Nayr Ibrahim is Associate Professor of English subject pedagogy at Nord University.DLC artefacts as a research and pedagogical tool in teacher education
Nayr was aware of Larissa's work on DLCs, especially the DLC maps reflecting a constellation in the night sky with stars representing the different languages (Aronin, 2019b; Lo Bianco and Aronin 2020; Aronin and Vetter 2021). She first discovered 3D DLC modelling with playdough/plasticine and sticks at Larissa's session at the XIth International Conference on Third Language Acquisition and Multilingualism in Lisbon, 2018. This event is immortalized in a photo of Nayr sitting next to Richard Nightingale, holding her DLC model! This activity provided physical, tactile, and creative engagement with her language repertoire and DLC, and allowed for personal engagement with her multiple languages.
In increasingly multilingual and multicultural societies, teachers report a lack of knowledge and training in managing the ‘diverse diversities’ (Dervin, 2010) in classrooms today. The question arises how DLCs can be used in teacher education to not only develop knowledge of the complex phenomenon of multilingualism but also to uncover and make visible the language repertoires of future teachers. How does an explicit, creative focus on teachers’ language connections, relationships and identities, transform their perception of self as teachers of children or of a subject, such as English, to seeing themselves as multilingual individuals and teachers, and thus help them better engage with lived multilingualism?
Nayr decided to integrated these visualization methods into her teaching practice in Norway, where student teachers are encouraged to explore their multilingualism by creating an artefact that represents their full linguistic repertoire and naturally occurring DLC. This approach expands Aronin’s DLC modelling (both concrete and computer-assisted) into a creative, manual 2D or 3D task, where teachers are free to choose the layout or positioning, the materials, the colours, the shapes, and sizes. As Aronin and Moccozet (2021) state, external concrete representations ‘boost cognition by shortcutting analytic processes, saving internal memory, creating persistent referents and providing structures that can serve as a shareable object of thought’ (p. 5-6). Hence, concrete models of a personal DLC ‘serves both as a cognitive extension and a material symbol of one’s own sociolinguistic existence and the language skills that ensure this existence’ (ibid, p.7). Nayr’s study and forthcoming paper, ‘Visual and artefactual approaches in engaging teachers with multilingualism: creating DLCs in pre-service teacher education’ explores the affordances of DLCs for unveiling teachers’ multilingualism from a subjective, personal and critical perspective. It provides the teachers an agentic tool for unpacking their language biographies and for reflecting on their future practice.
Teachers created unique, subjective, artefactual narratives of their languages, in the form of a metaphorical object, representing their multilingualism from a biographical, educational and relational perspective. This process shone a light on a hidden multilingual identity that the student teachers were encouraged to engage with. Furthermore, from a quantitative perspective, this activity generated interesting insights into the DLCs that operate in Northern Norway: it highlighted a common Norwegian-English DLC with a third language which might be a heritage or other Scandinavian language.
See below some examples of teachers’ DLC artefacts:
Teachers were also asked to reflect on the process, their personal choices and how this activity might influence their future classroom practice by answering the following questions:
1. How did you organise your DLC and why did you choose the shape, materials, colours etc… to represent your languages?
2. How did creating a visual and manual (craft) representation of all your languages help you visualize your multilingualism and see yourself as a multilingual individual and multilingual teacher?
3. How do you think this will change the way you approach your students’ other languages in your English lessons?
4. How does this manual, visual, multimodal activity support and enhance creative teaching and ensure deep learning in the language classroom?
This generated comments, such as:
Creating my DLC made me realize that I know more languages than I think I do. I have always thought that I only knew one language, Norwegian, but through the process of creating my DLC I realized that I do know more languages than I thought.
By creating this atom to visualize my language repertoire I realized I know more than I thought I did. I was not aware that I knew 5 languages.
I have already seen myself as a multilingual individual but creating the visual representation of all my languages made me even more sure about it.
The activity invites pupils to express themselves visually and creatively, meaning that they could express feelings that are hard to describe in words.