Pedagogical Spaces in the Primary School: Teacher Agency in Multilingual Pedagogies

Quehl, Thomas. 2021. Pedagogical Spaces in the Primary School: Teacher Agency in Multilingual Pedagogies. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Multilingual pedagogies, which acknowledge and respond to the fact that an increasing number of children grow up with more than one language, can be seen as an emerging yet contested area of pedagogy in the UK and internationally. In England, the situation is complex, because teachers cannot rely on distinct curriculum guidance or a widely established body of practices in this domain, while overall schools remain framed by a culture of performativity. Against this background, this ethnographic study examines aspects that constitute, facilitate or hinder teacher agency in multilingual pedagogies, and asks how it can be enhanced in the primary school. The study draws on the subject-centred sociocultural conceptualisation of professional agency presented by Eteläpelto et. al. (2013), and the ecological approach to teacher agency proposed by Priestley et al. (2015). Both concepts allow for an exploration of teacher agency that starts with the classroom, but considers also its interrelatedness with institutional contexts and teachers’ professional subjectivities.

The ethnographic study was conducted in four Lower Key Stage 2 classrooms and one Year 5 class in three maintained inner-city primary schools in London and the East of England. The findings point to a monolingual norm in the official classroom, a dominant ‘EAL-discourse’ and a symbolic multilingualism as major hindrances to teacher agency in multilingual pedagogies. Yet, the analysis also identified tensions and possibilities within the monolingual status quo. Although those were small in scope, teachers’ general agency in their classrooms, their reflexivity based on pedagogical motivations and experience, and their supportive relationships in the workplace are seen as potentially contributing to teacher agency in multilingual pedagogies. To enhance such agency, I propose to develop, conceptually and practically, a ‘pedagogical space’ that is best understood as co-constructed by teachers and their pupils and supported by education policy and the institution school.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


multilingual pedagogies; teacher agency; primary education UK

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


30 April 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 Jul 2021 14:43

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:19


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