Leveraging Languages for Learning: Incorporating Plurilingual Pedagogies in Early Childhood Education and Care





plurilingual pedagogies, language acquisition, linguistic repertoire, language ideology, bioecological theory


Abstract: Children are members of families and communities, and the languages learnt within these contexts contribute to a child’s sense of “belonging, being and becoming” throughout life (Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009). Encouraging children to bring their home languages into early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings exposes all children to additional languages and supports key outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF; DEEWR, 2009). This article looks at the relationship between key tenets of the EYLF and conditions that support a plurilingual approach within ECEC settings, arguing that multilingualism can be encouraged and effectively supported within these environments. The authors outline Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory of development which continues to be influential in Australian ECEC, emphasizing the importance of proximal processes in child development. Examples are provided of educator behaviours set out in the EYLF that encourage linguistic diversity and promote language learning. The influence of three key variables on the valuing of languages is discussed, namely language ideologies, teacher beliefs and attitudes, and plurilingual pedagogies. Recommendations relating to the positive positioning of languages and the integration of plurilingual pedagogies into Australian ECEC contexts are provided.

Author Biographies

Caroline Cohrssen, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Dr Caroline Cohrssen is an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at The University of Hong Kong and Honorary Fellow, Melbourne Graduate School of Education at The University of Melbourne. Her research interests encompass children’s learning in the home learning environment and in preschool settings. She is leading a project that investigates the impact of smartphone technology to disseminate information on playful caregiver practices that support literacy, numeracy and spatial thinking of three-year-old children at home.

Yvette Slaughter, University of Melbourne, Australia

Dr Yvette Slaughter is Senior Lecturer in Language and Literacy Education within the Melbourne Graduate School of Education.
She is co-editor of the Language Teaching Research special edition entitled, Reframing language in teaching and learning: Leveraging students’ meaning-making repertoires (2021) and is
currently working on research focusing on the use of plurilingual pedagogies and engagement with linguistic repertoires in early childhood, primary/secondary and adult educational contexts.

Edith Nicolas, University of Melbourne, Australia

Dr Edith Nicolas is a linguist and lecturer in early childhood education. She is currently investigating mentoring practices in early childhood, identifying positive practices to improve practicum experiences. An additional area of research is early childhood language development and bilingualism. She has recently collaborated on projects to support the introduction of a second language in EC settings as well as training early childhood teachers in language and literacy development.


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How to Cite

Cohrssen, C., Slaughter, Y., & Nicolas, E. (2021). Leveraging Languages for Learning: Incorporating Plurilingual Pedagogies in Early Childhood Education and Care. TESOL in Context, 30(1), 11–31. https://doi.org/10.21153/tesol2021vol30no1art1572

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