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Review of  Teacher Collaboration and Talk in Multilingual Classrooms

Reviewer: Kara Tiffany McAlister
Book Title: Teacher Collaboration and Talk in Multilingual Classrooms
Book Author: Angela Creese
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 19.3375

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AUTHOR: Creese, Angela
TITLE: Teacher Collaboration and Talk in Multilingual Classrooms
SERIES: Bilingual Education & Bilingualism
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2005

Kara T. McAlister, Language and Literacy, Curriculum and Instruction, Arizona
State University

In this volume, Creese explores the effect of inclusive practices for English as
an Additional Language (EAL) students on teacher perceptions and teacher
interactions in the classroom. Using a linguistic ethnographic approach, she
analyzes how teachers in multilingual secondary education settings negotiate
competing ideological and pedagogical discourses, how they position themselves
and other teachers in the pedagogical hierarchy, how collaboration in the
classroom takes place between subject teachers and EAL teachers, and finally how
the school as an institution views the linguistic diversity of its staff and

Data collection took place at three secondary schools in the London area with
large Turkish-speaking populations. Individual subject classrooms were
repeatedly observed and recorded at least once. Additionally, participating
teachers were interviewed towards the end of data collection. Of the teachers
participating in the study, fourteen are monolingual subject teachers and the
remaining twelve are EAL teachers, of which six are bilingual. Data were
analyzed using various discourse analysis approaches.

While Chapter One lays out the linguistic theoretical framework for the research
study, including which views of language are drawn on and short overviews of the
ethnography of communication and interactional sociolinguistics, Chapter Two
focuses on the theoretical aspects of the educational issues that surface in the
study. For instance, Creese offers a nice overview of the practice of inclusion
for EAL students, drawing on the research for special needs students, and frames
it as an ideology alongside assimilation, pluralism, and multiculturalism. She
also addresses how the practice of inclusion necessitates collaborative teaching
practices, and how EAL teaching and methodology have developed in the UK. By
focusing on these educational issues separately, Creese presents historical and
political contexts for the educational issues that arise throughout her study.

Through teacher interviews, Chapter Three explores the tensions between policies
of pluralism and standards-based education, and inclusion and individual student
needs. This chapter particularly focuses on how these policies are interpreted
and implemented by both the subject and EAL teachers in the study. Not
surprisingly, especially in the context of secondary education, the subject
teachers are most concerned with curriculum delivery, given the priorities of
standards-based education and the pressures of school-leaving exams. This nicely
illustrates one of the contradictions of current education policy, in that
subject teachers are expected to teach the same content to all students,
including mainstreamed EAL students, regardless of students bringing different
sets of knowledge and needs to the classroom. While many of the subject teachers
in the study support mainstreaming, some are ambivalent about their ability to
meet the needs of all of their students. The EAL teachers also fully support
inclusion, but feel that many of the subject teachers could modify their
instruction more to accommodate EAL students. However, the focus of the EAL
teachers is largely language development and content understanding, and they do
not feel the pressures of a standards-based curriculum as much as the subject
teachers do. Lastly, subject and EAL teachers view the roles of EAL teachers
differently; where subject teachers expect EAL teachers to provide support in
the classroom, EAL teachers expect to give advice to subject teachers on how to
modify their instruction.

Chapters Four, Five, Six, and Seven focus on various aspects of collaboration in
the classroom, including how subject and EAL teachers talk differently in the
classroom, the forms collaborative teaching takes, and the elements of
collaboration that characterize partnership teaching. In Chapters Four and Five,
Creese analyzes teacher talk in the classroom and finds that subject and EAL
teachers interact differently with students during instruction. Subject teachers
were much more likely to show both ownership of the content and authority,
whereas EAL teachers typically ask students a wider variety of questions and
defer to others in matters of authority. As pointed out though, this reflects
how subject and EAL teachers are perceived in the institutional hierarchy by
teachers, students, and the school as a whole.

In complement to this, Chapters Six and Seven detail the ten different modes of
collaboration and partnership teaching that took place in the research
classrooms. Using her observational data and classroom recordings, Creese
identifies the effectiveness of three broad types of collaboration: support,
withdrawal, and partnership. She then explores how different modes of
collaborative teaching affect the teachers and students in inclusive classrooms
and makes suggestions for which ones are most viable.

Lastly, Chapters Eight, Nine and Ten cover issues of language that arose during
the course of the study. Chapter Eight addresses the question of how and to what
extent learning English through secondary education content takes place. Creese
finds that neither subject nor EAL teachers focused enough on language as a
medium. For instance, one EAL teacher rewrote a geography text for use with EAL
students, and upon analysis, Creese notes that the adapted text may contain
essentially the same content, but it does not convey the same meanings as the
original text, thus limiting EAL access to certain types of text. Had the
teachers better understood the functions of language, they would have been able
to create a more appropriate text. Additionally, the general curriculum and
content delivery did not reflect how some students were also learning English
alongside content, and there was very little collaboration among subject and EAL
teachers in addressing this.

Chapters Nine and Ten highlight perceptions of Turkish in the schools,
specifically as a medium for content instruction and generally as a language.
Creese's findings support Ruiz's (1984) framework of language as a problem, a
right, and a resource. Whereas the bilingualism of students was largely viewed
as a problem to be overcome, the bilingualism of teachers was considered a
resource, despite the fact that all of the Turkish bilingual teachers declined
to be recorded in the study. One example of this language as a resource attitude
is demonstrated by teachers and others in the schools regularly according
bilingual EAL teachers more status than monolingual EAL teachers. Additionally,
Creese's analysis of a particular event in one of the schools also shows how
Turkish-English bilingualism can simultaneously become more valuable during a
time of community crisis and yet also be broadly misunderstood.

While this work is undoubtedly valuable for the insights it brings to
discussions of linguistically diverse classrooms, the book itself lacks
cohesion. Each chapter tackles a topic that is only loosely related to other
topics in the book, leaving the reader with the feeling of just having scratched
the surface of the issue at hand. For instance, Chapter Three focuses on how the
tension among individual student needs, inclusion, and standards-based education
is negotiated and understood by the participating teachers. This is especially
interesting in the secondary context, where subject teachers are focused on
covering curriculum standards and EAL teachers are concerned with language
development through content. While this is a very promising and interesting line
of research, especially given the continually increasing pressures of
accountability, it is unfortunately not continued throughout the rest of the
book. Additional chapters focus on other issues, such as teacher positioning,
collaboration, and language perception, which are also interesting topics in and
of themselves, but are disconnected from each other. This disconnectedness no
doubt reflects the robustness of the secondary classroom as a research setting,
where teachers daily must meet the individual needs of a diverse student
population as well as participate in the institutional hierarchy and community,
while simultaneously negotiating constantly changing education policy. However,
one result of this disconnect is that each chapter is relatively self-contained,
and it is possible to read and understand a chapter without referencing other
chapters in the book.

Secondly, it is also unclear who the intended audience is. While well-supported
with sociolinguistic theory, the nature of the data and conclusions indicate
that educational communities would be best served by this research, as it sheds
light on rarely addressed, yet very important, topics in the modern classroom.
However, the theoretical and methodological frameworks are written in such a way
that assumes knowledge of a wide variety of linguistic theories, thus limiting
the accessibility of the research for those outside of the field. This does a
disservice to both the field of educational linguistics and the educational
community, as it alienates the very audience that needs to be reached. That
said, it must also be pointed out that writing for the educational community
while engaging the linguist is very tricky indeed.

Finally, although this research was limited to three secondary schools in
London, many of the implications can be extended to other educational settings,
such as those here in the United States. For instance, Wright and Choi (in
press) found that many 3rd Grade English language learner (ELL) teachers in
Arizona felt that little was being done to support language learning through
content, despite state endorsement requirements, which reflects Creese's
findings to some extent. Also, although Creese draws on Dyer (1988) to inform
her ten modes of teacher collaboration, she also points out that more research
needs to be done on teacher collaboration, especially since the dominant
understanding of teacher talk is still based on a classroom of one teacher and
many students (pg 67). The models of collaborative and partnership teaching
presented in Chapters Six and Seven will undoubtedly prove to be an invaluable
resource for those studying collaborative teaching. Furthermore, how teachers
implement standards-based curricula in linguistically diverse classrooms is
another area that needs more attention. The teachers in Creese's study struggle
with this, while others have found examples of teachers who successfully balance
these two pedagogies (e.g. Stillman 2006). Finally, Creese rightfully argues for
the need to incorporate more language awareness in teacher education and
professional development, so that teachers better understand the role that
language plays in a classroom and how language learning can be facilitated
alongside content instruction.

Overall, Creese's book addresses important issues in modern multilingual
classrooms. It highlights the tensions in the push for pluralism within
standards-based education, the realization of inclusion in linguistically
diverse classrooms, the structuring of teachers and languages into a hierarchy,
and the ability of language to both enforce and change these influences. While
the topics covered may be diverse, the implications of Creese's research are
pressing and call for a re-examination of how EAL inclusion policies are
realized in practice.

Dyer, C. (1988) Which support? _Support for Learning_, 3(1).

Ruiz, R. (1984) Orientations in language planning. _NABE Journal_ 2, 15-34.

Stillman, J. (2006) Taking Back the Standards: Towards a theory of critical
professional practice for specially trained teachers of English learners.
Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of California, Los Angeles.

Wright, W and Choi, D. (in press) Voices from the classroom: A statewide survey
of 3rd grade ELL teachers on the impact of language and high-stakes testing
policies in Arizona. Tempe, AZ: Language Policy Research Unit, Education
Leadership and Policy Studies Laboratory, Arizona State University.

Kara T. McAlister is a Ph.D. student in the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education
at Arizona State University. Her research interests include cognitive aspects of
bilingualism, second language acquisition, and code-switching, as well as
teacher preparation in bilingual education. She currently teaches Masters' level
language and methods courses for pre- and in-service teachers, and is
particularly interested in facilitating teachers' understanding of language in
the classroom.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1853598216
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 264
Prices: U.K. £ 24.95
U.S. $ 49.95