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The constitution, positioning and normalisation of 'The EAL Learner': a Foucauldian-Phenomenographic study

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Monika Reece
Publication date2018
Number of pages262
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This study is a critical investigation into the constitution, positioning and normalisation of ‘EAL learners’ - learners ‘who have English as an Additional Language’ (EAL). The study argues that the official discourse around EAL constitutes a homogenous image of ‘the EAL learner’, neglects emotional needs, portrays bi- and multilingualism and bi- and multiculturalism as deficit and positions bi-and multilingual and bi- and multicultural (BMLC) learners as ‘others’. Subjection to this discourse perpetuates the learners’ vulnerability and can lead to normalisation being perceived as the only possible solution for survival and success.

On a conceptual-methodological level, the implications of this study relate to the innovative methodology of combining two ontologically congruent, epistemologically intersecting and methodologically diverse perspectives leading to new understandings of normalisation. On a substantive level, they relate to the responsibilities of all stake holders working with BMLC learners, to pedagogy and to curriculum design.

The positioning of BMLC learners via the prevailing discourse around EAL is examined by applying a Foucauldian lens to governmental documentation on EAL and interviews with staff. The phenomenographic study, using interviews with BMLC learners, identifies the variation in the learners’ perceptions of what it means to be an ‘EAL learner’ in English secondary education.

Mapping the findings of the Foucauldian and the phenomenographic studies against each other illuminates how BMLC leaners’ positioning via the dominant discourse is reflected in the variation in their perceptions. It leads to new insights into the normalisation process BMLC learners undergo in English secondary schools.

The study aims to highlight to all stake holders, especially BMLC learners, the
possibility of alternative ‘truths’, to enable an understanding of positioning, create critical spaces to reflect on this positioning and offer choices of actively engaging in, challenging or resisting normalisation.