The wonderful artworks you are looking at are part of Luciana Mariano's series "Things we say" (2019). Thank you, Luciana!

Kielikoulutus ja sosiaalinen oikeudenmukaisuus

Language Education for Social Justice

37. soveltavan kielentutkimuksen konferenssi


Jyväskylän yliopisto, Kielikampus

37th Conference of Applied Linguistics

June 1-3, 2020

University of Jyväskylä, Language Campus, Finland


Keynote speakers


Looking Beyond Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Textbooks: Teachers’ Perspectives About Social Justice in Language Teaching


Although there tend to be a general impression that language teaching inevitably includes a social justice component, this reasoning is based on the assumption that when students learn languages spoken by people different from themselves, they also learn to understand something about the lived experiences of those who speak the language. Nevertheless, it is still the case that for many educators, teaching a language – whether a native language or an acquired one – is still primarily about the mechanics of grammar, correct pronunciation, and perhaps a bit about the geography where a particular language is spoken. But the truth is that when a critical understanding of social justice is added to the mix, everything changes. A social justice stance recognizes that language teaching is not simply about the language itself, but more broadly about the material conditions and lived experiences of the people who speak the language. A social justice perspective makes it clear that teaching languages is about more than the textbook, the curriculum, and the pedagogy. It is also more than a set of skills or specific approaches. In addition, while students of all language backgrounds have assets and resources that they bring to the language classroom, these assets and resources are often neither acknowledged nor affirmed. This is because social justice in language teaching is, in effect, also about history, identity, and experience. In other words, language teaching is about a stance, a way of looking at what happens through and beyond the curriculum, pedagogy, and instructional materials.

My keynote address will focus on the role of teachers in language education, with implications for teacher educators and researchers. Through research I’ve done with classroom teachers from around the United States, I offer examples of how a social justice perspective can lead to a more inclusive stance about teaching and learning that reflects students’ rich multidimensional cultures, languages, and experiences, as well as the histories, current realities, aspirations, and dreams of the people who speak those languages.

Speaker bio

A member of the National Academy of Education, Sonia Nieto is Professor Emerita of Language, Literacy, and Culture, College of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has devoted her professional life to questions of diversity, equity, and social justice in education with research has focused on multicultural education, teacher education, literacy, and the education of students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, with a particular emphasis on Latin@ students. The author or editor of 13 books and dozens of book chapters and journal articles, she is also the author of a memoir, Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education. The first edition of her classic text, Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education (1992) was selected for the Museum of Education Readers’ Guide as “one of the 100 books that helped define the field of education in the 20th century.” Dr. Nieto has received numerous awards for her scholarly work, teaching, activism, and advocacy, including 9 honorary doctorates and, most recently, the 2019 Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the Literacy Research Association.


Peace education beyond and besides language: Voice, (non-)understanding, and communicating the incommunicable


This keynote will address the question How can research look at and beyond language in education with the goal of being a catalyst for critical thinking, democracy, equity, and peace? I will consider the role of language in peace and post-conflict education which, like many fields of education in the global West and North, is chiefly a modernist field with an agenda of autonomy, democracy and so-called ‘progress’, often based around the nation-state. Language has been, and continues to be, representationally central in peace education, the route to accessing meaning and social participation through dialogue. However, I posit that this representational orientation to language puts language at the top of an ontological hierarchy which ultimately maintains a ‘colonising logic’ (Barad 2014: 169) in which rational, mind-centric ways of knowing are privileged. In this talk I offer frameworks for a transrational approach to peace education (Cremin et al. 2018; Kester 2018) which enables space for the emotional, embodied, collective, aesthetic, and metaphysical aspects of learning, and for the entanglement of these with the rational, the psychological, the cognitive and the analytic. Drawing on research data from a participatory arts project with young people in South Africa, and on insights from a range of intercultural arts projects,, I consider the concepts of voice and understanding, and whether these might offer useful lenses for seeing beyond and besides language in the complexities of communication and expression, in their relationship with learning, knowing and being, and in the communication of the ‘otherwise incommunicable’ (Rowe and Reason 2017: 57). I conclude that a transrational approach engaging these lenses can enable acknowledgement of the complexity of learning in ways which may contribute to unsettling the dominant forms of knowledge produced and privileged in the global West and North (Hall and Tandon 2017; Zembylas 2018).


  • Barad, K. (2014). Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart. Parallax 20 (3), 168-187.
  • Cremin, H., EchavarrÍa, J. & Kester, K. (2018). Transrational Peacebuilding Education to
  • Reduce Epistemic Violence. Peace Review 30 (3), 295-302.
  • Hall, B. L. & Tandon, R. (2017). Decolonization of Knowledge, Epistemicide, Participatory Research and Higher Education. Research for All 1 (1): 6-19.
  • Kester, K. (2018). Coproducing Peace: Beyond Psychologized Approaches - Toward a Transrational Onto-Epistemology and Dialogic Learning Community as the Foundations of Peace Education. In Factis Pax 12 (1), 1-24.
  • Rowe, N. & Reason, M. (2017). Participatory Research in the Participatory Arts. In M. Reason & N. Rowe (Eds.), Applied Practice: Evidence and Impact in Music, Theatre and Art (pp. 48-59). London and New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Zembylas, M. (2018). Con-/divergences between postcolonial and critical peace education: towards pedagogies of decolonization in peace education. Journal of Peace Education 15 (1), 1-23.

Speaker bio

Lou Harvey is Lecturer in Language Education in the School of Education, University of Leeds. Her research focuses on how learning and communication take place at the intersection of language and the arts, particularly in intercultural and post-conflict contexts. Lou’s research is based on cross-sector collaboration, co-production, and public engagement, and on the theorisation of these as processes of learning and education in their own right. She also sings in a choir, plays the piano, and writes fiction in the spaces between.


Language learning and teaching in humanitarian crises: The case of refugees in Greece


The outbreak of war and political instability in the Middle East and North Africa has brought nearly 60.000 refugees to Greece since the beginning of 2015. Although Greece has been a transit country for many refugees who escaped war and violent conflicts, the closure of the borders since March 2016 (EU- Turkey deal), has made language learning and teaching a central issue for the everyday “survival” of the displaced individuals. In this respect, this keynote addresses the question How do refugees trapped in the asylum system in Greece make choices about language learning? Drawing on fieldwork conducted in refugee camps, and self- organized language classrooms in Athens, I firstly provide an overview of how conflicting language ideologies among refugees and humanitarian actors such as the UNHCR and NGOs intersect with the ways in which social injustices are re/produced and resisted by the refugees. Secondly, I address the role of language learning in alternative educational spaces as part of everyday “resistance” towards humanitarian actors’ language policies. Based on video recorded interactional data, interviews collected from a self-organised English classroom and fieldnotes about the everyday lives of refugees staying in squats, I use translanguaging (García& Leiva 2013) as my analytical lens and discuss how the concept enables us to understand its role as part of social justice in humanitarian crises and emergency.

Speaker bio

I am a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Westminster. My postdoc project entitled “Translanguaging as a means of survival in refugee settlements: The case of asylum seekers in Greece” aims to contribute to the theory and practice of translanguaging in times of emergency and survival by drawing on empirical data collected from the refugees who have experienced war and violent conflicts and are now residing in Athens, Greece.

I hold a PhD in Linguistics from School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London as well as an MRes in Language Discourse and Communication from King's College London and a BA in English and Linguistics from Queen Mary University of London.

My recent research interests are language and migration, language in humanitarian settings, language learning and teaching, language ideologies and linguistic /ethnography.

Before joining University of Westminster, I worked as an MA tutor in Language Education for Refugees and Migrants and previously as a field researcher (Project P.R.E.S.S.) on Lesvos Island at Hellenic Open University. I also worked as a visiting scholar at University of San Antonio in Texas, United States in 2017. As well as my academic work, I worked with refugee children in a school funded by UNICEF in Athens.


Social justice in divided cities: Socio-spatial segregation, migrant communities and educational opportunities in Finnish cities


In public discourse, large cities are often presented as economically successful, culturally vibrant hubs of international flows. Other debates depict cities as places of complex social problems, many of which are attached to low-income neighbourhoods or schools labelled as “immigrant schools”. In this keynote, I focus on these divisions between urban wealth and concentrations of disadvantage, and their relationship to basic education and ethnicity in Finnish cities. My main questions are how socio-spatial segregation affects educational opportunities in cities, how ethnicity is tied to questions of spatial and social barriers in education, and what we could learn from this to support social justice through education.

The talk is based on my long-term research in urban geography and several projects dealing with segregation and education through quantitative and qualitative datasets. Finnish cities have been traditionally relatively unsegregated in both socio-economic and ethnic terms, and the Nordic welfare state and its egalitarian educational policies have supported high educational outcomes combined with small learning differences between students and schools. However, both socio-spatial segregation and gaps in educational outcomes have been growing during the past decades, and international assessments have shown an unusually large learning difference between students with Finnish and non-native origins.

Our research shows particularly worrying trends related to spatial processes in ethnic segregation and education. Families with a non-Finnish origin are often in a vulnerable position in the housing market, which results in them being overrepresented in neighbourhoods with high unemployment, low educational status and heightened risks for social exclusion. Compared to adults, children are even more strongly segregated by their socio-economic and ethnic background, resulting in diverging paths in educational opportunities. The results highlight the need for structurally intersectional approaches, which are sensitive to the intertwined nature of socio-economic marginalization and questions of ethnicity and language, and the need to consider educational policies together with urban planning and supporting neighbourhood communities.

Speaker bio

Ph.D. Venla Bernelius is an Assistant Professor in Urban Geography at the University of Helsinki. She specializes in research of urban segregation and development, as well as social and spatial educational dynamics. Her writing and research projects include themes such as the links between socio-economic segregation of urban neighbourhoods and the educational outcomes in comprehensive schools, immigration and housing choices of highly skilled migrants, as well as social cohesion in the context of the Nordic welfare state. Alongside the academic field, Bernelius has worked extensively with the societal networks, for example with constructing a needs-based funding allocation model for urban schools in segregated neighbourhoods. She is also the chairwoman of the Finnish Geographical Society.


Kutsutyöpajoja pitävät plenaristit ja muut kutsutut konferenssin keskeisistä teemoista. Tähän mennessä olemme varmistaneet työpajojen vetäjäksi Jenni Alisaaren (Turun yliopisto) ja Jessica Bradleyn (University of Sheffield).

Invited workshops

In addition to keynotes, we are organising invited workshops with keynotes and other invited researchers and practitioners. Two of them will be offered by Jenni Alisaari (University of Turku) and Jessica Bradley (University of Sheffield).