Rethinking Language Education in Early Childhood

Sociocultural Perspectives

Authored by: Jim Anderson , Lyndsay Moffatt , Marianne McTavish , Jon Shapiro

Handbook of Research on the Education of Young Children

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  January  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415884341
eBook ISBN: 9780203841198
Adobe ISBN: 9781136897023

10.4324/9780203841198.ch7

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Abstract

Over the past 20 years or so, there has been a continuing shift, or reconceptualization, in terms of how researchers and educators approach early childhood language learning. According to Kramsch (2002), researchers interested in language acquisition from the end of 1960s to the end of the 1970s tended to be informed by a psycholinguistic perspective. They were apt to use a conception of learner as computer as they attempted to understand how learners transformed language input into language output. In contrast, from the late 1970s onward, researchers working from a language socialization perspective have been more likely to see learners as apprentices who learn to use language through active participation in a variety of language communities (e.g., Heath, 1983). Increasingly, researchers concerned with children’s language acquisition have focused not just on new individual children’s develop language skills but more on the contexts and conditions in which children acquire language. In particular, researchers have begun to ask how social interaction and sociocultural contexts affect language use and development. 1 This shift in research and theory has also affected the kinds of places that researchers have chosen to investigate and the methods they choose to collect data. Whereas earlier studies tended to take place in laboratories in (ostensibly) controlled conditions and to rely on quantitative research methods, more recent studies have examined children’s language development in more naturalistic settings such as homes, day cares, preschools, and primary classrooms, using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods (e.g., Dickinson, Darrow, & Tinbu, 2008; Li, 2006; Wohlwend, 2009a). Gee (1989) and others refer to this shift as the social turn or the burgeoning interest among researchers and theorists in the social nature of language, literacy, and indeed of learning.

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