Co-constructing bilingual learning: an equal exchange of strategies between complementary and mainstream teachers

Kenner, Charmian and Ruby, Mahera. 2012. Co-constructing bilingual learning: an equal exchange of strategies between complementary and mainstream teachers. Language and Education, 26(6), pp. 517-535. ISSN 0950-0782 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Teachers in complementary schools are often assumed to be using outmoded teaching strategies and an authoritarian approach to discipline. However, it is rare for mainstream teachers to have visited these community-run after-school or weekend classes, which remain on the margins of educational provision. This paper argues that complementary teachers’ knowledge has been ‘doubly devalued’: firstly because of their location in the informal learning sector, and secondly because their work focuses on languages and cultures that are ignored or viewed negatively by the wider society. Our action research study with complementary teachers in East London challenges mainstream preconceptions in showing the creative range of teaching strategies devised to meet the needs of multi-level, mixed-age classes in under-resourced conditions. Uniquely, the research set up partnerships between these complementary teachers and local primary school teachers, in which they visited each other's settings and jointly planned topic-based lessons adapted to each context. Findings demonstrate that mainstream teachers had much to learn from their complementary colleagues about negotiating teacher–student relationships, the child as independent learner and as leader within a learning community, and the use of bilingual strategies. Partnership teaching created mutual respect for each other's expertise, crucial to the equal valuing of shared knowledge.

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Educational Studies
Research Office > REF2014



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Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 09:20

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:03

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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