Language and Education Network - Research Seminar - Unni Soltun Andreassen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

A School of Education research event
Date19 May 2022
Time18:00 to 19:00
PlaceBaring Court 112

Language learning and schooling for newly arrived immigrant youth in Norway with limited prior school background: transitioning from introduction class to upper secondary education

Language learning and schooling for newly arrived immigrant youth in Norway with limited prior school background: transitioning from introduction class to upper secondary education

The overarching goal of this project is to contribute to the body of research which investigates what enhances and hinders literacy development and language learning for the projects target group and hence, what can be done to see more immigrant youth successfully complete their upper secondary education.  

Since the millennium the number of pupils with minority background in upper secondary schools in Norway has more than doubled (Bakken & Hyggen, 2018) and approximately one out of ten pupils have immigrated to Norway themselves (Dewilde & Kulbrandstad, 2016). Many of them have had little or no formal schooling from their home country and only half of immigrants in Norway complete and pass upper secondary school within five years, as opposed to 69% of the population as a whole (Barne- likestillings- og inkluderingsdepartementet, 2012, s.58). The transition to upper secondary school is especially challenging for newly arrived immigrants (Hegna, 2014). The transition is, amongst other things, characterized by new literacy demands, such as a broader vocabulary and higher degrees of abstraction – competences which these pupils don’t necessarily inhabit even in their own language (Mossige, Hoem & Bredenbekk, 2010).  

This project investigates the transition from combination class[1] to vocational upper secondary school, and more precisely: the experience of transitioning from a segregated school situation shared with other pupils with a somewhat similar background and needs, to an ordinary class in vocational upper secondary school. It also considers how teachers reflect upon their own role in developing the pupils’ literacy. 

During spring 2021, I spent 10 weeks with a combination class, doing a linguistic ethnographic fieldwork and during fall 2021, I followed two of the pupils from the combination class as they started their vocational education at two different schools. My data material from this fieldwork comprises fieldnotes from participatory observations, semi-structured interviews, photos and written material from pupils and teachers.  

This study takes a critical sociolinguistic approach and is looking at how language creates, and can reproduce, social inequality, as well as how power structures at a micro-level is shaped by ideologies (politically, financially and socially) at the macro-level (Svendsen, 2018). Theoretically this study is positioned within New Literacy Studies (NLS). NLS sees literacy not only as a set of individual cognitive abilities, but as situated historically, socially and culturally (Jewitt, 2008). I will look to Bonny Norton’s sociological construct investment in language learning (Norton, 2013) and her adaptation of the notion of imagined communities (and also imagined identities) (Norton, 2016), as well as to Bourdieus theory of the linguistic marketplace and to Critical race theory. 


[1] Combination class is a class where second language learners are taught curriculum from Norwegian primary school as well as the Norwegian language, to prepare for upper secondary education 


ProviderSchool of Education
Intended audienceAcademic staff and students
OrganizerPhil Durrant

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