UKLA Academic Book Award 2024

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UKLA is delighted to announce that the winner of the UKLA Academic Book Award 2024 is Language Narratives and Shifting Multilingual Pedagogies: English Teaching from the South by Belinda Mendelowitz, Ana Ferreira and Kerryn Dixon, published by Bloomsbury.

The judging panel very much liked the way the authors present an account of their thinking about how their ‘first-year university English course in a multilingual teacher education context’ in South Africa has developed over 16 years. Thoughtful analyses of the wide-ranging research which underpins the course are intercut with students’ powerfully articulated multilingual narratives and critical commentaries. Lecturers and students reflect with insight on their experiences of the course, how it addresses their own multilingual and multicultural experiences and how it might prepare them for teaching in school classrooms. Progress – for lecturers and students – is seldom smooth, but that makes the book all the more readable.

Although from differing primary, secondary and higher education contexts, all panel members found the book deeply interesting and widely applicable to their own work. The detailed explanations of how the language narratives were developed, plus the underpinning research, along with resources like the very clear Language Diary, meant all were able to appreciate the book’s wide relevance as well as its more than worthy academic standing.

Of particular interest and appeal to the panel was the use of narrative as a tool for critical thinking. The authors describe with clarity and insight how their students engage in role-play, usually in multiple languages, then write informed critical reflections to explore how the conversations work. These vignettes provide compelling evidence of the beneficent effect that can be derived from developing understanding of theory in practice in this way. Both teachers and students draw on principles of sociolinguistics to demonstrate the way languages and dialects are deployed differently in various contexts to achieve their ends, rather than being categorised hierarchically or dismissed as wrong. For intending English teachers, what could be more important than learning about sociolinguistic principles which help us to understand the interrelationships between, and appreciate the value of, different languages in different contexts?

The selected examples from a range of students’ work over the years, plus their tutors’ commentaries, provide unequivocal evidence of the authors’ commitment to diversity and cultural inclusion, however challenging the circumstances. While the book arises from teaching about languages in a particular geographical, political, cultural and linguistic context, the panel were agreed that it nonetheless has a far wider relevance and that a great many teachers would therefore have much to learn from it.

Overall, the judging panel felt that, in all respects, this is an extremely important academic text for university teachers and their students, thanks to the research-informed story of the course guided by an excellent index and thought-provoking list of references. We were clear about its potential value for teachers in schools, too, offering lots of ideas for younger students’ classroom practice and assessment. Language Narratives and Shifting Multilingual Pedagogies: English Teaching from the South is, therefore, a most deserving winner of the UKLA Academic Book Award 2024.

Chair of Panel: Gabrielle Cliff Hodges

Panel Members: Andrea Barlien, Sarah Brownsword, Susan Chapman, Theresa Gooda, Chris Lockwood, Penny Manford, Elizabeth Robertson, Rebecca Simpson-Hargreaves, Sara Stanley and Jo Tregenza

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