Listening to students’ voices: acknowledging the past and taking critical action to shape the future. Classroom ethnography of the past and present school experiences of a Level 1 class in a vocational college – Dr Nadia Maria Vassallo
This study foregrounds the unheard voices of learners in a further education vocational setting, in the context of Malta. The research focuses on students’ life stories, the causes of their disengagement, their different literacy practices and how these could be utilised to improve their engagement in college. In a classroom ethnography spread over one scholastic year, the learners revealed that their disengagement was mainly caused by negative teacher-student relationships, a dissonance between their out-of-school literacy practices and teacher expectations in the classroom, and the acquired negative schooled identities. Work on life histories, critical literacy and funds of knowledge as part of classroom practice helped to balance teacher-student power relations, build a community of learners and transform the conventional classroom into a third space where college work, social and home came together and enhanced the learning experience. This empowered the learners changing their perception of selves. The overall picture that transpires from this study is that dichotomies such as student-teacher, vernacular-standard, Maltese-English, inside-outside college practices, print-oral should not be seen as opposite ends on separate spectra but differences that can cohabit peacefully in classrooms that celebrate diversity and give learners the confidence and space to show what their strengths are.
Date: Thursday, 3rd December
Venue: Faculty of Education Boardroom (rm. 326, Old Humanities)
Chairperson: Prof. Carmel Borg, Editor, Malta Review of Educational Research (MRER)