Metalanguage and language awareness

Teachers' and students' beliefs about grammar in the multilingual Norwegian classroom.

Project owner

Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Project period

September 2015 - September 2019

Project summary

In my Phd project I aim to study what relevance teachers and students see in grammar teaching in multilingual Norwegian L1-classrooms. Today the traditionally monolinguistic classroom, consists of a more heterogeneous group of students where L1-users and L2-users of Norwegian should have the same learning possibilities.

In the Norwegian subject curriculum (L1) there are objectives which see grammar as a resource in a multilingual context. Together with general statements promoting the value of language diversity and multiple language use, there is one particular objective after first class of Upper Secondary School which states that the students “should be able to explain grammatical characteristics of Norwegian in comparison with other languages”. This is clearly an objective which requires a multilingual pedagogy in the classroom. On the other hand literacy has the main focus in the curriculum, and due to this, grammar teaching is often reduced to a purely text linguistic level. Nevertheless, it has been claimed that “the legitimization of the grammar discipline in the L1 curriculum has moved from language skills to language awareness” (Hertzberg 2008). This ability to think abstractly about language (Bialystok 2001) can support students in analyzing linguistic knowledge and in controlling language processing. Such cognitive benefits can be a valuable skill to perform well in school.

A recent survey in Norwegian Lower Secondary Schools says that multilingualism is neglected. The survey shows that two out of three teachers have never implemented multiple language use as a topic in their teaching, and the majority of them neither have plans to do so. “Teachers` beliefs strongly influence their pedagogical decisions, and such beliefs are typically resistant to change” (Haukås 2015, Borg 2006).

Using focus groups interviews, I aim to research L1 teachers` belief about contrastive grammar teaching, metalinguistic awareness and the increasing multiple language use amongst the students. Furthermore I will observe grammar teaching in the classroom, and interview students about their beliefs about contrastive grammar, multilingualism, writing and learning in general. Do they see themselves as multilinguals, and have they developed an academic language proficiency of Norwegian?


  • Professor Agnete Nesse
  • Åsta Haukås and Ingvild Nistov