Language learning as participation
and socialisation
Dr Gabriela Meier
Look at 2nd part of identity
Discuss Reading
New topic: COP and L2 socialisation
Language learning as social participation
Community of practice
Language socialisation
Post-structuralist approaches
Socially cohesive classrooms
Perspectives of Language learning
Behavioural (habit formation)
Cognitive perspectives (individual, psychological focus)
Strategies and styles (competencies, intelligencies)
Emotional (affective influences)
Socio-cultural (learning as a socially mediated activity)
Socio-anthropological (social participation)
Socio-political (social justice)
Community of practice
Community of practice
Learning as social participation:
“Learning viewed as situated activity has as its defining
characteristic a process that we call legitimate peripheral
participation. By this we mean to draw attention to the
point that learners inevitably participate in communities
of practitioners and that the mastery of knowledge and
skills requires newcomers to move toward full
participation in the sociocultural practices of a
(Lave & Wenger, 1991: 29)
Legitimate peripheral participation
Legitimate peripheral participation
gaining access to resources (conversational and other language
learning opportunities) depends on:
access to the social and verbal activities of the target language
community of practice;
being accepted is central to access to language learning
success derived partly from their own actions, partly from
their respective communities’ willingness to adapt and to
accept them as legitimate participants.“ [structure and agency]
(Toohey and Norton 2001 cited in Mitchell and Myles 2004)
Community of practice
What is meant by participation?
Participation = “a process of being active participants in
relationship to these communities (i.e. formation of
Wenger 1998:4)
Community of Practice (CoP)
A social theory of learning
Apprenticeships in non-school settings
Little explicit teaching
Newcomers assume increasingly
responsible roles
Etienne Wenger
CoP theory based
on situated learning
(Lave and Wenger 1991:29)
Situated learning
Based on socio-cultural theory
Learning as a social process shaped by the social context
Language learning is shaped by the setting, the
participants, their roles, the activities undertaken, and the
resources used.
Richards and Schmidt 2010
Situated learning
Learning that takes place in a ‘real’ environment.
Outside the classroom
 Field trips
 Language learning in shops, kitchens, gardens
 Meetings with TL speakers
 Internships
Inside the classroom
 Task-based learning
 Problem-based learning
 Subject learning through another language (Immersion/CLIL)
Classroom as community of practice (Toohey 2000, 2001)
Your COPs?
 Think of your language learning. What
communities of practice do/did you belong to inside
and outside classrooms?
Community = based on…
Mutual engagement
Joint enterprise
members interact with each other
common endeavour
Shared repertoire
“common resources of language, styles and routines by which
they express their identities as members of the group”
(based on Wenger 1998, discussed in Barton and Tusting 2005:2)
COP research orientations
Product orientation: what do learners need to participate
in a community of practice?
e.g. based on needs analysis for academic disciplines: what academic
and language skills are needed to complete the task (see Ferris, 1998;
Ferris & Tagg, 1996a, 1996b).
Process oriented: how are students socialised? Investigation
of the situated or socially and temporally constructed process
by which newcomers become socialized into a community of
e.g. looking at discourses at various levels of schooling (e.g., Belcher,
1994; Casanave, 1992, 1995; Duff, 2001, 2002; Harklau, 1999, 2000;
Morita, 2000; Prior, 1998; Spack, 1997; Toohey, 2000).
Think about your COPs
See handout
1. Think of a learning context, where you were a
newcomer in community of practice
Please describe this community of practice, using the
conceptual framework provided in the handout.
Community of Practice
Central idea: situated approaches to learning
Taken up across social, educational and management
Used, applied, criticised, adapted and developed by
a wide range of researchers
(Barton and Tusting 2005:introduction)
Used in...
Virtual world
“Theory of learning which acknowledges networks and
groups which are informal and not the same as formal
structures. “
“Useful as theory” and “of value in practice”
(Barton & Tusting 2005:3)
Community of practice: strength
It takes learning out of the classroom (life-long learning)
Addresses learning in the workplace and everyday life.
Helps understand difference between formal and informal
(Barton & Tusting 2005: 3)
Development of the concept of CoP
Early concepts: cognitive (product orientation)
“thinking is a practical activity which is adjusted to meet the
demands of the situation” (Rogoff & Lave 1987:7)
Later concepts: socio-cultural (process orientation)
“concepts of learning are shifted from apprenticeship, through
notions of situated learning to communities of practice. In
particular the notion of community of practice provides a set
of concepts which view learning as a form of participation in
activities. “ (based on Lave and Wenger 1991, discussed in
Barton and Tusting 2005)
Development of the concept of CoP
learning as social participation
the individual as an active participant [agency] in the
practices of social communities
construction of his/her identity through these
COP as a means for organisations to become more
(Wenger 2002)
Critique of CoP
No critical examination of the concept of community
No distinction among different types of learning
Legitimate peripheral participation is a single, undifferentiated
construct, when relationships are often hierarchical.
(Haneda 2006)
Membership of a community is not a helpful notion, since
membership varies.
(Gee 2004)
Does not consider language, literacy, discourse and power
Oversimplifications of management training
(Barton & Tusting 2005)
The Wenger-Trayner business 2012
Classrooms as a COP
Learning together: Children and adults in the school
“The teachers shape the curriculum around the children’s
interests, using children’s curiosity, being alert to opportunities
for learning as they occur”
Teamwork is emphasised and teachers, children and parents
are all viewed as part of the learning community.
(Rogoff, Turkanis and Bartlett 2001:39)
Language socialisation
L2 socialisation
“Those who approach a new language thus do so not
simply by learning a system of new ways in which to
express and interpret their native ways of acting and
feeling, but also by learning the preferences and theories
of a new community. “
(based on Ochs 2002, discussed in Young 2009
Language socialisation
Domains of knowledge, beliefs, affect,
roles, identities, and social
Language practices and social interaction
(Duff 1995:508)
Language socialisation perspective
systematic account of the wider frameworks and socially
recognized situations within which speech acts are
predicts that there will be a structured strategic
relationship between language development and ‘culturally
organised situations of use’.”
(Mitchell and Myles 2004:236)
“Thick explanation”
(Watson-Gegeo 2004:340)
The study of language socialisation
shows “how language forms correspond with the values,
beliefs, and practices of a particular group and how
novices can come to adopt them in interaction”
(Cole & Zuengler 2003:99)
 Emphasis on novice and expert / oldtimer and
Questions re language socialisation
Research: widening agenda, “often including new population
demographics” (Duff 1995)
 Socialisation into language ideologies (whose ideology?)
 Who is the novice who is expert? (agency)
 Adoption or resistance of norms and rules?
 Which language(s) are legitimate in the classroom and for
what purposes?
Post-structuralist perspective
“Social structures are often hidden and taken for granted, yet
can influence our assumptions about cognition, assessment of
cognitive skills, and pedagogy.”
(Watson-Gegeo 2004:338-339)
All activities in which the learners regularly interact with
others in the family, community, workplace, or classroom are
not only by definition socially organized and embedded in
cultural meaning systems, but are inherently political. [...] There
is no context-free language learning, and all communicative
contexts involve social, cultural, and political dimensions that
affect which linguistic forms are available or taught and how
they are represented.
(Watson-Gegeo 2004:340)
Newer perspectives
Anthropological perspective:
“Focus on subjective experience and identity in relation to
participation in practice. They engage with issues of individual
and collective identity and struggles for social change, drawing
on the work of Bakhtin and Bourdieu as well as Vygotsky.
“(based on Chaiklin and Lave 1996, discussed in Barton and
Tusting 2005:5)
Age of technology, individuals have the power to overcome
natural limitations
Critical questions...
...we need to ask of ourselves and of our students:
“Why are we teaching/learning English (or an other language)?
What does this teaching/learning imply in our highly diverse
but rampantly politically structured world?
What are the political implications of our teaching, learning,
and researching language learning and pedagogy?
Whom does this work empower and whom does it
(Watson-Gegeo 2004: 343)
Spaces not communities?
It is questionable as to whether people who interact in a
space, or in some subgroup, really form a community?
We should think about spaces rather than communities
creating spaces wherein diverse sorts of people can
interact is a leitmotif of the modern world
Gee 2004:78-79
Spaces matter
Are classrooms such
spaces where diverse
people can interact?
Physical or virtual?
Second Life
Language learning in second life (an example)
English learning for teens in second life (offered by the
British Council)
Do your students use social media?
Distributed knowledge/competencies
What knowledge do students bring to class?
How can they help/scaffold each other?
What do students know that teachers don’t know?
Can any of this be used as a resource in your classroom?
Example from my research
Research findings from Berlin study
2 factors that can lead to group cohesion
Teaching style
Bilingual education (two-way immersion)
Two-way immersion
(bilingual or dual-language education)
50% dominant-language speakers
50% speakers of one other language
Two teachers one of each language/culture
The same curriculum
Lessons: 50% in one language
50% in the partner language
Language choice based on local languages.
Immersion programmes (international)
One-way immersion or CLIL
 Immersion programmes in Canada since the 1970s
 Spanish Primary Schools, Spanish-English (since 1996, 200’000 ss, 3-16)
 Many European countries mostly English (since 1990s)
 In England 47 in 2002 (CILT survey), 2012 22+? projects (BIEN)
Two-way immersion (in contexts of natural language contact)
approx 400 programmes (
Wales, Ireland, Euskadi, Catalunia, Switzerland, etc.
several Arabic-Hebrew programmes
Berlin, Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Sillenbuch, Hagen, Cologne,
Frankfurt, Pirna, etc.
(German with 11 languages)
Clapham (Wix) and Fulham (London)
Staatliche Europa-Schule Berlin
Language combinations
 German – Russian
 German – French
 German – English
 German – Italian
 German – Spanish
German – Greek
German – Turkish
German – Portuguese
German – Polish
Integrated from school entry to university access
State maintained
Approx. 6000 students currently in bilingual stream
Berlin – SESB locations
17 Primary
13 Secondary
+ Bilingual Kitas
Research design (TWI=272, Control group=329)
Main finding
 greater class cohesion
 greater conflict resolution skills
(Meier 2010)
Confirmed by research from USA, Israel, Macedonia, Wix
Esmée Fairbairn funded research
Two-way immersion education
Using language resources students bring to school
Bilingual socialisation
Model of COP??
Wix: Social relationships (qualitative)
“but they seem really, really, really caring and they’re all
good friends and they take good care of each other”
(English teacher)
“D’ailleurs, j’ai été frappée, moi, en début d’année par la
complicité qu’il y avait entre eux. ” (French teacher)
“Bilingual classes are very noisy” (several teachers)
“they help each other” (several teachers)
“tutorat naturel qui s’organise entre eux” (French teacher)
Based on TWI literature and anecdotal
Distributed knowledge: changing roles of novices and experts
Sensitive to peers’ needs: anticipate their peers’ learning needs, and
constantly check that everyone has understood.
Reciprocal assistance: The children are willing to help others, when
they need help, and are willing to seek and accept help in other classes.
Scaffolding strategies: The children seem to use a range of
strategies to support their peers in their learning (translations,
explanations, etc.)
Not-knowing is normalised: the children learn some of the content
in a second language, thus it is clear that they do not know and that
they need to ask.
Children take on responsibility: Children seem to take on
important support roles in two-way immersion projects. Anecdotal
evidence shows, that children want to go to school because their
peers need them.
Interactional learning
Data collection in Wix Nov/Dec. 2012
How would you do this?
COP activity: mapping knowledge
“Dialogue among learners can be as effective as instructional
conversations between teachers and learners. Working
collaboratively, people are able to co-construct distributed
expertise as a feature of the group, and individual members
are then able to exploit this expertise as an occasion for
learning to happen. (...) Learners are capable of scaffolding
each other through the use of strategies that parallel those
relied upon by experts”.
(Lantolf 2002:106)
Summary and conclusion
What did we talk about ?
Socially cohesive groups
What were interesting/important points for you?
Reading for next week
 Meier and Daniel (2011) ‘Just not being able to make friends’… (See
Advance warning: Session of 4th December 2012
 Bring poster (A4/A3) illustrating your idea for an essay (concept
map,, mind map or other format)
Selected literature on language COPs and
L2 socialisation etc.
Barton, David & Tusting, Karin (2005) Beyond Communities of Practice: Language,
power, and social context. Cambridge: COP
Breen, Michael (2001) Learner Contributions to Language Learning: New Directions in
Research. Longman
Duff, P. (2007) Second language socialization as sociocultural theory: Insights and
issues. Language Teaching, Oct 01, 2007;Vol. 40, No. 4, p. 309-319
Gee, James Paul (2004) Situated Language and Learning: A critique of traditional
schooling. New York and London: Routledge.
Lave, Jean, and Etienne Wenger. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Meier, G. and Daniels, H. (2011) Just not being able to make friends’: Social interaction
during the year abroad in modern foreign language degrees. Research Papers in
Education, 1-27.
Wenger, Etienne. 1998. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wenger, Etienne, and William M. Snyder. 2000. Communities of practice: the
organizational frontier. Harvard Business Review 78 (1):139-145.
Young, Richard F. (2009) Discursive Practice in Language Learning and Teaching.
Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Language learning as participation and socialisation