Translanguaging Pedagogy with Syrian Refugee Learners in Turkey

By: Seyma Toker  

Translanguaging pedagogies have been documented to support linguistic minority students’ academic development and engage them through identity investment (Creese and Blackledge, 2015; García-Mateus & Palmer, 2017; García & Seltzer, 2016). Despite teachers’ key role as agents of change, bottom-up interventionist studies which aim to transform teachers' pedagogy to promote diversity have been limited (Ascenzi-Morena, 2017; de los Ríos & Seltzer, 2017). This collaborative inquiry extends the existing scholarship by exploring how and to what extent translanguaging pedagogy can be implemented with Syrian refugees in a mainstream public elementary school in Turkey. In this three-phased inquiry, we collaborated with two bilingual (Arabic-Turkish and Kurdish-Turkish) elementary school teachers over a semester. In a series of eleven individual and focus group interviews, we (1) explored the local teaching context and teachers’ identities, (2) co-planned a literacy unit adopting translanguaging pedagogy (García et al., 2017), and (3) reflected on teachers’ practices, affordances and challenges of a translanguaging pedagogy in the local context. The findings of the study demonstrate that although teachers were willing to use translanguaging as a pedagogical tool to clarify meaning, deepen understanding and build rapport, they felt constrained in their attempts due to lack of parental involvement, tensions between local and refugee students, and uncertainties about refugees’ future and refugee education policies in Turkey. They also voiced serious concerns about a sustainable translanguaging pedagogy also inclusive of Kurdish minorities. In this discussion, we share lessons learned for a sustainable translanguaging pedagogy teaching linguistic minority learners and offer implications for teacher educators.

Inclusive education
2019 Special Focus—Border Crossing Narratives: Learning from the Refugee Experience
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Seyma Toker

Doctoral Student/ Research Assistant, Linguistics, Georgetown University, United States
United States