• Anne Gaarde Thomsen
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
Foreign newcomers in the compulsory school age, who are residing minimum six months in Denmark, are committed to start in school and participate in a preparatory arrangement with the purpose of being educated in Danish as second language. One form of arrangement is a preparatory class where the newcomers temporarily have most of their lessons. These classes have recently been subject for political interest due to the refugee crisis, however the academic research on this topic is held to a minimum (Rambøll, 2015, p.1). In addition to that studies (e.g. Rosenthal & Jacobsen, 1968) have shown that teachers’ conceptions of their pupils can impact on the pupils’ academic competences and self-perceptions. Therefore, this thesis aims to investigate how teachers construct newcomer pupils in preparatory classes and which potential consequences these constructions might have for the pupils’ participation in class. To cover this aim four semi-structured qualitative interviews with preparatory class-teachers were conducted. They represented two schools from the same municipal in Jutland. In advance of the interviews 1-2 whole days of classroom-observations in each teacher’s class were carried out. The analytic method used to interpret the interviews was conventional qualitative content analysis, which focuses on an inductive systematic process of coding with a view to identifying patterns and themes in the empirical material (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005, p.1278). From the investigation, four different constructions of the newcomer pupil by the teachers were deduced. One can be defined as the school-norm possessing versus not school-norm possessing pupil. It is to some extent rooted in an ethnic distinction where newcomers with non-western, Middle Eastern background as a group are problematized for their previous schooling in an authoritarian school-culture as well as their cultural acquaintance from home. In contrast, western newcomers as a group is characterized as school-norm possessing and with parents being positively supportive. Here stereotypes were reproduced. Another construction is defined the psychic vulnerable versus the not psychic vulnerable pupil where a differentiation is seen in the cause of the vulnerability. Refugee-pupils are often referred to as vulnerable because of former or present mental loadings, whereas other vulnerabilities causing special needs for the newcomers goes across basis for residence and is attributed to inherent problems such as dyslexia or autism. A third construction is classified the legit mother tongue-using versus illegitimate mother tongue-using pupil where it is found that the pupils are constructed on behalf of how they use their mother tongue appropriately according to the teacher’s conceptions. Finally is a construction called the school-supported versus the non-school-supported pupil. It is rooted in a social distinction where pupils having qualifications from previous schooling and/or parents who values education is seen as resourceful in comparison to those who have not. This construction goes across ethnicity. Overall the study indicates that the newcomers are constructed from a deficit-understanding, where they as a group is understood in terms of their different needs and linguistic and cultural lacks compared to the established majority. The ethnical Danish pupil is defined as the ideal they are assessed against. This construction implicates that the newcomers is considered in need of compensatory education in environments where they can feel safe with equals and be taught with educational forms concordant to their needs. This deficit-comprehension might have different consequences. The teachers’ understanding of the newcomers’ lack of linguistic competences and the following intensive focus on second language development can cause that the newcomer does not get the best learning opportunities for maintenance of the mother tongue and acquisition of the subject knowledge. Paradoxically, this might end up affecting the second language development too. Furthermore, there is a risk, that when the teachers explain the pupils’ situation in school with reference to different social, psychic, or ethnic-cultural conditions outside of school they might overlook the school’s part. There is an indication that the school has a composition with a a mono-cultural and mono-linguistic hegemony, where the newcomers’ linguistic and cultural preconditions not are approved. This might force the newcomers into either trying to conform trough an assimilative strategy or oppose, by resisting the school’s authorities, and instead try to establish alternative communities, where their background and identity is acknowledged.
Publication date2017
ID: 264667461