Navigating Authoritative Discourses in a Multilingual Classroom: Conversations With Policy and Practice

Lydiah Kananu Kiramba, Violet J. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using Bakhtinian concepts of persuasive and authoritative discourse, this study reports on science and English language arts instructional practices in a multilingual, rural, fourth-grade classroom in Kenya. Situated in English as a medium of instruction (EMI) and through the use of case study, the study explores classroom discourse data to illustrate how teachers use instructional practices to reproduce, contest, or navigate prevailing institutional monolingual policies when mediating students’ access to literacy and content. By analyzing classroom discourse, the authors argue that restrictive language policies that aspire for fixity disconnect multilingual learners from their daily realities. In contrast, they call for a (re)construction of multilingual pedagogy that capitalizes on the strengths of learners, teachers, and linguistic communities by embracing students’ languages and language varieties in language learning and literacy development. In particular, implications are drawn for the use of EMI for emerging bilingual and multilingual learners. The authors identify the need to prepare teachers for a multilingual reality through legitimizing multilingual pedagogies such as translanguaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-481
Number of pages26
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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