was writing for the blog different from/ similar to writing on discussion forums on MyCourses?
  4. Did you experience any challenges or obstacles with the blogging assignment? If so, how could these be mitigated or addressed?
  5. Please feel free to share any other thoughts or feedback.

Pratiques de Littératie Familiales d’Élèves Hispanophones

Volume 2(2): 2018

MARIE-PIER BASTIEN, Université d’Ottawa

CAROLE FLEURET, Université d’Ottawa

RÉSUMÉ. Cet article explore les pratiques de littératie familiales de dix élèves hispanophones scolarisés en français, en Outaouais (au Québec). Pour en rendre compte, une recherche qualitative a été menée. Un questionnaire et un entretien semi-dirigé ont permis de témoigner des pratiques de littératie déclarées dans l’enceinte familiale. Les résultats montrent que certaines tendances sont observables, notamment l’implication de la mère dans les devoirs de l’enfant, et ce, peu importe sa connaissance du français. Sur le plan linguistique, si le français et l’anglais sont utilisés à la maison, l’espagnol demeure la langue qui prédomine dans les foyers hispanophones. L’espagnol est donc la langue de socialisation primaire. Le français, la langue de scolarisation des familles de notre étude, est quasi-strictement reliée aux activités scolaires. Même si l’espagnol est la langue de l’identité collective et familiale, la lecture de livres se fait très rarement dans cette langue. Chez les hispanophones de notre étude, on peut aussi supposer que les pratiques discursives sont à prédominance orales.

ABSTRACT. This article explores the family literacy practices of 10 Spanish-speaking students enrolled in a French school in the Outaouais region. A qualitative study was carried out, using a questionnaire and a semi-directed interview to explore the reported literacy practices of the families at home. Results of this study show, in particular, that the mothers in the families are commonly involved in helping the child with homework, regardless of her knowledge of French. While French and English are both used in the homes, Spanish remains the predominant language in Spanish-speaking households. Spanish is the language of socialization and French the language of education, its use being almost strictly related to school activities. Although Spanish is the language of the collective identity of the families in this study, it is rarely the language used for reading books to children. This highlights that Spanish discursive practices are primarily oral.

Mots-clés : réussite scolaire, socialisation langagière, pratiques de littératie familiales, langue seconde, français langue de scolarisation.


Le Canada accueille de plus en plus d’immigrants sur son territoire. En 2006, sur les 32 millions d’habitants, 20 % d’entre eux étaient allophones, c’est-à-dire, selon Statistique Canada (2012), dont la langue d’origine ni l’une ni l’autre des deux langues officielles du pays ou encore une des langues des Premières Nations.

Du côté du Québec, la province accueillait 21,4 % des immigrants au Canada en 2012 (Citoyenneté et Immigration Canada, 2014). Nonobstant la forte croissance d’immigrants dans les grandes villes québécoises telles que Montréal et Québec, « une hausse rapide de cette population a été notée à l’extérieur de la région métropolitaine » (ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport, 2014, p.2). Ainsi n’est-il pas surprenant de constater qu’en 2012, la région de l’Outaouais accueillait 6 085 nouveaux arrivants (Statistique Canada, 2014). Un article publié par la ville de Gatineau (2013) précise que les Portugais forment la communauté d’immigrants la plus importante, suivi des réfugiés politiques des pays de l’Europe centrale et de l’Est et, enfin, des Haïtiens. On observe aussi, au cours des dernières années, de fortes vagues d’immigrants en provenance d’Amérique centrale et du Sud.

Sur le plan langagier, on constate que 68 % des familles qui ont immigré en Outaouais sont allophones. Précisément, on recense, dans le milieu familial, l’arabe, l’espagnol, le portugais, les langues chinoises, le serbo-croate et le roumain (Ville de Gatineau, 2013). Relativement à leur réussite scolaire, Mc Andrew (2009) montre que celle des allophones est équivalente à la réussite des locuteurs des langues officielles, à l’exception des matières où les composantes culturelles et linguistiques sont omniprésentes, à savoir l’anglais, l’histoire et la géographie. Selon l’auteure, il semblerait en fait que ces étudiants obtiennent des résultats scolaires inférieurs dans ces matières car leurs connaissances demeurent fragiles et leur compréhension de la langue de scolarisation n’est pas encore suffisamment établie. Si l’on regarde les groupes d’un point de vue ethnolinguistique, certains semblent être plus fragiles quant à la réussite scolaire, c’est-à-dire qu’ils semblent éprouver davantage de difficultés, ce qui est, entre autres, le cas des hispanophones (ibid.). Dans cet ordre d’idées, dans la mesure où l’immigration de la communauté hispanophone est récente dans la région de l’Outaouais, il nous semble important de nous questionner sur leurs pratiques de littératie familiales, de manière à mieux cerner les difficultés rencontrées par cette communauté.

La Communauté Hispanophone de l’Outaouais

Dans cette section, nous présenterons brièvement la communauté hispanophone de l’Outaouais pour ainsi circonscrire ses caractéristiques et afin de souligner certains facteurs qui peuvent interférer sur la réussite scolaire des élèves.

La majorité des membres de la communauté d’Amérique latine qui s’est installée au Québec, et notamment en Outaouais, est née à l’extérieur du pays (67,4 %) (Immigration et Communautés culturelles, 2006). De manière générale, ce sont des immigrants en provenance du Mexique, du Pérou, de la Colombie et de l’Uruguay ; ils forment les communautés latines les plus importantes à Gatineau (Ville de Gatineau, 2013). En ce qui concerne l’état matrimonial, plus des deux cinquièmes (45,5 %) des personnes d’origine latino-américaine sont célibataires, et 39,8 % sont légalement mariées et non séparées (Immigration et Communautés culturelles, 2006). Sur le plan scolaire, 24,2 % des Latino-Américains détiennent une scolarité inférieure au diplôme d’études secondaires, et 23,2 % détiennent un diplôme d’études secondaires (ibid.).

Sur le plan langagier, 84 % des membres de la communauté est de première génération (Immigration et Communautés culturelles, 2006), ce qui signifie qu’une infime partie des Latino-Américains qui résident à Gatineau est née ici. Bien qu’une majorité dise connaître le français ou l’anglais (88,8 %), l’espagnol, dans sa forme orale, demeure la langue du groupe et de l’identité collective (Delgado-Gaitan, 2005). Si l’on regarde maintenant le volet économique, on constate que : 1) le revenu moyen annuel d’une famille latino-américaine est de 21 539 $, alors que celle de l’ensemble de la population québécoise est de 32 074 $, 2) le taux de chômage est de 13,1 % par rapport à 7,0 % dans les foyers québécois. En général, les deux secteurs industriels les plus fréquentés par les immigrants Latino-Américains sont ceux de la fabrication (17,7 %) et du commerce de détail (12,1 %) (ibid.).

En somme, comme nous pouvons le constater, et à la lumière des propos que nous venons d’avancer, les immigrants hispanophones vivent dans une certaine précarité économique et connaissent davantage le chômage. Ils sont également peu scolarisés, comme le soulignent les statistiques témoignant de leur niveau de scolarité. À cet égard, il est reconnu, dans les écrits scientifiques, que différents facteurs peuvent influer sur la réussite scolaire, notamment le statut socioéconomique et le niveau de scolarité des parents (Mc Andrew, Garnett, Ledent, Ungerleider, Adumati-Trache et Ait-Said, 2009 ; Kanouté, Vatz Laaroussi, Rachédi et Tchimou Doffouchi, 2008; Cummins, 1979). Ainsi peut-on se questionner sur les modèles de service mis en place au Québec pour faciliter la réussite scolaire des élèves allophones, notamment des hispanophones, pour savoir s’ils sont efficaces et facilitent réellement l’intégration et la réussite scolaire.

Les Modèles de Service Offerts aux Élèves Allophones au Québec

Le Québec met en place, depuis les années 1960, de nombreux programmes d’aide et de soutien aux élèves. Parmi ceux-ci figurent les classes d’accueil, classes à effectif réduit dont l’objectif consiste notamment à favoriser le développement d’habiletés langagières des élèves pour qu’ils puissent atteindre un niveau de scolarisation similaire à celui des élèves québécois (Armand, 2011). Les classes de francisation, bien qu’elles visent elles aussi l’apprentissage du français, sont différentes des classes d’accueil dans la mesure où les élèves sont retirés de leur salle de classe, à des moments précis dans la semaine, pour recevoir un soutien additionnel en français (ibid.). À la fin des années 1990, des programmes d’enseignement officiels et des guides pédagogiques ont été conçus pour soutenir tant les élèves allophones que les enseignants. Nous pensons notamment à la Politique d’intégration scolaire et d’éducation internationale qui visait à faciliter le processus d’intégration des élèves immigrants en prônant et en encourageant la diversité culturelle.

Le Programme d’accueil et de soutien à l’apprentissage du français (PASAF1), mis en place dans les écoles du Québec en 1997, a permis de mieux cerner les besoins des élèves allophones et d’organiser en conséquence les différents modèles de services qui leur sont offerts. Précisément, ce sont cinq modèles qui sont offerts aux élèves et dont l’implantation dépend de leurs besoins, allant d’une intégration en classe fermée à l’intégration totale en salle de classe. Le premier modèle, par exemple, consiste à l’intégration de l’élève dans une classe fermée et dans laquelle l’ensemble des élèves est en intégration (modèle de classe d’accueil fermée), alors que le cinquième modèle consiste plutôt en l’intégration directe dans la salle de classe, où l’élève suit le même programme scolaire que l’ensemble des élèves de la classe (modèle d’intégration totale dans les classes ordinaires sans soutien linguistique). Financé par le ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport et géré par l’établissement scolaire de l’enfant, le PASAF est mis en place pour venir en aide aux élèves qui n’ont pas le français comme langue de scolarisation.

Par rapport aux modèles de service, Armand (2011) mentionne plusieurs incohérences et faiblesses, à savoir que la durée du cheminement en classe d’accueil est trop longue et que les élèves qui ont été dans les classes d’accueil ont tendance à prendre davantage de retard plutôt que de développer des compétences et des habiletés langagières. Il semblerait aussi que le type de regroupement des élèves par niveau de français pose certains défis qui sont relatifs à la différence d’âge des élèves et au fait que les enseignants ont de la difficulté à accorder une attention nécessaire et suffisante aux élèves. Bref, bien qu’il existe un certain nombre de mesures d’appui à l’apprentissage du français, on peut se questionner sur l’impact de ces dernières auprès des communautés hispanophones puisqu’elles ne semblent pas être suffisantes pour permettre à une majorité de décrocher un diplôme d’études secondaires. De plus, il semble qu’aucune recherche, à notre connaissance, ne se soit penchée sur le cheminement des élèves hispanophones. Dans cet ordre d’idées, notre question de recherche est la suivante : quelles sont les pratiques de littératie familiales des apprenants hispanophones à leur entrée dans le système scolaire en Outaouais?

Cadre Conceptuel

Dans cette section, les concepts clés de notre étude seront abordés. Nous pensons notamment aux concepts de langue d’origine (L12), de langue seconde (L2), de langue de scolarisation et à celui de littératie familiale.

Par définition, le concept de L2 se construit par opposition à celui de la langue d’origine ou Langue Première ou Maternelle (L1). Selon Cuq et Gruca (2003, p.159), « toute langue non maternelle est une langue étrangère à partir du moment où elle représente, pour un individu ou un groupe, un savoir encore ignoré, une potentialité, un objet nouveau d’apprentissage ». Si plusieurs chercheurs se sont penchés sur l’apprentissage de la L2 en contexte scolaire, Cummins (1979, 1981, 2000), à travers ses nombreuses recherches en éducation bilingue, montre que les programmes d’immersion française pourraient offrir de meilleures retombées au niveau de l’apprentissage de la L2 si certains éléments pédagogiques étaient mieux cernés dans le programme scolaire.

Précisément, Cummins (1979) a fait émerger l’hypothèse de l’interdépendance qui montre qu’en contexte scolaire, il existe une relation positive entre la L1 et la L2 lorsqu’il s’agit de développer des connaissances linguistiques. Il mentionne également que le niveau atteint en L2 dépend considérablement du niveau atteint en L1. Toutefois, le chercheur note que l’apprenant doit avoir atteint un certain seuil de connaissances initiales dans sa langue d’origine afin que celui-ci puisse développer un certain niveau linguistique dans la langue seconde. Ce que l’auteur appelle l’hypothèse du seuil minimal de développement linguistique (the threshold hypothesis) implique que l’apprenant peut subir un défi sur le plan cognitif si ce seuil n’est pas atteint.

Auger (2007), à la suite d’une recherche de treize mois menée auprès d’élèves nouvellement arrivés en France, avance que l’enseignement explicite dans la L1 influence positivement l’apprentissage de la L2, dans la mesure où l’élève est amené à réfléchir sur ses référents dans sa langue d’origine. Inversement, elle mentionne que l’absence d’enseignement de la langue d’origine peut rendre difficile l’apprentissage et l’acquisition de la L2, en supposant que les élèves n’ont pas nécessairement développé la littératie dans leur L1 et qu’ils se confrontent au double défi de développer ces compétences à l’écrit dans une langue seconde. Pour Auger, ce sont donc les allers-retours cognitifs entre la L1 et la L2 qui permettraient à l’élève d’acquérir plus facilement des connaissances relatives à la langue de scolarisation, en supposant que celle-ci est une langue seconde.

L’importance de la L1 dans l’acquisition de la L2 est aussi mise de l’avant dans les travaux de Hornberger (2003). Précisément, le modèle que l’auteure propose à la suite d’une étude menée auprès de populations autochtones suggère que l’utilisation de la L1 dans l’appropriation de la L2 médiatise le dialogue, permet la création de sens et offre l’accès à des discours plus larges.

Finalement, Mc Andrew et Ciceri (2003) ont identifié cinq objectifs de l’enseignement des L1, à noter : l’importance du retour au pays d’origine; le soutien à l’apprentissage de la langue d’accueil; le maintien des langues et des cultures d’origine; l’enrichissement culturel et la compétitivité économique. Elles vont même à mentionner que « […] la substitution de la langue d’origine par la langue d’accueil risque d’avoir des conséquences négatives, notamment en confinant les élèves plurilingues à une situation de semi-linguisme ou de bilinguisme soustractif » (p.8).

Ainsi comprend-on que l’apprentissage d’une L2 ne se fait généralement pas au détriment de la L1. À l’inverse, les recherches de Cummins (1979, 1981) semblent plutôt montrer que les transferts linguistiques entre la L1 et la L2 sont nécessaires à l’acquisition et l’appropriation de la L2. Comme dans la majorité des cas, on dit également que cette même L2 est aussi une langue de scolarisation (ibid.), concept que nous aborderons dans la prochaine section.

L’Apprentissage de la Langue de Scolarisation

Par définition, la langue de scolarisation est celle apprise à l’école et pour l’école (Verdelhan-Bourgade, 2002). Considérant cette précision, on dit que pour l’apprenant en L2, celle-ci n’est pas uniquement une langue « à apprendre » et qu’elle remplit plusieurs fonctions. Pour Verdelhan-Bourgade, la langue de scolarisation a 1) une fonction d’exposition du savoir – elle permet à un enseignant d’exposer la langue et de présenter des connaissances relatives à cette langue; 2) une fonction de concentration du savoir – plusieurs de ses éléments concentrent le savoir; 3) une fonction instrumentale de construction du savoir – elle accompagne et rend possible le travail de la pensée qui soutient l’appropriation des connaissances et 4) une fonction d’exercisation – l’acquérir demande un certain entraînement. En d’autres mots, dans l’esprit bourdieusien (1982), l’apprenant entre dans la socialisation secondaire, à travers les relations qu’il construit avec ses pairs et, aussi, à travers les activités pédagogiques. De cette façon, il acquiert les normes socioculturelles attendues dans le milieu scolaire.

D’ailleurs, Verdelhan, Maurer et Durand (1999, p.5) avance que « le français de scolarisation ne doit pas être considéré comme une langue spécifiquement scolaire qui serait coupée de la vie et de la société. ». Selon elle, la langue de scolarisation appartient aussi à la société et fait même partie intégrante de la culture. Ainsi, pour assurer une transmission adéquate des savoirs de la culture, Verdelhan mentionne l’importance de présenter aux apprenants des genres textuels qui leurs sont propres, c’est-à-dire qui correspondent à leurs intérêts et à leurs habitudes de vie.

Quant à Le Ferrec (2012), celle-ci met l’accent sur l’importance de l’apprentissage explicite des composantes de la langue de scolarisation, « soit parce que cette variété est une L2 pour les élèves, soit parce qu’elle est trop éloignée des pratiques langagières des élèves et que ceux-ci ne parviennent pas à entrer dans la culture scolaire. » Aussi l’auteure fait-elle mention de la complexité de l’appropriation de l’écrit, car celle-ci est à la fois un objet d’étude et une langue d’enseignement, sans oublier les statuts affectifs ou sociolinguistiques qui peuvent également rendre difficile l’apprentissage de la langue de scolarisation.

Enfin, Lahire (1995, p. 31) précise que « l’on ne peut comprendre […] les résultats et les comportements scolaires de l’enfant que si l’on reconstruit le réseau d’interdépendances familiales à travers lequel il a constitué ses schèmes […] et la manière dont ces schèmes peuvent réagir lorsqu’ils fonctionnent dans des formes scolaires de relations sociales. » En fait, c’est que la réussite scolaire, et particulièrement la littératie, dépend de facteurs économiques, culturels, sociaux, etc. (ibid.) Celle-ci, d’autre part, serait grandement influencée par une ressemblance, voire une uniformité entre le réseau familial et scolaire de l’élève (ibid.), à savoir que le développement de la littératie est multidimensionnel et qu’il est fortement associé à l’environnement de l’enfant.

La Littératie Familiale

De manière générale, le terme littératie familiale fait référence aux activités pratiquées dans l’enceinte familiale et qui portent sur le lire-écrire, soit l’exposition à l’écrit et à la lecture (Leseman et Jong, 1998). Ces activités sont entre autres liées à l’exposition fréquente aux livres (Sénéchal, 2006), aux questions posées par le parent, à l’explication de définitions lors des lectures (Sénéchal, 2006) ainsi qu’à l’exposition du vocabulaire (Burns, Espinosa et Snow, 2003). Si certains auteurs croient, par exemple, que la lecture en famille « suscite des sentiments positifs par rapport aux livres et à la littératie » (Burns, Espinosa et Snow, 2003, p. 78), d’autres mentionnent que les habiletés langagières de l’enfant, particulièrement liées au lire-écrire, sont étroitement reliées à la qualité des implications parentales dans l’apprentissage scolaire2 (Kassow, 2006, traduction libre).

Dans une perspective socioconstructiviste, Leseman et de Jong (1998) ont, dans leurs recherches, modélisé trois temps forts du processus développemental de pratiques langagières et littéraciées au foyer, à savoir la fréquence des occasions de lecture et d’écriture, la qualité de la guidance parentale et la qualité socio-émotionnelle de la relation parent-enfant. D’une part, les données produites par leur recherche montre que le simple fait d’observer les membres de son entourage en train de lire ou d’écrire permet aux enfants de développer leur intérêt pour la littératie et favorise l’apprentissage de pratiques langagières. De la même manière, la guidance parentale serait au service du développement de stratégies que l’enfant utilise pour obtenir des informations reliées aux processus qui bâtissent la compréhension, comme le vocabulaire et la compréhension en lecture.

Sénéchal et LeFevre (2002), pour leur part, ont modélisé l’influence des pratiques de littératie familiale sur les apprentissages en lecture de l’enfant jusqu’à la troisième année. Les données collectées par les auteures démontrent que la lecture pratiquée dans l’enceinte familiale a un impact significatif sur le développement langagier de l’élève, sur son développement phonologique et sur l’émergence de la littératie. Selon leur modèle, on comprend surtout que le fait d’exposer son enfant aux livres influence ses habiletés en lecture à la fin de la première et de la troisième année de scolarisation.

Les Pratiques de Littératie Familiales Chez les Élèves Hispanophones

Si l’on regarde la communauté qui nous intéresse, à savoir les hispanophones, nous remarquons qu’il y a peu d’études récentes sur le sujet, qu’elles sont surtout réalisées aux États-Unis et qu’elles portent sur l’apprentissage de l’anglais langue seconde. Par exemple, les recherches de Saracho (2007), portant sur l’influence des pratiques de littératie familiales sur le développement langagier d’enfants hispanophones de la Californie, révèlent surtout que le succès personnel et scolaire des enfants dépend grandement du soutien familial. Précisément, l’auteure avance que l’appui des parents et de la fratrie est d’autant plus important chez les immigrants puisqu’ils doivent faire face aux défis relatifs au pays d’accueil, à une nouvelle langue ainsi qu’à une nouvelle culture. Finalement, l’auteure suggère que l’implication parentale à l’intérieur de l’enceinte scolaire et à la maison est l’élément le plus important dans l’apprentissage scolaire de l’enfant.

À l’instar de celles de Saracho, les recherches de Jimenez (2006) témoignent de l’importance des pratiques de littératie familiales sur l’apprentissage de la L2 d’élèves hispanophones âgés entre 7 et 8 ans de la communauté Carpinteria de la Californie. Précisément, les données de Jimenez montrent que les pratiques de littératie à la maison, entre autres jumelées avec l’enseignement des stratégies de lecture, ont amélioré les compétences en lecture des participants. Dans son analyse, l’auteure met en avant des améliorations relatives à la compréhension des élèves du lexique et soulève que pour rendre cette compréhension plus évidente, les parents peuvent intégrer des stratégies de lecture (questions de compréhension posées à l’enfant pendant la lecture, inférence, etc.,) aux histoires qui sont lues à la maison.

Ainsi comprend-on que les pratiques de littératie familiales favorisent le développement de compétences littéraciques chez les enfants et que la recherche menée auprès des hispanophones va également en ce sens. La valeur de l’implication parentale et le rapport à l’écrit des parents jouent un rôle fondamental dans les prémices du lire et de l’écrire chez l’enfant (Kassow, 2006). De plus, les occasions de lecture chez l’enfant favoriseraient le développement de capacités langagières, facilitant par le fait même l’acquisition de ses aptitudes en lecture (Gombert, 1996).

Relativement à la langue d’origine, les études présentées témoignent de l’importance de la L1 dans l’apprentissage de la L2. Rappelons que le développement de compétences en L2 dépend grandement des référents de l’élève et des allers-retours cognitifs qu’il effectue dans sa langue d’origine (Fleuret et Thibeault, 2016 ; Auger, 2007; Hornberger, 2003; Cummins; 1979).


Comme nous l’avons mentionné précédemment, cette étude veut explorer les pratiques de littératie familiale d’élèves hispanophones de première année scolarisés en Outaouais. Aussi, au regard de ce que nous venons d’énoncer, et comme la réussite scolaire des hispanophones est peu documentée en Outaouais, il nous semble important d’explorer les pratiques de littératie familiales pour tenter de mieux saisir les difficultés potentielles qu’ils rencontrent au regard de leur appréhension du français écrit.

Dans ce sens, nous avons mené une recherche de type qualitatif et exploratoire, dans la mesure où aucune étude empirique n’a été conduite jusqu’à maintenant sur le sujet au Québec. Nous en présenterons maintenant la méthodologie.


Nos participants hispanophones (n=10) sont scolarisés en Outaouais, en première année, à la Commission scolaire des Portages-de-l’Outaouais (CSPO). Le choix de cette commission scolaire repose sur le fait qu’un nombre significatif d’élèves hispanophones font partie de la communauté scolaire. Au moment de l’étude, les sujets devaient être inscrits en première année, scolarisés en français et avoir déclaré l’espagnol comme L1.

Afin de solliciter les élèves et leurs parents pour cette recherche, nous avons, dans un premier temps, obtenu l’approbation du Comité Éthique de l’Université d’Ottawa pour mener notre projet. Par la suite, nous avons obtenu l’accord de la direction des ressources éducatives de la CSPO, qui nous permis d’entrer en communication avec l’ensemble des établissements scolaires de son territoire. Sur les 24 écoles approchées, sept ont accepté de nous mettre en contact avec les familles hispanophones d’élèves scolarisés en première année. L’ensemble des familles que nous avons approchées ont, elles, accepté de participer à notre étude.

Instruments de Collecte de Données

Pour témoigner des pratiques de littératie familiales, un questionnaire a été distribué aux parents et un entretien semi-dirigé a été réalisé en vue d’amener les participants à expliciter davantage certains propos importants dans le questionnaire.

Notre questionnaire, inspiré de celui de Fleuret (2008) prend appui sur le modèle de Leseman et De Jong (1998) et a été utilisé pour nous permettre de dresser un portrait rapide de la famille. Celui-ci, s’intéressant d’abord aux facteurs sociolinguistiques, rend compte des pratiques de littératies déclarées dans l’enceinte familiale, à savoir le nombre de livres que possède l’enfant à la maison, la fréquence des occasions de lecture et d’écriture, les langues parlées à la maison, les langues parlées avec la famille et à l’extérieur de l’enceinte scolaire et les questions posées pendant la lecture à l’enfant. Ce questionnaire est divisé en quatre parties, à savoir 1) le profil de l’enfant; 2) le profil sociolinguistique, économique et éducatif des parents; 3) la connaissance des langues de l’élève et 4) les pratiques de littératie familiales. Puisque nous savons que, pour les parents, la compréhension du questionnaire pouvait se faire difficilement, une version en français et en espagnol leur a été acheminée.

L’entrevue semi-dirigée a été réalisée avec les parents afin de nous permettre de vérifier la compréhension des questions chez les participants ainsi que pour permettre la triangulation des données (Karsenti et Savoie-Zajc, 2011), en vue d’amener les participants à expliciter davantage certains propos qui avaient été annotés dans le questionnaire. Par exemple, des questions relatives aux langues parlées dans l’enceinte familiale, au contexte d’utilisation de la lecture et de l’écriture et aux occasions de lecture et d’écriture à la maison ont été abordées.

Le choix de cette méthodologie réside dans le fait, comme le précisent Karsenti et Savoie-Zajc (2011), que l’entrevue semi-dirigée est un bon moyen de cerner les perspectives d’un interlocuteur au sujet des questions étudiées. La langue dans laquelle se déroulait l’entretien était au choix du participant, car nous savions très bien qu’elle peut provoquer un blocage de communication (Gauthier, 1992). En effet, si un locuteur hispanophone souhaite conduire l’entrevue en français pour « faire plaisir » au chercheur sans avoir forcément le registre langagier pour le faire, ce dernier pourrait passer à côté de données pertinentes. C’est donc pour cette raison que l’interviewé avait à opérer un choix quant à la langue retenue.

Analyse des Données

Les réponses au questionnaire remis aux parents ont été retranscrites dans un tableau Excel. Les questions ouvertes, traitées à l’aide d’une analyse de contenus (Van der Maren, 1999) nous ont permis de préciser les portraits d’élèves et, aussi, de voir les points de convergence et de divergence avec les entrevues menées et les connaissances initiales des sujets. Des histogrammes et des tableaux ont ensuite été créés en fonction des données recueillies à l’aide de cet instrument. En agissant ainsi, il nous a été plus facile de tirer des conclusions relatives à la socialisation des écrits des enfants.

Chaque entrevue a été transcrite en verbatim et une grille d’analyse composée de codes et d’unités de sens qui prennent appui sur les mots-clés du cadre conceptuel et sur les questions de l’entrevue a été élaborée. Au besoin, et en fonction des réponses des participants, de nouveaux codes et de nouvelles unités de sens ont été formulés pour mieux répondre à nos objectifs de recherche. Les réponses à l’entrevue ont ensuite été entrées dans un tableau Excel pour compléter les portraits initiaux de nos sujets, afin de confirmer ou d’infirmer la présence marquée d’une langue orale au sein de la famille. Il est à noter que les entretiens ne sont pas traités dans cet article.

Présentation et Discussion des Résultats

Dans cette section, nous présenterons et discuterons les résultats du questionnaire des pratiques de littératie familiales. Avant, nous présentons le portrait des participants.

Portrait des Élèves

L’âge moyen de nos dix sujets était de 6:4 ans au moment de notre étude ; il y a cinq filles et cinq garçons. Selon la direction d’école, et en fonction du dossier scolaire des élèves, leur L1 est l’espagnol, ou du moins, l’espagnol est l’une des L1 déclarées.

Relativement à la connaissance d’une langue autre que la L1, quatre parents mentionnent que leur enfant connaît le français et l’anglais, deux autres précisent l’anglais et deux autres encore mentionnent que leur enfant connaît l’espagnol. Ainsi constate-t-on que huit élèves sur dix connaissent à la fois l’espagnol, le français et l’anglais, à des degrés toutefois différents.

Nom de l’élève *



Langue(s) d’origine

Connaissance d’une autre langue





Anglais et français





Anglais et français




Espagnol et français

Aucune autre langue déclarée










Anglais et français




Espagnol et Anglais






Anglais et français




Espagnol et français





Espagnol et français





Espagnol et anglais


Tableau 1 : Profil des élèves de l’étude
* Des pseudonymes ont été utilisés pour préserver l’anonymat des élèves

En ce qui concerne la fratrie, un seul de nos élèves est enfant unique. L’âge moyen des membres de la fratrie est de 7:8 ans, ce qui signifie, de manière générale, que nos participants ont une fratrie plus âgée. Cette information peut s’avérer fort intéressante puisque l’on sait que l’appui des frères et sœurs est important dans l’apprentissage d’une nouvelle langue chez les enfants immigrants, notamment chez les hispanophones (Saracho, 2007; Volk, 1998).

Portrait des Parents : Quelques Données Sociodémographiques

Dix mères et neuf pères ont participé à notre recherche en répondant au questionnaire sur les pratiques de littératie familiales. Pour ce qui est de l’entretien, ce sont plutôt 8 mères et 2 pères avec lesquels nous avons mené les entretiens. Sur le plan matrimonial, les parents de huit familles sont mariés ou en union de fait, ceux d’un élève sont séparés ou divorcés et un parent dit être célibataire.

Concernant les études, on remarque que les parents sont plus scolarisés que la moyenne des Latino-Américains qui résident au Québec. Si 47,6 % d’entre eux détiennent une scolarité équivalente ou inférieure au diplôme d’études secondaires4 (DES), un seul parent de notre étude détient ce diplôme, les autres étant davantage scolarisés. Précisément, sept de nos parents détiennent un diplôme collégial5 (ou équivalent) et 12 parents détiennent un diplôme universitaire. De manière générale, nos données montrent aussi que les mères sont davantage scolarisées que les pères.

Si les secteurs industriels les plus fréquentés par les hispanophones de l’Outaouais sont ceux de la fabrication et du commerce de détail (Ville de Gatineau, 2013), le métier des parents de notre étude ne rejoignent pas du tout cette statistique.  Précisément, trois parents travaillent dans le milieu du commerce de détail et les autres mentionnent des emplois bien différents les uns des autres, à savoir un retraité de l’armée canadienne, un peintre industriel, un analyste, un diplomate, un architecte, etc.

En ce qui concerne les pays d’origine des parents, seuls les parents de trois enfants sont tous deux issus de l’immigration. On remarque également qu’aucune famille ne comprend des parents qui sont les deux nés au Canada et que dans sept familles de notre échantillon, un parent est né au Canada alors que l’autre est né à l’étranger. Précisément, les pays d’origine de ceux-ci sont la Colombie, le Costa Rica, le Mexique (quatre parents), le Pérou (deux parents) et l’Équateur. Finalement, en moyenne, les parents immigrants sont au Canada depuis 12,5 années.

Le revenu total familial déclaré par les participants de notre recherche est lui aussi supérieur à la moyenne des foyers latino-américains du Québec, ce dernier se chiffrant à 21 539$. Évidemment, en considérant la scolarité des parents, nous pouvions supposer que leur revenu familial soit supérieur à la moyenne.

En fonction du portrait des familles de notre étude, on constate qu’elles diffèrent des familles latino-américaines moyennes de la région de l’Outaouais. En fait, bien que des données et des statistiques (Ville de Gatineau, 2013) sur cette population semblent démontrer une scolarité inférieure à celle de l’ensemble des Québécois, nos participants sont fortement scolarisés. Un constat similaire peut être fait relativement au revenu total familial des parents puisqu’il est supérieur à la moyenne québécoise et à la moyenne des foyers hispanophones de l’Outaouais, dans la mesure où l’on sait que le statut socio-économique et que la scolarité des parents peut influencer, comme facteurs déterminants, la réussite scolaire des enfants (Dagenais, 2012; Mc Andrew et coll., 2009; Kanouté, Vatz Laaroussi, Rachédi et Tchimou Doffouchi, 2008).

Place des Langues à la Maison

La première figure montre que l’espagnol est la langue qui est la plus fréquemment utilisée par les enfants de notre étude pour communiquer avec les membres de sa famille. Les pratiques qui prédominent dans les foyers hispanophones se font davantage à l’oral qu’à l’écrit (Delgado-Gaitan, 2005).

Figure 1 : Langue(s) parlées dans l’enceinte familiale

Si la langue la plus fréquemment utilisée dans l’enceinte familiale est l’espagnol, il en demeure que le français occupe une certaine place dans les foyers de nos répondants. Quelques élèves ont d’ailleurs l’habitude de s’exprimer en français très souvent de manière spontanée à leurs parents et à leur fratrie. On remarque toutefois qu’au moins cinq élèves n’ont pas ou ont très peu l’habitude de s’exprimer spontanément aux membres de leur famille en français.

À l’extérieur de l’enceinte scolaire, les enfants ont dans leur entourage plusieurs personnes avec lesquelles ils peuvent s’exprimer en français. Précisément, le questionnaire sur les pratiques de littératie familiales montre que ce sont généralement avec les amis et la fratrie qu’il y a occasion de parler en français. Les occasions de parler en français avec les parents sont peu nombreuses. En revanche, les occasions de parler en espagnol sont plus nombreuses avec les membres de la famille qu’avec les amis. On comprend donc que l’espagnol semble occuper une place plus importante à l’extérieur de l’enceinte scolaire, c’est-à-dire dans le milieu familial. Ces données abondent dans le sens des données déjà recueillies chez d’autres chercheurs (Delgado-Gaitan, 2005).

En résumé, et selon les affirmations des parents, les élèves de notre étude ont comme L1 l’espagnol (5 enfants sur 10) ou l’espagnol et le français (5 enfants sur 10). Les parents ont aussi tous mentionné que leur enfant a le français ou l’anglais comme L2. À l’oral, en fonction des réponses des parents, les élèves détiennent un niveau supérieur en espagnol qu’en français. Ces résultats ne sont pas étonnants si l’on considère que l’espagnol est la langue la plus fréquemment utilisée par les enfants pour communiquer avec les parents et la fratrie (Delgado-Gaitan, 2005). En français, il en demeure que certains enfants ont plusieurs occasions spontanées de communiquer avec des gens de leur entourage. À ce sujet, les données montrent que ce sont avec leurs amis que les enfants de notre étude ont davantage l’occasion de parler en français.

Lecture des Livres à la Maison

Concernant les occasions de lecture du parent vers l’enfant, la figure 2 montre explicitement que la majorité des enfants de notre étude a davantage de livres en français que dans une autre langue. Précisément, plus de la moitié d’entre eux ont plus de 20 livres en français. Aucun élève ne compte aucun livre en français dans sa bibliothèque. Grâce à la figure 2, on peut aussi observer que davantage d’élèves déclarent avoir plus de livres en anglais qu’en espagnol.

Figure 2 : Nombre de livres que possèdent les enfants selon la langue dans laquelle ils sont écrits

Ainsi comprend-on que les occasions de lecture des parents à l’enfant se font davantage en français et en anglais. Même si l’espagnol est la langue de la famille et du groupe, la lecture de livres à l’enfant se fait très rarement dans cette langue. De plus, l’espagnol étant une langue à prédominance orale confirme que c’est la pratique discursive retenue chez les hispanophones, ce qui corrobore avec les résultats obtenus dans d’autres études (Delgado-Gaitan, 2005).

En ce qui a trait aux emprunts à la bibliothèque, les enfants qui se prêtent à cette activité optent majoritairement pour des livres en français. Selon les données recueillies dans le questionnaire sur les pratiques de littératie familiales, très peu d’enfants (3) empruntent des livres à la bibliothèque municipale. Si un seul élève n’emprunte jamais de livre en français, seuls trois élèves font des emprunts en espagnol. On constate ainsi que les emprunts de livres à la bibliothèque se font principalement en français et que très peu de livres sont empruntés en anglais, encore moins en espagnol.

Relativement aux lectures que font les parents, la figure qui suit illustre que de manière générale, des histoires sont lues d’une à deux fois par semaine à leur enfant. L’ensemble des parents de notre étude pose des questions à leur enfant lorsqu’ils lui font la lecture. Précisément, les parents posent souvent ou toujours des questions lors des lectures. Les questions posées par les parents à l’enfant pendant qu’ils leur font la lecture portent principalement sur le vocabulaire et sur la compréhension de l’histoire. Un parent mentionne aussi qu’il invite son enfant à faire des prédictions sur la suite de l’histoire pendant la lecture.

En général, les enfants de notre échantillon consultent des livres de manière individuelle et volontaire à fréquence d’une à trois fois par semaine. Il semblerait que la lecture soit une démarche propre à l’enfant et qu’elle ne fasse pas régulièrement partie des pratiques culturelles familiales.  Majoritairement, ils sont portés à consulter des livres en français, quoi qu’il soit vrai que pour la grande partie, le nombre de livres qu’ils possèdent à la maison est supérieur en français qu’en anglais ou en espagnol.

Lorsqu’ils consultent volontairement des livres, les participants le font généralement pour des activités scolaires. On observe aussi que plusieurs enfants lisent des livres à plusieurs reprises dans la semaine pour des activités qui ne concernent pas l’école. Cela renforce l’idée que la lecture est une démarche qui est personnelle à l’enfant.

Fréquence des Devoirs à la Maison

Afin de voir le rapport qu’entretiennent les parents de l’étude avec l’écrit, et, aussi, si cette activité était une démarche personnelle à l’enfant, nous avons souhaité connaître la fréquence d’aide aux devoirs avec leur enfant. À l’exception d’un enfant qui semble faire ses devoirs seuls de manière plutôt fréquente, les élèves de notre échantillon font davantage leurs devoirs avec un membre de la famille que seuls. Précisément, quatre enfants font leur devoir de manière accompagnée de trois à quatre fois par semaine tandis que cinq élèves font leurs devoirs avec de l’aide d’une à deux fois par semaine. L’aide aux devoirs se fait généralement par la mère. Précisément, pour l’ensemble de nos enfants, la mère aide à la réalisation des devoirs. On observe aussi que dans certaines familles de notre étude, le père est impliqué dans l’aide aux devoirs.

En guise de synthèse, si le français et l’anglais sont utilisés dans l’enceinte familiale, l’espagnol demeure la langue qui prédomine. On peut donc supposer que, pour l’ensemble des familles participantes, l’espagnol est la langue de socialisation primaire et que le français semble être la langue de scolarisation, car son usage dans l’enceinte familiale est ultimement relié aux activités scolaires. Ces données confirment les conclusions de Delgado-Gaitan(2005), à savoir que la langue du groupe ethnolinguistique demeure l’espagnol.

Relativement aux occasions de lecture du parent vers l’enfant, nos résultats montrent que celles-ci se font davantage en français et en anglais. Même si l’espagnol est la langue de l’identité collective, la lecture de livres à l’enfant se fait très rarement dans cette langue. À cet égard, nous pouvons supposer que l’oralité de la langue est l’un des facteurs qui peut expliquer ce résultat (Delgado-Gaitan, 2005). En ce qui a trait aux emprunts à la bibliothèque, les enfants qui s’apprêtent à cette activité optent majoritairement pour des livres en français. Cette donnée nous permet de confirmer à nouveau l’importance des pratiques orales en espagnol.

Finalement, nos données montrent aussi que si certains élèves ont tendance à consulter des livres à la maison, d’autres semblent totalement désintéressés. À ce sujet, on devine que la découverte du livre est une démarche personnelle à l’enfant, car en dehors de l’école, il existe peu de moments de littératie volontaire et autonome. Quant aux devoirs, bien que le père s’implique de temps en temps, la mère reste la personne désignée pour assurer le soutien aux devoirs et aux lectures à la maison. Cette donnée, bien qu’il en soit souvent le cas au sein des familles hispanophones (Burns, Espinosa et Snow, 2003), est intéressante puisque la mère n’est pas toujours locutrice du français. Puisque nous savons que la qualité des implications et que la qualité socio-émotionnelle de la relation sont des facteurs à considérer dans l’équation (Leseman et De Jong, 1998), on peut supposer que l’aide fournie par la mère répond à ce critère. À l’inverse, si la fratrie semble normalement occuper un rôle important dans l’aide aux devoirs des jeunes frères et sœurs des foyers hispanophones (Burns, Espinosa et Snow, 2003), les données recueillies dans notre étude infirment cette statistique.


Notre objectif était d’explorer les pratiques de littératie familiales chez des élèves hispanophones de première année scolarisés en Outaouais. Certaines tendances sont observables dans les pratiques de littératie familiales des élèves et des parents de notre étude.

D’une part, puisque nos données montrent que l’espagnol est la langue qui prédomine à la maison et puisque nous savons que la substitution de la langue d’origine peut avoir des conséquences néfastes sur son développement mais également sur celle de la L2, (Mc Andrew et Ciceri, 1995), peut-être pourrait-on encourager les parents à utiliser leur langue d’origine lors des occasions de littératie reliées aux activités scolaires. Concrètement, à la maison, et dans le contexte qui nous intéresse, cela implique que des activités dans les deux langues ou que les allers-retours entre la langue d’origine et la langue de scolarisation doivent d’être encouragés. D’autre part, si les recherches de Lahire (1995) démontrent que la famille et que l’école sont des réseaux d’interdépendance structurés et que la réussite et l’échec scolaire dépend grandement de la relation entre ces réseaux, l’ensemble du contenu scolaire (activités de lecture et d’écriture, matériel pédagogique, sorties éducatives, etc.) devrait davantage refléter la réalité des hispanophones. Ce sont, pour Castellotti et Moore (2010, p.17), dans de telles circonstances de rapprochement entre le milieu social familial et scolaire de l’apprenant qu’il sera possible de « tisser des liens avec les familles. »

S’il faut intégrer le milieu social familial de l’élève au contexte scolaire, il est d’autant plus important de fournir aux parents les ressources nécessaires au cheminement personnel et scolaire de l’enfant, puisqu’eux aussi doivent affronter une nouvelle culture scolaire, une nouvelle langue de scolarisation et de nouvelles manières de procéder. À cet égard, Castellotti et Moore (2010, p.18) suggèrent de mettre en œuvre des outils d’aide aux parents à la fois faciles d’accès et d’utilisation, permettant « […] de comprendre les besoins et les attentes réciproques et d’offrir des stratégies susceptibles d’encourager l’engagement parental et la collaboration entre familles et l’école, mais aussi les organismes communautaires et d’aide à l’intégration des migrants. »

Il est également nécessaire d’aider les enseignants à rencontrer les attentes et les besoins de ces familles migrantes. De la formation spécifique peut s’avérer nécessaire pour certains enseignants qui œuvrent de plus près: 1) avec les hispanophones et 2) avec les élèves qui éprouvent de la difficulté dans l’apprentissage de l’écrit. Nous pensons entre autres, comme le suggère Auger (2007), que de la formation relative aux concepts d’interculturalité et de communautarisme ne peut qu’amener les enseignants à redéfinir leur perception des défis du pluralisme et à s’améliorer dans leurs interventions auprès des hispanophones. On peut donc penser qu’une telle redéfinition des pratiques pédagogiques soit à la faveur de la réussite scolaire des élèves hispanophones.

Finalement, dans la continuité de cette étude, et parce que l’on assiste dernièrement à une omniprésence des programmes de tutorat littérature de jeunesse afin de soutenir l’apprentissage en lecture des élèves, notamment par l’entremise de livres bi-plurilingues, nous pourrions suggérer aux établissements scolaires de mener des projets de mentorat avec les élèves hispanophones avec d’autres élèves hispanophones plus âgés. En effet, il semblerait que ce type de pratiques pédagogiques renforce la motivation et la confiance en soi des élèves tutorés, mais également des tuteurs (Bournot-Trites, Lee et Séror, 2003). Sur le plan langagier, nombreuses sont les études qui font mention de l’influence positive des programmes de littératie sur la construction des répertoires pluri-littératiés des élèves (Bournot-Trites, Lee et Séror, 2003; Moore et Sabatier, 2014 ; Vadasy, Jenkins et Poll, 2000). Si nous avons montré que l’espagnol est la langue qui prédomine dans les foyers hispanophones, à notre avis, et en considérant les nombreux avantages des programmes de littérature de jeunesse, cette pratique peut s’avérer une option pertinente à la réussite scolaire et à l’appréhension du français chez des élèves hispanophones.


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Notes de Fin de Texte

  1. Pour plus de détails sur les modèles et le fonctionnement de fonctionnement du Programme d’accueil et de soutien à l’apprentissage du français, nous vous invitons à consulter l’article d’Armand (2011).
  2. Par définition, la langue d’origine « désigne […] un dispositif (non obligatoire) d’enseignement particulier, réservé aux enfants issus de l’immigration. Par extension, elle renvoie aussi aux idiomes avec lesquels ces enfants sont censés être en contact au sein de leur famille, même s’il existe des décalages importants entre les langues officielles enseignées et les vernaculaires en usage dans les familles migrantes » (Cuq et Gruca, 2003, p.153). Cette langue d’origine fait aussi référence au concept de langue maternelle, mais nous retenons le vocable langue d’origine puisqu’il est moins axé sur la mère (Auger, 2007).
  3.  « In fact, young children’s emergent literacy skills have been found to be related to the quality of the parent-child relationship » (Kassow, 2006).
  4. Équivalence du Certificat d’aptitude professionnelle (CAP) ou du Brevet d’études professionnelles (BEP) en France.
  5. Équivalence du Brevet de technicien (BT) ou du Baccalauréat professionnel (Bac Pro) en France.

Speaking to our Minds, Hearts, and Hands: A Cogenerative Inquiry on Learning through an Interdisciplinary Land-Based Course

Volume 2(2): 2018

EUN-JI AMY KIM, McGill University

S. J. ADRIENNA JOYCE, McGill University


YUWEN ZHANG, McGill University

ABSTRACT. With the publication of the Accord on Indigenous Education (Associations of Canadian Deans in Education [ACDE], 2010) as well as the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, 2015), many Canadian higher education institutions are showing their commitment to include Indigenous ways of coming to know in their programs. The current discourse around Indigenous knowledges in program and course development uses several keywords, including “land-based” and “interdisciplinary.” This discourse is becoming more prevalent in Canadian higher education, especially in teacher education, where TRC recommendations specifically speak to teacher-training and capacity-building (TRC, 2015, 62 ii, 63 ii, iv). Through cogenerative dialogue and metalogue (Roth & Tobin, 2004), we reflect on our own settler/ visitor and learning/ teaching experiences in a land-based, interdisciplinary field course. We reflect on the diversity of different learning paths based on multiple identities, which are central to these processes. We share our experiences and stories here in hopes of offering insights for future initiatives in developing land-based and interdisciplinary courses for educators and researchers alike.

RÉSUMÉ. Depuis la publication de l’Accord sur l’éducation autochtone (Association of Canadian Deans in Education, 2010) ainsi que le rapport final de la Commission de vérité et réconciliation (TRC, 2015), plusieurs établissements universitaires démontrent leur appui en introduisant des façons autochtones de savoir dans leurs programmes. Le discours traitant de l’inclusion de savoirs autochtones dans le développement de programmes et de cours utilise actuellement des mots clés tels que la mise en valeur de la « terre » et « l’interdisciplinarité ». Ce discours devient de plus en plus répandu aux études supérieures au Canada, surtout dans les programmes d’enseignement où les recommandations de la CVR mettent l’accent sur la formation des enseignants et le renforcement de la compréhension interculturelle (TRC, 2015, 62 ii, 63 ii, iv). À travers un dialogue cogénératif et un métalogue (Roth & Tobin, 2004), les coauteures de cet article portent réflexion sur leurs expériences en tant que colons/visiteuses étudiantes/ enseignantes et participantes dans un cours interdisciplinaire, donné sur le terrain et qui promeut la mise en valeur de la terre. Notre article reflète une diversité de parcours d’apprentissage, issue de nos différentes identités d’apprenantes, qui est centrale à notre processus de réflexion. Nous partageons ici nos expériences pour offrir des idées aux chercheurs et éducateurs intéressés à développer d’autres cours interdisciplinaires, sur le terrain et qui mettent la terre en valeur.

Keywords: Cogenerative inquiry, land-based pedagogy, interdisciplinary learning, Indigenous ways of knowing.


Following the recommendation from the Accords on Indigenous Education (ACDE, 2010) and the final report of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, 2015), there has been movement in Canadian higher education institutions to develop land-based courses that include Indigenous ways of coming to know. Specifically, one of the goals of these courses is to “challenge existing curriculum frameworks and structures in order that they may engage learners in experiencing the Indigenous world and Indigenous knowledge in a wholistic way” (ACDE, 2010, p. 5) and/ or to “educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms” (TRC, action 63 ii). Meanwhile, most courses are lecturer-led designs where students are not actively involved in curriculum and program development.

In the field of education, the discourse around including students’ voices in education program development is becoming more prevalent in K-12 settings (Lundy, 2007; Lundy & Welty, 2013). However, higher education institutions are generally still sites where students’ voices are not engaged in curricular development; research focuses largely on the “outcome/effectiveness” of lecturer-led courses (Trowler & Trowler, 2010). Scholars across disciplines (Bovill, 2014; Campbell, Beasley, Eland & Rumpus, 2007) have advocated for the need for more “studies of direct student engagement in the shaping of design and delivery of curriculum” in higher education settings as “‘change based on what students say is more influential and challenges long-held notions of teaching and learning practice” (Brooman, Darwent & Pimor, 2014, p. 665). Flynn (2017) also echoed the importance of “the expert insights on the part of students when they are given the opportunity to have a say on education matters” (p. 29). As such, research regarding student voice has increased in higher education settings (Campbell et al., 2007). In promoting and ensuring the sustainability of student engagement in curriculum/program development in higher education settings, Flynn (2017) particularly highlighted the importance of “a dialogical process in partnerships with students, where all parties in this dialogue acknowledge that their roles are that of ‘learners'” (p. 29).

We are four non-Indigenous educators (settlers and/or visitors to Turtle Island) who participated in the course called “Indigenous Field Studies” at McGill University in Spring 2018 in different roles—as undergraduate student, graduate students, and instructor. Our entry points and positions/roles differ, yet we share the similar goal of reflecting on our lifelong learning processes with Indigenous communities around the world. Thus, we all situated ourselves as learners throughout the course. Acknowledging the importance of learners’ voices, in this article we share our experiences and recommendations for higher education institutions in developing courses that include partnerships and collaboration between academic disciplines and/or local Indigenous communities through land-based pedagogies. In sharing our stories and recommendations, we adopt a cogenerative dialoguing and metaloguing approach (Roth & Tobin, 2004)—described shortly—to continue our engagement with ideas from this course. We use the work of Opaskwayak Cree scholar Shawn Wilson (2008), who wrote that “research is all about unanswered questions, but it also reveals our unquestioned answers” (p. 6) such that “the process is the product” (p. 103, italics added). Thus, instead of focusing on specific research questions to derive explicit outcomes, in writing this article, we focused on the process of reflecting and engaging in conversations about land-based and interdisciplinary approaches to learning with local Indigenous communities. We focus on higher education settings and draw implications for classroom teaching from our reflections. We invite J-BILD readers to deeply engage with us in this conversational process.

Course Description

The goal of this course was to give students an opportunity to learn about Indigenous cultures and worldviews, with a particular emphasis on Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) teachings and how they connect to the students’ areas of practice. The course takes an interdisciplinary land-based approach (in Kahnawá:ke, Mohawk territory) to introduce students to Indigenous customs, values and ways of life through daily activities and workshops led by an Elder from Kahnawá:ke, as well as other community members, with support from McGill instructors. In 2018, McGill’s Department of Integrated Studies in Education joined this interdisciplinary course for the first time. We are among the first education cohort to participate.

The course included three weeks of lectures in Montreal, provided by instructors from different disciplines (e.g., Medicine, Anthropology, Law, Social Work, and Education), and one week of field experience in Kahnawá:ke. The field experience included morning prayers led by Elder Amelia McGregor, a Medicine walk, a Sweat Lodge, guest lectures by community members, visits to community organizations (e.g., Longhouse, Mohawk immersion school, economic development commission), sharing circles, and a closing ceremony. During the field experience, students and instructors stayed in the community, slept in tents, and worked together to cook meals, clean, and reflect as a group.

This land-based approach provided an experiential and collaborative pedagogical model that emphasized participatory learning in the Kahnawá:ke community. This approach also emphasized interdisciplinary teaching and learning. Students and instructors from diverse fields came together to discuss the influences of social location and power dynamics, as well as the effects of ongoing colonization in relation to their own cultural and professional identities and practices. Additionally, working with an Indigenous community allowed the learners and instructors alike to continually reflect on their assumptions and biases stemming from dominant Western paradigms of teaching (Strong et al., 2016).

By engaging in diverse land-based, interdisciplinary learning experiences, this course attempted to move beyond linear, compartmentalized approaches to teaching and learning. Working with Kahnawá:ke allowed us to begin what Mi’kmaq scholar Marie Battiste (2013) called a “two-prong process” of decolonizing education, which entails “deconstruction of (neo-)colonial structure and strategies and reconstruction that centres and takes seriously Indigenous, diasporic, and other post-colonial ways of knowing and ways of being towards reshaping the place-based process and priorities of education” (Battiste, 2013 in Higgins, 2016, p. 13, italics in original). We consider this course a stepping stone for reflection and engagement in the “two-prong process” of decolonizing and lifelong learning in relation to our professional identities (educators and educational researchers) as well as our divergent cultural identities. Our reflections may prove helpful to those who similarly want to contemplate their roles in decolonization but may feel isolated in the process.

We are also cognizant of the need for reflective feedback on course experiences to aid academics who are involved in higher education course planning, especially in light of commitments to the Accord on Indigenous Education (ACDE, 2010) and the final report of the TRC (2015). As educators, we understand that the goals for teaching a course do not always match students’ experiences; we feel it is important to contribute to the dialogue about the tensions we perceived as learners in a land-based interdisciplinary course to help with future development.


Cogenerative dialogues were developed as a method for reflecting on co-teaching experiences by student teachers, co-teachers and whole classrooms as a community, thus allowing multiple perspectives to be presented without hierarchy (Roth & Tobin, 2004). Metalogues involve another layer, engaging dialogues both with theories and one’s own reflexivity (Bateston, 1972). Roth and Tobin (2004) have argued that cogenerative dialogue and metalogue “benefits from the diversity among authors” in a collective remembering and theorizing process (para. 16). They further explain that:

It is not just a genre for preserving voice and presenting multiple perspectives on some issues that we have experienced in different ways. Rather, at the level of writing research, it reflected the same kinds of processes that we were part of in the field. And then, it became reflexive of learning at the writing stage, when we learned again from our previous learning. (Roth & Tobin, 2004, para. 17)

Cogenerative dialoguing and metaloguing allows us to “re-wire and [then] come together in a different way” (Tanaka, 2016, p. 23). In this article, we continue our collective reflecting and theorizing on the ideas we gained from the interdisciplinary land-based course. Through a cogenerative dialogue and metalogue, we contemplate interdisciplinary and land-based learning, grounded in our collective experiences in Kahnawá:ke and in relation to our diverse professional and cultural identities.

To collect our data for this article, we shared our reflective final papers from the course and looked for common themes. We then met in person and via electronic messaging to further discuss our responses, revising on an online document platform. We received written feedback from J-BILD peer mentor Taylor Ellis, which was very important as it helped us to clarify our core concepts. In a way, the J-BILD peer mentoring process furthered our cogenerative dialogue and metalogue. What follows is conversational and we hope the format remains accessible to a wide audience of students and academics alike.

Introduction of the Authors

We begin by briefly introducing ourselves to give readers some context on our entry points in the learning we did through the course. We each have different levels of background knowledge and experiences that necessarily influence our thinking.

Adrienna: I am a teacher from Winnipeg with nine years of classroom teaching experience. As a white settler-trespasser born in western Canada, I want to better understand my personal implications in settler colonialism. My teaching experiences with Indigenous students have been rich in relationship and learning, but I am troubled by my failure to resist the deficit discourses prevalent in the school system. Consequently, I returned to university to pursue my Ph.D. I entered this class with extensive background reading but lacking the experiential and relational learning crucial to Indigenous knowledges (Castellano, 2000).

Annie: I am a fourth-year undergraduate student in the French Immersion program in Kindergarten and Elementary Education at McGill. I was born and raised in Montreal and am of white French settler ancestry. I took this course because I feel that to become a successful teacher, I need to know more about the peoples and the history of what is now known as Canada. As a white French Canadian, Indigenous perspectives were not part of my formal education. There is only so much I can learn by reading and I hoped this field course would bring me a more current and concrete understanding than what I could find in books.

Yuwen: I am a first-year Masters student in the Education and Society program at McGill. I was born and grew up in Anyang, a small city in China. When I arrived to study in Canada, I gradually became aware of Indigenous issues after several class projects on anti-colonial education. I wanted to explore this area further as both a cultural outsider/visitor and future educator. When I registered for this course, I was also hoping to understand interdisciplinary approaches to collaborative work and was curious about how they relate to education.

Amy: I am a first-generation immigrant-settler from South Korea, in the process of becoming an ally to Indigenous peoples (Bishop, 2015). I joined the field course as an instructor from the faculty of Education. I had previously volunteered in Kahnawá:ke as an after-school tutor and had friends from the community. I was interested in collaborating with the other instructors from different academic disciplines and Kahnawá:ke community members, including Elders. I always situate myself as a lifelong learner along with my students. This course rounded out my recent Ph.D. journey through a land-based and interdisciplinary way of coming to understand the Kanien’kehá:ka people.

Our Current Understandings of Land-Based Pedagogy and Interdisciplinarity

Amy: I think it would be helpful for us to begin by sharing our current understandings of a land-based and interdisciplinary pedagogy. Sharing will give us opportunities to reflect on these ideas individually and give us a collective starting point for our dialogue and metalogue.

In conceptualizing “Land-based” and “Land,” I am following Styres’ (2017) explanation of the Land (capital L), “‘Iethi’nihsténha Ohwentsia’kékha’: Land as an Indigenous philosophical construct is both space (abstract) and place/land (concrete); it is also conceptual, experiential, relational and embodied. Land is an expression of holism that embodies the four aspects of being: spiritual, emotive, cognitive and physical” (p. 49). To learn about Land that encapsulates all the aspects listed above, I believe that following the knowledges/practices of one’s academic discipline is not sufficient. Therefore, to employ a Land-based pedagogy, an interdisciplinary approach is a must.

Interdisciplinarity is conventionally understood as “an interaction among disciplines that may range from simple communication of ideas to mutual integration of organizing concepts, methodology, procedures, epistemology, terminology, data, and the organization of research and education” (Klein,  2013, p. 190).  In coming to know the Land, I believe educators and researchers need to not only engage in conversation with experts across different disciplines, but move beyond the existing, and often compartmentalized, Western dominant paradigms. Teachers and learners together should remain open to multiple ways of coming to know nature and also acknowledge that they are a part of nature—that “we are all related” (Cajete, 2000).

Annie: Simpson (2014) wrote about land as pedagogy with a story of a young girl who “learn[s] the sheer joy of discovery” and explained that learning “takes place in the context of family, community and relations. It lacks overt coercion and authority” (p. 7). Being part of a small community (the students and professors from the course) and camping for a week was a form of land-based pedagogy to me. Land-based pedagogy came to mean accepting the land, nature, environment and community as a teacher rather than as a tool, challenging my current relationship with land. This process is not always explicit. Students are not told they are engaging in a particular way of learning; they are learning by way of presence, experience, curiosity, and relationships.

Camping in Kahnawá:ke, I started paying more attention to birds and their sounds, and the medicine walk we did on our last day made me realize how rich our immediate surroundings are. I never paid much attention to the land I was living on before, but I have a new interest in things that grow and live around me, and I plan to use this learning in my teaching. Our land-based experience was also interdisciplinary, as our learning community was comprised of students from different disciplines. We were deliberately mixed together so we would interact by bringing ideas, values, and ways of thinking predominant in our respective fields, and find ways to make them work together.

Adrienna: For me, land-based pedagogy also includes an element of self-reflection because land education is both “centring indigeneity and confronting educational forms of settler colonialism” (Calderon, 2014, p. 24). This differs from place-based pedagogies that occur on the land but do not sufficiently interact with the implications of settler colonialism and indigeneity (Calderon, 2014). As a settler educator, I think this means reflecting on my own relationship to land as a settler. To teach with land-based pedagogies is to commit to examining my role in settler colonialism and how my actions and understandings erase Indigenous peoples in both past and present. I cannot separate my personal self from this process. I also cannot separate the political, social, cultural, and historical contexts from this learning, which further speaks to an interdisciplinary approach that encourages a big-picture view of how these contexts relate to each other.

Yuwen: It is the inherent ability to wake up one’s emotions that differentiates land-based pedagogy from other educational approaches. During our camping experience, I found that we did not treat the land as separate from us but viewed ourselves as part of it. This intimate connection with the land encourages strong feelings such as empathy, joy, and nostalgia. Before the trip, we read papers and watched documentaries, but it felt totally different when we sat on the grass of the canal bank, watching the sun dancing on the flowing water while listening to Professor Loft telling us the stories that happened next to the canal. All my emotions and the relation with the land at that moment became real to me in a new way. I believe these emotions and the bond with the land can serve as a perfect starting point for self-reflection and even personal transformation. As Luig et al. (2011) stated, “education is not only a period of learning facts about one’s environment but means becoming knowledgeable and being able to reflect on oneself within one’s environment” (p. 21).

Educating Minds, Hearts, and Hands

We decided that we needed an organizing theme for our cogenerative metalogue and dialogue to continue collective reflections on interdisciplinary ways of learning and land-based pedagogy. The notion of land-based and interdisciplinary pedagogy in the course was about learning from an Indigenous community about an Indigenous culture (more specifically Kanien’kehá:ka) on its land. We drew upon a lesson Amy learned through her PhD project on the integration of Indigenous knowledges in education (Kim, in press), that it is not simply the integration of Indigenous content that matters. Amy spoke of the importance of having a strong foundation which involves one’s mind, heart, and hands prior to and during the process of engaging with Indigenous communities (Kim, in press). Amy further describes this process in what follows.

Amy: In preparing one’s head (mind), one should remain open to multiple ways of coming to know nature. In coming to know nature, rather than studying nature, one should ask questions about “how to be with all relations” (Dr. Laara Fitznor, Spirit Matters Gatherings, April 20, 2007 as cited in Kim, in-press). Thus, one should be mindful that “we are all related” (Cajete, 2000) and nature should be seen as a living thing, rather than a commodity for resources. However, the “brain gets turned off until the heart gets pumping away” (Glen Aikenhead, March 24, 2016, personal communication as cited in Kim, in-press).

To prepare the heart, having a true, authentic learning opportunity with Indigenous peoples is important. My use of “authentic learning” refers to learning that “pumps the heart” and involves emotional engagement and the commitment to ethics and responsibility that comes with knowledge and learning. Such authentic learning only happens when one builds consensus-based relationships through trust.

Meanwhile, as Tanaka (2016) suggested, the “notion of reciprocity, ‘Giveaway,’ and using ‘good hands’ by having a clear mind and healthy intent are deepened through a focus on physicality and doing” (pp. 22-23). In this light, I argue that teachers (and educational researchers) need to act and teach what they have learned from Indigenous peoples, thus they can walk the talk and “use their hands.” I suggest that teachers focus on creating a sharing place where students and teachers can together reflect on their assumptions and biases to resist the hegemony of a Western dominant paradigm of studying nature. As well, teachers should try to offer authentic learning opportunities for students that further build relationships with Indigenous peoples. This process of engagement means acknowledging one’s status as a lifelong learner and not an expert. Also, it requires continual relationship-building with Indigenous peoples and nature and continual reflection on one’s assumptions (Kim, in-press). I hope that our cogenerative dialogue/ metalogue here will strengthen our own individual processes of building a strong foundation to engage with Indigenous peoples, as well as engaging a larger academic community in their own reflections.

Educating Minds for Multiple Ways of Coming to Know

Yuwen: Talking about my major (education) with my friends, one of them asked me, “So what exactly do you study? I mean, what does the domain of education cover?” It seems to them that education is an area which does not have specific boundaries to differentiate itself from other subjects. Indeed, education connects to sociology, language, literature, mathematics, and more. For example, when we learned about Wampumin Kahnawá:ke, we could also appreciate the beauty of Mohawk arts and learn history, as well as integrate education throughout our learning and reflections. It occurred to me that education may be a field that can be viewed as interdisciplinary in nature. I also realized that interdisciplinary work, connecting the relationship between fragmented individuals and disciplines, is more critical than to differentiate disciplines with boundaries that exclude them from one another.

Amy:  Indeed, the fragmentation of knowledge has been critiqued by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and educators. Battiste and Henderson (2000) critiqued the fragmentation of knowledge as being based on objectivism stemming from Western modern scientific thought, which is used as a method of education transmission whereby knowledge is broken down into grade levels and disciplines. Blades and Newbury (2014) called the compartmentalization process within education “technical-rational” which focuses on learning goals rather than the students’ lived experiences (p. 196). Aoki (1991) also critiqued that such outcome-focused “curriculum-as-plan” thinking leads to a rigid structure of curriculum where the focus of education is only on “empirical-analytic knowledge” (p.159). Of course, such empirical-analytic knowledge of the Land is important. However, too much compartmentalization might lead to decontextualization of knowledge, which then loses the physical, metaphysical, and spiritual connection to the Land (Afonso, 2012; Battiste & Henderson, 2000; Keane, 2008). To move forward, educators should understand that the knowledge introduced in each discipline has undergone a technical-rational process of decontextualization and compartmentalization. As Yuwen said, we should focus on the relation of ideas across disciplines while remembering the connection and relation back to the specific Land where the learning/teaching is happening, and where the knowledge is from.

Adrienna: As a teacher, I am a strong advocate for building connections between ideas and blurring the lines between subject areas. However, I agree with Amy that the norm of Western education is to separate knowledge to such an extent that it is hard to communicate across disciplines (Macedo, 2006). When my group in the course was working on our final presentation together, I noticed these tensions in how we worked.

Witteman and Stahl (2013) explained that interdisciplinarity is more than people splitting up a task. Interdisciplinarity involves approaches of different disciplines to encourage dialogue and work toward new ways of understanding. I am not sure my group managed to do so, but our work habits were certainly more collaborative than what I often experience as a student. Still, the time restrictions of the class made interdisciplinarity a challenge; to complete our project on time, we had to make concessions that didn’t reflect group consensus. I think the structural aspects of a course have a major impact on what students actually learn, and while this course challenged some Western academic epistemological frameworks, time constraints still largely dictated the structure.

Yuwen: I also noticed that different disciplines possess varying approaches to engage with issues. During group discussions, I observed that disciplines such as law are more reactive while education and social work are more preventative in nature. Interdisciplinarity, in this course, is not only an approach to problematize or seek solutions to certain issues, but also a context for disciplines to work together on a daily basis. This eventually nurtures us to take off our “disciplinary hats” and try to engage in issues via another lens.

Adrienna: This relates back to my teaching experiences, because I noticed how younger students were less bothered by the ‘rigidity’ of subject-area scheduling and could more easily approach their learning in interdisciplinary ways. My older students were often confused when we drew from other subject areas. These observations make me realize how our entire system trains people toward the compartmentalization of knowledge, even in the physical organization of schooling. I find this idea depressing because it hinders an ability to see the bigger picture and to build connections between concepts.

Amy: Adrienna, I had a similar experience. Using local Indigenous peoples’ knowledge in my grade 10 science class, students were puzzled because I brought what they considered ‘history’ materials into the science classroom. I also found that educators separate disciplines and these ideas are deeply rooted in their minds. For many pre-service teachers I have interacted with, the notion of interdisciplinary learning and teaching is very much an ‘add-on’ approach. For example, if they are in ‘science’ class, learning about flora and fauna in a local place, they focus on biology and chemistry; ‘arts’ would be used only as a teaching hook to engage students. To move beyond compartmentalization, as educators, we need to examine the biases and assumptions that come from our own learning experiences. We need to understand how a compartmentalized approach works to silence Indigenous knowledges and practices.

Annie: The interdisciplinary aspect of the course, as well as the multitude of guest speakers we met with, reminded me of the importance of inviting guests into the classroom and letting them speak for themselves so my students learn more perspectives than my own. This also made me think about how education is political, whether we notice it or not. By prioritizing certain subject matter, and by inviting certain guest speakers and not others, we highlight some narratives and exclude others. There is no way to cover every point of view; it would be ridiculous to even try. But, as educators, we need to make it clear to our students that we are not teaching them “the truth” or all there is to know.  We should explicitly position ourselves as learners and not as holders of infinite knowledge. There are as many “truths” as there are people, and just because someone’s truth is not printed into a textbook does not mean we should disregard it. Indigenous voices have been absent in school material, and it is important to make the effort to bring them in.

Amy: Indeed, the notion of “truth” is tricky. I was given a lesson by a Chickasaw scholar, Dr. James Sa’ke’j Henderson, that “knowledge does not give you certainty but possibility” (shared with permission in a personal communication, May 27, 2017). In sharing what we know with our students, we as educators also should focus on the “possibility” of the knowledge we share: that it may transform based on students’ lived experience, their own worldview. The nature of knowledge should not be seen as rigid, universal truth.

To Haraway (1988), knowledge from every culture and academic discipline offers situated and partial views of nature. As educators, I think it is important for us to recognize the possibilities of co-existence and the interconnectedness of ideas, thus following a more holistic view of nature and the Land. However, such a holistic view can be obtained through balancing different ways of coming to know nature. As Graveline (1998) stated, “wholeness or holism is equated with balance” (p. 76, italics added). We need to introduce the balance of multiple perspectives and ways of coming to know the Land; we need to acknowledge there is no superior knowledge based on one discipline’s criteria.

Educating Hearts by Focusing on Emotional Engagement and Relationships

Annie: For the mind to come to know and understand, the heart needs to be positively engaged and new knowledge needs to resonate with prior knowledge. The first time I heard about residential schools and its legacy of trauma was three years ago, in university. I was shocked by how little I knew about my own country’s past or the ongoing effects of colonization. During the lectures preceding our field week, I found the coursework interesting but difficult to follow because I lacked the background information necessary to fully understand it. I participated a lot less than I usually do in my education courses because I did not understand the material well enough to formulate questions and opinions, or share reactions.

Another thing I found challenging was how packed the schedule was, and how little time we had to process new information before moving on to more content. The mind needs time to breathe and process new ideas if it is to learn successfully and be engaged. When I start teaching, I will try as much as possible not to overwhelm my students with too much content. This means I will inevitably have to choose what to include and what to exclude based on what I think is best. I am bound to omit important things and make mistakes, but it is important I make it clear to my students that I cannot teach them everything, and I choose to teach them what I believe is most important.

Amy: Annie, I agree with you. While learning content through the mind is important, you need to let your mind relax to learn from other senses. Here, I am again reminded of Sa’ke’j Henderson’s wisdom that it is not only physical space that is constrained and assimilated, but also cognitive space. “Let your mind relax,” he said (personal communication, May 29, 2017). Graveline (1998) also suggested that one can find one’s “own personal meaning from any educational experience” when one allows for a “quieting [of] the rational mind, relaxing and moving into another state of consciousness” (p. 77). Dr. Henderson told me that:

The path between mind and heart is very complex and tangled. In order for you to connect your mind and heart, thus, one must not forget that it is a lifelong learning journey and through continuous reflection and strengthening relationships with peoples and land, one can move towards understanding their path between their hearts and mind. (personal communication cited in Kim, in-press, p. 275)

In learning with the mind, content knowledge is important, but learning with the heart is also very important in one’s learning process with Indigenous peoples. I am not too sure how much the course focused on educating “hearts.” That said, the course was intended to provide a beginning point for all students to start building relationships with each other, and to the people in Kahnawá:ke. I am not too sure if such “continual” learning with the heart happened for most students after the course. That is one of the drawbacks of traditional course timelines.

Adrienna: After the course, I have continued to reflect on my personal experiences and emotions. For me, the camping element of the course was anxiety-inducing. I wasn’t sure what would be expected of me and I wasn’t sure whether the tenuous relationships I had built would be enough for me to have a positive experience. But if I’m honest with myself, I think the biggest challenge was to relinquish control. The inherent power differential of being an educator, along with my age difference and graduate student status, means I often inadvertently position myself as expert. At the same time, I feel dishonest not acknowledging these differences because I am at a different place in my life and learning. My experiences working with the Elder from the community and the course instructors reminded me that many Indigenous teachings include an understanding of different life stages, such as Medicine Wheel teachings of the Cree (Hart, 2009; Manitoba Education and Youth, 2003). There is value in experience-as-knowledge, and while Elders are positioned with great respect in communities, I did not notice them indulging in overt self-positioning as experts either.

This idea connects to my understanding of the teacher/ student power dichotomy, especially where teachers position themselves as “experts.” My tendency is to be a competitive know-it-all. As a teacher, it is helpful to instead position myself as a learner, like Amy and Annie mentioned, and to be open to different ways of knowing as well as to challenge the power dichotomy through humility (Freire, 1970/2000). The concept of humility reminds me to be an “exquisite listener” (Tomlinson, 2014, p. 90) who takes student ideas and understandings seriously. My students teach me as much as I teach them; by valuing their ideas, I model multiple ways of knowing and build stronger relationships with them. I appreciated how often the people I met in Kahnawà:ke ended their lessons with, “But that is just how I understand/see it.” This constant reminder of multiple perspectives is an important one in both my teaching and studies.

Annie: Adrienna, although I am an undergraduate student and not yet an experienced teacher, I also had difficulty positioning myself in our diverse group. I was surprised by how little I could open up, to myself and to others, during the field week. I think I have a barrier of guilt and shame that I need to work through, stemming from my ignorance of my privilege and unconsciousness of the history of ongoing colonization in Québec and Canada. I had never even thought of questioning what I was told and taught throughout my life. If anything, the field week helped me realize that. I think the best way for me to work through that barrier is by meeting people and building relationships with them. I am more easily able to open up to people one-on-one, or after I become comfortable with them. I then become more open to my own emotions and opinions, and also more prepared to challenge my unconscious settler biases.

Amy: With regards to building relationships with Indigenous peoples from diverse communities, I have learned the importance of knowing and honouring protocol. Protocol is not a perfunctory thing that people do or a checklist. It is about “establishing a really sacred trust and it’s a way of handling sacred knowledge, a way of sharing sacred knowledge. It’s a really significant relationship that you’re establishing with them” (Ted View, personal communication, November 10, 2016). Without relationships, true authentic learning would not happen with Indigenous peoples. Thus, in engaging with land-based pedagogy with Indigenous peoples, the first steps should be about learning the protocol, building relationships, and being open to learn and listen.

Annie: Amy, what you say here about the importance of building relationships reminds me that it is important to understand as people/students/educators that we can learn from everyone, not only licensed experts. It also suggests the importance of listening to different voices, considering different points of view as equally valid as our own, and critically looking at how and why we think a certain way. Learning through the mind, hand and heart also helps understand new learning on a deeper level because we engage more deeply than if we focused on one of these dimensions.

Yuwen: In the beginning, I found it hard to understand Indigenous issues as a cultural outsider. I was trying to figure out a way to relate myself to Indigenous peoples in the Canadian context. I realized this when the class was asked to write reflections after Professor Mike Loft (personal communication, May 7, 2018) explained the detrimental harms of residential schools on Indigenous peoples for generations. Indigenous classmates shared profound connections of hurt, frustration and support. Non-Indigenous classmates reflected on their white settler privileges. After hearing them share, I found what I wrote was as if I was standing at a distance. I felt outside of the context and disconnected from it.

This changed when the course coordinator, Ben Geboe said, “Colonization is everywhere,” and not just restricted to Canada. The cruelty and bloodiness of colonialism has become an irremovable part of many peoples’ histories around the world. This was clearer to me when we learned that Indigenous medicine faced tremendous difficulty being accepted by mainstream Western-dominated medical science, because the same thing happened to Chinese medicine. For a very long time, Chinese medicine was seen as superstition by the science community because it did not follow the Western science paradigm (Ng, 2000). As a supporter of Chinese medicine, I wanted to stand up and defend it; as a teacher in China, I advocated the importance of traditional Chinese legacies. On this point, I began to reflect on colonial implications for Chinese culture and thought about anti-colonial educational approaches, such as land-based pedagogy in a Chinese classroom.

Educating Hands by Honouring Reciprocity and Action

Amy: Tanaka (2016) mentioned that “using ‘good hands’ by having a clear mind and healthy intent [heart] are deepened through a focus on physicality and doing” (p. 23). Indeed, in continuing our lessons from Kahnawá:ke, we now need to focus on ‘doing’, learning with hands.  Dr. Henderson once told me that “if knowledge is not shared with others, then it is not knowledge” (personal communication, May 29th, 2017). As learners, who have been gifted with wisdom from the Elders from Kahnawá:ke and lessons learned by being in Kahnawá:ke, we have a responsibility to share what we have learned, by using our ‘good hands’ (Tanaka, 2016). So now that thinking about learning with hands and respecting reciprocity, in what ways do you think we can actualize these lessons in sharing with our students?

Adrienna: Thinking back to our experiences in Kahnawá:ke, I remember that we learned from children and Elders, bringing intergenerational learning approaches into our course as well as interdisciplinarity. It makes sense to learn from older people who can role model for you, and to learn from younger people who remind you of your past learning. I think this approach was important to the field course, with greater implications for education.  Because of time restrictions of the course, we were not individually able to build authentic lasting relationships with people in Kahnawá:ke, but the experiences did highlight for me the centrality of those relationships. I would love for schools to be built in proximity to seniors’ homes with an intergenerational focus. Just think of the possibilities for reading buddies, storytelling, community gardening—regular relationships that tap into the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of all involved!

I would also love for schools to have stronger relationships with Indigenous Elders from local Indigenous nations, which would further promote intergenerational connections. In my teaching experiences, I feel I have formed strong relationships with many Indigenous students, but I have also fallen short in seeking out relationships with other Indigenous peoples in my community. There are challenges involved—for example, not having pre-existing personal connections with Elders and not being sure of protocols (see Kanu, 2005, p. 60), but I have a responsibility to try and to learn. To me, humility also means trying new things and admitting when I am not sure how to do something, but it doesn’t mean that I avoid doing something altogether.

Yuwen: I agree with you, Adrienna. Teachers’ humility comes from the acknowledgement of a lifelong learning journey. This learning can be from Indigenous colleagues, from Elders, and also from students. I think sharing circles could be a good choice for educators as a pedagogical technique because in the circle everyone is equal. Everyone has a chance to share their experiences and emotions, and everyone’s voice is heard and recognized. In the sharing circle that we did, students, professors, and the Elders all shared their thoughts. I could see this was an education moment that happened in a meaningful way; we were listening as well as learning. I believe sharing circles in the classroom would be an effective way to deconstruct a teacher’s traditionally authoritative figure and build a more organic and harmonious teacher-student relationship.

Amy: While it is important for educators to open their minds and hearts for teaching and learning—”in the circle everyone is equal” as Yuwen mentioned—we, as educators still have a responsibility for our students to teach. I think it is very important for educators to provide continuous opportunities for students to reflect on the biases and assumptions coming from dominant Western paradigms that frame Land as a commodity, not as a relation (Lamb 2015; Stewart 2005). Focusing on relationships and the notion of a sharing circle, in what ways can educators facilitate discussions on the assumptions and biases stemming from dominant Western views, including neoliberal capitalist perceptions of the Land, without demonizing such ideas, making sure that we create a safe sharing space for all to contribute and challenge each other?

Annie: Amy, what you say about the importance of having the teacher’s responsibility to teach and guide the students reminds me of something Leanne Simpson (2014) wrote about the experience of Kwezens in her story: “the adult practitioners of Nishnaabeg intelligence were teaching her through modeling how to interact with all elements of creation” (p.14). To me, this speaks to the role of a teacher as one of modeling to students how to learn, rather than teaching them information. I find that idea beautiful and do hope to apply it in my teaching by positioning myself as a facilitator rather than as a keeper of knowledge and truth. When you talk about the importance of providing opportunities for students to think and reflect critically on what they hear and read, I think of Castellano (2000) when she explains that universal truth, “something that holds for all people,” does not exist in Aboriginal ways of knowing. Rather, there are “perceptions, which are personal, and wisdom, which has social validity and can serve as a basis for common action” (pp. 25-26).

I was educated to believe in the validity of the published written word, or the expert-backed record as the truth. But there is no universal truth, is there? Each of us must build our own understanding of the world by listening to people, processing what we learn with our current understanding of the world, and critically reflecting and adapting our truth as we discover new knowledges and points of view. Currently, the Quebec Social Studies curriculum shows good intentions to include more Indigenous voices. However, from my experience, it is up to the teacher to find ways to include those voices in the classroom. We are encouraged, but neither obligated nor guided in how to do so. To me, my responsibility as an educator is to guide my students in opening their minds to ways of learning outside of classrooms and textbooks, and to bring them voices that are otherwise silenced in the current curriculum.

Yuwen: Yes, Annie, I agree with you that there is a need to bring different voices into a classroom, and to respect differences and individuality. But I think we should also pay attention to how these differences affect group work situations. In my course experience, different personalities and ideas in my group collided every day during the camping week; that said, there was a whole new space created where group members learned from each other. In the end, each clan group had its unique atmosphere, and I call it clan spirit. We formed an invisible but strong bond that derived from the land which we are all part of, and from the relationships that we gradually built with each other during daily tasks, discussions, and collaborations. I felt we were building a tighter learning community where it was not only our minds and ideas, but also our hearts and emotions, that were connected together.

Adrienna: I agree with Yuwen that we had a stronger learning experience because of camping together, but I think we should also remember to examine our assumptions about land. I fall into an easy trap of separating wilderness from urban spaces and reifying an ’empty wilderness’ narrative that erases Indigenous peoples from the land (McLean, 2013). While urban spaces are quite different from rural ones, I am reminded of the medicine walk we did around our campsite and the possibilities for what Simpson (2014) called “land as pedagogy” in an urban context. During the medicine walk, it was striking to be awakened into noticing the small plants growing between the grass. It was almost like a camera lens shifting into focus for me. Nature continues and adapts regardless of what humans build in spaces. As a teacher, this means I have a responsibility to learn about the land in my space and my complicities in the production of settler colonialism through my relationship to that land. While Simpson’s (2014) article called for radical educational change in Indigenous communities beyond the regular school system, she also mentioned how city spaces need to be re-examined, which to me implies the importance and responsibility of urban educators to work with land as pedagogy too.

Annie: Adrienna, I often fall into this pattern of separating wilderness from urban spaces myself. One way I was able to apply the concept of land as pedagogy to an urban setting was when we visited the Adult Education Centre in Kahnawá:ke. One educator, named Tiio, talked about his student-centered and student-driven projects, in which the students had come up with their own project ideas and ways to make them happen. The educator acted as a facilitator and the students used their prior knowledge and their environment and relationships to find ideas. I thought those were amazing examples of land as pedagogy applicable to urban settings, and great ways of developing creativity and problem-solving skills.

Conclusion: Tensions and Recommendations

Our experiences in this course encouraged us to learn about ourselves, our communities, and how we are currently positioned in relation to Indigenous peoples and the land in Canada. We really appreciate the course instructors who developed our course experience and guided our learning. However, we also noticed that, as Styres (2017) pointed out, there are structural boundaries in place in educational contexts that serve as limitations for land-based and interdisciplinary learning.

Looking back on our reflections, time was a major restriction, both in the difficulty for us to build authentic relationships with individuals from Kahnawá:ke, and in how little we were able to deeply reflect on our learning together without being rushed. If repeated over many years, the course instructors will likely build strong relationships with people from the community and across academic disciplines, but as students, we were much more limited in this regard. Also, there were no other courses that students could follow up to continue the learning process with the support of the institution. In this regard, we suggest universities consider practical ways to build courses that facilitate students’ lifelong learning processes and relationship building, both with participating Indigenous communities and between students from diverse academic disciplines. Based on our reflections on the Indigenous Field Studies course, we would like to make specific recommendations for future land-based interdisciplinary courses.

Recommendations for Universities

  • Allow vertical/horizontal planning of courses to allow for a sustainable and collaborative model. This likely involves structural and interdisciplinary planning so as not to replicate the problem of tokenism through add-on curricula. Courses should be designed to consider students’ previous knowledge and interests, which may mean having students write personal statements before the course begins.
  • Instructors should be given sufficient time to plan collaboratively before the course begins. Also, in planning the courses themselves, it is important to pursue collaborative and not consultative processes with the participating/ partnered Indigenous communities. The difference between the collaborative and consultative process lies in the willingness of the universities/instructors “to enter into relationships where they relinquish some genuine authority to Indigenous Elders to make contributions and take ownership of those contributions” (Glen Aikenhead, May 13, 2013 as cited in Wiseman, 2016). Consultative processes do not necessarily involve relinquishing that authority.
  • Take seriously the notion of reciprocity with collaborating Indigenous communities. Communities should dictate what they would like to gain from the relationship, for example monetary honorariums for session speakers or student volunteers to work at local community organizations, so the relationship does not become extractive. In thinking of the reciprocity, again, the university has to go through a collaborative process rather than a consultative one.

Recommendations for Instructors

  • Engage Indigenous community members in curriculum planning, taking into consideration local land-based knowledges and the goals of the community. Think about possibilities for students to continue/contribute to the relationships built during the course. Take the relationship seriously and view it as a long-term commitment.
  • Engage students in curriculum planning. This may mean explicitly asking for input through course evaluations but could also be structured as student reflections or focus groups of past students.
  • Focus on creating a “sharing place” rather than “teaching space.” A “sharing place” allows instructors to position themselves equally as learners and co-creators of knowledge (Kim, in-press).
  • Use this as an opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary fashion. This means collaboratively designing the course to build on ideas of multiple disciplines focusing on the “balance and harmony” of the content.
  • View learning as lifelong learning and look for opportunities where the course can invite students and instructors to further grow and reflect. This might mean offering several courses at different levels, extra-curricular interdisciplinary study groups and establishing social media connections.
  • Think about reciprocity and ways students might give back to the Indigenous community.

Recommendations for Students

  • Be reflective about your own role in settler colonialism. This involves rethinking personal relationships with the land as well as your own history.
  • Be willing to listen with an open mind and open heart. This can take patience for yourself and for others.
  • Take opportunities to build relationships, with other students across disciplines as well as with Indigenous community members, remembering that reciprocity and protocols are crucial.
  • Consider taking these courses in the university as a starting point for your lifelong learning process. Understand the limitation of the higher education settings and actively seek ways to continue learning outside of the university.

We acknowledge that there is no quick fix, or no utilitarian way of achieving the ACDE and TRC recommendations. However, it is only by collaborating, not consulting, with partner Indigenous communities that will allow true partnerships where Indigenous communities have ownership of the course as well. Meanwhile, we emphasize the notion of relationships in developing these courses. As Styres (2017) mentioned,

Adhering to protocols and building relationships can and often does take time–it is a necessary and critical part of doing the real work. It is far better to take time necessary to build relationship and attempt to respect and follow protocols–and risk possibility making some mistakes along the journey–than to do nothing and risk offence by replicating dehumanizing and de-renationalizing research and education. (p. 169, italics in original)

We hope that our stories and recommendations help others who might be engaging in such land-based interdisciplinary courses in universities to do the real work through a true collaborative process.


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Editorial 2(2): BILDing Optimism in Uncertain Times

Volume 2(2): 2018

ALISON CRUMP (Senior Managing Editor), Marianopolis College

LAUREN HALCOMB-SMITH (Managing Editor), Royal Roads University

MELA SARKAR (Senior Advisory), McGill University


This issue, our third since we launched the journal, marks an important milestone: J-BILD has now had a first birthday. Even the longest-running and most highly-respected journals had once to make it past their first year. In Canada, applied linguists can reflect with pride on the continuing success of the Canadian Modern Language Review / Revue Canadienne des langues vivantes, which will celebrate its 75th year in 2019. The CMLR/RCLV began as a modest publication of the Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association in 1944, a year in which the fields of applied linguistics and sociolinguistics had yet to be mapped out; a year in which the fields most in the minds of our forebears were the battlefields of Europe and East Asia. In a similar vein, many readers will know that the Modern Language Journal, another top-ranked periodical for those of us interested in language learning/use, passed its centenary in 2016. We need not remind readers of the conflagration that was raging in 1916.

Launching a new scholarly journal several years into a terrible international conflict, the end or outcome of which could not with any certainty be foreseen, must have seemed dangerously optimistic to the point of foolhardiness in 1916 or 1944. Yet a few courageous scholars dared to do it. Now, as J-BILD moves into its second year, climate change is probably the gravest looming threat to the continued happiness and safety of not only our own species, but of all our co-inhabitants of the planet whether animal or vegetable. Right-wing governments dedicated, among other things, to the denial of this huge potential for global disaster are coming into power in one place after another.

Americans are emerging from midterm elections in the Trump presidency, an era in North American and global politics that, if we and the planet get past it, will be remembered as significant. A majority of Brazil’s 200-million-plus people recently made an extreme rightist their president. And in Quebec, where J-BILD got its start a year ago, a right-of-centre and relative newcomer to politics swept a new political party to power a few weeks ago. One of the planks in the new party’s platform was a promise to reduce immigration. A deep fear of the “Other” seems to be one of the main drivers of mainstream politics across national boundaries, and at the same time, more and more people are being forced to flee their homelands and cross those boundaries in search of a safe haven.

So, while the team of determined volunteers who launched J-BILD a year ago are blessedly spared the tribulations experienced by citizens of warring nations, we still, with our readers, confront serious challenges to our collective well-being. Not the least of them is the current backlash against diversity (the “D” of BILD), as insidious and in its own way as dangerous as the climate changes that are sweeping the world. A new journal that builds on the bedrock of diversity as an inherent value is, we think, worth supporting and persevering with as never before. Even supposedly innocuous Canadian pro-multiculturalist preaching, though on the surface opposed to the right-wing ideal of a safe homogeneity, conceals an inner denial of the everyday reality of diversity. At the federal level, people who identify as members of communities other than White Anglophone or White Francophone are lumped into cultural groups whose languages are not recognized, yet who are celebrated for the “diversity” they bring to the Canadian cultural mosaic—an intolerance-masking language of which scholars like Sara Ahmed (2007) are heavily critical. This kind of discourse locates diversity in the bodies of Others and insulates the invisible majority against any real engagement with difference. In her critique of institutional policies on diversity and equity, Ahmed argued, “you end up doing the document rather than doing the doing” needed for meaningful change.

Language, the “L” of BILD, is no less important; like critical sociolinguist Monica Heller (2007), we see language/s as socially distributed through historical, political, and economic processes that inform what resources are assigned what value, by whom, and with what consequences. The value thus assigned goes far beyond the purely linguistic. In our era, language is one of the most ubiquitous scapegoats for ancient enmities that have more to do with scarce resources among feuding families than with speech. Language is rooted in, while also helping to define, identity, the “I” of BILD. As Norton (2000) has pointed out, identity references the desire for recognition, affiliation, and security—all of them necessary for physical and psychological well-being. Affiliation, appartenance, belonging—the “B” of BILD—bring us back around to where we began, with the defense of diversity and an insistence upon inclusion. The “Other” is by definition the person who does not belong.

But we are all the Other. We can only belong by virtue of renouncing simplistic notions of belonging. The identity we may thus win through to transcends, while encompassing, the individual. We take our stand with Hugo of St-Victor, the 12th-century monk Edward Said was fond of quoting: “The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land” (Said, 2000, p. 185). Finding a contemporary idiom for truths that go back to medieval times and forward into an uncertain, but certainly diverse, future—there in a nutshell is one of the main leitmotifs of J-BILD.

In This Issue

We are thrilled to be able to share six research articles, four in English and two in French, which in different, but interrelated ways, examine intersections of the four pillars of J-BILD, and thus contribute important voices to BILDing optimism in these uncertain times.

Marie-Pier Bastien, author of “Pratiques de littératie familiales d’élèves hispanophone,” presents the results of a qualitative study exploring the family language practices of ten students enrolled in French schools in the Outaouais region for whom Spanish is the family language. Beginning with an exploration of the unique sociolinguistic context of the Outaouais region, Bastien presents and discusses the data generated through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Her analysis paints a rich picture of the family language practices of her participants and highlights the unique ways in which family language practices manifest among young people in multilingual environments. Bastien concludes with recommendations for supporting such students in their development as multilingual individuals.

Alison Crump’s article, “Thinning the classroom walls: Graduate student perspectives on blogging as pedagogy,” brings to light the views and experiences of graduate students a sociolinguistics and language education course in their use of blogging as a pedagogical tool. Crump presents and discusses data generated through focus groups and surveys to show how the use of blogging supported students in their learning through the cultivation of peer support, collaboration, self-reflection, and authenticity in the experience of writing for a “real” audience. Crump argues that open pedagogies, such a blogging, thin the classroom walls and create opportunities for publicly-engaged and networked scholarship.

Eun-ji Amy Kim, S. J. Adrienna Joyce, Annie Desjardins, and Yuwen Zhang’s article, “Speaking to our minds, hearts, and hands: A cogenerative inquiry on learning through an interdisciplinary land-based course,” reflect on their settler/visitor learning/teaching experiences in a land-based, interdisciplinary Indigenous field course in Kahnawá:ke. Their article takes the form of a metalogue, a method for engaging in dialogues both with theories and self-reflexivity and draws out the diversity of the co-authors’ different learning paths. Common throughout the article, is an emphasis on building relationships based on collaboration; indeed, the authors argue, this is the real work of achieving the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Accord on Indigenous Education. Kim and company bring their metalogue to a close with a series of recommendations for universities, instructors, and students for future land-based interdisciplinary courses.

In “Reframing FSL teacher learning: Small stories of (re)professionalization and identity formation,” Mimi Masson presents the results of a case study of two French as a second language (FSL) teachers and the factors that informed their professional identity. Through the analysis and discussion of narrative data, Masson argues that participants’ successful identity-formation was closely linked to their feelings of being validated and supported by their respective communities. Masson concludes with recommendations for addressing FSL teacher attrition and retention.

Sylvie Roy and Julie Byrd-Clark’s article, “Les identités multiples des jeunes Canadiens,” reflects on the importance of examining former and current discourses on linguistic and cultural competencies in considering the future of young people’s multiple identities. The authors draw upon ethnographic and sociolinguistic data that they gathered in Francophone and French immersion schools in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario. The youth in their studies do not see their identities as fixed but as continuously changing, yet they are deeply concerned with how others see them. The authors emphasize the importance of recognizing the linguistic and cultural repertoires of young people who are living in diverse contexts in order to foster greater inclusion in and belonging to Canadian communities.

In their article, “Supporting reconnecting immigrant families with English Language Learners in rural schools: An exploratory study,” co-authors Gregory Tweedie, Anja Dressler, and Cora-Leah Schmitt focus on how Filipino secondary school immigrant students in Alberta acculturate and develop a sense of belonging when language and content acquisition, social-emotional, and acculturation supports are in place. The authors present and discuss data drawn from interviews with recently reconnected Filipino families as well as written responses from the teachers of the young people in these families. Through their work, the authors conclude that it is particularly important for the young people in families that are reconnecting to have language and content acquisition, social-emotional, and acculturation support for the development of their sense of belonging and identity.

In closing, we at J-BILD hope that these articles will inspire you to reflect upon your own experiences and positions as researchers, learners, educators, fellow beings, and encourage you to continue to thoughtfully and meaningfully engage with yourselves and others.


Ahmed, S. (2007). “You end up doing the document rather than doing the doing”: Diversity, race equality and the politics of documentation. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(4), 590–609. doi:10.1080/01419870701356015

Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning. New York: Pearson.

Said, E. (2000). Reflections on Exile and other essays. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.