University of Oulu

English language textbooks as a medium for teaching about diversity in Finnish upper secondary schools : recent practices and latest trends

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Author: Leshchinskaia, Elena1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
Persistent link: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:oulu-201709082862
Language: English
Published: Oulu : E. Leshchinskaia, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-09-11
Physical Description: 100 p.
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Karjalainen, Magda
Reviewer: Sääskilahti, Minna
Karjalainen, Magda
Description:

Abstract

Apart from facilitating teaching and learning, school textbooks in general convey a great number of both explicit and implicit messages about society at large. In particular, the language teaching textbook can be seen as centred on a regime of representation, including the representation of people and identities relevant to them, that constructs the world of the target language for the learners (Gray, 2013a). Given the widely perceived role of textbooks as carriers of the “official knowledge” (Apple, 1989), representations selected for their content are recognised to have the capacity to render social groups included and relations portrayed in textbooks legitimate and “normal” (Sleeter & Grant, 1991).

This master’s thesis focuses on the study of representations of diversity contained in textbooks used in Finland for teaching the English language at the upper secondary school level. Given the recent curriculum reform, this study aims to examine how the concept of diversity is approached in previously widely used textbooks and also to identify potential directions for further development, as seen from a recently launched textbook series aligned with the renewed curriculum.

The textbook analysis carried out in this study is informed by the current debates in language education, in particular in relation to its intercultural orientation and the teaching of English language (TEL), as well as by the view of the textbook as a selected collection of representations of social reality with a “normalising” potential. Drawing on critical approaches to interculturality, the guiding notion of diversity encompasses a wide range of social categories. Considering the twofold research goal, two samples of textbooks were selected and analysed through a social constructionist thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The themes discussed in the analysis cover aspects of diversity such as nationality, ethnicity, race, gender, social class, disability, sexual orientation and language (in the sense of linguistic diversity of English speakers). In addition to examining how different social groups are represented, the way the textbooks frame discussion on the issues pertinent to such groups and broader diversity-related issues was looked at separately.

Overall, the way diversity is approached in the textbooks from the older series was found to be clearly in line with the logic of student-centred pedagogy, as great attention is given to the students’ reflection on the relevant issues, which particularly applies to the treatment of traditionally marginalised groups. The newer textbooks appear to go further in “normalising” more “hidden” aspects of diversity, and the underlying understanding of diversity to be moving towards viewing it primarily as a diversity of identities, worldviews and lived experiences. The analysis also suggests a strengthened focus on the idea of agency and on the diversity of speakers and uses of English in the newer textbook series. The interpretation of the findings is offered in view of certain shifts in understanding of the main concepts observed in the renewed curriculum. This study, however, is aimed not at providing conclusive generalisations but rather at contributing to the ongoing discussions on the intercultural content of teaching materials, English language teaching textbooks in particular.

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Copyright information: © Elena Leshchinskaia, 2017. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.