Investigating ‘language regard’ through Exploratory Practice as a form of Citizen Science – insights from a case study
2022-04-14, 14:30–15:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 5

Beliefs about and attitudes towards language (‘language regard’, Preston 2011) as an object of research has mainly concentrated on non-linguists’ views (e.g. Niedzielski & Preston 2003; Garrett 2010), unless research has been specifically carried out among language professionals (e.g. Kalaja et al. 2016; Vaattovaara 2016). This paper deals with a research setting that was carried out in a learning environment bringing together language professionals-to-be (MA students of Finnish) and a group of students of Theatre Arts. The study took place in Tampere University (Finland) in the intensive course 'Suomet vieraina suussa' ('Tasting the forms of Finnish') which was designed based on principles of Exploratory Practice (EP; Allwright & Hanks 2009; Hanks 2017). EP is understood as a form or Citizen Science (e.g. Taugigienè et al. 2020), as it is a form of fully inclusive practitioner research (research incorporated into teaching with creative pedagogy), involving all participants as co-researchers. Although originally designed for language learning purposes and taking inspiration from other EP principles such as ‘work for understanding’, the present project does not concentrate on learning but on exploring the potential of investigating language awareness and ideologies through reflective, exploratory practices. One of the central starting points for applying the forementioned methodological approach is the well-known fact that linguistic forms, their social use and human reflections of the forms in use, all mutually shape and inform each other (Woolard 2008). However, local reflections are not easily tapped into with researcher-led means such as questionnaires, interviews and reaction tasks.

In the current project, learning environment was used as a means for exploring bottom-up sociolinguistic norms and sense-makings in a local, personally meaningful context for the participants who were engaged as co-researchers and developers of the learning environment. All participants – including us instructors – were positioned as researchers and learners. Among the aims in the course was also to deal with growths of professional identities. Among my own priorities as a professional researcher and one of the tho course instructors was to take a critical look on the language professional/layperson dichotomy often present as default in perceptual studies.

The research data gathered in the course consists of the traditional Mental mapping task material with documentations on group discussions on this task; observation data from the course workshops (fieldnotes of the instructors: myself and the senior lecturer in arts performance), and autoethnographic-type of diaries of all participants written throughout the course (see Ellis & Bochner 2000 for the principles of autoethnography), as well as recorded video material of the stage performances that were developed and performed by the multidisciplinary small groups, as well as reflective discussions after each performance.

In my talk, I will (1) supply a very brief overview of the learning environment and the ethnographic methods used for the study with its main aims, and (2) focus on the main findings in terms of both challenges and potentials of Exploratory Practice as a form of Citizen Science in investigating language regard.

  • Allwright, D. & J. Hanks 2009. The developing language learner. An introduction to Exploratory Practice. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Ellis, C. & Bochner, A. 2000. Autoethnography, personal narrative, reflexivity: researcher as a subject. In: Denzin & Lincoln (eds.), Handbook of Qualitative research, 733–768. 2nd edition. Sage Publications.
  • Hanks, J. 2017. Exploratory Practice in Language Teaching. Puzzling about pronciples and practices. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Kalaja, P., Barcelos, A. M. F., Aro, M., & Ruohotie-Lyhty, M. (2016). Beliefs, Agency and Identity in Foreign Language Learning and Teaching. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Preston, D.R. 2011. The power of language regard: Discrimination, classification, comprehension, and production. Dialectologia, Special issue II (2011), 9-33.
  • Vaattovaara, J. 2016. Kieltenopettajien opetukselliset lähestymistavat ja kielinäkemykset kansainvälistymishaasteiden edessä. [Language teachers’ views of language and their approaches to language teaching challenged by internationalization] Yliopistopedagogiikka 23 (1), 3-13.
  • Vaattovaara, J. & Syrjä, T. 2020. Tutkiva käytäntö monialaisessa oppimisympäristössä – tapaustutkimus näyttelijäntaiteen ja suomen opiskelijoiden kielitietoisuuden ja asiantuntijuuden kasvun kokemuksista. – Paulasto, H. & S. Pöyhönen (toim.). Kieli ja taide – soveltavan kielentutkimuksen ja taiteen risteämiä. Language and the arts – creative inquiry in applied linguistics. AFinLA-e. Soveltavan kielitieteen tutkimuksia n:o 74, 57-83. [Exploratory Practice in a multidisciplinary learning environment – a case study on the growth of language awareness and professional expertise]
  • Taugigienè, Loreta et al. (2020): Citizen science is the social sciences and humanities: the power of interdisciplinarity. Palgrave Commun 6, 89 (2020).
  • Woolard, K. 2008. Whydatnow? Linguistic-anthropological contributions to the explanation of sociolinguistic icons and change. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12/4,2008, p. 432–452

Professor of Finnish language at Tampere University (Finland).
Research areas and interests:
Language awareness, ideologies and attitudes;
Linguistic variation and change
Educational sociolinguistics (University pedagogy of language teaching and learning, and beyond)
Science communication and popularization of science