On 8 November 2013 Tatjana Kiilo will defence her doctoral thesis "Promoting teachers' efficacy through social constructivist language learning: challenges of accommodating structure and agency. The case of Russian-speaking teachers in Estonia" in the Council of the Faculty of the Social Sciences and Education.
senior lecturer Dagmar Kutsar (University of Tartu)
professor Claire Wallace (University of Aberdeen)
The re-establishment of independence in Estonia in 1991 caused significant reconstruction of the linguistic market in Estonia, including the domain of education. Russian lost its privileges and the Estonian language became dominant on the linguistic market as regulated by the state. Significant changes were initiated in the language-in-education domain. Russian-speaking teachers are expected to play a significant role in legitimation of the Estonian language (including starting the Estonian-medium teaching) in the Russian-medium schools, on one hand. On the other, the teachers themselves are obliged to satisfy the Estonian proficiency requirements. The current doctoral dissertation explores the interplay between structure and agency in the case of the legitimation of the Estonian language by Russian-speaking teachers in Russian-medium schools in Estonia. The focus is on the individual experiences of 50 Russian-speaking educators, who participated in the two-year-long Estonian language learning mentoring programme. Three closely interrelated studies and introductory article analyze the position of Russian-speaking teachers from different theoretical and methodological perspectives. Study I illustrates how the low self-efficacy in learning the Estonian language and disempowerment of teachers occurred due to the changes in the power relations over the past 20 years. Study II reveals the potential of the constructivist methodology used in the mentoring programme to help Russian-speaking teachers in learning Estonian and to empower teachers in the professional domain compared with traditional approach to teachers' professional development. Study III is based on the research undertaken one year after the end of the mentoring programme. Study III shows that the professional context the teachers are operating in does not contribute to the sustainability of outcomes achieved in the mentoring programme. The outcomes are vulnerable to the conflicts embedded in the teachers' relations to and interactions with the students, school administration, colleagues, parents and state institutions. Pursuant to general conclusion the rational approach to the language policy implementation might have unintended consequences for the non-Estonian teachers as professionals. There is a need for structural changes within the schools and local communities. When managing the linguistic and cultural diversity in the field of education in Estonia, language-in-education policy implementation tools should be more sensitive to the social context, based on collective actions, negotiated with different actors and multipronged.