Observing Migrant Children: Shifting the Frame from Linguistic Deficit to Display of Agency

Federico Farini*, Angela Scollan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


When discussing inclusion of migrant children, mainstream pedagogical literature suggests that improvement of language competence (bilingual education) should be prioritised (Karoly and Gonzales 2011; Harris and Kaur 2012; Burger 2013; Devine, 2013, Baraldi, 2014). Limited language knowledge is claimed to impact migrant children’s participation in interactions with adults and peers. We challenge this prevailing discourse about migrant children through second order observation (Glaserfeld, 1987; Luhmann, 1995), that is, the observation of observations through innovative educational practices in multilingual settings. The analysis of video-recorded interactions involving children and teachers at an Italian Scuola dell’infanzia, influenced by the Reggio Emilia Approach, was ethically and methodologically committed to positioning all children as competent agents. This approach allowed a shift in the frame of teachers’ observation, from linguistic competence to participation in communication, and a shift in expectations from migrant children as deficient to a recognition and promotion of their agency. This chapter focuses on two interrelated aspects of the video-recorded interactions to argue that teachers’ and children’s modes of designing their turns to talk may promote shared personal expressions of ideas, emotions, and experiences, accessing the agentic status of authors of knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPostdevelopmental Approaches to Childhood Research Observation
EditorsJayne Osgood
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781350369740, 9781350369757
ISBN (Print)9781350369733
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2023

Publication series

NamePostdevelopmental Approaches to Childhood


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