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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Linguistic Heterogeneity in the Mainstream Classroom: A Comprehensive Investigation of the Language and Pedagogical Phenomena in Multilingual Greek Primary Classes

Hara Sidiropoulou.

The increasing number of linguistic minority children entering Greek primary classrooms constitutes an unprecedented phenomenon for the traditionally 'homogeneous' Greek education system. These pupils compose a broad and varied population with regard to their oral and literacy skills in the language of instruction (Greek). It is widely argued that competence in Greek is a crucial parameter not only for these pupils' academic attainment but also for their overall well-being and their harmonious adjustment to the new school conditions. However, to date no concrete research evidence exists to describe their linguistic and literacy profile in Greek, which would in turn inform the implementation of more appropriate policies and practices.

This paper aims to present the findings of an empirical inquiry that was carried out to investigate the language profile of the Greek multilingual classroom. The principal target of the research study was to explore the linguistic and literacy skills of minority pupils and to compare them with the skills of their native classmates. To accomplish this, a multi-method research strategy was designed and implemented in four multilingual second-grade classes in Thessaloniki, Greece. A battery of individual and group language tasks was administered to pupils of both language groups. This included the administration of Told-2 oral language test and the application of literacy tasks which assessed pupils' skills on reading, comprehension and composition of text. Informal conversations with the language minority pupils were also conducted and their teachers and the official administrator of the LEA took part in semi-structured interviews.

The multi-method research strategy had generated a considerable amount of data and their analysis was conducted via the combination of the quantitative and interpretative paradigms. Language minority pupils were found to perform lower than their native classmates in most of the language and literacy assessments. Their productive capabilities were significantly lower than their receptive skills and their difficulties were more intense in the production of written than oral language discourse. Performance on reading was similar to the native students; yet their skills on comprehension of text were significantly poorer.
The comparison between the two language groups demonstrated a very wide range of achievement, with some children from both groups scoring very high and others very low. This finding questions the appropriateness of traditional teaching methods which have assumed less divergence among the pupils. Linguistic heterogeneity was confirmed by the teachers who expressed their complaints about the lack of support, of training and of the necessary resources to provide an appropriate pedagogy for all their students. The LEA manager recognised these deficiencies but pointed to new policy initiatives (Law for intercultural education, remedial classes etc.) and hoped that the teachers would collaborate to provide effective teaching despite the difficult conditions. The paper closes with a number of pedagogical suggestions which are assumed to be appropriate for teaching in multilingual school environments.


Hara Sidiropoulou  (Greece)
Prechool Practitioner, MA in Ecucation
School of Preschool Education Sciences, Faculty of Education
Aristitle University of Thessaloniki

In 2001 I have obtained my BA degree from the School of Preschool Education Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. The National Foundation of Greek Scholarships (IKY), awarded me a scholarship for being the graduate student of highest performance. During the last academic year, I have successfully completed the Masters Course MA in Education (Early Years) at the Institute of Education, University of London. The National Foundation of Greek Scholarships has also awarded me a scholarship to fund my PhD studies and I am currently preparing to apply for a PhD Programme at the Institute of Education. In the course of my studies I have attended a range of training seminars, offered services to voluntary agencies, participated in several research projects and published a number of relevant papers. My main research interests are in language and literacy development; curriculum and pedagogy for multilingual and multicultural classrooms; bilingualism and biliteracy; mainstreaming and the group dynamics of social integration; intercultural education; language planning policies.

  • Multilingual classes
  • Greek primary school
  • Linguistic minority children
  • Mother tongue/second language development
  • Oracy
  • Literacy
  • Receptive-productive skills
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Comprehension of text
  • Intercultural education
  • Appropriate pedagogy
  • Teacher perceptions

(Virtual Presentation, English)