Doing Policy Experimentation During a Global Crisis

After ten months of planning, piloting and training, the Listiac fieldwork officially started in January 2020. Little did we know then that the data collection was about to become much more complicated than expected.

Although the schools have been closed in all of the partnership countries and parts of the partnership have been in lockdown during most of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have tried to move forward as planned as much as possible. In doing so, there have been different approaches in different contexts and the data collection has been successful in most of the countries.

Flexible and Creative Solutions in Slovenia

The University of Ljubljana cancelled all forms of direct instruction and replaced it with online teaching and individual study on 11 March. After the Slovenian government called an official end to the national epidemic on 14 May, becoming the first country in Europe to do so, educational institutions have started to gradually open their doors for subjects that cannot be taught online. The academic programs are still carried out remotely whenever possible.

Luckily, the local team had already gathered some data before the lockdown. However, an important part of fieldwork was still to be done, which required flexibility and creativity, especially dealing with the instruments that were planned for face-to-face instruction.

The observation task was a hard nut to crack since students could not do their practicum the usual way. Instead, they helped their teacher mentors with the preparation of online classes, which limited their options for observing linguistically sensitive teaching. To compensate for the lack of contact, the local project team asked the students to draw from their experience, look at the (online) teaching materials and discuss the topic with their teacher mentors. Students’ feedback was quite good; some said that the task allowed them to reflect on the issue more deeply and connect it to their previous experience with linguistic diversity.

Interviews Successfully Conducted in the Lithuanian Quarantine

The quarantine was announced in Lithuania on 16 March. During the quarantine, all teaching activities in all levels of education have been transferred online. On 18 May preschool institutions were allowed to open, but not all of them did. Schools of primary and secondary education were able to start traditional classes on 25 May, but they are free to finish the school year online and many of them have chosen this option.

The data collection at Vytautas Magnus University was commenced in December 2019 with group reflections using the dialogue mat. The observation of plurilingual practices in schools had to be cancelled due to the crisis; a group of student teachers were introduced to LST, but the visits could not be implemented. 

The local team was also able to start the semi-structured interviews before the quarantine, and the pandemic has not affected the performance of the interviews as they have been successfully conducted through video conferencing tools.

Limited Impact From Covid-19 Despite of Total Lockdown in Spain

The Spanish government declared the State of Alarm on 14 March. Since then, the country has been in total lockdown and schools and universities have been closed. The government has now started a progressive descaling of restrictions – from phase 0 to phase 4, which will lead to ‘the new normality’ that will arrive, more or less and in theory, at the end of June or beginning of July– according to the situation of each different region/municipality. The city of Barcelona is currently in phase 1. In Catalonia, specifically, the schools will not open until September and how this will be done in practice is yet to be decided.

The Autonomous University of Barcelona had planned to collect all data for Listiac during the spring semester. Some data were collected before the lockdown, but the local project team had to organize an alternative way of continuing the fieldwork. All in all, the team has managed to continue the fieldwork with limited impact from the Covid situation, but with some challenges. The online factor will have to be evaluated when analyzing the data, and the fieldwork will need to be continued during autumn in order to get all the data needed, if the sanitary situation allows that.

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