Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 16

Accepted Abstracts

Heritage Speakers in the Language Classroom: Promoting Quality and Innovation through Action Research

Katharina Mechthild Rutzen, University of Leipzig (Germany)

Ewa Krauss, University of Leipzig (Germany)


Publications on heterogeneous classrooms and responsive teaching are abundant. Especially Tomlinson’s [1] [2] work on differentiation continues to be very popular among didacticians and researchers. However, integrating the proposed principles and methods into daily teaching practice and adapting them to a specific context is not straightforward at all for many teachers. It requires a certain amount of time, resources and a reflective approach to teaching. Collaborative action research [3] which is jointly conducted by school teachers and university researchers can be an effective means of tackling such problems, most notably because it is not a “top-down-process” where teachers are supposed to implement predetermined methods or standards, but rather an empowering and creative collaboration with a focus on personally relevant goals and research questions. We will illustrate this process with concrete examples from Polish and Russian language classrooms in Germany which can serve as a rich “experimental ground” for differentiation and responsive teaching as they usually bring together learners from diverse cultural, linguistic and social backgrounds including heritage speakers [4] who use the target language within their families.

Keywords: Action research, differentiation, heritage speakers, heterogeneous classrooms.

[1] Tomlinson, C. A. (2003). Fulfilling the promise of the differentiated classroom. Strategies and tools for responsive teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
[2] Tomlinson, C. A. (2014). The differentiated classroom. Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development
[3] Feldman, A., Altrichter, H., Posch, P., & Somekh, B. (2018). Teachers investigate their work. An introduction to action research across the professions. Abingdon/ New York: Routledge
[4] Polinsky, M. & Kagan, O. (2007) Heritage languages: In the 'wild' and in the classroom. Language and Linguistics Compass, 1(5), 368–395.

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