The PLURAL (Plurilingüismes Escolars i Aprenentatge de Llengües; School Plurilingualism and Language Learning) Research Group initially focussed its studies on teacher beliefs, with the aim of exploring to what extent these beliefs guide and inform their classroom behaviour. This focus means that the group was situated within the paradigm known as “teacher thinking”. The group’s approach to research methodology is ethnographic, supported by formulation of ad hoc analysis categories to interpret data obtained through interview, classroom observation, group interviews, etc.
In the twenty years since its inception, the PLURAL group has been able to grow and evolve, both internally and externally, thanks to financial support in the form of grants and scholarships. The internal evolution is manifested through the incorporation of young pre- and post-doctoral researchers; it can also be seen via the commitment to new research projects proposed by longer term group members. The external evolution has taken a number of forms and can be seen in a variety of ambits, including significant publications by various group members; presentations and debates at both national and international conferences; joint research projects conducted with other research groups; through the Xarxa Llera (The Incentive Network for research into linguistic and literary education in plurilingual environments); consulting for the Department of Education and at primary and secondary schools; and through round table discussions focussed on both pre-service and in-service education.
While in its early days the PLURAL group focussed on the need to make explicit teachers’ systems of representation, beliefs and knowledge, later research projects – and the rigorous comparison of this research with knowledge observed in practice – have directed the group’s attention more towards teacher education (both preservice and inservice). It is understood that these education processes need to follow three lines:
- Fostering thinking about action
- Fostering thinking about action in practice
- Fostering thinking about thinking
The group’s work thus involves developing models that have an operative dimension, a didactic dimension and a deliberative dimension. Working from this perspective, the group has developed and improved the tools they have always utilized for investigative purposes (interviews and analysis of classroom interaction, for example); and have tried to incorporate and consolidate the use of other methods, with particular attention focussed on linguistic biographies. The purpose of these narratives is to study how the visual narratives of teachers and teacher trainees are initially destabilized, and subsequently evolve, during the different stages of education (initial, masters’ and inservice).